A brief history of American Anglicanism

This is an odd position for an Anglican to take, innit? :hushed:


Careful now. Seems like you’re trying to get Father Bill riled up. :wink::joy:

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Well, no.

There are … what? … Native Anglicans - that is, ecclesiastical sons of the English Reformation who reside in the United Kingdom - who have no communion with the State Church. They’re called The Free Church of England. They are Protestant, reformed, and date from a low-church evangelical reaction against Oxford Movement efforts to pretend that the Reformation didn’t happen (or, was just a momentary aberration).

Originally, much (maybe most?) of the American colonists were Anglicans. After the Unpleasantness dating from 1776, those same Anglicans found they had won a political war against their ecclesiastical head (King George). What now, ecclesiastically, that is?

First, they decided to call themselves Episcopals or Episcopalians, denoting that their church was ruled by bishops. Anglican, you see, is just a Latinesque word meaning “English.” So, we were now Episcopals.

Except American colonial Episcopals had no bishops! And, in Episcopal polity, only bishops can ordain new priests and consecrate new bishops. So, Samuel Seabury heads off to England, where the English bishops tell Seabury to pound sand.

The non-juring Scottish Church, happy to poke a finger into ecclesiastical eyes down south, consecrated Seabury and sent him back to the colonies.

Fast forward a couple of centuries, and the Episcopal Church in America was terminally apostate, shedding parishes and dioceses all over the place. Episcopal at this point meant (and still means) pro-abortion, pro-homosexuality, pro-ordination of women to the presbyterate and episcopate, and sundry other heretical thangs. So, those departing the Episcopal church don’t want to call themselves Episcopal any longer. What to do?

Most of us now revert to calling ourselves Anglican, not because we wish to be part of the modern English state church, but because we wish to indicate “We’re not with them” (while pointing to those Episcopals) and also to signal that our roots are in the English Reformation - the one claiming Bishops Cranmer, Latimer, and Ridley as martyrs.


This was a helpful little summary. Thanks and add more if you want.

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Ironically, the name “Anglicish” didn’t catch on because it was too Episcopalian.

Hey, I’m just trying to keep him from getting clapped in the Tower!

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I thought you were proposing the disestablishment of the monarchy, not the Church of England. I don’t expect that run-of-the-mill disestablishmentarianism would get you clapped in the Tower.

I hadn’t understood that the American Anglican movement (as in, “not the Episcopalians”) weren’t in communion with the CoE until recently. What’s the general feeling in terms of seeking communion with the CoE?

I’ve watched the Anglican train wreck up close and personal (as a layman) from 1990 until 2004. When I first tuned in, conservative Episcopals were huffing and puffing and declaring that they weren’t going anywhere and forming associations and study groups and who knows what else - AND appealing to the Archbishop of Canterbury to intercede against the revisionists in the American Church.

Nope. Didn’t happen. Turns out the American Church supplied (still does) most of the money that keeps the Worldwide Anglican Communion in pocket money. Who’s going to discipline the goose with the golden eggs?

And those whiney conservative Episcopals? Especially the ones who bail on the American Church for so-called Continuing Anglican Christianity? The C of E will not even meet with them any longer, much less invite them into the Communion meetings, agencies, councils, and so forth.

So, no. American Anglicans - over the past 20 years - have been forced to come to terms with the Archbishop of Canterbury promoting the same heresies that forced the orthodox Anglican Christians to depart.

There’s a slow-motion dynamic wherein the orthodox Anglicans around the world are slowly forming an alternative to Canterbury. The new See for this worldwide communion of orthodox Anglicans will likely settle in Africa (Alexandria is a fave in discussions) or in Jerusalem. But, it’s a slow process. I expect to see the end of it (whether it’s successful or a failure) from my perch in heaven.


Terry Mattingly of GetReligion.org, himself an Episcopalian who swam the Bosporus, used to say, “America pays, Africa prays.”

Years ago he covered Metripolitan Jonah meeting with the Americans Anglicans. Jonah told the room that Calvinism was heresy.

I would strongly recommend against a city where Muslims predominate, or reasonably could in the foreseeable future, for whatever my vote is worth.

You may know the name Roger Salter - he mentioned to me once (as my intention after seminary has been to pursue Episcopal ordination) that a truly Reformed Anglican/Episcopal ministry is largely going to end up being a personal project.

