This question has come up a couple of times in conversation with a deacon. What exactly is a Continuing Anglican? The answer is not that simple. Some questions frequently asked of Continuing Anglicans are as follows…
Are Continuing Anglicans all the same in doctrine?
No. There are a wide variety of Continuing Anglicans on all spectrums of Anglicanism. There are Broad Church Continuing Anglicans, High Church Continuing Anglicans, and Low Church Continuing Anglicans. Anglo-Catholics and Evangelical Anglicans. For instance, the Anglican Orthodox Church is Low Church and repudiates veneration of saints and does not refer to its clergy as “father”. The Episcopal Missionary Church accepts a more Evangelical to Anglo-Catholic orientation. The United Episcopal Church of North America accepts a Broad Church view, and of course my own Anglican Church in America accepts a High Church view. Note that “Broad”, “High”, and “Low” generally refer to liturgical styles but they can also refer to theological stances as well. Most Continuing Anglicans reject women’s ordination and other controversial social stances that the Episcopal Church has now accepted. Some Continuing Anglicans carry a more Catholic theological stance, some a more Eastern Orthodox theological stance, some are more Wesleyan, and some would be considered Calvinist. It all depends.
Are Continuing Anglicans breakaway churches?
Yes and no. It is important to recognize that the Church of England itself is a breakaway church and so declaring Continuing Anglican churches as breakaway churches requires qualifications. Essentially, all churches are breakaway churches. The Assyrian Church of the East accuses the Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and Oriental Orthodox of breaking away from the Catholic Church in the fifth century after Nestorius was “condemned” (the Assyrian Church of the East considers him a saint–hence, St. Nestorius). The same goes for the other three churches against the Assyrian Church of the East. The Oriental Orthodox perceived the Chalcedonian churches as re-adopting Nestorianism and hence, these churches were considered breakaways. The Catholic Church argues the Eastern Orthodox is schismatic, and likewise for the Eastern Orthodox. All Protestants broke away from the Catholic Church, Eastern Catholics broke away from the Eastern churches they were under whether they were Chalcedonian, non-Chalcedonian, or Nestorian. One of the reasons I became a member of the Anglican Church in America in the first place was because Anglicans acknowledge themselves as schismatics and wrestle with what to do with this–the Greek Catholic Church I was being catechized into would consider itself the True Church and all other churches fall just short. So of course, as perceived by the Church of England, Continuing Anglicans are breakaways. But as perceived by the Continuing Anglicans, the Church of England itself is a breakaway denomination from its old traditions so their departure is justified. And many Anglo-Catholics who have become Continuing Anglicans have also ended up becoming either Western Rite Orthodox or Anglican Use Parishes and thus have fixed their departure from either Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy. Some have become Old Roman Catholic, Anglican Rite also fixing their departure from the Western Church.
Hoe do Continuing Anglicans interpret the XXXIX Articles?
That depends on the Continuing Anglican. Some take them more literally than others. Some interpret them via the ecumenical councils that they have accepted as establishing or clarifying official orthodoxy.
Do Continuing Anglicans believe themselves to be Anglicans?
Yes they do. They believe that the Church of England has walked away from what they perceive to be the true Anglican heritage. But they acknowledge themselves to be Anglicans nevertheless.
What Bibles do Continuing Anglicans use?
That depends on the Continuing Anglican. Most prefer to use the KJV in the liturgy of course but that doesn’t mean that they’ll be using it at home. They all love the 1928 BCP though so expect to see a lot of King James style English used in Continuing Anglican liturgies.
What are Continuing Anglicans’ relationships to other churches?
Inside Anglicanism worldwide, Continuing Anglicans try to unite with other like-minded Anglicans in order to restore unity to their churches. For instance, my own Anglican Church in America has been working on getting back together with the Anglican Province in America and is formed from the Anglican Catholic Church as well as the American Episcopal Church. We managed to collect the entire body of the American Episcopal Church but only could muster about half of the Anglican Catholic Church. We’re still at work though getting together with other like-minded Anglicans. I’d imagine that a similar story is occurring among other Continuing Anglican denominations such as the more Evangelical ones but I don’t know exactly the full details. Anglican Catholic style Continuing Anglicans of course acknowledge both the Catholic and the Orthodox Churches as theological contributors and affirm these as branches of the one true church. Branch theory has been a popular ecclesiological position amongst Anglo-Catholics. But even still, there are some doctrinal differences to overcome. For instance, the Anglican Church in America and the Anglican Catholic Church, following The Affirmation of St. Louis, acknowledge that the sacrament of Holy Orders is male in nature while many Eastern Orthodox and a growing number of Catholics have considered opening the diaconate (for the Orthodox–re-opening) to women.
Of course, no church perceives itself to have a monopoly on truth and we all have different things to learn from each other so Anglicans of all species continue to be influenced by the Archbishops of Canterbury throughout the years including St. Anselm as well as the core Protestant theologians such as Martin Luther and John Calvin. Anglo-Catholics tend to be a bit more patristic and scholastic in thought than other Anglicans as always.
Any more questions? Post in the comments section.