The Late Peter Toon on the Proposed Theological Statement of the Common Cause Partners

This is worth re-posting, eight years after it was written:

Proposed Doctrine for the Network. Can it be improved? YES, very much so.

The Common Cause Partners of the Anglican Communion Network are being asked to adopt the doctrinal statement printed below at its meeting at the beginning of August 2006.

“Proposed Theological Statement of the Common Cause Partners

We, the representatives of the Common Cause Partners, do declare we believe the following affirmations and commentary to contain the chief elements of Anglican Reformed Catholicism, and to be essential for membership.

1) We receive the Canonical Books of the Old and New Testaments of the Holy Scripture as the inspired Word of God containing all things necessary for salvation, and as the final authority and unchangeable standard for Christian faith and life.

2) We confess the historic faith of the Undivided Church as declared in the Catholic Creeds.

3) We believe the teaching of the Seven Ecumenical Councils in so far as they are agreeable to the Holy Scriptures, and have been held by all, everywhere, at all times.

4) We hold the two sacraments of the Gospel to be ordained by Christ Himself, Baptism and the Supper of the Lord, and to be administered with unfailing use of Christ’s words of Institution and of the elements ordained by Him.

5) We accept the 1549 through the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and its ordinal as the foundation for Anglican worship and the standard for doctrine and discipline.

6) We believe the godly Historic Episcopate to be necessary for the full being of the Church.

7) We affirm the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion as foundational for authentic Anglican belief and practice and as correctives to doctrinal abuses.”

* * *

I offer below some comments upon it from the perspective of the famous Canon A5 in the Canon Law of the Church of England, the mother Church of the Anglican family:

The doctrine of the Church of England is grounded in the holy Scriptures, and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures. In particular such doctrine is to be found in the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordinal.

This indicates that the Anglican Way is at heart a particular way of reading, interpreting and receiving the truths of Holy Scripture as the Word of God written. The use of the ancient Creeds and the Formularies is part of this process of hearing and doing, believing and worshipping, according to what God declares to his people through his Word written.

Personally I cannot see why this Canon in and of itself (slightly edited) is not sufficient as the basis for a working unity for this mixed group of charismatics, evangelicals, anglo-catholics and evangelical high churchmen. There are problems of internal lack of coherence in the above proposed Statement and there are positions stated which self-respecting educated Evangelical Anglicans cannot accept, and below I shall indicate some of them.


If, following the C of E Canon, carefully reads the Thirty-Nine Articles, one will get a full and clear statement of the authority and sufficiency of the Scriptures for instructing us in the way of salvation and godliness. One will also learn what are the Catholic Creeds and why they are accepted in the Church in relation to the Bible. And the same goes for the two Dominical Sacraments. (See also the Catechism in the BCP)

At the same time one will learn that Councils may err and so one will not accept automatically the teaching of “the Seven Ecumenical Councils.” And this is especially important with regard to the seventh, the Second Council of Nicea, whose teaching on the veneration of icons is effectively rejected by the Articles and specifically by the Book of Homilies to which Article XXXV points. The historic Anglican Way has always affirmed four general councils and stopped at that – leaving to the area of discretion by local churches whether to affirm more. (In this regard the Affirmation of St Louis set forth by Anglo-catholic Continuers in 1977 went way past any previous official, provincial or Lambeth Conference Anglican statement in relation to the Councils by making 7 councils and their teaching mandatory – a big mistake.)

Further, if one reads the Articles and the Ordinal together then one will not be able to say on the basis of them (or by direct deduction from the New Testament) that the historic Episcopate is necessary for the full being of the Church. This statement is an Anglo-Catholic doctrine and belongs, I think, to the distinctions between the Episcopate seen as the bene esse (of the well being) or the plene esse (of the fullness of being) or the esse (of the necessary being). Anglicans have held varied doctrines of the relation of the Episcopate to the Church and it is not clear what is being claimed by the English expression, “full being” here. Whatever is claimed it excludes the majority of Anglicans since 1549 who have recognized other Churches (Lutheran, Presbyterian etc) as genuine churches with genuine presbyters, even if lacking the good thing of the Episcopate.

