What is the Anglican Way
and why is it good?
The following series of short reflections relates closely to a series first put out in the precursor to the Anglican Way which was then known as The Mandate by The Revd. Dr. Peter Toon, in 1997
(The final five of ten reflections are included in this second post under this heading)
6 The Anglican Way looks to the Early Church perspective
When asked to explain the foundation of the Anglican Way as a living expression in England of the one, holy, catholic and apostohc Church, teachers in Sunday school have often used five numbers as a didactic device referencing one Bible, two Testaments, three Creeds, four Councils and five Centuries of the early Church. While overly simple in one sense it is nonetheless helpful!
The first two numbers are more or less self explanatory, since clearly there is but one Bible, comprising the Word of God written by a variety of authors as they were moved by the Holy Ghost to record God’s words and deeds. It contains two Testaments, commonly referred to as the Old (written in Hebrew /Aramaic) and the New (written in Greek). However these two parts always belong together in the eyes of Church with the Old to be interpreted in the light of the New. It is a deeply significant starting point for Christians as we approach the text that all the parts are to be understood in the light of the whole and that unity kept in mind before the component diversity
The One Bible with the Two Testaments is to be read from within the Faith which is confessed in the three Creeds — the Apostles’ and the Nicene and the Athanasian, which last is important for its articulation in greater fullness of the mystery that is the Trinity, and it therefore merits closer attention than it usually receives in day to day church life.
These Creeds together identify the Three Persons of the Blessed, Holy and Undivided Trinity of the Father, together with his only- begotten Son and his Holy Spirit. They speak of creation and redemption through Jesus Christ, Son of God made man. They are also of critical importance in defining what is entailed by Christian belief. While being a Christian clearly involves more than mere assent to the Creeds, it is the historic witness of the Church from earliest times that they are nonetheless necessary in setting out in propositional terms what beliefs being a Christian entails.
The Church reading the one Bible with two Testaments and confessing the Faith through three Creeds was informed in its understanding and piety by the teaching, decrees and canons of the first FOUR Ecumenical Councils (Nicea 325; Constantinople 381; Ephesus 431 & Chalcedon 451) in particular. The teaching of these Councils filled out the content of the Creeds and gave greater doctrinal, ethical and liturgical expression to the contents of the Faith.
In addition, it can be said that Anglicanism, with its characteristic patristic emphasis, also views the witness and work, the doctrine and canons, the ministry and liturgy of the first five centuries as of special importance.
Thus where the scripture is not altogether clear or does not address particular questions, the Anglican Way looks to the witness of the early centuries wherever possible to establish what the Early Church believed, taught and confessed as the Faith of Christ crucified.
The Anglican Way hence claims that in its prayer and liturgical worship (from the Book of Common Prayer) and in its three orders of ordained ministry (see the Ordinal inside the BCP) it is based on Scripture as understood and used by the early Church. While, the Thirty-Nine Articles from the sixteenth century represent the signpost offered and used by the Church of England as it negotiated its way through the debates and divisions within Christendom at the Reformation. These Articles point also to Scripture as the authoritative Word of God and to the early Church as guide for the modem Church. ( While the much later Chicago/Lambeth Quadrilateral sets out the basis for inter-communion and church union.)
O gracious Father, we humbly beseech thee for thy holy Catholic Church; that thou wouldest be pleased to fill it with all truth, in all peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in any thing it is amiss, reform it. Where it is right, establish it; where it is in want, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it; for the sake of him who died and rose again, and everliveth to make intercession for us, Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord. Amen
7 The Anglican Way is dedicated to Excellence
It was usual in days past for people to refer to “that most excellent liturgy” when speaking of the Book of Common Prayer which,together with the translation of the Bible and Apocrypha known as the Authorized Version orKing James’ Version of 1611, was certainly not written in the English spoken even then in the market or in the tavern.
These classic texts were intentionally written in a dignified form of English understood by the people but not necessarily spoken by the people constantly at the time. They are written in an English which is accessible to all who have the will to engage with it.
When Archbishop Thomas Cranmer prepared the first Book of Common Prayer in 1549 he had few models of English prose to follow. Thus he was one of those who invented what we may call “modem English.” And it is his English, with minor changes that has remained the English of the Book of Common Prayer down to 1928 in the United States.
