The Lake Erie Confessing Anglican
Trinity Anglican Church  Erie, PA
Frequently Asked Questions....
 
 
 
 







 



 

These answers are offered in the spirit of 1 Peter 3:15, “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”

Some faithful Christians of other traditions, as well as some people who are not yet committed to Christianity but are showing an interest in the Faith, may find some of the following explanations challenging. Our goal is to be biblically faithful and historically rooted in the Christian faith. We want to be converted in our hearts and souls and be conformed to the image of Christ.

And remember—these are not the only issues Christians should be addressing, but these are Frequently Asked Questions! Right? If your topic is not addressed here, then, well, start asking!

Are you Catholic or are you Protestant? Well, we’re not Roman Catholic, and we were part of the Reformation, but not the Radical Reformation (which gave us the Baptist and Independent Churches). During the Reformation, we believed ourselves to be the same church that existed in the British Isles since the early centuries (the Old Celtic and the Anglo-Saxon churches were united at the Council of Whitby in the year 663). Our goal in the Sixteenth Century was to reform, not start over from scratch. This was when, we say, "The Church in England" became "The Church of England" in the eyes of the rest of the western landscape of denominations, but to us, we were the same church, only reformed. Anglicanism understands itself today as Reformed Catholicism. There will be elements in our teaching and our worship that, to some, will seem quite “Catholic,” and to others will seem quite “Protestant.”

Wasn’t The Anglican Church created because Henry VIII wanted a divorce? This is the typical high school textbook explanation, but it is an oversimplification and has become somewhat of a caricature.  Yes, the Reformation in England began as an Act of State, but in spite of Henry VIII’s marital issues, many clergy and laity in the church wanted to reform for religious reasons. Henry VIII had burned the priest, William Tyndale who had supported reform, at the stake for translating the Bible into English. Later, Henry’s Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, as well as other bishops like Hugh Latimer and Thomas Ridley, were burned at the stake for their reformed views once “Bloody” Mary became queen. When Queen Elizabeth I came to the throne, she established the church as catholic, but reformed (The “Elizabethan Settlement”).

            When England colonized countries around the world, it established the Anglican Church in those colonies. When colonialism ended, the local people kept the church, took it over, and many experienced spiritual revivals that made the Anglican Communion the third largest organized Christian body in the world (Roman Catholicism is first, Eastern Orthodoxy is second).

The Anglican Church in North America was recently established through the support of Anglican Provinces in Africa, Asia, and South America. The Church of England itself, recognizing the desire of the ACNA to remain authentically Anglican, voted to “encourage an open-ended engagement with ACNA on the part of the Church of England and the Communion.”  Currently, over three-fourths of worldwide Anglicanism is in communion with the Anglican Church in North America and recognizes our Archbishop as an Anglican Primate.

Do you follow the Bible Alone? The Bible is the Word of God and contains all things necessary for our salvation. The divisions in the churches sadden us, so our goal is to be biblically faithful and historically rooted. There are 38,000 denominations all claiming that they only teach what the Bible says, and the various competing views can all be persuasive. This is why we look to traditional interpretations “to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).

Do you use the Apocrypha? This question is answered in more detail in a separate link found to the left side of this list of FAQ. The short answer is that we do not give it the same authority as the Old and New Testaments. We use it as devotional literature but we do not use it to establish Christian doctrine. Occasionally, during worship, we read an excerpt from the Apocrypha in the place of the Old Testament lesson.

Do you believe in salvation by faith? Salvation is never earned—it can only be received as a divine gift. The Bible teaches that we are saved “by grace through faith” and not as a result of works (Ephesians 2:8-9), but also that we were saved so that we could walk in “good works” (verse 10).  The Christian life is a life of repentance—of turning away from self and turning toward God. Just as a tree is known by its fruit (Luke 6:43-44), Christians are called to live holy lives (1 Peter 1:16; Hebrews 12:14). When we turn to Christ in faith, we receive divine forgiveness (1 John 1:9), but we are, by God’s “divine power” also “partakers of the divine nature” for “life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3-4).

Do you believe in predestination?  This question is answered in more detail in a separate link found to the left side of this list of FAQ. The short answer is that Anglicans run the gamut on this issue. The preaching and teaching ministry of our parish maintains that predestination is essentially corporate. God has chosen a people for salvation. We become part of the elect by identifying with Christ through repentance and faith. Christ died for all people--even those who ultimately reject his gift and spend eternity apart from God. God will always have a “chosen people.” Individuals enter through faith. Individuals may even leave by making shipwreck the faith, but God will still have a chosen people. God's people are chosen in Christ to be holy and blameless before God (Ephesians 1:4) and “predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29). The goal of election and predestination is Christlikeness.

Do you believe in Spiritual Gifts? We believe in exercising spiritual gifts—which are not the same as natural talents. Spiritual gifts are for the building up and the edification of the church and may include “signs and wonders” if God wills. We do not, though, seek out any particular spiritual gifts as necessary for Christian discipleship (1 Corinthians 12:29-31) or as a vehicle to draw attention to ourselves or to disrupt the normal worship of God (1 Corinthians 14:39-40).

Do you pray to Saints? We do not “pray to” or invoke the saints in our corporate worship, although we do believe that they are praying for us and with us (Revelation 5:8). When we worship, we on earth worship together with those in heaven (Psalm 103:20-21; 148:1-2).

Do you baptize babies? We will baptize the children of believing parents. In the New Testament, entire families were baptized (1 Corinthians 1:16) and baptism is compared to the Old Testament practice of circumcision (Colossians 2:11-13)—which included children. Waiting for an “age of accountability” is not taught in the New Testament. There is nothing in the New Testament that teaches that the apostles practiced "baby dedication." Most of the great reformers of the church—including Martin Luther, John Calvin, James Arminius, George Whitfield, and John and Charles Wesley—believed in, defended, and practiced infant baptism.

Is Holy Communion just a Memorial? To us, it is not “just” a memorial, but it is a real “participation” (“communion”) in the Body and Blood of Christ (1 Corinthians 10:16-21). In the ancient world—which gave us the Bible—symbols participated in the realities they represented. When we talk about Christ’s “spiritual presence” in the Sacrament, the word “spiritual” does not mean “less than real.” Christ was raised (and we shall also be raised from the dead) with a “spiritual body” (1 Corinthians 15:44)—but still, a very real body—not just a ghost (Luke 24:38-40)! Some churches try to define the Real Presence of Christ in the sacrament more precisely. We are content to keep it a mystery.

Why may only baptized people take Communion in your church? The New Testament teaches that in baptism we have “put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27), that we have been buried with Christ in baptism and united with Christ in baptism to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:3-5). Baptism incorporates us into the church—the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13). The Bible also teaches that we partake of the one loaf of Holy Communion because “we who are many are one body because we all partake of the one bread” (1 Corinthians 10:17). Thus, the sacrament of Holy Communion is intended for baptized Christians. We are not judging the faith of the unbaptized who visit our service, but we affirm that Holy Communion is for the baptized. Any Christian believer who has not been baptized should be.

Why do you follow a liturgy? We model our worship after the worship in heaven (Revelation 4:1-11; 8:3-4). Liturgical worship is not the only way to worship, and we do allow for spontaneity in worship, as long as “all things are done decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:40). The Book of Common Prayer (in various editions) has guided Anglican worship since 1549 and is itself based on older forms of worship. Traditional hymns and contemporary praise music are common elements in many of today’s Anglican worship services.

Why do your clergy wear vestments? Liturgical vestments were God’s idea—“for glory and for beauty” (Exodus 28:2). We worship God with all five senses, and this includes decorating the altar and those who serve around it, for the same reasons God gave to Moses: “For glory and for beauty.” There are different kinds of vestments, but none are required to conduct worship.

Why do you allow ‘images’ in church? We follow the Ten Commandments when they tell us not to bow down and worship graven images of things in heaven, earth, or under the earth (Exodus 20:4-5). Five chapters later, though, God tells Moses to put carved images of cherubs on the Ark of the Covenant (25:18-20)—but these were not worshiped. In Number 21, God instructed Moses to make an image of a bronze serpent for the people to look at for healing (4-9). Centuries later, when this image became an object of worship, it was destroyed (2 Kings 18:4). The temple Solomon built for God contained carved images of cherubs, palm trees, and flowers (1 Kings 6:23-29). The vision God gave Ezekiel of the new temple contained these same carved images, as well as others (41:18-25).

            Many churches have a Manger Scene at Christmas, and many have stained-glass windows depicting Bible characters and scenes. We embrace these and other visuals to aid us in our worship of the one true God.

Why do you call your pastor a ‘priest’—don’t you believe in the ‘priesthood of all believers?’ The English word “priest” comes from the Greek word for “elder” (Presbyter became Prester then Prest then Priest) used in the New Testament. Calling our pastor a “priest” does not contradict the priesthood of all believers. When the New Testament calls believers “a holy priesthood” (1 Peter 2:5) or “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9) it is quoting the Old Testament’s description of Israel—“and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6)—yet they also had certain people who functioned as priests. Our priests also answer to “Pastor,” “Reverend,” or “Parson.”

Why do you call your priests ‘Father’—doesn’t Jesus forbid this? Jesus taught to call no one “father,” “teacher” or “instructor” because we have one Father in Heaven and one instructor—the Christ (Matthew 23:8-10). The last title—instructor—would translate as “doctor” or “professor.” Jesus is teaching servant leadership to his disciples, just as he is teaching discipleship when he tells us that if our hand or foot causes us to sin to cut it off, or if our eye causes us to sin, to gouge it out (Matthew 18:8-9)—yet no church tradition literally follows through on this lesson (it is taken to be hyperbole).

            Jesus’ words should not be taken in such a way so that he contradicts his inspired apostles. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 4:15, “For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (see also Philemon 10). Paul calls Timothy his “true child in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2). It is in this sense that we call our priests “Father”—though it is not required.

            The New Testament also continues to refer to “our father Abraham” (Acts 7:2) as “the Father of all who believe” (Romans 4:11; cf. James 2:21). It is in this sense that we call the heroes and teachers of the past the Church “Fathers” and “Mothers.”

Do you have women clergy? The Anglican Church in North America is not in agreement on this issue. Some dioceses have women priests, like the Diocese of the Great Lakes and our neighbors in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, while others do not, like our neighbors in the Diocese of All Saints. Some feel that God, in ordering the life of the church, has only called men to function as priests but that women have other important roles in the church. Others feel that the biblical support for a male-only priesthood (1 Corinthians 14:33-35; 1 Timothy 2:11-15) reflected a patriarchal cultural setting in which the church found itself and in which, for instance, “priestesses” were associated with temple prostitution. They feel that this is a matter of practice and not of doctrine and should today be reevaluated in light of other specific teachings in the New Testament (Galatians 3:27-29).

            Both sides of the debate agree that women’s ordination is not a social justice issue (no one has the “right” to be ordained—for instance, in the Old Testament, only men from the tribe of Levi could be priests) and the biblical testimony does not use the language of sin in discussing male and female roles in the church (which is why some see “wiggle-room” on this matter). Both sides are committed to working together and with the entire Anglican Communion to come to a resolution. The Anglican Church in North America consecrates only male bishops.

What is your attitude toward modern science? While is may sound trite, we can affirm that the Bible answers questions of why that need not conflict with scientific questions of how. Certainly, there is symbolism in the Bible (the bleeding lamb story in Revelation 5 is not really about a lamb—see John 1:29; the talking serpent story in Genesis 3 is really not about a snake—see Revelation 12:9).

            Theologians should not tell the academy how to do science, but also scientists should not tell the church how to do theology. While the exchange between the two disciplines can be fascinating and at times challenging, we can affirm that God is the creator of all things, humankind bearing the image of God is much more profound that simply breathing and thinking, and the atoning death and resurrection of Christ cannot be studied under a microscope.

What does your church believe about marriage? Christian marriage is, to us, a sacrament, and we follow the teachings of Jesus. Jesus taught that marriage is between one man and one woman, and he appealed to the story of Creation to illustrate his teaching on the matter (Matthew 19:3-9). Marriage is also intended for life, and in the same passage, Jesus rejected the notion that a man could divorce his wife simply “for any reason” he might want. He taught that the married man and the woman “are no longer two but one flesh. What God has joined together, let not man separate” (Mark 10:8-9). Jesus also taught against literal adultery and what may be called “adultery of the heart” (Matthew 5:27-28). The sex act in marriage is for the mutual benefit of the husband and the wife. “The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but her husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does” (1 Corinthians 7:3-4).

            We recognize that different cultures have contrary views on, for instance, sex before marriage, polygamy and polyandry and also consanguinity. We also know that support for homosexual unions and “open marriages” in society is growing. These practices, though, are not supported by the sexual ethic of Jesus and his apostles and are only described using the language of sin (see again the above references to the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, as well as Romans 1:26-27 and 1 Corinthians 6:15-18; 7:1-2). Attempts by so-called "liberal" scholars  to "reinterpret" these passage of Scripture do not stand up to scrutiny. While people in other cultures and even in our own society will follow their own beliefs and consciences on these issues, such practices are not meant for Christian disciples.