The Old Jamestown Church is a place where I will share my thoughts about the hows, whos, whys, whats, whens and wheres of orthodox Anglicanism. Some of what you will read here will be devoted to an "apology" of sorts, explaining why, if you are a conservative Christian in this day of ecclesial chaos, theological pluralism and liturgical insanity, you should seriously consider joining a traditional Anglican church. The blog is written by the "Embryo Parson", an Anglican deacon who is still very much in the process of doing Anglican studies. Your blogger is theologically educated, though by no means a "scholar", long in the tooth, has been through several schools of hard knocks, and is arguably none the wiser. That said, he does manage to hammer out a cogent argument every now and again, and hopes to posit a few of such here. But please keep in mind that I am no authority. I am merely a blogger expressing here certain insights gleaned from my ongoing Anglican studies as well as thoughts related to the current state of Anglicanism, with a few "culture war" items and political rants thrown in now and again. (To both quote and modify Richard Weaver, "(Anglican) ideas have (political) consequences.") Take them all for what they're worth, and if you're looking for more authoritative blogs, check out The Continuum and The Old High Churchman for the writings of Bishop Peter Robinson (UECNA), Father Robert Hart (ACC), Father Matthew Kirby (ACC) and others.
Why "The Old Jamestown Church?" I've picked that as the name of this blog for a couple of reasons. The old church, built in 1639, symbolizes the classical Anglican tradition. Though the 17th-century Anglican church in America was anything but Anglo-Catholic, it nonetheless bore witness to the Catholic church of the ages in keeping with the conservative principles of the English Reformation. Here at the OJC blog I will be stressing the Catholic essence of traditional Anglicanism, as opposed to the kind of left-wing "Anglican" radicalism that exists in the Anglican Communion in the Northern hemisphere and Oceania.
Anglicanism is oftentimes referred to as "Reformed Catholicism", but it is important to note that the term "reformed" here does not mean Calvinistic. While the Reformed theology of theologians such as Martin Bucer and Peter Vermigli did exert an influence on the English Reformation initially, and Calvin thereafter, the English Reformation should be properly viewed as not ending in the 16th century but the 17th. The actions of Elizabeth I and the theology of Richard Hooker and the Caroline divines are just as important to the theology of classical Anglicanism as is the theology of the English Reformers. The efforts in those two centuries to Calvinize the Church of England, known as Puritanism, failed, as Anglican historian Diarmaid MacCulloch demonstrates in his article Cranmer's Ambiguous Legacy and other published works. To be sure, there is a fervent Calvinistic party today in Anglicanism, but it represents only a minority of Anglicans worldwide
When I say that Anglicanism is "Catholic", I mean that from the time of the Reformers on down to the modern day, the belief of Anglicans has been that they belong to the "one, holy, catholic and apostolic church", the Reformation notwithstanding. The Church of England, which had existed as a province of the Catholic Church from at least the late 2nd century, was indeed both influenced by the Protestant Reformation and made its own contributions it and is accordingly, at least in a very narrowly-defined sense, a Protestant church. The rub comes, however, when it is realized that the Reformation didn't produce one Protestantism, but a variety of Protestantisms, some radical, some (like the Church of England) very conservative, and others in between. Anglicans consider themselves Catholics because they have Catholic orders, embrace the historic Creeds and Ecumenical Councils of the Church, venerate the Fathers to the extent that they agree with the Apostles, and stand squarely in the Augustinian theological tradition, which for over a millennium was the dominant theological tradition in the Catholic West. In the creed, Anglicans confesses their faith in the "one, holy, catholic and apostolic church", but it should be added that the best way to ensure the authentic catholicity of the Church is to make sure it is authentically holy and apostolic. Sometimes that means reform, or ressourcement , to bring the Church back in line with the teaching of the apostles and Church Fathers. Whatever its failings, the Reformation, Continental and English, represented an attempt to correct, mainly in the areas of soteriology and sacramentology, a Catholic church that had gone off the rails regarding these matters and others. It represented a theological triumph of Augustinianism after a several-hundred-year struggle between the Augustinian and anti-Augustinian schools in the Western church. Because neither Rome nor Orthodoxy had a place for it at the time, the Protestant movement was forced to branch off into separate churches. Arguably, that did not affect the catholicity of the Reformation churches, however, and this is especially true with the Church of England since it preserved Catholic church order. Anglican blogger "Death Bredon" gives us this succinct and brilliant assessment. (Emphases are mine):
The genius of the Protestant Reformation is the recognition that, during the Middle Ages, "ecclesial creep" in both the Western and Eastern portions of the Church had for all practical intents and purposes replaced Old-Law works righteousness with a new works righteousness based on the respective "New Law" of the West (the Penance-Merits-Purgation-Indulgences doctrinal phalanx) and of the East (the imposition of the Monastic Typicon upon the laity).
Furthermore, . . . the formularies of classical Anglicanism did a better job of retaining the wheat of the orthodox catholicism of the ancient Church while jettisoning the chaff of innovative medieval accretion than did any other segment of the Reformation. This is why Anglicanism can, perhaps uniquely, lay equal claim to the appellations Protestant and Catholic and affirm both without any sense of inconsistency or incoherence. Indeed, strictly speaking, in proper understanding of each term, to truly be one, you must be both.
Regarding those portions of the Church: while this blog started out in a more controversial mode, with me devoting a fair amount of time and energy attempting to dissuade my Evangelical readers from converting to either Rome or Orthodoxy, I want to say that going forward from here my blogging will accentuate the "whys" of Anglicanism rather than the "why nots" of either of those two communions. It's not my intent to be wholly uncritical of them, however, as important issues separate us. But I want to communicate more earnestly what classical Anglicanism is for rather than what it is against, and classical Anglicanism has always been "for" the truth, wherever it finds it. Many of our theologians, historical and contemporary, find riches to be mined from the Roman Catholic, Anglo-Catholic and Orthodox traditions. What's more, in this dangerous day and age, all Christians need to hang together, or we will surely hang -- or be beheaded -- separately.
I have come to believe that when B.B. Warfield's obvious glee was misplaced when opined that the Protestant Reformation represented the triumph of Augustine's view of grace over his view of the Church. Augustine would have never thought to separate salvation and the Church, and the corrosive effects of the more radical movements of the Reformation arguably demonstrate why he would have never separated them and why he treated schismatics with such derision. I am also convinced, along with Peter Leithart, that Protestants of all stripes should jettison a slavish devotion to Protestantism as such and begin to see themseves as "Reformational Catholics." As noted previously, Anglicans have long considered themselves both "reformed and Catholic" and a "bridge church" between Protestantism and Catholicism. We join Leithart in hoping ideological Protestants will catch up to us! :>)
The other reason for the name of the blog is a more personal one. The old church symbolizes for me both my spiritual and familial roots. My forebears hail from England, and I have been able to trace my father's bloodline to Wiltshire. From there my father's ancestors came to Surry County, Virginia in the mid-1600s. Surry County is just across the river from Jamestown. I agree with Bishop Larry W. Johnson (ACIC) that Virginia is "holy ground", the cradle not only of the Southern civilization that formed my family but of traditional American Anglicanism as well. I come from a long line of English Christians, and English Christians belonged to one church until the Reformation. Thereafter, the Church of England continued as a national branch of that one church (Rome's and Orthodoxy's claims notwithstanding). Though when I became a Christian I initially followed my forebears in their Protestant dissent, ecclesiological and liturgical concerns set me on a quest for something deeper, more genuinely apostolic and ancient, and I eventually found a real home in Anglicanism.
I don't know if this blog will ever attract a wide readership, but to those who do manage to find and follow it I hope to communicate traditional Anglican claims in clear, understandable terms. Unfortunately, there is too much truth in that Facebook meme, "The Church of England: Loving Jesus with an air of superiority since 597." Anglicans have historically been a very educated bunch. Search around and you'll find plenty of examples in Anglican intellectual history and in the contemporary Anglican blogosphere of highly educated but exceedingly inscrutable and oftentimes insufferable folk, Anglicans who seem to be more interested in making a show of their knowledge and their highly-developed aesthetic sense than in leading people to the One who is Life Eternal or in showing how the Gospel **this** as its primary aim. I am neither an academic nor much of a liturgical aesthete, so I have no high ground from which to be snooty. That being said, I am an avid reader, by God's grace a fairly competent thinker, and I have learned enough about the ways of the academy to be able to discern when an Anglican scholar is advancing “ideas so absurd that only an intellectual could believe them.”
Last, a bit about me. I hold degrees in biblical studies and theology, and am a healthcare chaplain and as I noted above an Anglican deacon. Though my intent for now is to be a permanent deacon, I was counseled by a priest to “remain open” to the possibility of a further call from God, which I will happily do. I am married and am the father of two daughters, and grandfather to two granddaughters and two grandsons. Along with blogging and pastoral ministry, I enjoy reading, fly fishing, collecting and shooting firearms, smoking cigars and pipes, craft beer, white wine, sacred music, American roots music, playing a bit of mandolin and guitar, hiking, cooking, and hanging out with my better half.
Readers of this blog will discern that I am a classical Anglican of a theologically Augustinian stripe, meaning that I embrace both St. Augustine's view of unmediated grace (unconditional election, etc.) and his view of the mediated grace, necessary for salvation, that is found in the Church and her sacraments.
And so, with all that out of the way, here's the official disclaimer:
Though I strive to argue from the standpoint of classical Anglicanism, the opinions, beliefs, viewpoints, mutterings and tirades I publish here are entirely my own and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs of any pretendedly or authentically traditional Anglican church in North America or abroad. Moreover, because I have been formally Anglican only for a mere five years (though I have been a de facto Anglican far longer), and because Anglican identity is an important focus of my writing, readers should understand the "in via" character of my opinions. In other words, I reserve the right to change my mind based on further reflection on the facts.
I name as the patron of this blog Bernard of Clairvaux, "Augustine redivivus" per Adolf von Harnack, Doctor of the Catholic Church, inspirer of Martin Luther, Cistercian abbot, and advocate of the Knights Templar.
The Embryo Parson