Some who are particularly free with their opinions have suggested to me that ACNA itself is sitting atop fault lines - understanding that TEC didn’t just wake up one day and suddenly decide to ordain Robinson. One friend theorized that “many folks in ACNA would go running right back to TEC if they got rid of the gay stuff but left all the other bad theology in place.” Surely that is not the case everywhere but I’ve seen examples of that sort of thinking. Many do not seem to understand the link between WO and the slide. Unfortunately it is the Anglo-Catholics who tend to hold the line here, though they do not do so from a biblical perspective, but more of a traditional one. Even REC has pitched toward the Anglo-Catholic direction. There are a few guys here and there who are committed to both classical Reformation doctrine and the Episcopal tradition, but they seem to be few and far between. Me, I’m lower than the organ pedals as they say, and have been referred to (lightly pejoratively) as an Anglitarian or a Prayer Book Presbyterian. :slight_smile:

Ditto in Scotland. The Scottish Episcopal Church now has a centre-of-gravity which is more liberal than even the CoE, and certainly more Anglo-Catholic. So the churches which have walked out refer to themselves as Anglican, and the people left in the SEC who are even remotely evangelical, call themselves “Anglican” as well (as a way of saying that while they may worship in an SEC, they are really not of that ilk).

For those who aren’t up on the acronyms:

(Correct me if I’ve missed the mark on any of these, Anglican brothers.)


I’d say this is true. On the other hand . . .

(1) it has always been true! The English Reformation is scattered throughout its history with men whose reformed features in their theology are stellar. Such men - Ryle comes to mind immediately - are often seen as reformed heroes by today’s Neo-puritans [… ahem, I look nervously around me . . ], though if they had watched him conducting Morning Prayer and Holy Eucharist on a Sunday morning, they’d have been shocked and revolted at what they’d think were popish trappings and rituals.

Frankly, I think a truly reformed (note, I didn’t capitalize that word!) ministry is going to largely be a personal project of any minister who launches out into vocational ministry. Even in ostensibly Presbyterian circles. How do you think the PCA got into the mess with women and gays that it has? It’s because wandering off the Reformed Reservation (again, note this time the capitalization!) has been the personal project of way too many PCA elders.

Indeed. Some of it is staunchly Anglo-Catholic (I think of Iker here, both Anglo-Catholic and an immediate departer from the TEC, having gotten out with his entire diocese!). Some of it is middlin’ soft-evangelical with a thick veneer of Anglican worship features. Some of it is trying - with often hilarious results - to blend traditional western catholic (lower-case deliberate) worship with so-called contemporary worship forms. And, still other parties in the ACNA are so charismatic that one cannot be consecrated a bishop in their circles unless he first speaks in tongues!

What is the glue that conglomerates all these disparate elements together? Two things: (1) some sort of fascination with sparkly things in worship, and (2) aversion to acknowledging homosexuality. This glue will stick so long as the gay lobby is strong, activist, and focused upon defeating the forces it meets within ecclesial organizations.

But, long-term? History says no way. And, already it is beginning to disintegrate. CANA, a founding group, has withdrawn. Iker’s diocese has declared itself in “impaired communion” with the rest of the ACNA over its decision to let women’s ordination continue unabated. And, I hear a lot of grumbling from the priests’ ranks within the REC on the same issue.

This is funny!:smile: I daresay most within the PCA do not understand the link either! :crazy_face:

They can see that there is a link, but they have no idea why it’s there, what it means, where it comes from. That’s why I am so pessimistic about Presbyterian ranks generally - along with broadly evangelical American Protestantism, Presbyterians of any sort have no theology of sex at all, and unless he’s changed his mind, @tbbayly agrees with me on this point.

If you do not understand your opponent, he is going to overcome you.

Agreed. But, again, this is mostly the case within reformed, and also Reformed, circles.

There may be more of them within Continuing Anglicanism than you think. Yes, they are scattered, in the sense that they are not organized into a community/political structure that champions their convictions.

On the other hand, the confessional standards of Anglican Christianity are primitive. Not crude, but fundamental. Basic, basic, basic. The ecumenical Creeds. The Thirty-Nine Articles. The Book of Common Prayer and its Ordinal. Within those commodious boundaries, there’s much room doctrinally. For some, this is both a weakness and a danger of Anglican Christianity. For others (like myself) it is hugely welcome - especially if you serve under a bishop who respects and facilitates the spiritual growth of his priests within those boundaries. Thanks be to God I have such a bishop.

Again, my bishop is one of these! He was in seminary, preparing for vocational ministry within the PCUSA, son of a Presbyterian minister, when he noticed things in the historic church which had been fenced off within his Presbyterian corral. The bishop who confirmed me and my family 30 years ago was a former Presbyterian minister.

When I became an Episcopalian 30 years ago, my parish priest told me that almost 50 percent of the priests in the Diocese of Dallas were previously Baptist ministers (!) and that the Bishop loved them - mostly because they knew their Bibles well and all of them could preach.

Our parish curate and his wife are both graduates of Bob Jones University. No one in my parish is a cradle Episcopalian. They are all formerly in various evangelical churches (including Presbyterians), while a few were reared within Roman parishes (including our parish deacon). The “roominess” of Prayer Book Christianity mentioned above makes it a highly effective melting pot.

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