Anglicanism and the New Calvinism

19 12 2011

Below is an excerpt from an essay written by Michael Milton, President and Professor of Practical Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte N.C.  The essay “The Once and Future Calvin” is an interesting read although at times the author’s fawning adoration of Calvin and the New Calvinism might make you a bit quesy, like when your buddy gushes on and on about his new girlfriend.  Nevertheless, the exerpt below is an informative few paragraphs on the influence the “new Calvinism” is having on the worldwide Anglican Communion, particularly those influenced by African Anglicanism.  Of the notable “Calvinists” listed below you’ll notice Archbishop of Uganda Henry Luke Orombi, who made the trip all the way from Uganda to Geneva to celebrate Calvin’s 500th anniversary.  You’ll also notice that the author does the unfashionable thing (unfashionable since the current Anglican theologcial scene is dominated by Anglo-Catholics), and notes the great extent which Calvin’s theology had on the formation of the Anglican prayerbooks as well as the 39 Articles of Religion.

Indeed, English speaking Christianity is seeing a great resurgence of Calvinism it may not look like what we are used to, it may not pass muster with most of our faculty at RTS, or at Covenant or Westminster but it is surely under the larger umbrella of Calvinistic movements. And who is to say that what starts out in one way may not end up looking another way? At least you would grant me that the germ of John Calvin’s theology is there: the doctrinal, cultural and even pietistic shades of this great man’s catholic Christianity.

But is the “future Calvin” heartier than only these hopeful movements in an otherwise bland and even broken evangelical Western Christianity? Calvinism, as it did when the magisterial Reformer was on the world stage, is spreading to other places in our own generation; and one of those places is the new Canterbury. We know that John Calvin and Martin Bucer and John Knox all had a significant part to play in the formation of The Book of Common Prayer. And we know that the Church of England’s Thirty Nine Articles of Religion are part of the doctrinal and confessional bedrock for our own Westminster Standards. Today, in the midst of the collapse of the Episcopal Church in the USA, a phoenix is rising. Splintered now into groups like CANA and AMIA, Anglican Archbishops like Henry Luke Orombi of Uganda and Peter Akinola of Nigeria and Gregory Venebles of the Anglican Southern Cone of America are all faithful Thirty Nine Article of Religion leaders and are emerging as confessional leaders in this nation and in the West. They all view America as ground for evangelism and their movements are growing. And this is the new Canterbury in our midst. The old Canterbury still exists, but is more the bastion for Western, secularized, Enlightenment-ridden religion. The new Canterbury has a robust devotional life; an early church-like fire that is causing the Gospel to spread through church planting and through revitalization work in old Western nations like ours, as well as in older Colonial forms that need reviving. This is the new Canterbury. And as Calvinism impacted the old Canterbury, so it is providing the theological engine for this tremendous movement in our generation. In our own seminary, we are meeting even now to form an Institute for Anglican Studies to help meet the growing need to provide theological education and vocational preparation for this movement.

As we consider what God is doing in America through the Calvinistic Anglicans, we must also look to England. For not only is the New Canterbury coming, but also the “ancient-future” York is already here! In England, we can behold the current Archbishop, John Sentamu, of Uganda, holding up the historic Prayer Book faith of J.C. Ryle. Indeed, in Sentamu’s inaugural sermon, the Anglican Archbishop pointed to the writings of Michael Ramsey of Canterbury from 1960:

“He was speaking of the stupendous missionary century that saw the wonderful spread of Christian faith in Africa and Asia by missionaries from these islands, and compared it to the spiritual decay in England. He longed for the day in England when the Church would learn the faith afresh from Christians of Africa and Asia. He ended his address by saying, ‘I should love to think of a black Archbishop of York, holding a mission here, and telling a future generation of the scandal and the glory of the Church.’ Well, here I am.”

Powerful. And unstoppable.

We can expect more of this Anglican Calvinistic health in the world in days to come. Who would have thought that an increasing number of Latimer’s and Ridley’s and Ryle’s sons would be leading the way, on fire with the doctrines of grace, in the 21st century? But who would have thought that the continuing Episcopal Church in America and the Church of England in that “green and pagan” land would be led by Africans and Asians and South Americans to revive a truly Calvinistic Prayer Book movement? This is a work of God in our midst. And it is wondrous in our eyes.

read the whole essay with footnotes by clicking here


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