The BCP and the KJV together have had a tremendous influence upon both the religion and the culture of the English-speaking peoples. Millions of people have memorized collects from the one and verses from the other and these have been recalled in times of both joy and pain.
In fact the best of the Collects are more nearly poetry than prose. They are the crown jewels in the chain of prayers and readings through the year. Together with the hymns and chants lodge in the memory and help to bring stability of mind as God’s people move through the Church Calendar, from Advent through Christmas and Easter to the end of the season of Trinity.
The excellence of the BCP liturgy derives however, not only from the quality of the English and that of the KJV Bible used with it; but also from the inherent ability, when used in sincerity and truth, to raise the faithful into communion with the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and grounds the potential for that profound experience which is being truly part of the Body of Christ
The tradition of singing of the liturgy adds a further dimension to the excellence, as composers have created very fine music for Matins and Evensong, the Psalter, and Holy. When the Church is joyfully singing an inspired text unto the Lord then it is as a Bride singing a song of love unto her Bridegroom. The music of the Church, in which the Word of God is made audible, affords an imaginative unity across space and through time with eternity.
The Anglican Way is that of beauty, but not beauty alone, but beauty with truth and goodness. In the integrated beauty of its church architecture, words, and music the Church strives to worship the Triune God in the beauty of holiness.
Direct us, O Lord, in all our doings, with thy most gracious favour, and further us with thy continual help; that in all our works begun, continued and ended in thee, we may glorify thy holy Name, and finally, by thy mercy, obtain everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
8 The Anglican Way is believing in order to understand
The Anglican Way follows the wisdom of the past and seeks to proceed on the basis of faith leading to understanding that goes back to Augustine of Hippo and beyond: Credo ut intelligam “I believe in order to understand.” This means that faith is not a private sensation or feeling but is rather an illuminative rational conviction, concerning God and his grace.
The believer trusts not in his internal emotions, helpful as they may or not be, but rather in the transcendent, holy and living God, who is known in Jesus Christ. True faith is a gift of God planted in the soul by the Holy Spirit, who establishes a relation between the soul and God.
The more the believer actually trusts in the Lord and accepts the truths contained in his Revelation to mankind, the more he understands about the mind, will and purpose of God, even though it has heights and depths to which we cannot yet reach in this life. This understanding is not merely that of intellect but it is spiritual understanding, being an apprehension of truth by both mind and spirit.
Anglicans since the sixteenth century have spoken often of Scripture, Tradition and Reason, where Holy Scripture (God’s Word written and witnessing to the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ) comes first always, but it has to be read, understood and interpreted and this is where Tradition (the accumulated wisdom of the Church through space and time) and Reason (the mind of man reasoning under the Lordship of Christ) have their necessary but subordinate place.
Godly education for all ages is therefore a natural outgrowth of the Anglican Way. Within the local congregation there is to be catechizing and teaching so that all have the opportunity to be mature in Christ. This is also why the larger church has been so committed to schools, colleges, universities and seminaries. The constant aim is to bring all knowledge and educational effort under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. It is much to be regretted that the forces of secularization over the last century many former places of sound learning have ceased to be truly Christian schools participating in this wider vision.
The daily experience of the believer ought to be, for the godly, the reality of seeking to live by scriptural insights of faith, hope and charity, and knowing the guidance and presence of the Lord in the events of daily life. Hence too comes the ideal of the Anglican clergyman as that of the “learned and godly minister,” a man of genuine faith and piety, who is learned in general and in the Scriptures in particular. Learning without godliness or godliness without learning are both insufficient for a pastor in God’s household.
Grant to us. Lord, we beseech thee, the spirit to think and do always such things as are right; that we, who cannot do anything that is good without thee, may by thee be enabled to live according to thy will; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
9 The Anglican Way includes Evangelization
Fulfillment of the mandate of our Lord (Matthew 28:18-20) begins with inviting as many as we can into the knowledge of God the Father and his only begotten Son. All churches have therefore to go out and teach “all things that the Lord Jesus commanded”. What begins this in evangelization leads on to continual teaching, constant formation, and a call to all to reach for maturity in Christ.
Our Baptism points to a wholly new life, lived in and with the risen Lord Jesus Christ. And as disciples we are called to be holy and to love God with heart and soul and mind and strength and to love their neighbors as themselves. Thus, as Anglicans, we must seek to share the vocation of disciplined prayer, meditative reading of Scripture and corporate worship enabled through the Book of Common Prayer.
