In all the appearances of a resurgence of Anglicanism in our time the cause of classic Anglicanism does not appear to fare too well. The much publicized Anglicanism of the 21st century scarcely resembles the essential Anglicanism of the Reformation: the contemporary Anglican way fails to converge with, and is hardly even parallel to, the Anglican Way of our Founders. The Articles of Religion are rarely cited and adhered to in their original sense, and revised or imported liturgies lack the strength to convert sinners to the faith or confirm them in the rigours of the Christian warfare. What we are witnessing is the rise of a weak pseudo-Anglicanism that has forsaken the realism, bold theology, and biblically based, God centred worship of the framers of the authentic Anglican Way.
The realism of authentic Anglicanism is suited to the tragedy and suffering of this degraded world. The seriousness and scale of human misery is down-played in much contemporary religion. It is an attitude that can only exist in our affluent western world where we can, for much of the time, ignore the hardships and heartaches of the majority of human kind. There is also a massive concealment of the injury and pain actually endured by folk in our own society that the shallow Christianity of our own generation cannot address in any profound way or honestly attempt to explain in terms of our breach with God. The emphasis is on being upbeat because even spectators recoil at the reality of human anguish and prefer its avoidance. Pretence as to wellbeing and superficial solace is resorted to, whereas an honest appraisal of the human condition should permit the disturbing outpouring of the troubled heart without censorship (note the attempt to muffle the voice of the imprecatory psalms in modern worship). The liturgy and pastoral services of original Anglicanism do not shy away from the brutalities and bruisings of life and usher the sufferer into the presence of the God who heals and restores. Our hope lies only in a radical and repentant return to God where we recognize that we are not only victims of misfortune but miscreants before him. Rowan Williams has referred to the melancholy of Anglicanism which is its refusal not to acknowledge the fallen-ness of man in a groaning environment. The thrill seekers in religion will inveigh against this awareness as undue pessimism but that is to turn a blind eye to the long historical catalogue of disasters, wars, injustices and hurts that have afflicted mankind and which still assail him in enormous volume. Religion in our time is designed to pamper rather than prepare for hardship.
The bold theology of original Anglicanism has been replaced by the quest for pleasurable emotion and the cultivation, and subjective guidance, of gratifying, congenial, “mountain-top” experience. Valleys are often not accounted for in contemporary Christian topography. Feelings, sentiment, self-serving reason, overrule the objective revelation of God in Holy Scripture, e.g. I must like what I see in Scripture before I receive it. Biblical and human diagnostics concerning the human condition, its sin, guilt, stubbornness, and helplessness, sharply differ. Our estimate of ourselves is not honest or grave enough. Again, gainsayers would say that we are too grim, but pessimism concerning man actually promotes an optimistic reliance upon God who allows our sins and afflictions to drive us wholly to him. Until we despair of our selves we deny our selves of his salvation, clinging to other vain hopes for rescue and relief. The Biblical doctrine of sin and depravity leaves us no other option than to cry to God and depend on him, our only safe and effective Refuge. Our liturgy emphatically articulates the Scriptural themes of sin, grace, faith, with a view to our being sure of conversion and our being enabled by God to persevere in holy obedience to him all our lives. Our death in sin, our doom in guilt, and our deliverance by Christ our Saviour have to be stressed with force sufficient enough to cause us sincerely to seek him in honesty and hopefulness. We cannot trifle with God through outward observances, rites, and ceremonies. For many, Anglicanism is simply indulgence in these things, i.e. vestments, colour, movement, and gesture within the framework of watered down liturgy (1979?). At the centre of our hearts we must turn to him. Our wills must resolve to incline towards him and only grace can redirect them. We must search ourselves for the signs of the inner renovation that is necessary. Who of us in these times of fostering self-esteem reckons our self as truly wretched? An impotent, pitiful, sinner can only offer this petition, “Lord, take my heart from me, for I cannot give it to thee. Keep it for thyself, for I cannot keep it for thee; and save me in spite of myself (Augustine).
The Scriptural doctrine of Anglicanism is outlined in the Articles of Religion. They must be assented to and confessed by every person authorized to preach and teach in our communion, or solemn declarations and vows are meaningless. Knowing the beliefs of our Reformers the Articles are not capable of variation or private manipulation. There is no exemption from the soteriology of Cranmer and his colleagues, and most expressly this is the case with their views on original sin, the bound will, and sovereign election (Articles 9, 10, 17). This requirement is not an infringement of Christian charity. It does not discourage fellowship with Christians of other persuasion, but calls for confessional integrity and unity within a certain organization of believers. Conscientious dissenters may always find other options for the exercise of valid ministry without jeopardising unanimity, or diluting testimony, in a communion with whose fundamentalsthey disagree. Offence and disputation do not arise from the Articles and their adherents but from those who seek to modify them according to personal preference.
God centred worship is the work of mind and heart in honour and adoration of him. It is an offering derived from his truth and self disclosure in his Word. It is not geared to self gratification. Worship is not theatre attracting attention to its performers or providing amusement for its audience. It is acknowledgement of and amazement at the glory of the Triune God. It is based on the facts of revelation accepted by heartfelt faith and presented to him affectionately in the fear of the Lord. Reverence and delight combine in our corporate gaze upon Christ in word and sacrament. Our Cranmerian manual is the touchstone for such worship.