About this FAQ
Most websites of the Orthodox Anglican Church have FAQ pages similar to this one. The questions and the answers to them in this FAQ page are, accordingly, quite similar to FAQ pages at other websites for Orthodox Anglican parishes.
Nevertheless, the answers to the questions below are ones offered by the clergy of St. Athanasius Anglican Church. “Official” statements of doctrine are identified as such and links to them are provided where appropriate.
Have a question that doesn’t appear in those below? Send your question to us via the Contact Page. We will answer it privately, or in a post at Fr. Bill’s Blog. If the same question is posed often enough, we’ll add it to the Frequently Asked Questions below.
Questions Related to Mere Christianity
What is "mere Christianity?"
The term mere Christianity is famous in our day because of a book by that title by the Anglican C. S. Lewis. Since 2001, more than 3.5 million copies of Mere Christianity have been sold in English alone. Most Protestants and many Roman Catholics think of C. S. Lewis as an apologist, but he was also an evangelist. Many people have come to faith in Jesus Christ by reading Lewis’ works on the Christian faith. The late Charles W. Colson relates that “I opened Mere Christianity, and found myself face-to-face with an intellect so disciplined, so lucid, so relentlessly logical that I was glad I never had to face him in a court of law. . . . As I read, I could feel a flush coming to my face and a curious burning sensation. . . . Lewis’s words seemed to pound straight at me.”
The idea expressed in the term mere Christianity is actually borrowed by Lewis from the Seventeenth-Century Puritan pastor Richard Baxter. Baxter lived when Protestant groups in England were beginning to develop denominational consciousness and competition. Baxter did not like the labels Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Congregationalist, and so on. He preferred to be called a “mere Christian,” in the sense that he was Christian in the way that any Christian might claim that label for himself. For a good essay on this topic, see Timothy George’s essay “A Thicker Kind of Mere” in First Things, May 18, 2015. [https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2015/05/a-thicker-kind-of-mere].
Please note that both Baxter and Lewis are Anglicans, that is Protestant Christians in England. While the Puritan Baxter and the Church of England Anglican Lewis would doubtless have had a great many disagreements about many things relating to the Christian faith, both men also recognized that they shared a vast common ground with all Christians, a common ground that they would also share with Roman Catholics and the Orthodox. They referred to that common ground as mere Christianity.
What is the Gospel?
The central truth of the gospel is that God has provided a way for men who are worthy of God’s judgment to receive forgiveness of their sins through faith in God’s Son. Jesus Christ, God’s eternal Son, came into the world to save sinners. Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, suffered death on the cross as a sacrifice for the sin of the whole world. He overcame death and rose bodily from the grave, and now He offers to share His triumph over the grave to all who put their trust in Him alone. The gospel is good news because it is a gift of God, not something to be earned by penance or by self-improvement.
In his first letter to the Christians at Corinth, the Apostle Paul summarized the most elementary things a sinner must believe about Jesus Christ in order to receive eternal life:
15:1 Now I want to make clear for you, brothers and sisters, the gospel that I preached to you, that you received and on which you stand, 15:2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 15:3 For I passed on to you as of first importance what I also received—that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, 15:4 and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures, 15:5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve…
These verses, which are an early Christian confession, give us the heart of the gospel, and they show that a belief in the resurrection, in particular the bodily resurrection of Jesus three days after he was buried, is an essential part of the gospel.
So, the central message of the gospel is a two-fold confession:
- Christ died for our sins and
- He rose bodily from the grave three days after he was buried.
What is the Church?
St. Paul wrote to his disciple Timothy that “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” (1 Timothy 1:15). But it was not merely a pile of sinners whom Jesus came to save. Rather, His goal was to save a body of such people, united together by the Holy Spirit.
In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul told them that “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink of one Spirit. 14 For in fact the body is not one member but many. … 27 Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.” (1 Corinthians 12:13ff)
Writing to Christians in Ephesus, Paul told them that “… Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. … Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.” (Ephesians 5:25ff)
The vast majority of the Church is now with Christ in heaven – all those who died. These are sometimes referred to as the Church Triumphant, while those who have not yet died – no matter where they are across the eath – are sometimes referred to as the Church Militant, the Church that struggles against the enemies of the gospel.
The point: The Holy Spirit keeps adding individual redeemed sinners to the Body of Christ, the Church, as they repent of their sins and place their trust in the risen Son of God. As these new believers are baptized, the Holy Spirit joins them to that growing body of believers – the Church – until the day that Jesus and all the redeemed return to the earth in His second advent.
Why "go to church" at all?
“Going to church” usually refers to gatherings on Sunday and other Holy Days (such as Christmas or Easter), gatherings of believers in Christ for the purposes of worship, instruction in the faith, and mutual encouragement and help.
New believers are received into the fellowship of the Church through baptisms and all the gathered Christians communion with the Lord Jesus through the preaching of His word and through participation in a ritual meal – also known as Communion, the Lord’s Supper, or the Holy Eucharist – in which they receive the body and blood of Christ, just as the original Apostles did on the night in which the Lord was betrayed.
Christians go to church – that is, they gather with other Christians on Sundays and at other times – in obedience to the patterns established by the Apostles of Jesus Christ, and in order to accomplish the purposes of corporate prayer, corporate worship, and corporate edification. Because the Church is a body and because every Christian is a member of that body, it is vitally important for those members to assemble with other members of the Body of Christ for these corporate activities and to fulfill these corporate purposes.
Questions Related to Anglican Christianity
What is Anglican Christianity?
The term Anglican refers to the Church of Jesus Christ that was established in England , or “Angleland” as it was known in Old English. Evidence exists to show that Christianity existed in this part of the Roman Empire as early as the First Century. The first major wave of evangelization, however, occurred in the Fourth Century as Celtic missionaries brought Christianity to the pagan Romano-Celts living in the land. The second major wave of evangelization began at the Sixth Century, as missionaries from Rome were sent to the Anglo-Saxon tribes that had largely conquered England by then.
