In the light of recent developments, and further to my own suggestions on this blog, I have been wondering how one might reasonably and responsibly examine the orthodoxy of Anglican ministers or candidates for ministry.
In the spirit of the lists compiled by Rob Fleming, the hero of Nick Hornsby’s High Fidelity, I have come up with my ‘top five’ issues, all taken from the Thirty-nine Articles.
This is a completely serious suggestion, by the way. When our Benefice was recently interviewing for a new vicar, although I was (rightly) not allowed a vote in the final decision, I was allowed to question the candidates and to give my reflections. Amongst other things, therefore, I asked each of them for their take on Article VII, ‘Of the Old Testament’.
Rather than looking for ‘yes or no’ answers (“Do you believe in the resurrection?”, “Duh, yeah!”), it is better to allow people to show their ability in handling theological issues, so I would give an opportunity to respond to a statement, not simply to say whether they agreed with it or not. It is also important to have a limited list, and therefore it is impossible to cover every topic.
Nevertheless, I offer the following as Anglican statements of doctrine with which it would be perfectly reasonable to expect Anglican ministers to show some familiarity and conformity. You may wish to suggest alternatives. The only requirement is that if you add one in you must take one out.
So here are my ‘Top Five’ questions to establish Anglican orthodoxy. Try them yourself, or try them on your vicar (or bishop!).
Give your response to the following statements (adapted from the 39 Articles):
1. “Christ ... truly suffered, was crucified, dead and buried, to reconcile his Father to us, and to be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for all actual sins of people.”
2. “Original Sin ... is the fault and corruption of the Nature of every man ... whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil ... and therefore in every person born into this world, it deserveth God’s wrath and damnation.”
3. “We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by Faith, and not for our own works or deservings: Wherefore, that we are justified by Faith only is a most wholesome Doctrine.”
4. “Holy Scripture doth set out to us only the Name of Jesus Christ, whereby men must be saved.”
5. “It is not lawful for the Church to ordain any thing that is contrary to God’s Word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another.”
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13 July 2010
What one would be looking for in the answers would be, amongst other things, an absence of ‘nuancing’. The Declaration attached to the Articles in the Book of Common Prayer says that,
... no man hereafter shall either print, or preach, to draw the Article aside any way, but shall submit to it in the plain and full meaning thereof: and shall not put his own sense or comment to the meaning of the Article, but shall take it in the literal and grammatical sense.
Obviously they were wise to people ‘hedging’ their responses even in those days!
The more, therefore, someone’s answers show that they are, as we now say, ‘comfortable’ with the Article, the more we can be similarly ‘comfortable’ with them — and, I suggest, vice versa.John Richardson
13 July 2010