On the resurgence of confessional Anglicanism

There is a resurgence of confessional Anglicanism in the United States.

What do I mean by “confessional” Anglicanism? I mean an Anglican identity based on the Reformation principles outlined in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion of 1571 and put into practice through the liturgy of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. Confessional Anglicans are Protestant, Reformed, evangelical–descriptors that would be redundant in an earlier age. Confessional Anglicans truly believe in the doctrines of the Reformation and want the worship of the church to be shaped by these biblical principles.

Confessional Anglicans do not view the Articles as a solely historical document locked in a particular era of time that only provides an antiquated snapshot of a quaint “golden age” of the English church. No, these are Anglicans of substance. These are folks who see the Articles as a confession of Reformed Protestant belief and practice that is binding today. These are Anglicans committed to the Bible, the creeds, and the doctrines of grace.

They are not interested in a monarchical episcopate, medieval views of the sacraments, milquetoast preaching, and ritualism. Instead of imitating the entrenched errors of Rome and Constantinople, they want a Christ-centered worship, filled with biblical preaching, right use of the sacraments, and godly discipline. They want to hear the Word of God read with authority, preached with authority, believed with authority. They want a liturgy that serves as a bellows to fan gospel flames.

This sort of Anglican has been around for a long time. However, in the United States, the slant of Romish ritualism has almost strangled the confessional witness of Anglicanism. Today, through casual connections and informal discussions, confessionalism is gaining steam. This means there are Anglicans who relish being called Protestants and Calvinists. They take joy in expository preaching and speaking on critical issues with clarity–instead of the “Anglican doublespeak” of many church leaders, both liberal and conservative.

Confessionalism is not monolithic, either among Anglicans or other Reformed churches. How this growing grassroots movement of churchmen will solidify remains to be seen. For the present, these reformational Anglicans are developing relationships with like-minded believers, both within and without their own denominations. Some of them may be found in surprising places. In any case, the church needs their witness, their call to return to the Scriptures, to a confessing faith.

13 Comments

  1. Where is this resurgence? I see nothing of the sort in the Pacific Northwest. In my travels across the country I see little to none of Reformed Anglicanism. I mainly see Anglo Catholic or Hillsong/Vineyard charismatic low church Anglicanism.

    • Michial, I am primarily talking about churchmen, not necessarily numbers of congregations. Yes, there are particular congregations who have a confessional identity, though they may be few and far between. However, there is a growing number of people who are confessional Anglicans. Some of them worship in unexpected places. Some have always been confessional; some have reached a confessional position after a long journey and are not satisfied with Anglo-Catholic or charismatic flummery.

  2. The Rev'd David Boulton

    Here in England, we ae fortunate in having the Free Church of England, which aptly fits the bill: a Prayer Book church, which is Evangelical, Episcopal and Liturgical, which is ‘low church’ in its ethos, affiliated to GAFCON, yet its orders are recognised by the Established C of E. We are fully in communion with your Reformed Episcopal Church in the USA.

  3. Outstanding essay! I graduated from a Reformed seminary, and I have to agree with Brown’s reply above, genuinely Reformed & Confessional Anglicanism among clergy is not a common thing. I’ve been in ACNA circles for 11 years, and many young clergy and congregants seem to 2nd generation generically evangelical refugees on the Canterbury trail, uninterested in Cranmer and the confessions. The Oxford movement captures their imagination–but they just don’t want to be part of the dying TEC. Most of the AngloCatholic types I know come from low church evangelicalism–where the supposed mystery of sacramental ceremonialism fascinates them–going from one extreme, to the next. While I’ve known a couple of pastors who are Reformed, most are somewhere vague, and don’t seem to have confidence in the Holy Spiritual power of biblical expository preaching. Is there an network of confessional Anglicans I can be a part of?

  4. Hey count us in: All Saints Anglican Greenville SC. I am also a graduate of RTS….. but I had a professor named Ralph Davis. Anyway, blessings to you all and may God grant you courage, humor, and strength for the road ahead- Charlie Carlberg

  5. Dave+ Kulchar

    As I have read Anglican history I find our Protestant roots but more Arminian than Calvin, which fits the sense of the church trying to walk the via media. Just a perception.

  6. The Anglican Church is not/was not a distinctively Calvinist reformed church. The Elizabethan settlement clearly moved the ac in the direction that was a via media between Lutheran and Calvinist beliefs. In 1590, there was an attempt by the Calvinist to introduce 10 new articles (lambeth articles) and it was rejected. The puritans were never satisfied with the 39 articles, they thought they were not sufficiently Calvinist. This is why the Westminster confession was created. There is nothing in the 39th articles that is contrary to Arminianism. Article 17 (predestination) was embraced by William laud and john Wesley, both arminians. Articles 16 clearly reflects an Arminian understanding of departing from grace, not a Calvinist. Finally, the communion service affirms that Christ one oblation was for the sins of the whole world, not just for the elect.

    • Peter, sorry for my delayed reply. While your view of Anglicanism may be popular, it isn’t accurate. The clear record of history shows that Cranmer’s composition of the Articles was in accord with his eager embrace of Reformed doctrine. The so-called “via media” is more properly the Calvinist position–a middle way between Luther and Zwingli.

      Whether or not folks of later times accepted or rejected the Articles has no bearing on whether they are a Protestant and Reformed confession–they were clearly intended to be such a confession at the time they were promulgated and were understood as such by non-Anglican contemporaries. There is more that can be addressed on this subject, but line of discussion is not directly related to my essay above; please save those thoughts for another time.

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