The Church of England originally existed independent of the Bishop of Rome. A dispute arose in the Seventh Century between churches that celebrated Easter according to the Celtic calendar, while other churches celebrated Easter according to the calendar in Rome. At the Synod of Whitby in 664, King King Oswiu of Northumbria ruled that his kingdom would calculate the date of Easter according to the customs of Rome, rather than the customs practiced by Irish monks at Iona and its satellite institutions. Eventually, the entire Church in England became “Roman” insofar as they submitted to the authority of the Pope.
In the Sixteenth Century the Church of England was shaped to a certain degree by the Protestant Reformation that took place in Western Europe. While English Reformers like Thomas Cranmer, architect of Anglicanism’s beloved Book of Common Prayer, agreed that certain reforms to the Western church were necessary, the Church of England took a very conservative posture to reforms, to preserve the “baby” of apostolic and catholic Christianity while throwing out the “bathwater” of unbiblical innovations that had crept into the Medieval Church. The result was a reformed English Church that had the Bible as its centerpiece of authority but also held to the historic catholic creeds, historic church organization, historic patterns of worship (the Western liturgical tradition), all inherited from the ancient church.
Anglicanism is not simply the faith of the English people, however. In subsequent centuries, missionaries from the Church of England took Christianity to various parts of the world: North America, Africa, India, the Middle East, Australia, New Zealand and other parts of the world, establishing what eventually came to be known as the worldwide “Anglican Communion.” Anglican Christianity flourished in these lands because at its center it is the biblical and apostolic faith which Our Lord said would be preached to all the world.
While Anglicanism has a certain English imprint because of its history in the British Isles, it is not simply the faith of the English people and their descendants, but the faith of the Apostles and Fathers, a faith that nowadays is confessed by “every kindred tongue and nation.” Today it is arguably the case that Africa, and not England, is the center of orthodox Anglican Christianity.
What makes a Christian an Anglican Christian?
Unlike the belief of some, we do not hold that being an Anglican means being in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury, or even being a member of the so-called Anglican Communion. Being an Anglican means faithful adherence to the beliefs and practices of the reformed Church of England and her daughters throughout the world, and doing so under the supervision of a bishop in genuine apostolic succession.
One is an Anglican by being faithful to the teaching of the apostles and Church Fathers, to the theology found in the Book of Common Prayer and other Anglican formularies (such as the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion), and to the canons of the Anglican jurisdiction to which your parish church belongs. Ultimately being Anglican entails a heartfelt commitment to “the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (Acts 2:42)
Today, however, it must be said what being Anglican is not. Some Protestant groups or churches will adopt various novel liturgical practices in their worship, or even borrow parts of the various services found in the Book of Common Prayer. Some groups will describe themselves as “three streams” communities, in which they try to combine features of catholic, Protestant, and Pentecostal modes of worship. None of these are truly Anglican, because they depart from the doctrine, worship, and piety of the early Church.
It needs to be stressed that Anglican faith as it emerges from the English Reformation is a Protestant faith, a reformed catholic faith, and is in no way a Pentecostal faith as that term is defined in the context of Christianity in America over the past150 years. It is frankly dishonest for self-styled “three streams” congregations to claim to be Anglican. They are not.
You're Anglican, but not Episcopalian?
After the American Revolution the Church of England in the United States renamed itself the “Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States of America,” later to become known simply as “The Episcopal Church.” Thus he term “Anglican” in the United States became replaced with the term “Episcopalian.”
This is understandable – especially in the context of the faith of the English colonists in America after the American Revolution which was carried out against the Monarch of England who was also the head of the Anglican Church! After the American Revolution these colonists – though they were no longer subjects of the English monarch – remained faithful Christians in the tradition of the English Reformation. To avoid any confusion about where their political loyalties lay after the Revolution, Anglicans in America decided to call themselves Episcopals or Episcopalians – which merely points to the form of church government. “Episcopal” means church rule by bishops.
Fast forward two hundred years and various Protestant denominations, including the Episcopal Church, came under the spell a theological liberalism that abandoned the Bible and the orthodox tradition of Christian faith. Beginning in the 1960s, faithful Episcopalian clergy and laity decided that they could no longer remain faithful Christians and give a true Anglican witness unless they separated from the Episcopal Church. Most of these orthodox breakaway groups readopted the term “Anglican” in their name to distinguish themselves from The Episcopal Church, and also to highlight their continuity with the older “Anglican” faith of previous Western history.
The Orthodox Anglican Church was one of the very first Anglican churches to secede from the Episcopal Church. It sought to carry forward the authentic Christian faith taught by the Apostles, Fathers and Doctors of the ancient church. The Orthodox Anglican Church, joining other faithful conservative Anglicans, proclaims the authentic, classical “Anglican Way” to a world in desperate need of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
What is the Book of Common Prayer?
During the English Protestant Reformation, the Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer and other English clergy sought to make the Christian faith more accessible to the common people by producing an English-language translation of the Bible and an English prayer book. Archbishop Cranmer’s goal was to produce a one-volume book that contained texts for Morning and Evening Prayer, a Lectionary (schedule of Bible readings), the service of Holy Communion, the Ordinal (rites for ordaining deacons and priests, and consecrating bishops) and other orders of service useful for prayer, worship and living out the Christian church’s annual cycle of feasts and fasts.
Lex orandi, lex credendi is a motto we have received from the ancient church. The English translation of this Latin motto is, roughly, “the law of prayer is the law of belief” or “what we pray is what we believe”. What this means, essentially, is that everything we believe as Anglicans can be found in the official prayers set forth in the Book of Common Prayer.
