What David Saw Within Anglicanism

There was sometimes an expressed commitment to certain iconic traditions of Anglicanism that seemed to supersede the commitment to the gospel message and the primacy of Scripture. I began to perceive that many of Episcopalian background regard the traditions of Anglicanism as a kind of idol. The vestments, music, architecture, ceremonies, even the reading of Scripture itself are all seen as parts of the tradition, and the tradition is the main thing. A strict observance of the church calendar seems to hold sentimental value for many, and the correct performance of the calendar-appropriate services is quite important. In that environment, the gospel and the true preaching of the Cross can easily become lost or overshadowed by the tradition.

…the tendency toward Rome is enhanced by the elements shared with Catholicism already present in Anglicanism, due to a large extent, I’m sure, to the continuing influence of the Oxford Movement from the nineteenth century. This tendency, with the attitude of many Anglicans that the embracing of Catholic style worship and piety lends respectability, appears to produce a cultural sophistication that can cause some Anglicans to think their church superior to those of other Protestants. In fact, some in the Anglican camp apparently do not wish to be identified with Protestantism at all, preferring to think of their church tradition as a whole other branch of Christendom, between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism and equal to them, along side of the Orthodox!

David Miller, “My Story: From Reformed Worship to Anglicanism and Back Again

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  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

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  1. I think the structure of the liturgy in the Book of Common Prayer if adhered to will protect the parishioners from the pastor. The 1662 and 1928 morning prayer and communion services are full of gospel truth. It’s when groups like the Tractarians add to the prescribed liturgy that it can have to tendency to deviate into a more sacerdotal system. I used to attend a continuing Anglo catholic parish where they used the Roman Missal and celebrated east with all the smells and bells. But much was added. This parish even had a picture of John Paul shaking hands with the bishop in the narthex. At that point I say stop playing, just cross the Tiber and make it official. But a 39 Article Cranmerian BCP service devoid of that is very gospel centric. But all this boils down to RPW vs NPW.

  2. “This tendency, with the attitude of many Anglicans that the embracing of Catholic style worship and piety lends respectability, appears to produce a cultural sophistication that can cause some Anglicans to think their church superior to those of other Protestants. ”
    Pretty much every Anglican blog or article I have read wreaks of this elitism.

    • Probably an auto-spell issue, but here’s another one for GG – “wreak – reek” 🙂

    • I could say the same about a sense of superiority from among the Presbyterians when I read such as the piece excerpted above. Especially this wreaks from those who will have nothing to do with the evangelical feasts and who eschew instruments and the singing of anything save Psalms. As an Anglican I might well say to such, “You deny the complexity joined to simplicity of first century worship.”

      • I agree Bill. There’s nothing more edifying than the Book of Common Prayer and the morning and evening services and holy communion. A liturgical gospel saturated gem!

      • Bill,

        I agree that parochialism and triumphalism are distasteful wherever they be. If one reads David’s article in toto it is neither of those. David is a gentle, fair-minded fellow who reports on what he found. He is also appreciative of aspects of his sojourn among the Anglicans.

        I posted this because I think that most evangelicals are naive about Anglicanism, especially American Anglicanism. If they’re going to Canterbury, they should know what they’ll find. They think they’re going to find C. S. Lewis but we both know that what they will find is likely something (or someone) else.

  3. Miller has an interesting and edifying story, which is the end does boil down to the RPW.
    In other words, that:

    . . . vital truth which no Presbyterian can discard without a square desertion of our principles. The man who contests this first premise had better set out at once for Rome: God is to be worshipped only in the ways appointed in his word. Every act of public cultus not positively enjoined by him is thereby forbidden. . . .

    Thus Dabney in his review of Girardeau on musical instruments (contra the Reformed Worship Conferences).

    Yet it leaves something to be desired regarding:
    1. Scripture. The Book of Hebrews is not mentioned until 2/3 of the way through the two part article. To put it bluntly, to return to the OT ceremonial worship of the temple is judaizing. No more no less. That is after all, what the Galatians were doing that so disturbed Paul in the letter Miller does quote from in his article.

    2. Books. Olds In his Shaping of the Reformed Baptismal Rite in the 16th Century denied that the High Rhenish Reformers went with either the normative or regulative principle of worship, which is fair enough from a historical point of view, but overall not so hot confessionally. Others have then run with the “reform of worship which is according to Scripture”meme, namely Prof. Frame and his Worship Children understudies like Schlissel. And Olds’s Leading in Prayer does contain model prayers that mention the pope positively (pp. 196, 204) for some strange reason (?) never mind the Westminster Assembly’s Directory for Worship and its strictures on written prayers. (Suffice it to say while they had nothing against premeditated prayers, they did reprobate the Book of Common Prayer in their preface.) Raymond’s O Come Let Us Worship does not mention the RPW at all and is essentially about “high church” or anglican style presbyterianism. Not sure if Knox’s Selected Practical Works includes his “Vindication of the Doctrine that the Mass is Idolatry” where in the RPW is stated, but it is the motherlode. Yet for our money, the best we’ve seen on the difference between Calvin and the Puritans and Luther and the Anglicans is Horton Davies’s Worship of the English Puritans. Written in 1948 it comes before the explosion of interest and titles on reformed worship that followed, with the first couple of chapters being excellent on the overall thrust and tendencies of the respective approaches to worship.

  4. Thank you for your kind words, Dr Clark.

    I was indeed trying to be respectful of the Anglicans, while giving a fair assessment of their piety and practice. There’s really quite a difference between admiring a tradition from the outside for what I perceived were its positive aspects and actually living within that tradition. It was then that I understood why the Reformed said what they did about remaining “popish ceremonies” in the English church (as, eg. George Gillespie). It’s all about faithfulness to scripture, not about assuming an air of superiority.

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