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Religion Library: Anglican/Episcopalian


Written by: Russell P. Dawn

 Another distinctively Reformed teaching that was important in the development of Anglicanism was the doctrine of double predestination.  This taught that God, from all eternity, predestined some people to eternal life (election) and predestined others to eternal damnation (reprobation).

 All of these aspects of the Protestant Reformation proved highly influential on Anglicanism.  Anglicanism teaches that a person can be saved only by grace through faith, and therefore has abandoned the cult of purgatory.  Anglicanism also teaches that the Bible is the final authority for matters of Christian faith and practice, although with the necessary support of human reason and the traditions of the Church.

Where Reformed Christianity departed from Lutheran beliefs, Anglicanism tended to favor the Reformed.  Though double predestination was a prominent belief in Anglicanism's formative years, the Articles of Religion are silent on this and in later generations the doctrine fell distinctly out of favor.  Also, the Lutheran understanding of Christ's Eucharistic presence was a minority perspective throughout most of Anglicanism's early development, and Thomas Cranmer was strongly influenced by Reformed Eucharistic views in his composition of the Book of Common Prayer (BCP) and the Articles of Religion.  It may be, however, that some believers in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, along lines similar to the Lutheran view, would not have found offense in later Anglican liturgical formularies.   Furthermore, the emphasis on sacramental grace that began its slow emergence in the English Church in the 1590s drew in part on the thought of Lutherans.

Despite this substantial Protestant heritage, many aspects of medieval Church practices influenced, or even survived untouched in, the English Church after the Reformation.  The medieval Church, in theory, traced its leadership through an unbroken line of apostolic succession back to the apostles of Jesus Christ.  They laid hands on individuals and thereby consecrated them as bishops to serve local churches, these bishops laid their hands on others in consecration, and so on down through the ages.  The English Church, unlike most Protestant Churches, retained episcopacy.  It also kept cathedrals as episcopal seats (Latin: cathedra), and continued the cathedral practice of elaborate worship ceremonies.

 Moreover, the Anglican liturgy embodied in the BCP was based on the medieval liturgy of the Mass.  Indeed, many aspects of the Anglican service of worship were lifted from the medieval Mass and changed only in their translation into English, such as the Kyrie eleison ("Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy"), the gloria ("glory to God in the highest"), the sursum corda ("lift up your hearts"), and many others.  On the other hand, the liturgy was changed in a Protestant direction in important ways.  For example, the idea of the Eucharist as an offering to God of Christ's body and blood was eliminated, as were invocations to saints.  Consequently, Anglican worship took form with striking similarities to the medieval Mass, but with Protestant content.

 Anglicanism, then, displays the indelible marks of its forebears.  The pre-Reformation Church, as well as the Reformed and Lutheran branches of Protestantism, had and continue to have, a voice in Anglican spirituality.

Study Questions:
     1.    What is meant by via media? What supports this depiction of Anglicanism?
     2.    Describe the relationship between indulgences and purgatory. Why did Luther reject this?
     3.    What did Luther believe would bring salvation to the individual?
     4.    How did the Reform movement influence Anglicanism? Why was this favored over Lutheran beliefs?
     5.    How did medieval liturgy influence Anglican liturgy? Provide examples that are still used today.


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