The following are many theses I wish to develop. They elaborate upon the three widgets from our old-Oratory site, labeled “Protestant”, “Reformed”, “United”. See below.
- Where there is no monarchy, the National Church idea is the residue of Royal Supremacy carried over from the Magisterial Reformation from England into Free Republics like the USA.
- In the United States, the National Church would largely compose itself of historical Dissent, and its organization would necessarily follow a voluntary principle.
- Anglicanism is likely the single confessional faith stemming from the English Reformation capable of comprehending the widest portion of historical Dissent. Hence, only Anglicanism offers a viable scheme for the national church midst a Free Church or non-conforming majority.
- Protestant Episcopalianism was uniquely suited for the American environment and circumstances. It was ecumenical and capable of incorporating low churchmen through high church or primitive-catholic theology. In this respect, Methodism has a special relationship to Protestant Episcopalianism. They are nearly interchangeable.
- The 1785 Book of Common Prayer’s Preface stands as a commentary to both the extant America Preface and to the said project above.
- The American Revival (of the 1740’s), inaugurated by Whitefield’s tour of New England in 1738, substantially softened American Calvinism bringing Dissent in harmony with the main of Anglican soteriology. This was a major accomplishment of evangelical Anglicanism.
- Protestant Episcopalianism in the USA was conceived between the two Great Awakenings, and it self-consciously laid out a means for common union with Evangelicals. Therefore, it is an unusual but critical adaptation of Anglicanism in the States and wherever else a Free Church has become dominant.
- Contrary to casual observation, the American Revolution did not Democratize the church anymore than Socialism gave power to the proletariat. The Hierarchical principle remained within the Dissenting churches, and often it found in an exaggerated and prelatic form in Congregationalist and Connexion circles.
- The principle of Elitism initially shifted from the King to colonial Governor or vestry Churchwarden. It is often found in the lay Patron or Rector today respecting unorganized Anglicanism where ‘parishes’ enjoy excessive even ‘congregational’ autonomy.
- In some ways, this consolidation process was interrupted by Restorationism and Fundamentalism, both having regressive egalitarian currents. Yet, the ethic of Primitivism remained even within parts of Restorationism, advancing episcopal polity in surprising ways.
- The rough edges of doctrine created by extreme biblical literalism was gradually deburred by church consolidation, also called ’embourgeiosment’. This process curiously involved a slow adoption of an Anglican-based liturgy and recovery of church doctrine.
- Doctrinal comprehension follows this chain of logic: Methodism may include Baptistical and Congregationalist thought while Anglicanism naturally incorporates Methodism. These relationships may also be rudely calculated within the measurements of the Quadrilateral whose initial object was home reunion with Dissent, beginning with talks to Wesleyans.
- American Protestantism’s last push to a National Church grew out of the Quadrilateral, slowly loosing confessional substance by the late-1920’s, maybe early 1930’s. After 1937 the Protestant church becomes objectively unreliable as a ‘keeper of holy writ’.
- By and large, the bid to unite Protestants on liberal theology grossly failed as it was grounded mainly in pragmatic relativism. It was a bucket that increasingly leaked water.
- Early liberal theology grew out of the dilemma of Anglo-Saxon empires providing a convenient way to encounter and enlist “natives” , often times overestimating the value of common grace.
- When discipline began to crumble under the false/democratic claims of egalitarianism, the confessional framework which previously contained liberal theology (in constructive ways) likewise collapsed. This is the passing of old-Latitudinarianism which was a great loss to a united Protestantism.
- The problem today is how to reassert a confessional framework that holds water. This becomes doubly-hard when facing the voluntary principle where men surrender degrees of freedom or power for the sake of doctrinal orthodoxy, common order, and national weal.
- A greater good, or commonwealth ideal, within the church needs re-articulation. In other words, the ministers of God’s Word need to see each other minimally as neighbors, if not Kindred, linked by a common confessional heritage alongside a liberal ethnic interest.