Then in regard to the statement about The Book of Common Prayer. It is the 1662 edition that is in the Constitutions of the majority of the Anglican Provinces and this Book has been translated into 150 languages or more. (Go to provinces like Uganda and see it used each Sunday and find it written into the Constitution.) No official province of the Anglican Communion authorizes the 1549 or the 1552 or the 1559 or the 1604 editions. A very small continuing group here or there may authorize the 1549.

Further, the 1662 was adapted for use in the Republic of the USA in 1789 (and gently edited in 1892 and then again in 1928) and also it was gently edited in Canada in 1918 and then again in 1960/62. Thus the living editions of the ONE BOOK of Common Prayer for the Common Cause groups are the 1662 (used in many countries), the 1928 and the 1962. These are the editions to cite, not those of 1549, 1552, 1559 & 1604!

So, in order to obtain the greatest acceptance and the greatest comprehension on the best principles, I suggest that the above Statement be set aside and in its place the C of E Canon adapted as follows:

We accept the doctrine of the Anglican Way as it is grounded in the holy Scriptures, and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures. In particular, we receive such doctrine as is to be found in the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordinal (as all three of these are printed in the English edition of 1662, the American edition of 1928 and the Canadian edition of 1962 of The Book of Common Prayer).

The Revd Dr Peter Toon July 17, 2006

The Rev’d Dr. Peter Toon MA., D.Phil (Oxford)

Archbishop Wabukala’s Address, Part II

Archbishop Wabukala uses the “alones” in his definition of salvation, “Set against this dark backdrop, the gospel of grace alone through faith alone shines in all its glory.” It would be hard to imagine a more thoroughly Protestant statement then what Wabukala has offered. He goes on to praise the confessionalism of African missionaries versus the moralism that took over in England:

For many of us the writings of John Stott and J.I. Packer simply were normal Anglicanism and too many of us assumed that the rest of the Communion thought the same way! 

I must point out that the Keswick origins of the East African Revival involve a good deal of Semi-Pelagiansim and that element of theology is not missing from the current GAFCON churches. Having said that, Stott and Packer are in a completely different orbit and referencing them is encouraging to me.
Wabukala maintains his focus on sexual ethics when he says:

The root cause of our problems is that strand of Western Anglicanism which has never been able to shake off the moralistic tendencies of the seventeenth century. It has too often chosen to justify its existence by various forms of moralism, but the indifference to doctrine which goes with this mindset means that it has a persistent tendency to adopt the morality of the prevailing secular culture — and it is ironic that bishops who are called to be guardians of the faith are often the leaders and catalysts in this process.  

But it is here that I must fault him for not going far enough. Sexual ethics are not the only ethics the Bible talks about, and while he is correct on those matters, he does not mention the approval of murderers like Uhuru Kenyatta and Paul Kagame that Romans 1:32 says we are not to give. Many GAFCON bishops have said not a word against the murderous wickedness of their national, but have said a great deal about homosexuality. Unless this is corrected, GAFCON will lack credibility in its notional re-evangelization of the West.
Another unfortunate aspect of Wabukala’s presentation is his identification of women’s ordination as a second order issue:

Following the spirit of the Articles, we respect diversity on secondary matters and the GAFCON movement models this in the variety of traditions it embraces and the recognition of principled difference about the role of women in church leadership. However, on those matters which touch the central message of the Church’s mission we need to also follow the spirit of the Articles, reinforcing the great positives of the gospel by stating the necessary negatives, especially in an intellectual environment dominated by post modernist relativism where it is assumed that truth claims are merely preferences. 

