For a more historical presentation of Anglicanism, please read this article from Wikipedia.org first.
My opinion of Anglicanism is that it is more or less “warmed over Catholicism”. Much of the structure and practice of Anglicanism comes directly from Catholicism. Once you understand the origin of the Anglican church (a refusal of Catholics to submit to Rome), then you see their historical and philosophical framework, i.e. they are Catholics of a non-Rome sort. During the formation of Anglicanism in England, there were a group of Catholic priests that went into Anglicanism, and there were group that refused and stayed loyal to the Roman Catholic church (even until today). In reference to this, please see the Oxford Movement, which is a movement of returning Anglican clergy back into the church of Roman. Bishop Newman was one that returned to Roman Catholicism from being an Anglican priest.
Having said that, I would like to clarify some points.
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Anglican’s pro-Catholic points
- They have priests, mass, worship icons, Mary worship, infant baptism that saves, apostolic succession, etc.
- They have an archbishop structure parallel with Catholicism, where the archbishop of Canterbury is equivalent to the Pope.
Anglican’s anti-Catholic points
- They do have some excellent works against Catholicism.
- They were influential in various points in history (especially Protestant history), such as the translation/creation of the King James Version (all Anglican men).
Having put forth these clarifications, let me explain what I think has happened with them. When the Anglican (English Catholic Church) broke with world Catholicism, they wanted to distance themselves from universal (Roman) Catholicism. They looked for points in which to be different from Roman Catholicism, and that apparently was directly by many of them into studying Scripture to reveal the falseness of Roman Catholicism. My issues with Anglicans are seen in the above “Pro-Catholic Points” where they continued essential Catholicism, and placing them into a highly doubtful position as far as if Anglicans are saved.
My most strongly felt opposition is on the issue of salvation. Anglicans that believe that baptizing their infants, or in good works to be saved are not saved. That is a false concept of salvation, and with that position, they cannot be considered brethren.
I have read many Anglican authors, and my own personal opinion is that some of these writers seem to have a very good grasp of Scripture on various subjects. Some probably better than any Protestant writers. I don’t understand how such men can hold to false concepts of salvation and yet write such good books on the exposition of Scripture, but it happens. My own personal view is that Anglicanism is probably as varied as any other group, and not everybody that is in the group holds to all of the false doctrines and practices in the group, but they don’t want to make an issue on those things so that go along with the party line. This would make them people who would publicly hold to whatever the official party line is, but in private opinion they would hedge on those doctrinal issues.
I would note that the KJV translators did not translate “bautizo” into immersion like a pure translation of the concept would be, but created a new English word, “baptize” so that they could leave the mode in doubt, protecting their infant baptism. (It is hard to push infant baptism if you hold to the only scriptural mode as immersion. You drown the baby, and most parents are not really for that. It’s a hard sell for the church. So sprinkling on their forehead is the way out of that problem for Anglicans and Presbyterians.)
Fundamentalism and Anglican Non-Conformist
Having said all of the above, let me also put forth a comment from my Fundamentalist viewpoint. I do not wish to validate in any way unbiblical beliefs and practices like works salvation nor baptismal regeneration. There is a lot in Anglicanism that is just unbiblical. However, as a Fundamentalist I have a great interest in church history and the “move” of groups and movements, especially in studying how error derails truth, and how God appears to work in men to bring back that truth, even if in part.
From the early beginnings of Anglicanism, there were people who “dissented” (called the dissenters) from which Quakers, non-conformist Anglicans, etc. evolved, united with, or identified with. See the Wikipedia article on https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nonconformism The interesting part of this is Anglicans recognized that Anglicanism as historically known was wrong. These writers and preachers would be the better quality material for reading and studying among general Anglican writers. Within the Anglican group, you can find extremes of people tilting back and falling into Roman Catholicism (Oxford movement) and those who would break away completely (Puritans and Presbyterians) or almost completely (Non-conformists, Scottish Free Church, etc). In 1851 a census was taken of Anglicans and the break down at that time was about even between non-conformists and traditional Anglican views (as per wikipedia.org article mentioned above).
I see some of these Anglican authors as having interesting and extremely good material in their works. Not everything they say may be accepted without checking back with Scripture, but that is truth with any book you read except the Bible itself.
Anglican Church admits it was wrong and returns to Rome
LONDON, Mar. 31 – Ending a 440-year standoff, the Church of England admitted it was wrong and returned unharmed to the Catholic Church early yesterday morning. Henry VIII, deceased, created the Anglican Church 470 years ago in a fit of adulterous pique, and it has had no ecumenical contact with the Roman Catholic Church ever since, said Church spokesmen. But after eating a heavy supper and watching the popular Vatican cartoon, SuperPope, Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. George Carey, was unable to sleep and found himself thinking about the church and why there were two.
In the morning he called Pope John Paul II and said he was sorry. After a brief negotiation the two pontiffs agreed to return the Anglican Church and all its members, liens, titles, chattel, and possessions, to the Mother Church in Rome and to never break up again. Vatican spokesmen claim that the Pope was so excited he almost let women into the priesthood. Arch Bishops close to the pope claim that he knew this would happen all along, he just was not sure when.
In Eingland the mood was somber as disappointed Anglicans destroyed their birth control devices and began purchasing religious icons. The episcopal sees were dissolved this morning, and a special committee of bishops was dispatched to Balmoral to explain transubstantiation to His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales. While there, they are also expected to install a small statue of the Virgin Mary on the front lawn, which will be lit with a soft blue light year round.
Why read Anglican authors?
In a perfect world, we should never have to read from authors in groups and movements that are different from our own. We don’t live in a perfect world. Unfortunately for me, being a Fundamental Independent Baptist, there are very few writers or works being produced by people in my own group. Baptists rarely seem to want to write thorough, well studied and documented works. Some Anglican authors do have well studied material. For example, Bullinger’s Bible Companion contains a great deal of general information on the Bible. John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, J.C. Ryles works, Westcott works, and many others are very helpful, inspiring, and classical works in Christianity. It would be a shame to exclude them by painting ALL Anglicans as being bad.
I would not discard all Anglican writers and writing. There are some excellent works put out by some of them. I personally use the King James Version, so that is the product of an Anglican group of men. But at the same time, you need to be wary of certain issues when reading.
You should check and reflect on any mention of salvation in the context of baptism. The author might see the two as being the same thing. Likewise any mention of salvation by works. While Anglicans have held over many Roman Catholic beliefs and practices, it is a very different kind of belief and practice than straight Roman Catholicism. Most Roman Catholic theologians follow the officially given Roman line of doctrine. Anglicans don’t seem to be that strongly tied to “our doctrine is what the Pope says it is”. In reality, their reasoning is more from scriptural arguments which in the end, come in on what scripture says about scripture. Don’t get me wrong, Anglicans are not necessarily all “biblical” in their interpretations and practices. But from what I have seen they tend more towards that line of thinking that pure Roman Catholics. That being the case, they do have value in their writings, but only if you are aware of their issues and problems, and not accept these when they insert some of that into their teaching.
I would not direct new Christians into reading Anglican works in general. But I would recommend them to read the Anglican version, the King James Version. These works should be read by Christians that are well mature, and grounded in their own faith.
For more public errors of the Anglican Church see the Heresies of Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.
The Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori derided individual salvation calling it ‘the great Western heresy: that we can be saved as individuals, that any of us alone can be in right relationship with God.’ … Jefferts Schori said it was a “heresy” to believe that an individual can be saved through personal faith and trust in Jesus Christ acknowledged in a prayer of repentance. source