The Prayer Book is suffused with Scripture. Various estimates claim that 85 percent of the Prayer Book is either a quotation of Scripture, a paraphrase of Scripture, or an easily recognizable allusion to Bible texts or themes. If you want to know what Orthodox Anglican theology looks like, read its prayers.
Rich resources on the history of the Book of Common Prayer are available on the internet. One very useful compilation of history can be found here.
Questions Related to Anglican Belief
Are you Catholic or Protestant?
Short answer: Yes.
Now for the long answer.
As noted in the section above on Anglicanism, the English Church dates back to the earliest days of the English people, and has accordingly always seen herself as a part of the entire catholic (“universal”) Church of Jesus Christ. However, the Church of England did become enmeshed in the tumultuous affair known as the Protestant Reformation and because of that, she has a certain “Protestant” or “Reformed” flavor. That being said, most Anglicans see themselves as Protestant only is a restrictive sense. The 17th-century Anglican theologian John Cosin put it this way: Anglicans are “Protestant and Reformed according to the principles of the ancient Catholic Church.”
For us Anglicans, catholicity and apostolicity are inseparable. We are truly catholic only to the extent that we are truly Apostolic, and we truly Apostolic only to the extent that we are truly catholic.
One side note, too often the word Catholic when it is capitalized is used to refer to the Roman Catholic Church. This is regrettable, confusing, and ultimately inaccurate. St. Vincent of Lerins said, “What everywhere, what always, and what by all has been believed, that is truly and properly catholic.” We agree!
Consequently, the word catholic – whether it is capitalized or not – should not refer exclusively to the Roman Church. Consequently, in this website and in the writings of our parish clergy, we refer to that church as “the Roman Church,” in a fashion analogous to the term “the Anglican Church.” This latter term points to a church which was established and matured in England. “The Roman Church” refers to all those churches which salute the Bishop of Rome as their patriarch. We Anglicans do not agree that the word catholic is somehow the “property” of the Roman Church. We are as catholic as the Pope!
What is Apostolic Succession?
Apostolic succession refers to a bishop’s standing in an unbroken chain of consecration stretching back to the First Century. The term “apostle” refers to one who is “sent” by Jesus Himself to carry on His ministry to the world. It was always known that these Apostles would die. Indeed, every one of them died the death of a martyr, being put to death for their testimony to the risen and living Jesus Christ.
The ministry of the Apostles continued after their deaths in two ways. First, some of them left behind writings which we know today as the New Testament. Apostolic teaching and commandments which these Apostles gave to their original converts are addressed to modern Christians just as much as they were to First Century Christians. In fact, these writings are said by the Apostles to be the very words of God, inspired and infallible by the ministry of the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Peter 3:16, 1 Corinthians 14:37).
The second way the Apostles’ ministry continued was by their ordaining their replacements, the bishops (the Greek word episcopos means “overseer”). We can see this process in Paul’s letters to his disciples Timothy and Titus.
One of the earliest references to the succession of the Church’s first generation of bishops is found in the First Epistle of Clement, the bishop of Rome, which he wrote to the Church at Corinth, penned around 95 A.D., before the death of the last apostle, St. John:
Our apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that there would be strife on account of the office of the episcopate. For this reason, therefore, inasmuch as they had obtained a perfect fore-knowledge of this, they appointed those [ministers] already mentioned, and afterwards gave instructions, that when these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry. [Ch. 44]
St. Irenaeus, writing c. 180 A.D., shortly after the death of St. John, refers to the chain of orthodox bishops as a bulwark against the teachings of the Gnostics and Gnostic heretics within the ranks of the Christians:
It is within the power of all, therefore, in every Church, who may wish to see the truth, to contemplate clearly the tradition of the apostles manifested throughout the whole world; and we are in a position to reckon up those who were by the apostles instituted bishops in the Churches, and [to demonstrate] the succession of these men to our own times; those who neither taught nor knew of anything like what these [heretics] rave about. . . .
Note that there are two aspects to valid succession of Apostolic ministry: the laying on of hands – that is, a formal ordination to the office of bishop – and that such duly ordained bishops’ ministry should conform to the teaching of the original Apostles as they left it in the New Testament.
Anglicans believe that apostolic succession is important because it is both the Church’s historic practice for how Christ’s authority is conveyed down through the ages. This does not mean that God cannot work through what we consider to be “irregular” ministries. The Holy Spirit is not bound, and due to historical exigencies we know that there others have different notions about what ordained ministry amounts to.
However, we adhere to tradition where tradition does not stand against Holy Scripture. At the beginning of the Church, it always believed in the centrality of the bishop, and that valid bishops stand in the chain of apostolic succession. This belief was unchallenged until the Reformation, some 1600 years after the Church was founded by Jesus and which was episcopally governed as early as 110 A.D., as seen in the writings of the Bishop of Antioch, St. Ignatius. The English Reformers perpetuated the historic threefold ministry of deacons, priests, and bishops which are found in the New Testament and also in the ancient church.
Why do you have priests?
The English word priest is derived from the Old English preost, which in turn is derived from Greek presbyteros (“presbyter”; “elder”). That being said, Anglicans are not Presbyterians. We do not simply view our priests as the Anglican version of Presbyterian clergy (“elders”). There is a sacrificial aspect to what our priests do, especially during Holy Communion.
Some Christians believe that the Church of Jesus Christ is not supposed to have priests at all, since the old sacrificial order of Jewish temple worship has been supplanted by our great high priest Jesus Christ, and a sort of egalitarian priesthood of all believers now make up His Church. However, it is important to note that the earliest writings of the Christian church (including the incipient indications in the New Testament such as Romans 15:16) reveal that the church has always considered its presbyters to be priests, that is, clergy who offer sacrifices.