Women’s ordination has not been a secondary matter at all. It has indeed been the leading edge of the attack on Scriptural authority from at least the 1960’s on in the West. As Patrick Reardon said:

I trust it will not be a matter of indifference to Torrance that our opposition to women’s ordination springs from a deeply held conviction that the practice itself is a grave act of disobedience and a first, but firm, step toward apostasy. In fact, this was the assessment explicitly asserted by C. S. Lewis several decades ago in a passage that is well known. Lewis argued that ordaining the male sex to minister at the Eucharist has to do with the “correct appearance” (“orthodoxy” in Greek), the proper iconography. Change that appearance, alter that icon, he reasoned, and in due time you are worshipping a different god. That is precisely what we are witnessing today in congregations that were still Christian back when C. S. Lewis spoke his mind. 

I see the matter to be every bit as serious as that tiny but notorious fourth-century iota that Athanasius would have died to keep out of the Creed. The adoption of female ordination is regarded by some of us as an implicit but definite challenge to the lordship of Christ and the finality of his word… 

As with many things related to GAFCON, we have a mixed bag. Wabukala’s helpful re-centering of doctrine on the Articles of Religion gives way to a capitulation on Biblical principles of ordination and a failure to confront the oppressive regimes of several GAFCON nations. 

Archbishop Wabukala Defends the 39 Articles

Archbishop Wabukala

Archbishop Eliud Wabukala recently delivered an address where he outlined the role of the Anglican Articles of Religion in relation to the GAFCON movement. Wabukala delivered this address on American soil, which is significant given the overrepresentation of Anglo Catholicism in the leadership ranks of ACNA. 
Archbishop Wabukala described the origin of the Articles as follows: 

Thirty-nine Articles which were themselves intended by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer as the articulation of that which had been buried beneath layers of mediaeval scholasticism. 

This take on the Articles is refreshing to hear given how accustomed we are in America to seeing the Articles swept under the proverbial rug, even amongst the ‘conservatives’ of ACNA. Wabukala himself points out that the Articles have been given short-shrift globally: 

Until recently, the default position throughout the Communion seems to have been to treat the Articles as of merely historical interest. In the Church of England itself, although the Articles still have legal status in defining doctrine, the clergy are not required to subscribe to them and in my own Anglican Church of Kenya our constitution merely gives individual dioceses the option of require subscription to the Articles. 

Thanks to GAFCON, there is now renewed awareness of the Articles. It may seem strange to you that I as an African Primate am advocating a document that emerged out of the ecclesiastical and political crisis of sixteenth century England, but simply to dismiss the Articles because of their distance from us in time and space would be a superficial judgment. They are not of course on the same level as Scripture — indeed perhaps their greatest value is the assertion that the Church and its Councils are always themselves under the authority of Scripture — but like the Scriptural text, we must approach the Articles on their own merits and seek to understand the mind of the author, not impose our prior assumptions and prejudices. 

Wabukala’s position stands in sharp contrast to that of voices such as that of Father Kevin Donlon who said, “the Articles of Religion are to be given their due place with regard to some conflicts of the 16th century, but not the 21st century.” This is essentially the Anglo-Catholic position for obvious reasons.  
Archbishop goes on to stand by a firmly Augustinian position on regeneration as laid out by the Articles: 

In his loving mercy and grace, God calls the dead to life through Jesus Christ. The Gospel is not a call for moral reform and improvement. We are utterly unable to help ourselves and the power of God is displayed in the gift of new life as he reconciles lost humanity to himself in Christ. The influence of Augustine is very clear in the recognition given to the bondage of the human will. 

Can you imagine the majority of ACNA bishops or clergy talking like this? Arminian views of grace run rampant in the segments of ACNA that I am familiar with. With this said, the problem is that there is no method for enforcing doctrinal cohesion in GAFCON or ACNA. Perhaps on paper a method exists somewhere, but short of outright flagrant heresy I cannot envision ACNA or GAFCON *ever* enforcing the views which Wabukala laid out. Anglicanism as it exists on the ground in ACNA is simply a believe what you want affair, within certain parameters. As encouraging as Wabukala’s views are, they probably stand in contrast to the very Archbishop of ACNA who is a known Anglo-Catholic. 
I will continue blogging through his address in the future.

