Saturday, July 12, 2008

Affirmation vs. Declaration

For those who are interested in how GAFCON's Jerusalem Declaration compares to the Continuing Church's Affirmation of St. Louis, here are some main points:


1. Continuing Anglicanism

We, being moved by the Holy Spirit to walk only in that way, are determined to continue in the Catholic Faith, Apostolic Order, Orthodox Worship and Evangelical Witness of the traditional Anglican Church, doing all things necessary for the continuance of the same. We are upheld and strengthened in this determination by the knowledge that many provinces and dioceses of the Anglican Communion have continued steadfast in the same Faith, Order, Worship and Witness.... We affirm our continued relations of communion with the See of Canterbury and all faithful parts of the Anglican Communion.

We cherish our Anglican heritage and the Anglican Communion and have no intention of departing from it.

2. Rejection of Apostasy

We affirm that the ACoC and the PECUSA, by their unlawful attempts to alter Faith, Order and Morality (especially in their General Synod of 1975 and General Convention of 1976), have departed from Christ's One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church... We affirm that all former ecclesiastical governments, being fundamentally impaired by the schismatic acts of lawless Councils, are of no effect among us, and that we must now reorder such godly discipline as we strengthen us in the continuation of our common life and witness... We affirm that the claim of any such schismatic person or body to act against any Church member, clerical or lay, for his witness to the whole Faith is with no authority of Christ&'s true Church, and any such inhibition, deposition or discipline is without effect and is absolutely null and void.

We reject the authority of those churches and leaders who have denied the orthodox faith in word or deed. We pray for them and call on them to repent and return to the Lord.

3. Lordship of & Salvation through Christ

In the firm conviction that “we shall be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ,” and that “there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved,” and acknowledging our duty to proclaim Christ’s saving Truth to all peoples, nations and tongues, we declare our intention to hold fast the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Faith of God.

We gladly proclaim and submit to the unique and universal Lordship of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, humanity’s only Saviour from sin, judgement and hell, who lived the life we could not live and died the death that we deserve. By his atoning death and glorious resurrection, he secured the redemption of all who come to him in repentance and faith.

4. Authority of Scripture

We repudiate all deviation of departure from the Faith, in whole or in part, and bear witness to these essential principles of evangelical Truth and apostolic Order: (1) The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments and the authentic record of God’s revelation of Himself, His saving activity, and moral demands—a revelation valid for all men and all time.

We believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God written and to contain all things necessary for salvation.

5. The Three Creeds

...(2) The Nicene Creed as the authoritative summary of the chief articles of the Christian Faith, together with the “Apostles’ Creed, and that known as the Creed of St. Athanasius to be “thoroughly received and believed” in the sense they have had always in the catholic Church.

We uphold… the three historic Creeds as expressing the rule of faith of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church.

6. Marriage

The God-given sacramental bond in marriage between one man and one woman is God’s loving provision for procreation and family life, and sexual activity is to be practiced only within the bonds of Holy Matrimony.

We acknowledge God’s creation of humankind as male and female and the unchangeable standard of Christian marriage between one man and one woman as the proper place for sexual intimacy and the basis of the family.

7. Ecumenicism—though Affirmation is clearer in what the essentials are, they both state that ecumenical relations are based on such standards:

The continuing Anglicans remain in full communion with the See of Canterbury and with all other faithful parts of the Anglican Communion, and should actively seek similar relations with all other apostolic and catholic Churches, provided that agreement in the essentials of Faith and Order first be reached.
(N.B. Once the CoE started ordaining women, it no longer met, from the Continuing perspective, the requirement of agreement on “essentials of Faith and Order”.)
We recognise the orders and jurisdiction of those Anglicans who uphold orthodox faith and practice, and we encourage them to join us in this declaration.


1. Ecumenical Councils—Affirmation accepts all seven; the Declaration only four.

...(3) The received Tradition of the Church and its teachings as set forth by “the ancient catholic bishops and doctors,” and especially as defined by the Seven Ecumenical Councils of the undivided Church, to the exclusion of all errors, ancient and modern.

We uphold the four Ecumenical Councils… as expressing the rule of faith of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church.

2. Thirty-nine Articles—for the Affirmation, these are less authoritative than the Creeds, Councils and the patristic consensus; for the Declaration, they come second only to Scripture:

In affirming these principles [Scripture, Creeds, Councils etc] we recognize that all Anglican statements of faith and liturgical formulae must be interpreted in accordance with them.

We uphold the Thirty-nine Articles as containing the true doctrine of the Church agreeing with God’s Word and as authoritative for Anglicans today.

3. Historic and traditional norms of Scriptural interpretation are “required” by the Affirmation, merely to be “respected” by the Declaration.

We acknowledge that rule of faith laid down by St. Vincent of Lerins: “Let us hold that which has been believed everywhere, always and by all, for that is truly and properly Catholic.”

The Bible is to be translated, read, preached, taught and obeyed in its plain and canonical sense, respectful of the church’s historic and consensual reading.

4. Liturgical Norms

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.

We rejoice in our Anglican sacramental and liturgical heritage as an expression of the gospel, and we uphold the 1662 Book of Common Prayer as a true and authoritative standard of worship and prayer, to be translated and locally adapted for each culture.