During the tumultuous days of the Protestant Reformation, one of the chief protests against Roman theology by the Reformers was that the Roman Mass is a clear renunciation of the biblical teaching that Christ’s sacrifice was once for all, and therefore no more sacrifices are necessary. Whatever the merit of the case against Roman theology of the Mass might be, Anglicans do not deny that Christ’s sacrifice was once for all. This is reflected in the very words our priests say during the prayer of consecration:
ALL glory be to You, Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who, in your tender mercy gave Your only Son Jesus Christ to suffer death upon the Cross for our redemption; Who made there (by His one oblation of Himself once offered) a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, offering, and complete payment, for the sins of the whole world;. . . .[emphasis supplied]
Nothing could be more clear! That being said, our priests, being priests, offer something there at the table. What is it? One Anglican seminarian puts it very succinctly:
Not every sacrifice implies atonement. We * do offer sacrifices on that Holy Table which makes it, by definition, an altar. There are “thank offerings”– which is precisely what the Eucharist is. We also offer incense (again, not as an atonement offering, but out of thanksgiving). We offer the prayers at the altar. We offer alms on the altar. These are all sacrifices and thank offerings. We are able to offer anything to God because of what Jesus has done for us in his once for all sacrifice for sins upon the Highest Altar of the cross.
In fact, we offer our very selves to God at the altar. “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship”, writes St. Paul in Romans 12:1. Interestingly, Paul here conflates the idea of our living self-sacrifice with the idea of worship, and that is exactly what Anglicans do when they offer themselves to God in the Eucharistic sacrifice. As St. Augustine put it, “If you, therefore, are Christ’s body and members, it is your own mystery that is placed on the Lord’s table! It is your own mystery that you are receiving! You are saying ‘Amen’ to what you are: your response is a personal signature, affirming your faith. When you hear ‘The body of Christ’, you reply ‘Amen.’ Be a member of Christ’s body, then, so that your “Amen” may ring true!”
So yes, we have priests – and bishops and deacons — as we hold to the historic threefold ministry, which finds attestation in the Church Fathers as early as the first decade of the second century (The Epistles of St. Ignatius of Antioch). And unlike the practices of the Church of Rome and the Orthodox Churches, Anglican clergymen are allowed to marry, both before and after ordination.
What are the basic beliefs of Anglicans?
We believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as set forth above.
We believe that the Bible is God’s Word written down. The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are divinely inspired, and contain all things necessary to salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.
We believe the Sacraments of the Church are God’s Word in action. The Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion are ordained by our Lord Jesus Christ for all Christians.
We believe that the written Word and the holy sacraments are joined together and rightly proclaimed in the classic editions of The Book of Common Prayer. (Editions 1662, 1928 – US, 1929 – Scottish, and 1962 – Canadian.)
We believe that the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds are to be taught in the Church and to be received by the Faithful.
We believe Christian Marriage is a sacred bond between a man and a woman. We deny that marriage is even possible between two men or two women.
We believe the Ordained Ministry of the Church (the “threefold ministry” of bishop, priest, deacon) is reserved to godly men who meet qualifications set forth in the New Testament and who are duly ordained to that ministry by bishops in valid Apostolic succession.
For further information, see our “What We Believe” page here: http://www.orthodoxanglican.us/about/beliefs/
What do Anglicans believe about baptism?
Baptism is a rite (required actions, required words) performed ordinarily by officers of the Church (but in exigent circumstances by any Christian) through which the Holy Spirit acts in order to incorporate the person being baptized into the Body of Christ (i.e. the Church). Paul put it this way in 1 Corinthians 12:12-14:
For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.
It is clear from the broader context of 1 Corinthians 12 that the body Paul speaks of is the Church.
Anglicans – indeed, catholic Christians generally – believe that baptism does something to the one baptized beyond getting him wet. Anglicans believe that through the rite of baptism the Holy Spirit changes the person who is baptized, from being someone outside the Body of Christ to someone now counted as a member of that Body. Baptism puts the baptized person into a relationship with Jesus Christ and with all the other members of his Body (the Church).
Anglicans, along with catholic Christians generally, believe that baptism must apply water to the one being baptized (immersion, pouring, sprinkling are all valid) while a specific formula is recited, to wit: “I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” This complies with our Lord’s express commandment found in Matthew 28:19. A person can only receive valid baptism one time.
Why do you baptize babies?
Our Lord’s Apostles baptized entire households at a time. This presumably included all the children, including any infants. and any slaves in the household as well. For households already baptized into the Church, when such households added new infants to their number, these infants were baptized as well. It may seem a fine distinction, but it is an important one — babies are baptized when they are born into a household already baptized. Anglicans do not wander through the city looking for babies or children to baptize!
In the writings of bishops in the first generation after the Apostles — that is, in the second Century — baptized infants are spoken about in a way that indicates that infant baptism was an ordinary occurrence when a baby was born into an already baptized household.
Three passages by Origen (185–c. 254) mention infant baptism as traditional and customary. While Tertullian writing c. 198–203 advises the postponement of baptism of little children and the unmarried, he mentions that it was customary to baptize infants, with sponsors speaking on their behalf. The Apostolic Tradition, sometimes attributed to Hippolytus of Rome (died 235), describes how to perform the ceremony of baptism; it states that children were baptized first, and if any of them could not answer for themselves, their parents or someone else from their family was to answer for them.[see Wikipedia, Infant Baptism] Again, this shows that households, including children added to those households at a later time, were baptized.
In Israel, the initiatory rite for entry into the nation was circumcision, performed on all males on the eighth day after their birth. Female children or wives were automatically part of the Old Covenant if their fathers or husbands were circumcised. Christian baptism, as an initiatory rite, was administered to males and females alike. But, as the Church in its first generation was ethnically Jewish, the baptism of infants when households were baptized is obvious.