- “Anglo-Saxonism”, having its roots in Protestant Succession, represents an apex of development and cooperation among Reformed churches. It is a compound term including not only national origin but the concept of an organic “constitution”, carrying religious connotations, namely, “Protestant”. This is a House with many degrees of relations, both natural and adoptive.
- The end of liberal theological dominance will occur by its own contradictions, weight, and partiality. It will burn-out from habitual self-abnegation.
- Until then, the broad-confessional church may recenter itself upon an Evangelicalism known before collapse– a confident Protestantism. This would imply much of the 19th-century where British and American denominations converged in doctrine while admitting national Election– perhaps facilitated by liberal theology but not subsumed or overwhelmed by it.
- This period was not only formative for making American religion, but it enjoyed a slow rapprochement with Britain and other counterparts both politically and culturally, aka. the Anglo-American Alliance. Here, the Church of England wielded enormous intellectual and moral capital irregardless of the Revolution.
- It is more accurate to call American historic Protestant denominations ‘Anglican’, albeit non-conforming. Again, revival, wealth, and the passing of time did much to Anglicanize.
- The reconstruction of a common Protestantism will emerge from the slow, grinding implosion of liberal projects. Men will begin to contemplate the future through the lens of their denominational past, finding a common root in heroes like Wesley or even Anglican Puritans.
- In the States, this traditionalism could connect Dissent to English church origins without sacrificing the American experience. There is such as thing as “American circumstance”.
- The above will require a self-conscious church movement, informed by Dissenting history yet increasingly defined as “Protestant” and “Episcopalian”, greatly accommodating the shape and content of the Articles of 1801 and American BCP– a rebirth of Protestant Episcopacy.
Protestant: In England, Protestantism was known by the Three Articles of 1584, i.e., the Prayer Book, 39-Articles, and Supremacy. In order to unify non-conformists alongside the Anglican church, Parliamentary Acts broadened legal bounds, giving non-Anglicans some liberty with baptism and episcopacy. A Protestant national church remained an important outcome of 1688 revolution, seeking what the King’s Book earlier described, “every Christian man ought to honor, give credence, and to follow the particular church of that region so ordered wherein he is born or inhabiteth”. Later, British-descended countries retained a weakened Erastian concept by codifying certain cultural advantages to Protestants. In the USA, the ‘reduced-Anglicanism’ of the Wesleyans nigh became the national faith. Though Methodist reforms never went so far to be a legal Establishment, Protestant Episcopalians especially wanted a national church made by voluntarism at an early date, starting 1785.
Reformed: As a blood relative to various Christian Rulers in Denmark and Germany, the British Crown enshrined the earliest Evangelical consensus within the Church of England, namely, the Altered-Augsburg of 1541. But, upon the passing of first-generation Reformers, continental Lutherans and Calvinists were unable to maintain a doctrinal center. This left England– and for a time some German states– the last bearers of Protestant charity. The foremost concern of early Divines was returning the Church to its Settled condition by recovery of ancient texts. That humanist impulse initially dampened rigid scholastic thinking, fostering confessional harmony among Continental and English doctors. But, the eventual rejection of the religious framework owing to the 1540’s undermined future hopes for a Protestant League. The “Reformed Church of England” is probably best understood by Cranmer’s work and the peculiar confessions of this era.
United: Under the Imperial system, the “United Church” existed by reason of Royal Law. As Empire eroded into Commonwealth, colonial Anglicanism began to reorganize itself along synodical and republican lines. In response to this realignment, Canterbury convened colonial and missionary Anglicans in 1867, beginning decennial gatherings at Lambeth. In 1908 Lambeth Bishops described the 1662 BCP as their primary “bond of union”. But, an increasing number of Anglican Free Churches– facing challenges of non-establishment and religious pluralism– favored liturgical flexibility and variety. In the USA these ideas reached concrete form by way of the American BCP, and by the late-1920’s most Anglicans embraced the example of Protestant Episcopalians. If the proposed English book passed parliament, a standard BCP might have emerged to settle the Conference. So, “United” implies Lambeth activities & Encyclicals before 1930, especially those preparatory to BCP revision.