5. Ordination—Affirmation explicitly defines the clergy with apostolic succession and the Eucharist, rejects lay presidency, and requires a male-only clergy; Declaration only speaks of “historic succession” (could mean the same thing of course) and doesn’t forbid W.O. or lay presidency:

The Holy Orders of bishops, priests and deacons as the perpetuation of Christ’s gift of apostolic ministry to His Church, asserting the necessity of a bishop of apostolic succession (or priest ordained by such) as the celebrant of the Eucharist—these Orders consisting exclusively of men in accordance with Christ’s Will and institution (as evidenced by the Scriptures), and the universal practice of the catholic Church.

We recognise that God has called and gifted bishops, priests and deacons in historic succession to equip all the people of God for their ministry in the world. We uphold the classic Anglican Ordinal as an authoritative standard of clerical orders.

First posted on SFiF before I was banned there for being articulately anglocatholic (like so many other anglocatholic former members).


Similarities: the first thing to notice about these similarities, laudable as they are, is that they are very basic. Other than the commitment to the Anglican Communion (point 1), there is nothing here which any minimally Christian organization (Protestant, Catholic or Orthodox) could not agree with. (Much of the Anglican Communion in the first world, of course, therefore will have trouble with those points, but that should come as no surprise by now.)

The similarity of the language desiring to remain in the Anglican Communion (aka the Lambeth Anglican Federation) is noteworthy. Remember, the Continuing Church movement only intended -- for the sake of remaining faithful Christians as well as Anglicans -- to break away from apostate PEcUSA, not from the Anglican Communion as a whole. But the Anglican Communion chose not to disassociate itself from PEcUSA's apostasy but, at least in many places, to follow it. Those who are confident that the same won't happen again should take heed to this history and plan accordingly. Keeping the "GAFCon movement" within the "Anglican Communion" may prove to be more difficult than some think... and some of the "institutionalist" reactions to GAFCon in the days and weeks after that meeting should increase these concerns.

Among the differences between the Affirmation and the Declaration is how the Affirmation is a much more robust and comprehensive statement of basic norms. The Affirmation, for examples, mentions the sanctity of life -- the Declaration, by contrast, takes no position (implicit or explicit) on pressing issues such as abortion. Of course, this merely indicates that the framers of the Affirmation chose to address a slightly larger range of basic concerns than the Declaration; I mention it just to point out a difference between the documents, not as a criticism of the Declaration.

But by far the biggest difference between the two is how firmly the Affirmation remains in the Anglican catholic tradition and how aggressively the Declaration departs (at least implicitly) from it. At every point at which the Declaration had to chose between the catholic and protestant traditions it chose the protestant.

This self-consciously protestant identity is clear in the points of difference mentioned above. The Affirmation affirms the normative interpretive authority of Tradition; the Declaration does not. The Affirmation recognizes all seven Ecumenical Councils; the Declaration does not. The Affirmation acknowledges the primary authority of Scripture and the Tradition of the undivided Church over subsequent formularies; the Declaration, by contrast, elevates the 39 Articles to a confessional status they have never had in any Anglican church (except, at least nominally, in the Church of England) by making them second only to Scripture in binding authority. And while the Affirmation sets forth the balanced 1928 BCP as a liturgical norm, the Declaration reaches back to chose the most protestant option among the BCPs, making the 1662 book its norm. And, of course, while the Affirmation explicitly rules out both women's ordination and lay presidency at communion, the Declaration (whose supporters include those who practice the first and are, at least, open to the possibility of the second) does not.

In short, the Declaration is implicitly setting up norms of an angloprotestant belief which looks to be, at best, only grudgingly tolerant of any sort of "theological anglocatholicism". (By which I mean an anglocatholicism which holds to the traditional norms of Faith and Order outlined in the Affirmation, not the "liturgical anglocatholicism" of mere high-church worship or the "false anglocatholicism" of the so-called 'Affirming Catholics' in England.)

I'm not the only one who immediately noticed this clear protestant bent. From within the ranks of the GAFCon supporters, bishop John Rodgers of the AMiA notes:
any very important matters were not directly addressed at GAFCON, in the Statement or in the Jerusalem Declaration. This by no means relegates matters such as the status of 5th, 6th and 7th Councils, the ordination of women, the form of the Anglican Communion, abortion, the nature of and conflict with militant Islam, our relation to the persecuted Church etc. to secondary issues. There are serious issues and differences among the fellowship of confessing Anglicans that must and will be faced. It will not be easy, nor will solutions be sudden, nor can we be absolutely certain that some will not, in the end, decide they must walk apart.

And Archbishop Haverland of the ACC has likewise commented:
GAFCON produced a now widely published statement which does not address the innovations that led to the formation of our own Continuing Church in 1976-8: namely the ‘ordination of women’, a new and radical Prayer Book, and a pro-abortion policy.
Some anglocatholic observers are even more critical.

Obviously, the GAFCon ramifications are not yet over... it remains to be seen what the coming months bring, as well as the promised follow-up meetings. Nevertheless, from what we've seen so far, it should be increasingly clear to those few theological anglocatholics who still remain either in the Lambeth Anglican Federation or in GAFCon circles that the future of a genuine anglocatholicism -- if any -- does not lie in those affiliations, but rather among those Anglicans who maintain the traditional Anglicanism which was affirmed (not created) in the Affirmation of St. Louis.