Sunday, March 25, 2007

O Ye Anglicans. What are ye Continuing?

The following is from Dr Peter Toon:

O Ye Anglicans. What are ye Continuing? A Request for Help.

Episcopalians (Anglicans) in North America are painfully aware of the fact that there have been, and continue to be, groups who leave The Episcopal Church because they believe it has ceased to be truly a Church of The Anglican Way.

Such exits began in the 19th century with those who formed the Reformed Episcopal Church, continued in the 1960s with those who left because of the Civil Rights commotions and other matters, further continued in the late 1970s with those who opposed women's ordination and radical reform of the Prayer Book, and even further continued with those who have left more recently over the new sexual agenda and trampling of biblical authority in this Church.

The result of all these secessions over a period of over a century is that there is a very mixed "Continuing Anglicanism" in North America.

It includes extreme Anglo-Catholics at one end and extreme Charismatic Evangelicals at the other, with many other varieties within the spectrum. It can be confusing to Anglicans abroad and at home.

It is usually easy to determine why each group, whether large or small, exited The Episcopal Church; but, it is more difficult to ascertain what it is that each group intends ands practically seeks to continue. Thus my question, Continuing What?

I think that exiting groups have given much more thought to why they leave then to what it is they wish to establish and propagate as "the true Anglican Way" in their separation. So much seems to depend in their separation on such matters as: when a group left the Episcopal Church; what form of churchmanship they practiced when they left; what kind of leadership they had and what kind of priests served them; how deep and wide had been the theological and liturgical experience of the group as a whole; what social and political affiliations they had; how The Episcopal Church is behaving and what the Archbishop of Canterbury is saying, and so on.

What I would like to do is to write a comprehensive essay in which I seek to state and to evaluate what it is that the growing number of "Continuing Anglican Groups" are looking to be and do. Maybe this is not possible but I think I ought to make an effort.

Precisely, what is it that each group is seeking to continue into the 21st century in terms of what was/is known in The Episcopal Church and in Anglicanism generally? And does this "what" include in the long term the hope of re-uniting with the Anglican Communion of Churches?

It may be that there is a greater harmony, amongst and between the thirty or more continuing groups, in mindset and intention than appears to sociological enquiry at the present, and if so I would like to discover what that basic harmony is—plus accurately report what it is that the Continuers are seeking to continue.

I ask for the help of the busy persons who run these groups! Please write to me at:



Albion Land said...

Dr Toon,

I might suggest a narrower focus to your work than the "thirty or more" churches to which you refer, namely those churches that have the Affirmation of St Louis as a foundational document or who adhere to it. These are the Continuing Churches. I doubt they exceed half a dozen in number, but probably account for 80 percent, or more, of those people who characterise themselves as Continuing Anglicans.

Albion Land said...

As a starter, and as you hinted at it, I would welcome nothing more than a return to communion with Canterbury and its sister churches, but could only do so once they adhered to the principles laid out in the Affirmation of St Louis. Sadly, speaking as a 56-year-old, I do not see happening in my lifetime, if ever.

On the other hand, one thing I not only can imagine seeing in my lifetime, but would very much welcome, is a union of the ACC, the APCK, the APA, the TAC and UECNA.

Anonymous said...

Please, not Dr. Toon! He still counsels: do not leave, it will get better. He despises the Continuum which is the only refuge for the historic prayerbook.
It must be a slow news day!
Fr. D.

ACC Member said...

Dr. Toon: As Albion Land said, only those churches who adhere to the Affirmation of St. Louis, and adhere to it, can truly be called "Continuing Anglicans". Those who left for racial reasons in the 1960's, those who have left for the "one issue" cause that now divides the Anglican Communion, and the Reformed Episcopal Church who left because the felt the ECUSA "too Catholic", cannot be truly called "Continuing Anglicans". The true "Continuing Anglicans" support the traditional all-male Holy Orders; as well as the traditional Book of Common Prayer. We reject the 1979 Episcopal liturgy book (it cannot in good conscience be called a B.C.P.) and especially its Rite II services which are an almost word for word reprint of the Post Vatican II Roman Missal. (Not to mention its un-scriptural Ordinal-that "ordains" females).

ACC Member said...

Dr. Toon: What we Continuing Anglicans wish to continue is the holy catholic faith in its Anglican expression, as practiced since antiquity. Unlike the "one issue" parishes leaving TEC presently, we wish to continue the Anglican faith as laid out in the Affirmation of St. Louis.

J. Gordon Anderson said...


Where did you get this plea from? Was it an open letter on the PBS site, or did he send it directly to you?


Albion Land said...

Yes, Gordon, it was on the PBS site.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Dr. Toon worked closely on projects with Fr. Louis Tarsitano, so he uses the familiar phrase, "the Anglican Way." He is familiar with the content of the Affirmation of Saint Louis. Therefore, I must assume that he asks for information about the numerous groups that exist out there, the AMiA and the CEC (what's left of it after all its internal shoot-outs).