What do Anglicans believe about the Lord's Supper?
Like baptism, the Lord’s Supper is a rite (specific actions, specific words) performed by officers of Christ’s Church (priests, bishops) through which the Holy Spirit effects the conveyance of the body and blood of our Lord to baptized Christians who receive that body and blood by eating and drinking the bread and wine consecrated to be consumed in the Lord’s Supper.
Among Anglican beliefs that are usually noncontroversial are these:
- That the Lord’s Supper, also called the Holy Eucharist, or Holy Communion, should be done frequently. Many parishes observe Holy Eucharist each Sunday.
- That Holy Eucharist is administered only by the Church’s priests and bishops. In the absence of a priest or bishop, a deacon may administer a “Deacon’s mass” using bread and wine consecrated earlier by a priest or bishop and reserved for later distribution in a worship service presided over by the deacon alone.
- That the sacrament is ordinarily to be received as it was described by St. Cyril of Jerusalem in the Fourth Century: “When thou goest to receive communion go not with thy wrists extended, nor with thy fingers separated, but placing thy left hand as a throne for thy right, which is to receive so great a King, and in the hollow of the palm receive the body of Christ, saying, Amen.”
- That Anglicans ordinarily receive the sacrament (bread and cup) while kneeling at the altar rail. But, it is sometimes offered to those who are standing, especially when kneeling is for them difficult to do or to recover from.
- That the wine of communion is offered from a single chalice. This is a powerful symbol of our common communion with one and the same Savior. For the same reason, some parishes distribute the consecrated bread from a single loaf.
The Anglican belief which causes the greatest heartburn to new Anglicans or to Christians visiting an Anglican worship service is this: whether or not the bread and wine consecrated in the communion liturgy become the literal body and blood of Jesus. This issue is treated in a different question in this FAQ.
Questions Related to Anglican Worship
Why do Anglican clergy wear those funny clothes during worship?
The funny clothes have a name: vestments. Whether or not they look funny depends on the experience of the beholder! To a catholic Christian, they likely do not look funny at all. Rather, they look comforting and familiar, the way that traditional things from your childhood might make you feel.
At any rate, vestments for the clergy go all the way back to Exodus 28, where we read God’s instructions for the vestments which Aaron and his sons were to wear when they ministered before the LORD in the Tabernacle. These garments were to be “for beauty and for glory” (verses 2 and 40). From the precedent God provides in the Old Testament, we learn that He wants His ministers to have a recognizable uniform, and that this uniform is should be glorious (that is, distinctive, not used for any other purpose) and beautiful.
The history of Christian vestments for clergy is a fascinating subject, far too large to cover in an entry to Frequently Asked Questions. Enough for here to say this:
Christian vestments, that is catholic (note the small “c”) vestments, are deliberately traditional. Maybe even intensely traditional! We have evidence from frescoes and letters from the Fourth Century that the chasuble – a garment the priest wears during the Eucharist – is at least that old, being mentioned by St. Augustine. It may even be mentioned in the New Testament – the “cloak” that Paul asks his disciple Timothy to bring to him (2 Timothy 4:13).
As a uniform, it is . . . well, uniform. That is, it does not change. Or, if it changes the change is very slow. The “poncho” configuration of the chasuble, for example, has never changed – it has always been a largish piece of cloth with a hole in the middle of it through which the head is placed. It then hangs around the wearer like a poncho.
Consequently, vestments do not (certainly they should not) go in and out of fashion. Vestments which attempt to ape fashion trends are so overtly silly that blogs far and wide mock and scorn them!
If you are new to Anglican Christianity (or any version of catholic Christianity) you will likely be unable to view vestments as anything other than strange. If you can set aside the sensation of strangeness, it will eventually fade. And, if you are successful in receiving the blessings and spiritual nutrition that are found only in catholic Christianity, you will find that vestments take their place in your overall life in Christ’s Church as something normal, fitting, beautiful and glorious, as they should be when worn by our Lord’s undershepherds.
A word about the black clothing usually worn by deacons, priests, and bishops when they move about in public: these are not vestments. Vestments are what an officer in Christ’s Church wears when he is participating in worship. The distinctive uniforms a clergyman wears in public are call clericals.
What, you may ask, is so beautiful and glorious about a uniform that is entirely black?
Well, such a uniform is glorious in this sense – that it is a uniform distinctive enough to identify its wearer as a clergyman. Like any uniform (fireman’s uniform, policeman’s uniform, physicians’ attire, military attire, etc.) it has a certain “glory” in the sense that it has a character, an identity. The uniform confers an identity on the person who wears it.
And beauty? Let’s agree that an entirely black uniform has little of beauty about it. But, that’s part of what it communicates – blackness is a kind of retreat from beauty, not into ugliness, but into a kind of self-denial, a renunciation of individuality, a cloaking of oneself, a losing of oneself into the office designated by the uniform. For beauty and for glory applies to what a clergyman wears when participating in worship. In other spheres, especially public ones, a clergyman wears something else – a uniform that identifies him for who he is – an officer in Christ’s Church.
Why all that bowing and standing and kneeling suring the worship service?
In most Protestant worship services these days, the worship service is a kissing cousin to a concert. Or a play. Or, in churches that emphasize the sermon, a lecture. Modern worship services have an audience – the congregation. And, it’s got performers – the pastor; the worship team with their drum set, keyboards, guitarists, and vocalists; or sometimes a choir. In really contemporary services, the audience is treated to a fog machine and laser lights to give the worship service the spectacle of a rock concert.