Appreciation for the discipline of liturgical prayer, is most likely to be occasioned through participation in the Daily Office, the Litany and in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. Moreover, the Anglican Way calls for the sanctification of the whole person, body, mind and spirit and for the sanctification of the whole assembly of the faithful. Thus the local church, using the liturgy, is truly “a royal priesthood” as in the fellowship of unity in Christ Jesus it offers praise and makes intercession to the Father Almighty.
Such evangelization is not to make solitary, individualistic believers convinced solely that they have a “personal relationship with God”; rather it is to bring individual persons through repentance and faith into union with Christ and with members of his Body so that together all may grow up into their Head. It is to participate in the missio Dei, the mission of God the Holy Trinity in the reconciling, saving and redeeming of the world.
The Anglican Way began as the religion of the national Church of England and everyone was deemed to be a member of the Church. This meant that catechizing was often the primary mode of evangelization. This led at the parish level to an emphasis on teaching those who had been baptized as infants the content of the Faith into which they had been incorporated by this Sacrament.
With the rise of the British Empire there came a much expanded sense of call to mission and evangelization. And the widely vibrant, large and growing churches of the now worldwide Anglican Communion are result of this. So even as Anglican membership declines in many parts of its historical heartlands, it nonetheless expands at an unprecedented rate in other parts of the world, These churches are themselves now the agents of new and intense evangelization.
O God, who has made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on the face of the whole earth, and didst send thy blessed Son to preach peace to them that are afar off and to them that are nigh; grant that all men everywhere may seek after thee and find thee; bring the nations into thy fold, pour out thy Spirit upon all flesh, and hasten thy kingdom; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
10 The Anglican Way is Hierarchical
In our modem, not to mention post-modem and increasingly egalitarian and secularist world, classical Christianity faces new challenges. The Anglican Way is authentic in being understood as hierarchical not least in the sense entailed by commitment to holy order.
This reflects the holy order in the eternal relations within the Blessed, Holy and Undivided Trinity, where there is First the etemal Father, second his only begotten and eternal Son (who became Incarnate for us and our salvation) and third his Holy Spirit. Mysteriously, this relation holds despite the fact that there is also equality since, the Three Persons are equal in Godhead, each possessing the one identical Substance or Divinity.
Again, in the doctrine of creation articulated in Scripture we find that the human race is made in God’s image and after his likeness (Genesis 1:27) with again an order: first the man and then the woman, equal in being but related in holy order, wherein there is a first and a second.
Hierarchical order is again reflected in the ordained Ministry of the Church, often called the Ministerial Priesthood — the Bishop, the Presbyter (=Priest) and the Deacon. Further, the Ministry of Bishop and Presbyter is open only (within the traditional Anglican Way) to such men as are called by the Holy Ghost and the Church.
The holy order in which family relations and ministerial priesthood participates is intended both to reflect the Lordship and Headship of Christ over the Church and the Sovereignty of the Father Almighty over all creation. But in understanding the meaning of this it is important to remember that Christ the Head was the servant who came not to be ministered unto but to minister! Hierarchy and service belong together.
The ordered liturgy of Common Prayer in the Anglican Way always points thus to the divine order which God has placed not only within his (old) creation but also, in an heightened form, in the new creation of the age to come. To participate in this liturgy is to participate in this holy order.
True freedom can only be known where there is order, for only within divinely-fixed bounds can a person enjoy that genuine liberty which is comprised of becoming that to which we are called. Christian freedom is to be released from the bondage of sin and selfishness in order to serve the Lord joyfully and thankfully within the holy order of the creation in which he has placed human relations in the ordinary family and in the family of God which is the Church.
Within the order of divine service which Common Prayer expresses, there is a genuine freedom established so that each person, male and female, young and old, can find and fulfil his or her vocation in the church and the world as a child of God.
Almighty God, the giver of all good gifts, who of thy divine providence hast appointed divers Orders in thy Church; give thy grace, we humbly beseech thee to all those who are called to any office and administration in the same; and so replenish them with the truth of thy doctrine, and endue them with innocency of life, that they may faithfully serve thee, to the glory of thygreat Name and the benefit of thy holy Church; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen