By Fr. Myles Hixson
Archbishop Geoffrey Fisher famously remarked, “The Anglican Communion has no peculiar thought, practice, creed or confession of its own. It has only the Catholic Faith of the ancient Catholic Church, as preserved in the Catholic Creeds and maintained in the Catholic and Apostolic constitution of Christ’s Church from the beginning.”
I find such a fluid definition to be simultaneously Anglicanism's greatest strength and greatest weakness. On the one hand, we have the freedom to fully embrace the Gospel, Scriptures, and Church Fathers without being hampered by previous theological declarations (Rome, for example, is forever haunted by her previous decisions at Trent and the First Vatican Council; and Lutheranism is sometimes slavishly bound to the 1580 Book of Concord). On the other hand, Anglicanism is a large tent that allows for many competing, and often incompatible, notions of what it means to be an Anglican Christian. And so, it seems we never cease asking, "What exactly is Anglicanism?"
Recently the Anglican internet community revisited this question of Anglican identity, and one of our own, Paul Owen, a lay member in the APA, joined the conversation.
The discussion reignited when this article was released. The author bemoans that some Anglicans emphasis "catholic" identity and heritage, which he believes inevitably leads one to convert to Roman Catholicism. To combat this, he urges Anglicans to return to what he believes is the the "original" Anglican vision: a purely "Protestant" church.
Our faithful brother Paul Owen responds here. He rightly points out that while Anglicanism historically had more Reformed influence at its founding, the trajectory of the past 500 years has been towards a more robustly catholic and patristic identity, practice, and devotion. For example, even the most Protestant of modern Anglicans rarely balk at candles on the altar or a priest wearing a colored stole, but both of these at one time were seen as "vain popery" infiltrating the English Church.
This development within Anglicanism towards greater conformity with historic Christianity, Owen argues, does not necessarily lead one towards Rome. Anglicanism, when done well, showcases the beauty and depth of the ancient Christian and catholic faith, which is actually something becoming rarer and rarer to find today.
Today on the The Sacramentalists Podcast, which I cohost with Fr. Wesley Walker (St. Paul's Crownsville, APA), we discuss these two articles and how we believe modern Anglicans should engage the conversation.
I pray you will find these discussions enlightening, and that they will strengthen your commitment to the Lord Jesus and to his One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church as found in Anglicanism, our home and family.
Fr. Myles Hixson is Rector of Holy Cross Anglican Church in Knoxville, TN.