In an Anglican service, the congregation is not a passive audience, beholding all the stuff going on up front on the stage. Instead, the congregation is an active participant in a scripted series of corporate words and actions. Yes, the priest has many things to say and to do. However, others are saying and doing things as well — the acolyte, the crucifer, the cup bearer, the lector(s), the alms bearer, and – most importantly – the individuals in the pews, the assembled congregation.
In part, this explains the movements done by the congregation.
The congregation stands for praise – whether it is the singing of hymns, psalms, and canticles, or when they stand to confess their faith by unitedly speaking the words of the Apostles’ or Nicene Creeds.
The congregation sits when it receives instruction – when the Scriptures are read, when the sermon is delivered.
The congregation bows in order to show honor or respect to someone or some thing uniquely associated with the Lord Jesus (such as the cross when it passes by in procession, or toward the altar from where the body and blood of the Lord are distributed to believers).
The congregation kneels when it prays, or when it receives the bread and wine at the communion rail.
This is the most important aspect of all this movement: it is done corporately. The congregation is a body, made up of all the individuals in attendance, who jointly speak with one voice, who unitedly sing with one voice, who corporately move together to sit, to stand, to kneel, to speak altogether as a single body.
Anglican worship is like a ballet company performing a choreographed ballet — many individuals, to be sure; but all of them dancing their parts at the appropriate times and in the appropriate manner, so that the net result is the ballet. Anglican worship is like an orchestra — many individual musicians to be sure; but all of them playing their instruments at the appropriate time and in the appropriate manner so that the result is a symphony.
In Anglican worship, all the Christians present, including the priest, are the performers. God is the sole audience. It is all done for Him. It is all done toward Him.
But God is not a passive observer in Anglican worship. Through His Spirit he conveys back to the congregation myriad blessings — instruction in the truth, admonition concerning our sins, assurance of forgiveness when we repent ourselves of those sins, intimate communion with His Son through that Son’s body and blood in the Eucharist.
Humans are composite creatures — a unity of body and spirit. Worshiping the Father in spirit and in truth requires that both body and spirit are working together. That is why Anglican worship calls on the worshiper to add his own body, in concert with all the others present, to his spirit during worship. So the worshiping congregation stands together, sings together, sits together, bows together, kneels together, eats and rinks together, prays together.
Icons? Crucifixes? Statues? Isn't that idolatry?
This is a longish answer, because it involves issues which are misunderstood and hotly contested within Christendom. Fasten your seat belts, grab your favorite recreational beverage, and read on . . .
The Second Commandment that Moses brought down from his 40-day seminar with God at the top of Sinai reads like this in Exodus 20:4-5:
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me.
The Israelites, while Moses was up on Sinai, broke this commandment when Moses’ brother Aaron made a golden calf and presented it to the Israelites who proclaimed “This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!” Aaron then made an altar before the golden calf and said “Tomorrow is a feast to the LORD.” Then they rose early on the next day, offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.” [Exodus 32:5]
Several things are noteworthy here:
- The golden calf was supposed to be an image of YHWH, “that brought you out of the land of Egypt!”
- Aaron’s altar was set before this image, so clearly he and the Israelites intended to worship YHWH by worshiping before this image.
- Additional confirmation of this notion is Aaron’s proclamation: ““Tomorrow is a feast to the LORD.” That word LORD in English translations, when it is in all caps, is the translator’s indication that the underlying Hebrew text is God’s name YHWH.
Consequently, the Israelites considered that they were worshiping YHWH. They had disobeyed the command against making a graven image to represent YHWH, and they had disobeyed the commandment to avoid worshiping the image.
Ordinarily, idolatry is the worship of a god different from the one true God, the One who revealed Himself to Moses in the burning bush and who spoke to the entire nation Israel from Mount Sinai. When they made and worshiped the golden calf, they considered that they were worshiping YHWH, but they were doing so in a way He expressly prohibited.
Later in its history, of course, Israel not only worshiped an image, they worshiped images of gods different from YHWH. This was, of course, pure idolatry.
Now, the question is this: does the Second Commandment prohibit the making of any image whatsoever in the context of the worship of God? Many Christians today, including some Anglicans (such as J. I. Packer) think so. For them, pure worship should proceed in the comprehensive absence of any picture, icon, crucifix, cross, or any other representation of anything at all in the creation. Certainly such a policy would avoid transgression of the letter of the Second commandment!
There are compelling reasons, however, to dismiss such a reading of the Second Commandment.
First of all, we consider the very detailed directions which God gives for the construction of the Tabernacle. Beginning in Exodus 37, we read about the fine artistic work God directs artisans to do in creating the various implements and articles in the Tabernacle. The ark, for example, had statuary of the Cherubim on top of it (Exodus 37:7). The lampstands were fashioned to resemble almond trees and almond flowers (Exodus 37:17-22). The curtains within the Tabernacle were woven with images of cherubim on them (Exodus 26:1, 31). Centuries later, when Solomon erected a grand temple, the courts outside and the Temple inside were lushly decorated with cherubim, plants and flowers, and animals (cf. 1 Kings 6-8).
Note: God was pleased to inhabit both the Tabernacle and later Solomon’s Temple, each of them containing artistic representations of various things in the creation and even in heaven (i.e. the cherubim).
Consequently, the “Puritan” application of the Second Commandment is clearly incorrect, for it makes God himself in conflict with His own word.
When we come to the New Testament Church, one difference from the times of the Old Testament has an impact on the question considered here. That thing is the incarnation. God the Son became (and remains to t his very moment) a human male! Mankind bears the image of God, and in Jesus the son of Mary “… dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9). To make an icon amounts to the same thing as making a portrait of a loved one and displaying it in your home.
On the wall as four or five feet from me as I write this, is a painted portrait of my mother and father. Do I think it is the same thing as my mother and father? Obviously not! Their bodies lie in graves about three miles from where I sit. Their souls are in Heaven, face-to-face with the Lord Jesus. Before God became incarnate in Jesus, it would have violated the Second Commandment to make any sort of image of God. For one thing, His image was already stamped onto every single human who ever lived! Yet none of them were complete images of God. But that changed when God was born from the Virgin Mary. Here was an image of God that was completely true, a man in whom dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Colossians 2:9).
May we, then, represent this incarnate God artistically? The Church has debated this question, sometimes fiercely, over the past 20 centuries. Some (the minority) have refused to acknowledge any imagery (photo, statue) of our Lord. Others (the vast majority) have confessed our Lord’s incarnation by representing Him, along with His disciples, and many other saints of the Church, in statuary and graphic arts, primarily icons.
The most common misconception about icons or other representations of Jesus is that they are worshiped and or prayed to, when the truth is they are venerated (i.e. shown respect) by believers. We do not pray to an icon or to an representation of the Lord Jesus, but rather in the presence of such images. We venerate them because of the person(s), or events, that are depicted on them.
Because of this, Anglicans and Lutherans (among Protestants) along with the Roman and Eastern Churches have historically taken a position that differs from that found among the Presbyterians and Evangelicals whose piety has strong Anabaptist roots. We believe that imagery is permitted in the church – and in your home. They remind us that we are not alone on our pilgrimage toward the New Jerusalem, and some tell the biblical story in the form of art. They remind us of the events of the life of Christ, of the saints that have gone before us, and that we are part of a great communion, a cloud of witnesses to the glory of God.
Finally, in the worship of God, our Lord has mandated an image of Himself that must be used in worship – the consecrated bread which He tells us “This is My body” and the consecrated wine which He tells us is ” “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.”
What's the deal with the incense?
The deal is simply this: we know from Scripture that God likes incense. To see the intimate association between worship and burning incense, take some time to pour over the 137 mentions of incense in the Old Testament.
Exodus reports in great detail God’s insistence that incense be crafted according to a specific recipe and burned on a special altar morning and evening for all time (!). Other passages show that God was exceedingly picky about who could offer incense to Him and how they did it. In one case (see Numbers 16) God burned to a crisp 250 men who incorrectly burned incense to Him.
So, whether we we understand it or not, whether we like it or not, Scripture shows us that God likes incense!
“But, that was the Old Covenant,” someone will say. “We’re New Testament Christians! We don’t have to follow all those laws about incense in the Old Testament!”
It is true that we are not bound by the Law, by the Old Covenant. So what? Did God stop liking incense when the Old Covenant was ended? That doesn’t seem to be the case in the visions of the Apostle John, when he saw this in heaven:
2 And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets. 3 Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. 4 And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel’s hand. [Revelation 8:2-4]
John had this vision of heavenly worship decades after our Lord ascended to heaven! In the current New Testament era of the Church, God still has “much incense” offered to Him in heaven. To offer incense to Him down here during our worship is de regieur for sure!
One last word on the appropriateness of incense. The last prophet of the Old Testament era, Malachi, made a prophecy about the age of the Messiah in Malachi 1:11 –
“For from the rising of the sun, even to its going down,
My name shall be great among the Gentiles;
In every place incense shall be offered to My name,
And a pure offering;
For My name shall be great among the nations,”
Says the Lord of hosts.
Is your church worshiping God as the prophet Malachi prophesied? Then where’s the incense?
Why do you use alcoholic wine in your communion?
We use wine in our observance of the Communion for the same reason that we use unleavened bread in the Communion: it was what our Lord used at the Last Supper. What became the Christian Eucharist was instituted by our Lord during the Passover meal. That meal used real wine. It used unleavened bread. Both are fitting emblems of our Lord’s person and work.
The unleavened bread is an emblem of our Lord’s sinless incarnation. The wine is a symbol of our Lord’s death. Some teachers have further observed that wine is a fitting emblem of His resurrection as well: the product of death (the crushing of grapes) and the glorification of its transformation (grape juice become wine).
Christians of every sort always used wine in the Lord’s Supper, for almost nineteen centuries, until a Methodist minister in the United States decided he needed a nonalcoholic grape juice to use in the Communion! The Revd Thomas Bramwell Welch — yes, that Welch! — deployed two brand new technologies to achieve his purpose. The first was the process of pasteurization, the second was refrigeration. Neither technology existed before the 19th Century! In the hands of the Revd Welch, these technologies produced what we know today as Welch’s Grape Juice. And the Methodists who championed the new anti-alcohol campaign also spread the use of Welch’s Grape Juice among other Protestant groups who joined their campaign to enact Prohibition.
As noted in other places in this FAQ, Anglicans are profoundly disposed to take their cues from the Bible and what they see our Lord, His Apostles, and the Prophets promoting. Like any good thing, wine can be abused. The Scriptures are clear on the sinfulness of the abuse of wine. But, wine itself is God’s gift, as the Psalmist sings:
14 He causes the grass to grow for the cattle,
And vegetation for the service of man,
That he may bring forth food from the earth,
15 And wine that makes glad the heart of man,
Oil to make his face shine,
And bread which strengthens man’s heart. [Psalm 104:14-15]
And, wine is what our Lord used as the emblem of His blood when He instituted the Eucharist. So, Anglicans follow His lead and use wine in the Communion.
Miscellaneous Questions About Anglican Christianity
There are so few Anglicans here in Ellis County, Texas! If Anglican Christianity is so mainstream, please name me some well-known Anglicans.
Most famous Christian Englishmen and Englishwomen have been and are Anglicans, as would be expected, as were a great number of famous early Americans who are Anglican Christians. Here is but a smattering, representing various fields and vocations:
C.S. Lewis, famous English novelist, poet, medievalist, lay theologian, broadcaster, lecturer, and Christian apologist, beloved by Protestants, Roman Catholics and Orthodox alike. Known especially for his Christian allegory novels The Chronicles of Naria and the Space Trilogy.
