"Tested against the Seven Ecumenical Councils and the writings of the Church Fathers the Articles do fail. They convey a Calvinist theology that is in opposition to what was taught and understood by the pre-schism Orthodox Catholic Church. Examples include the following Orthodox Catholic dogmas: real presence in the eucharist, including a change in the elements; infallibility of the Church in ecumenical council; that the Church consists of all Orthodox Catholic members who were baptized and chrismated into the faith by a bishop or priest who stands in apostolic succession; salvation by a joint effort of human and God and not by faith alone; total rejection of human depravity as it is understood in the Calvinist sense, etc.
The Articles should be consigned to the category of theological error and forgotten."
What is worse, the anonymous Anonymous sent this on the heels of other comments in which he claimed to speak for the ACC, a claim I find insulting and offensive. Continuum readers may anticipate my response, that each point he made is wrong, and in my own essays has been refuted already. Furthermore, in our series on the Thirty-Nine Articles, that has only recently gotten underway, each point he made will be corrected yet again.
I could ask him where and how any of the Articles actually "fail" against the Seven Oecumenical Councils, but I would rather simply tell him that if they did, both Fr. Wells and I would know it already. We would not need to be told, especially by Anonymous. Furthermore, I know that his answer would amount to the angry reactions of someone who suffers from a far worse condition than mere ignorance: he suffers from mis-education, or the indoctrination of a kind only slightly better than brain washing.
I could ask him to explain, if it is required that one must have been "chrismated into the faith by a bishop or priest who stands in apostolic succession" in order to be part of the Church, where do the children of our congregations stand who have been baptized, but not yet confirmed? And, I could demand to know how he can so openly contradict the Universal Church by adding this condition? And, if he is any sort of Anglican, why does he say "chrismated" instead of confirmed? That is, why does he emphasize the anointing with oil, which is not in the Bible as matter for this sacrament, instead of the Laying on of Hands, which is? I would ask him, what makes him think he can understand the Articles? For, it is obvious that he cannot understand the foreign language (English) in which they written.
Like many chronic sophomores, he uses the word "Calvinist" very freely, no doubt as if to frighten us with a scary monster face. But, I have no doubt that he would not know real Calvinism if it climbed up and bit him on the behind. Usually, when such persons invoke the word "Calvinist" they really mean a combination of Thomist and Dominican Theology that they wrongly attribute to Protestantism for its origin. It is a widespread symptom of mis-education. The only real innovation of Calvinism (i.e. something that was new in Calvin's time) is the Geneva Discipline; and Anglicans have always and consistently rejected that innovation (one might say that Richard Hooker wrote the book on our polity, because he did).
But I hope this person (who I imagine to be a young man) will stick around and keep reading, and maybe actually learn something, which may be possible once he stops pontificating to his betters.
The Legal status of the Thirty-Nine Articles is a subject that will not be part of our Laymen's Guide. But, I am going to address the subject here briefly anyway, just to get it off my chest.
I have been informed by a few of my fellow clergy in the ACC that the Articles are not binding in our church (but, never have I heard anyone say that the ACC rejects the doctrine contained therein), and that is because they are not mentioned in the Constitution and Canons. I respect the men who have made this argument, and generally agree with their views. Nonetheless, I disagree with them, respectfully, in this matter. I might as well say why I disagree.
The Affirmation of St. Louis says:
IV. PRINCIPLES OF WORSHIP
Prayer Book -- The Standard of Worship
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.
Certain Variances Permitted
For liturgical use, only the Book of Common Prayer and service books conforming to and incorporating it shall be used.
The words, "each is fully and equally authoritative" could not be more clear. I have argued that the 1928 Episcopal Book of Common Prayer lists "the Articles of Religion" in its regular contents. It is not there as an index, or as a mere historical document. And, even if one wants to disagree with me on that, the 1962 edition of the Canadian Book of Common Prayer is absolutely and unmistakably clear, repeating on page vii the following Solemn Declaration (first published in 1893):
IN the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
The Constitution and Canons of the ACC contain the Affirmation of St. Louis as a foundation, which calls the whole 1962 Canadian BCP, which includes that Solemn Declaration, "fully authoritative." Therefore, our Constitution and Canons do, in fact, bind us to the Thirty-Nine Articles. There was no need, therefore, to single them out from the rest of the Book of Common Prayer for special mention at St. Louis in 1977.
I do not expect everyone to accept my argument, but I am persuaded that it is good enough to be treated with respect. No one should simply brush aside the possibility that I am right. Nor, especially in light of Tract 90, am I able to understand why anyone could think that rejection of the Classic Formularies is a position consistent with Anglo-Catholicism. The idea is very new, and contrary to the Oxford Movement.
The most responsible course of action we can think of is to create a resource that explains the true meaning of the Thirty-Nine Articles. I do not expect my argument about their legal status to win over everyone, but merely to establish that the legal status of the Articles is not so cut and dry. But, even if they have no legal status, and are not binding, they will not go away. They are with us, and they will remain with us for the foreseeable future, and they will continue to have in hearts and minds an authority that is greater than mere legal status can provide.
But, we have a problem. Anonymous cannot understand their meaning because they were written in a foreign language. That is, they were written in the past. They were written in a time of history that is generally not understood very well. As a result, in the wrong hands the Articles of Religion are dangerous. Of course that is true of everything that is of genuine value, including the Bible.
So, whether you agree with my position on the legal status of the Articles, or not, I see clearly the only realistic and responsible course to take, as does Fr. Wells. Therefore, I hope Anonymous will sit down, listen and learn.