ACNA Fail – Part 2

Over at the AMiA, err, make that, “the AM” there is a newish development. Rather than being a “jurisdiction” with ACNA, AMiA will now be a “ministry partner.” As I understand it, this is a move away from fuller union with ACNA and towards staying independent. The reasons for this move are not at all clear in the press release issued by AMiA. It is coated in bland obfuscations and loving declarations that would make Rowan Williams proud.

But here ‘s how I see it: the various Anglican bishops in America continue to be short-sighted and selfish. In this case in particular, it is Bishop Murphy. Looking around you could pin this same tag on Bishop Minns for CANA, and probably many others in their own little worlds. Why on earth they can’t simply close up shop and merge is beyond me. Think of the duplicate costs involved with staff, buildings and websites, to name just a few items. Think of the testimony to a watching world – even “conservative” Anglicans can’t create a catholic church within America, they have to stay divided, and over reasons that have NOTHING to do with theology. They all just have to maintain their own fiefdoms. I find it disgusting. If we are not careful, these divisions will harden and there will be no chance of real unity going forward.

I am also sick and tired of the AMiA’s plunge into pop evangelical faddishness. Take a look at this picture:

Does anything about this say “Anglican” to you? It might as well be a gathering of Calvary Chapel pastors in Costa Mesa – scratch that, they would all be wearing Hawaiian shirts. But you get the point. No collars, no stoles, just a bunch of guys who look just like the corporate world we live in. There is nothing sinful in this, but it illustrates the larger point. The AMiA winter conference doesn’t meet in a sacred place, it meets in some auditorium with pastel and purple backdrops. It uses the same soft-rock bland worship that you can find at a million other churches in the USA. Speakers don’t wear collars. Bishop Murphy gushes about stupid books from the corporate world that push some sort of trendy nonsense.

The message seems to be, “Anglicans are just like every other evangelicals except that we have a prayer book we may or may not use once in awhile.” If there is no difference, what is the point of being Anglican? Being culturally relevant is fine, blending in to the point of disappearing is another. Do I really want to see more middle aged men that act like CEOs? Young guys who are missional and hip and have the correct facial hair? I guess it wouldn’t bother me so much if there was a solid theological core to all of this, but there isn’t. It isn’t terribly 39 Articles-centric. It is a mish-mash. There are pockets of solidity, but will they become the norm, or are we looking at Baptists with a prayer book?

What are the 39 Articles?

Ryle on the Articles:

Now, first of all, what are the Thirty-nine Articles? This
is a question which many will be ready to ask, and one to
which it is absolutely necessary to return an answer. It is a
melancholy fact, explain it as we may, that for the last 200
years the Articles have fallen into great and undeserved neglect.
Thousands and myriads of Churchmen, I am fully persuaded,
have never read them, never even looked at them, and of course
know nothing whatever of their contents. I make no apology
therefore for beginning with that which every Churchman
ought to know. I will briefly state what the Thirty-nine
Articles are.

The Thirty-nine Articles are a brief and condensed statement,
under thirty-nine heads or propositions, of what the Church of
England regards as the chief doctrines which her chief members
ought to hold and believe. They were, most of them, gathered
by our Reformers out of Holy Scripture. They were carefully
packed up and summarized in the most accurate and precise
language, of which every word was delicately weighed, and had
a special meaning. Some of the Articles are positive, and
declare directly what the Church of England regards as Bible
truth and worthy of belief. Some of them are negative, and
declare what the Church of England considers erroneous and
unworthy of credence. Some few of them are simple statements
of the Church s judgment on points which were somewhat
controverted, even among Protestants, 300 hundred years ago,
and on which Churchmen might need an expression of opinion.
Such is the document commonly called the Thirty-nine Articles;
and all who wish to read it will find it at the end of every
properly printed Prayer-book. At all events, any Prayer-book
which does not contain the Articles is a most imperfect,
mutilated, and barely honest copy of the Liturgy.