Dr. Toon criticizes the Affirmation because it is completely Anglo-Catholic. He specifically faults the fact that we see the Seven Ecumenical Councils as having authority that is binding upon us.

On this I must agree with Archbishop Morse. The idea that two different churches can exist under one roof is a failed experiment. The doctrinal and moral confusion in the Anglican Communion (not just the Episcopal Church) is the fruit of the failed experiment. Anglicans who are Catholic in their faith need to be willing to accept the distinction and separation necessary to practice the Faith once delivered to the saints. Compromise with Protestant principles has brought about the current disaster, which is a crisis of authority.

Unlike Dr. Toon, I couldn't care less about being an "authentic Anglican." The Church is 2000 years old, so a mere 500 year old movement has to yield its authority (as all of the best Anglican theologians have taught) to the "Undivided Church" of the First Millenium. For us the Affirmation is a Formulary. We might as well say so openly.

Thirty or so groups? By tomorrow it will be 31. I think any fool can buy an Anglican Church start up kit, and use it in his garage. Don't they sell them at Walmart? Don't they come with an inflatable bishop consecrated by the dead hand? It can make you, your son and your (male) dog into a priest, provided you use a credit card online at
Buy it before midnight tonight.

Dustin Ashes said...

Maybe it would be more productive for Dr Toon to spend more time working up a list of what the 'discontinuing churches' have done away with and encourage them to come back to a bible based religion.

Toon uses these emails to plant notions such as "30 or more CCs" so that uninformed and uncritical episcopalians (who think praise music and women clergy are 'orthodox' and if they just get rid of the queer bishop in NH...) will assume a false understanding of the CC. Subtle but effective.

Any reference beyond the half dozen or so jurisdictions we all know to be the main body of believers in the CC is silly. The rest would not fill a large baptist church on Christmas Eve.

At any rate most CC's publish what they believe on their websites so he already knows the answer to his question. Toon could call the Bishops in question and ask if that were his end. He is not interested in the answer but in making the statements attached to the question. In this way many 'intra' (as Toon calls them) people form their opinions of the CC. "oh they are broken into thirty different churches!!! Oh my !!!" Thus steering them away because unity trumps truth in his church.

Truth is we cannot match the multiple jurisdictions and groups in the 'intra' confusion and meltdown - their so called "alphabet soup" but we are tarred as such and not without good reason.

John / PCK

Ken said...

What are the Continuing Churches continuing? One of the things they are not continuing is the American Episcopal Church of the 1970's.

ISTM, that Continuing Churches are the outgrowth of the return to Catholic expression of the Oxford Movement's attempted reformation of the Church of England.

So it seems to me that the Continuing Churches are "continuing" that Catholic expression that was rejected by the Episcopal Church in the 1970's, specifically with the ordination of women to the priesthood. They were going to carry along this expression until it could be accepted back in the Episcopal Church most likely by discipline from the Archbishop of Canterbury. Unfortunately, such help has never been forthcoming, and as Albion stated may never happen.

I suspect that after almost an entire generation most "Continuers" have lost interest in being part of the "official" Anglican Communion. They're probably content to worship God "in spirit and Truth" and maintain what Catholicity they have.

Anonymous said...

I think it a mistake to exclude the REC from continuing churches. Our history is a bit checkered, yes. But as a whole we are quite catholic now and have an excellent traditional prayer book. And we are staunchly orthodox, including on WO.

Really, the only significent different between us and other continuing Anglicans is our history.

Ken said...

I read something yesterday over at Christian Challenge that the term "Extramural Anglican" would be more appropriate for all the groups not in communion. The term "Continuing Anglican" should only be reserved for those groups that sprang from the Congress of St. Louis and hold to the Affirmation of St. Louis., though I realize it's application has been much broader.

I seems that the big groups, such as the APCK, ACC, and ACA, don't make a big deal of the "continuing" part and lean to being seen as "Catholic with an Anglican twist".

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Please consider this one question: What if in that difference of history (in which the Declaration of Principles plays a key role) the REC did not validly retain the Apostolic Succession? Our doubts do not constitute a lack of charity, or a lack of appreciation for the Catholic reforms of the Reformed Episcopal Church. Rather, they form a basis for honest and productive discussion.

poetreader said...

I agree, Father. I am certainly prepared to be hospitable to the REC considering the direction it has been moving, but that hospitality involves looking for ways to resolve the problems that history has put in place, onsofar as they may still exist.


Anonymous said...

The thing is the REC did not deny Apostolic Succession. It maintained it through Bishop Cummins. And even in that controversal Declaration of Principles, it stated, "This Church recognizes and adheres to Episcopacy, not as of Divine right, but as a very ancient and desirable for of Church polity."

Yes, we've had our rather uncatholic phases in our history in a number of ways. So has the Church of England.

Anonymous said...

An additional comment about the Declarations of Principles. I think its fair that they have become something of a "historic" document, somewhat like the 39 Articles has for TEC. For example, REC Bishop Ray Sutton has written at length in defence of baptismal regeneration, something the DofP seems to deny.

poetreader said...