P.D. James, English writer and mystery novelist featuring police inspector Adam Dalgleish.
T.S. Eliot, famous English poet, essayist, publisher, playwright, literary and social critic, whose thought has greatly influenced English and American conservatism.
Dorothy Sayers, English crime writer, poet, playwright, essayist, and member of the “Inklings” literary club along with C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein
Jan Karon, Episcopalian author of the delightful “Mitford series” of novels about an Episcopal priest, Fr. Tim, and his life in Mitford, North Carolina, a fictional town based on Karon’s former home, Blowing Rock.
Peter Hitchens, conservative English journalist.
George Washington and James Madison, American Presidents, along with a number of other Founding Fathers of the American Republic.
Robert E. Lee, iconic general of the Confederate States Army and later president of Washington College, 1865-1870.
Absalom Jones, first African-American Anglican priest.
David Pendleton Oakerhater, famous Native American Anglican deacon and missionary.
J.I. Packer, scholar, professor, and author of Knowing God among other books on Christian doctrine.
John Stott, pastor, scholar, and author of The Cross of Christ and Basic Christianity.
Canon Andrew White, Vicar of St. George’s Anglican Church, Baghdad, Iraq, who has bravely stood with his flock against the depredation of ISIS.
Miscellaneous Questions About St. Athanasius Anglican Church
When Was St. Athanasius Anglican Church Founded?
St. Athanasius Anglican Church was formally organized by six founding households on May 2, 2004. May 2 is the Feast Day of Saint Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria in North Africa in the Fourth Century. He was a delegate to the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. and was a powerful contender against the heretic Arius whose heretical teachings about Jesus prompted the Emperor Constantine to convene the Council to settle the controversies raging through the Church because of Arius’ heretical doctrines.
In June of 2004, the newly organized band of Christians petitioned the United Anglican Church for admission into that Anglican jurisdiction as a mission parish. That petition was granted in July 2004, and in an episcopal visit in August 15 2004, the Most Revd Robert D. Parlotz received St. Athanasius Anglican Church into the United Anglican Church and ordained William E Mouser Jr as a deacon and appointed him Deacon-in-Charge of the parish. On 14 September 2005, in a subsequent episcopal visit, the Most Revd Robert Parlotz returned to St. Athanasius parish and ordained Fr. Mouser to the priesthood.
On the First Sunday in Advent of 2017, St. Athanasius Anglican Church transferred its affiliation from the United Anglican Church to The Orthodox Anglican Church. In an episcopal visit on January 27-28, 2018, the Most Revd Thomas Gordon, Presiding Bishop of the Orthodox Anglican Church, and the Metropolitan Archbishop of the Orthodox Anglican Communion, formally received St. Athanasius Anglican Church into the Orthodox Anglican Church, incardinating Fr. William Mouser into the ranks of the jurisdiction’s clergy, ordaining Fr. Jerry Young to the priesthood and Mr. Brad Davis to t he diaconate, and confirming five members of St. Athanasius parish.
When was the Francesca Chapel built?
St. Athanasius Anglican Church meets in the oldest continuously inhabited Christian church building in Waxahachie, Texas. This chapel is the original home of St. Paul Episcopal Church, consecrated to Christian worship by Episcopal Missionary Bishop Alexander Charles Garrett in November 1887. From its opening until the last Sunday in Advent 2003, the chapel was the home of St. Paul Episcopal Church, Fr. Jerry Hill its last vicar in this location before the parish moved to its new campus at 624 Ovilla Rd, Waxahachie, TX.
The original chapel and its campus was sold to ICGS, a Christian non-profit educational organization, and beginning the first Sunday of 2004, it served as an incubator for new Christian congregations in Waxahachie, Texas. Subsequently one of these was the St. Athanasius Anglican Church, organized on May 2, 2004. Upon its sale to ICGS, the chapel was renamed The Francesca Chapel, in memory of Francesca Louise Mouser, daughter of Fr. William Mouser, current Rector of St. Athanasius Anglican Church. Francesca was baptized in the Chapel that now bears her name at the Easter Vigil of 1990 when she and her family were members of St. Paul Episcopal Church. She died from a brain tumor on April 22, 1997 at the age of nine, three weeks after her last Eucharist in the Chapel on Easter Sunday, March 30, 1997.
Who was Saint Athanasius?
Athanasius was born around 297 A.D. in North Africa, and died after a tumultuous ecclesiastical life on May 2, 373. A.D. He was the 20th bishop of Alexandria. However, his earliest contribution to the life of the Church dates from his attendance at the Council of Nicea, where he opposed the heretic Arius and defended both the deity of Jesus Christ and the Trinitarian nature of the Christian God. Outside the authors of the New Testament, Athanasius, through his opposition to Arianism and his writings in defense of the Trinity, has had more impact on the doctrinal architecture of the Christian faith than any other man in history. Wikipedia’s article on Athanasius provides a good overview of the man and his amazing life.
St. Athanasius Anglican Church takes its name from the illustrious saint in order to set before its members St. Athanasius’ life-long example of contending for the faith against powerful and life-long opposition. Saint Athanasius, like faithful Christians in the 21st Century, faced opponents from within the Church and from the civil magistrate. In his lifetime, St. Athanasius acquired the nickname Athanasius contra mundum, which means “Athanasius against the world.” The nickname arose because of St. Athanasius’ conflict not only with heretics within the Church (e.g. the Arians), but also against civil authorities (such as the emperors Constantine, Constantius II, Julian the Apostate and Valens). Our parish slogan is “Contra mundum redivivus,” signifying our desire to reclaim the stalwart defense of the faith that so exemplified the life of Saint Athanasius.