How High-Church I Am

Just how high-church am I as an Anglican? Because everyone wonders, and because some of the things I do may seem to cast doubt upon my being an evangelical.

Doctrine and Ecclesiology

I believe the Thirty-Nine Articles taken in their literal and grammatical sense, not in the monstrous way invented by John Henry Newman in Tract 90. The Church of England and the other Anglican churches are Protestant churches, standing rightly against the detestable enormities of the papacy, which imposes upon the Church, on pain of excommunication, strange doctrines neither heard of nor countenanced by the apostles and the fathers of the Church, these doctrines including works of supererogation, sacerdotal succession from the Apostles, transubstantiation in the Lord’s Supper, the cult of the saints and the Blessed Virgin Mary conceived immaculate. All such unreformed doctrines I abhor and abjure, believing holy Scripture to be sufficient for all things necessary to salvation.

God is the maker of his own Church. Invisibly he does this by Holy Ghost alone, through faith, and visibly by incorporating those who profess the faith into the earthly communion of believers, constituted in its profession by hearing the word and partaking of the sacraments. Outside of the visible Church, who professes the faith of Christ, there is no ordinary possibility of salvation; as Calvin says (Institutes 4.1.7), ‘Just as we must believe, therefore, that the former church, invisible to us, is visible to the eyes of God alone, so we are commanded to revere and keep communion with the latter, the visible church.’

On baptism, I am strongly pædobaptist, holding that children of believers are members of the covenant, and in baptism are given the seed of faith, though inwardly we cannot know whether they be chosen by God to grow into adult faith and to persevere in that faith. Because election is hidden and baptism is revealed, those who are baptized and do not disclaim the faith are unreservedly to be called Christians. Like most orthodox Anglicans, I take a Receptionist view of the Lord’s Supper, as articulated and documented by Daniel Waterland in A Review of the Doctrine of the Eucharist; as for Zwinglianism, I consider it discredited both by the Old Testament use of the word memorial and by the usage of St Paul himself, who says, The cup of blessing which we bless [i.e. for which we bless God], is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?

Regarding the proper order of the Church, I support synodical episcopacy (on the model proposed by Abp Ussher) in a comprehensive church, not the agree-to-disagree fragmentation that now marks the Church. In this church, it is fitting to have a standard prayer book with some tolerance for scruples of conscience, as well as to retain the offices of bishop, priest (presbyter) and deacon, the first of which is a plene esse sign of the Church’s catholic unity in Christ, guarding undefiled both the word and the sacraments. For reasons of good order, I have some reservations about Whitefield and Wesley, especially Wesley for ordaining ministers without a bishop’s authority; at the same time, I acknowledge that they did stir up a church whose piety in many places had become lukewarm, though I also maintain that the Methodists are schismatics.

Ceremonial and Ornaments

Holy Communion should be celebrated at the north end of the table, with two candlesticks or none, and the paten and chalice on the credence table until the Offertory. Ministers should typically wear a cassock, surplice, academic hood, preaching scarf (tippet) and preaching bands; a bishop should wear, instead of a surplice, a rochet and a modest black chimere. I think many Anglican churches have been too quick in adopting coloured stoles and especially chasubles, though a decent cope can be quite edifying.

Ideally, the congregation also makes simple bows of the head at the holy Name of Jesus and upon entering and leaving a church sanctuary, as well as profound bows at the waist at the Incarnatus clauses in the Nicene Creed (through and was buried), at the end of the Sanctus, and after the Prayer of Consecration. Likewise, the sign of the Cross, which is also in use among Lutherans with no theological difference, and also remains a part of the ministration of Holy Baptism – and thereafter is a sign of our baptisms, by which we bear on our bodies and souls the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost – ought to be a matter of individual discretion, not frowned upon as a popish devotion.

As a sign of continuity with the earlier practices of the Church, I have a slight preference for plainchant (Merbecke?) and polyphonic anthems; in cathedrals and collegiate churches, I am quite pleased to hear choirs sing Anglican chants by Tallis and others. If incense be used (probably for a high feast day), I think it edifying to have incense pots on the floor, without the superstitious censing of persons and especially of things.


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