What you say would be seen as acceptably true by many, but not by all. There are those who would see the Declaration as speaking in such a way as to preclude a Catholic understanding, and those, such as myself, who would see them as raising an uncomfortable level of doubt.

What would prevent [i]conditional[/i] consecration such as I mentioned above as a way of resoving doubts, other than a pride which says, "I have to be right and recognized as right or I'm not playing."

You see, I'm convinced that Anglican orders in general are quite valid, and that Rome's denial of them is plain wrong, but I apply the same standard. If all else is right for union between Anglicans and Rome (a fairly big 'if'), I would regard it as positively sinful pride to refuse conditional ordination to resolve those doubts, so long as I didn't have to understand it as a positive denial of what went before.

Charity trumps pride every time.


Laurence K Wells said...

The title of this little essay is snide and condescending, but what I find even more irksome is Mr Toon's proposal to "evaluate" the CC. Even by the broadest possible definition of a CC, the number "30 or more" is exaggerated and defamatory. Toon has never been a friend of the CC; the Tendenz of his writing has always been negative toward us.I detect a smear job in preparation.

This proposal must be evaluted in the context of his current advocacy (going back at least a decade) of translating the Prayer Book into "contemporary English." If memory serves, that's exactly how the 1979 abomination was first got off the ground. It is amazing that the Prayer Book Society has come to this. Its founders (Fr Ralston et al.)must be restless in purgatory.

Ken said...

But, aside from our liberation to be Anglo-Catholic without compromise, just what are we really continuing? The Anglicanism of 1978? Well, in 1978 the Saint Louis Fathers (if I may coin a new phrase) were very clear that things already had gone too far. So, then, how about 1958? If so, why? 1930? Again, why? Obviously, the answer is not based upon a time, a golden era. Such an era has never existed. The answer is that we are continuing the Anglicanism of the First Millennium, even though Anglicanism, as such, did not exist.

What else can we mean by saying that we believe in Scripture, Right Reason and Tradition? Whatever distinctly Anglican things have been given to us, all of our Formularies including the Book of Common Prayer, authority does not rest on any kind of genuine Anglican Authenticity; it rests upon the teaching authority of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. And, if we think that Authentic Anglicanism requires that we compromise or negate the teaching of the Church from Apostolic times, then we must, as good Anglicans reject Authentic Anglicanism for True Anglicanism- which simply means, for the truth. We do not say anything about being the Anglican Church in the Creeds, but about being the Catholic Church. And so we are. We are part of the Church that traces its history through the sacramental reality that includes, as part of the essence of its being, the Apostolic Succession.

I'd say Fr. Toon's question has already been asked and answered, by Fr. Hart over a year ago.

Fr. Robert Hart said...


I thought those words looked familar. Thank you for digging them out of the archives.


I know that it may seem that the doubt about Anglican Orders (of Leo XIII) is similiar in nature to our doubt about REC orders. But, it is not the same, even if rather similar to a degree. The big difference is that the C of E never made any official announcement about Orders other than the Preface to the Ordinal. That Preface does not define Holy Orders in a new way, but speaks only of continuing them. But the DOP of the REC makes a statement of non-Intention. That is the difference, and I am sorry to say that it is enough of a difference that it presents real difficulties.

Albion Land said...

The following was sent to me by Dr Toon:

Whilst the Global Anglican Communion works towards “An Anglican Covenant” as a means of cementing unity, it seems to me that it would be a most healthy exercise for each of the major USA Continuing Anglican Church jurisdictions (say ACA, ACC, APCK, APA & EMC) to seek to state in say 4,000 words its answer to the question: Continuing What? This would be not only a useful exercise in self-examination and self-awareness, but it would make known to others what it is for which it stands and what are its distinctives in worship, doctrine, discipline, and polity. Further, it may serve the purpose of intensifying dialogue, cooperation and moves to unity between Continuers, who after all in their origin intended to be (singular) the Continuing Church.

The Episcopalianism from which the Continuers of 1977 and later exited was (with its connection to the Anglican Global Family) a comprehensive form of Anglicanism with a variety of distinct traditions and in a mixed stated of spiritual health. Answering “Continuing What?” carefully would make clear which of these traditions have been taken, and perhaps developed, which of the others have been rejected and why, and what new ones have been adopted.

For example, not all the Continuing Church jurisdictions have the St Louis Affirmation in their constitutions, but, those which do have obviously deliberately taken from the wide Anglican Way part or all of the Anglo-Catholic stream and have developed this, and thereby have rejected (in the full sense or a partial sense) the other streams such as the Latitudinarian and the Evangelical.

But until all answer the question, Continuing What?, it is difficult to be sure what is being continued. What the TAC, for example, is seeking for with respect to Rome is intriguing but not wholly clear!

These essays/statements could be written by a representative of each of the jurisdictions, checked by its leadership, printed as a small paperback book, and also placed on a safe internet site. I am sure that the Prayer Book Society with Christian Challenge could work together to accomplish this aim, for the publishers would need to be neutral.

I hope that a good number, especially of the leadership of the Continuing Churches would think this to be a good idea.