It appears that one of my recent essays rubbed people the wrong way, and that because they overlooked or missed the autobiographical nature of my sharpest criticism. Did they not see these words? “...the route to education lies through the Sophomore Pass, and once upon a time I had only just emerged from that spot on the trail. I also thought that ‘Protestant’ was the opposite of ‘Catholic.’ ...years later...I had recovered from the wrong influences.”
In the years of which I wrote, as I was learning ideas new to me, I was not content to be merely an Anglo-Catholic of the nosebleed High variety; I was the “Fr. Spike” character mentioned by Screwtape in his letter. I was downright prejudiced, an Anglo-Catholic bigot of sorts, one who thought all Low churchmen failed to appreciate the Incarnation and sacraments, and as such I was a danger to the completely unschooled. My learning was just enough to make me into a fool, a"wise fool" or sophomore, despite my higher degrees. I trembled at the words of Cardinal Newman, because the ideas he expressed seemed wise and profound. But, the conclusion to my essay was also biographical: “The answer for those who have learned ignorance is to keep learning, but to gather facts from different and better sources. Get through the Sophomore Pass and beyond it.”
As I continued to read and learn, I saw the English Reformers in a far better light. Also, I realized that the revered Cardinal Newman was actually a very confused man, and that his ideas were far from brilliant. Frankly, he was no scholar of Christian doctrine, neither was he advanced theologically or philosophically. His theory of Doctrinal Development began with orthodox ideas about the seed of revealed truth, but in its final form it became dangerous, contradicting the safety of the Vincentian Canon and overthrowing all certainty of a doctrinal standard. And, I saw that many idealistic notions about the See of Rome were simply wrong, unsupported by history, unjustified by theology and the consensus of the Universal Church. The truth of their real condition was shamefully exposed by newsworthy events.
My continued learning gave me new appreciation for the English Reformers, broke the spell of learned ignorance, the profound kind that has to be acquired, and the spell of fascination with Rome. I gained a deep appreciation for words I had read by Fr. Louis Tarsitano (who had been more than patient with my foolishness) in an email exchange: “The reason for being Anglican is to avoid innovations; both the innovations of Protestants and of Rome.” Indeed, though the new breed that calls itself "Evangelical" (and "Reasserter") has thrown away the baby with the bathwater, a new breed that calls itself "Anglo-Catholic" - with as flimsy a claim as the other breed to a name equally undeserved– is drowning the same baby with even more bathwater, and from dubious sources.
Reaffirming St. Louis
In the current confusion and crisis, it is time to understand the majority of people, especially the Laity, who have embraced the Affirmation of St. Louis, especially those who are resisting the sales pressure of Anglo-Papalists. Let me explain why I understand them so well. I am an old Episcopalian, and I never left the Episcopal Church; it left me. The only way to remain faithful was to leave the organization that had to come to control the assets and to acquire the name of my church without my consent. So, I understand the people who are looking for that sane, orthodox, and rich Catholic faith that contains the Evangelical fullness and power, in our Anglican heritage. To many of them I say the following, namely to some currently in the Traditional Anglican Communion and Anglican Church in America (TAC/ACA) -and it is nothing more than what they already know.
You wanted to Continue the faith and practice of the Book of Common Prayer, but some of your clergy seem contemptuous of it. You thought you had gotten away from people who were trying to overthrow that firm foundation, and now find you have some leading clergy, including bishops, just as ready to tear it up as were the leaders of the modern Episcopal Church. You had Affirmed your confidence in the Book of Common Prayer with its Articles of Religion, not as infallible, but as a true and right guide to the Faith of the ancient Church and the Bible. But, too many of your clergymen are, as is evident by their words, wholly ignorant of what those Formularies mean, and some have presumed to delete them.
You are told that your fathers were heretics, that your Articles are merely an “historic document” to be cast away, and that your liturgy is deficient. The men who were supposed to have Affirmed the faith you hold, are now trying to make Roman Catholics of you, and they have no more respect for the Anglican Way of your fathers than do the women “priests” of the modern Episcopal Church. They use your Book of Common Prayer as far as they like, but they do not follow it. So, you have come to see that something is dreadfully wrong.
It is time to stand up and Reaffirm what was Affirmed at St. Louis in 1977. Part of that reads:
IV. PRINCIPLES OF WORSHIP
Prayer Book -- The Standard of Worship
In the continuing Anglican Church, the Book of Common Prayer is (and remains) one work in two editions: The Canadian Book of 1962 and the American Book of 1928. Each is fully and equally authoritative. No other standard for worship exists.
Certain Variances Permitted
For liturgical use, only the Book of Common Prayer and service books conforming to and incorporating it shall be used.
Part of it also says:
Continuation, Not Innovation
In this gathering witness of Anglicans and Episcopalians, we continue to be what we are. We do nothing new. We form no new body, but continue as Anglicans and Episcopalians.
As we have grown beyond the United States and Canada, the principle has expanded, that we retain and Continue authentic Anglican standards as they have been preserved in various countries.
After naming ancient standards recognized by the Universal Church (the Nature of the Church, the essentials of truth and order, Holy Scriptures, the Creeds, Tradition, Sacraments, etc.,) the Affirmation says, “In affirming these principles, we recognize that all Anglican statements of faith and liturgical formulae must be interpreted in accordance with them.” This means that Anglican Formularies are, in fact, in accordance with the Universal Consensus and Antiquity summarized so well in the words, “That which is believed everywhere, always and by all" (Quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est).
Those professed Anglicans who attack the Formularies of Anglicanism may think they are standing for something they conceive of as “Catholic.” But, they display no genuine knowledge of the Faith of the ancient Catholic bishops and doctors; instead they are merely standing against Anglicanism itself, and sawing off the branch they sit on. And, just like the modern Episcopalians, they have already left you behind. They go to Rome instead of “Liberalism,” but nonetheless, they embrace innovation. And, while they linger, lacking conviction and identity, they cannot grow their numbers or establish their churches with any viable and lasting strength. They have rejected Anglicanism in substance.
They do not speak for you. What they represent is not what was Affirmed at St. Louis in 1977.