Categories: Uncategorized

The historic shorthand of Anglicanism is the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral. It began in the hearts of faithful Episcopal Bishops (remember the days when that was the norm?) who had a righteous desire for unity of faith. This unity is not a sloppy kind of gathering under a golf umbrella with a logo; rather, it is the kind of unity that Jesus spoke of in “His High Priestly Prayer.” It is unity that comes from shared beliefs in which the essentials of the faith are fully owned and diversity flows like amalgam to strengthen the ability to transmit the basic tenets of the faith. Unity in Christ surrenders nothing of the power of the Cross to redeem and restore, and it gives up no ground regarding the Word to convict, convert, nurture, and sanctify. It neither waters-down the work of the Holy Spirit nor seeks to supplant Him with vague semi-spiritual fables that ooze through the world like some sort of electrical tapioca pudding.

Unity and Disunity

The unity that these Bishops sought was based on a shared belief in the essentials of the faith. They realized that there were some points of agreement that were necessary in order to enter into full communion with other Christian bodies. They compiled four principles that were necessary for that unity:

As inherent parts of this sacred deposit, and therefore as essential to the restoration of unity among the divided branches of Christendom, we account the following, to wit:

1.    The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the revealed Word of God.

2.    The Nicene Creed as the sufficient statement of the Christian Faith.

3.    The two Sacraments – Baptism and the Supper of the Lord – ministered with 

unfailing use of Christ’s words of institution and of the elements ordained by Him.

4.    The Historic Episcopate, locally adapted in the methods of its administration to the varying needs of the nations and peoples called of God into the unity of His Church.

In today’s cultures, which have forgotten the shared assumptions of Christian language, the power of these statements may be missed. For example, the phrase “the revealed Word of God,” is not merely a title. To the authors, it meant that the Bible holds the place of ultimate authority in matters of faith and practice. 

To say that the Nicene Creed is a “sufficient statement of the Christian Faith,” does not mean that the Creed plumbs the depths of the theological riches of the faith or that it reveals the fullness of what Christians believe; rather, it lists those dogmas that cannot be denied without forfeiting salvation. 

No responsible Anglican body would enter into a new relationship of Communion with “liberal” Provinces such as TEC and Canada (and others like… Brazil, Wales, Scotland, Mexico, and more than a few others!) were they not already part of Anglican institutional life. This is not to say that they have gotten everything wrong. Getting everything wrong would require far more energy and commitment than they have been willing expend so far. Nonetheless, none of the elements of the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral are unstained by the unbiblical practices and beliefs of the liberal agenda. They are somewhat “grandfathered” into being included in ongoing Communion life, even though they are hacking away at the ark of the faith, using giant theological chainsaws to separate themselves from saving faith. The Good News, however, is that in each of those Provinces, there are “7,000 who have not bowed their knee to Baal.” Those who are faithful will never embrace the Cross-less faith that offers cheap affirmation rather than blood-bought redemption. 

As critical tenets of the faith have been rejected, the false teachings that have replaced them are like a hole below the waterline of a ship. Most of the hull may be in tact, but when a hole lies below the waterline, the entire vessel is under assault. The increasing pull of their heretical practices leads them farther and farther away from the ship of faith, and ultimately to perdition. The sinking liberal ships give rise to the inevitable emergence of separate Biblically faithful churches. At some point, those whose allegiance is to the historic faith find that their bonds with orthodoxy are stronger than institutional ones and that they must separate from the institution of which they were a part. That is what happened in the U.S. and in Canada, and it is likely to happen in other places where similar dynamics exist. But there is more…

C. S. Lewis said in the Chronicles of Narnia, “Aslan is on the prowl.”

By that, he meant that the Lion Aslan (theChrist-figure) was on the move to manifest the Kingdom of God, overwhelming sin, evil, and rebellion. In that same way, the Holy Spirit is moving around the world in a great simultaneous call that thousands and thousands are answering. 

A New Breath of Life

Not long ago, I spoke with a Christian from Germany. He was blissfully unaware of Anglicanism, but he was active in a new church plant. It was filled with new converts among the 20- to 30-somethings. I asked him to tell me about the church. He described several distinctive characteristics. 

1. The people in the church fully accept the Word of God as authoritative. 

2. They are open to the present work of the Holy Spirit and His gifts. 

3. They have a desire to connect with historic worship (citing liturgical prayers and music like the Monastery at Taizé, as well as new things).

4. They seek Apostolic order. 

5. They had a revelation that Baptism and Communion are “supernatural acts” and are more than memorials that serve as testimonies. 

What is fascinating is that a few weeks later, I spoke with a Christian from Cambodia. I asked him to describe his church. He cited essentially the same principles. From Argentina, despite rampant inflation and horrific corruption, I heard from a convert how new Christians are coming to life with the same heartbeat. All over the world, in thousands of places, the Holy Spirit is “spontaneously” calling people to new life with this pattern. 

In addition to the faithful in the Church who refuse to surrender the Faith, there are thousands of new fellowships emerging that all reflect this Holy Spirit DNA. It is remarkable that it is so coincidental with Historic Anglicanism. Where the institutional church is departing from its roots, new work is breaking out. It is a winsome face for the Body of Christ, and disenchanted and disheartened people are finding hope. Whereas in generations past, the momentum of Christendom was enough to gather sufficient people to fuel the future of the institution, now there is a demand for more life  — not superficial showmanship, but substantive, challenging, discipleship that takes faith so seriously that it is not shaken by the violent assaults of Boko Haram and ISIS or the terrible persecution of intolerance that seeks to eliminate Christian faith. No external assault can overwhelm what Christ is doing in the Power of the Holy Spirit.  

To those “liberal” Anglican Provinces that seek to demand a fruitful future because they are “franchise owners” in their region, the Lord is very clearly saying, “Fooey.” He is no more inclined to remain linked with the faithless now than He was when Israel needed to be dragged to Babylon in order to be disciplined into faithfulness. 

A Timely Warning

Certainly not every Christian in those liberally leaning cultures that are abandoning their Christian roots at breakneck speed will wind up in an Anglican Church tomorrow. But the ones who do not join re-aligning Anglican congregations will enter churches that look more like a living Anglican Church than a vapid institutional one that has only the musty remnants of Anglican aroma. We not only are part of a globally growing, spiritually powerful Anglicanism, but also are living in a time when the Lord is shaping a great deal of new life in a way that looks a lot like healthy Anglicanism. 

“Liberal” Provinces, can you not see the signs? The earliest sign of new life in the Spring is the budding almond. Blooming even in the midst of snow, this early promise assures us that winter is not forever, and that spring will surely come. And what comes, like Aslan’s footprints melting the winter snow and ice into Spring, looks a great deal like what it means to be one of these new congregations. It also looks amazingly Anglican.

He that hath an ear, let him hear.