The Anabaptists Versus the Anglicans

by The Ecclesiologist

I was thrilled to see The Meeting House begin their lecture series “One Church” by inviting an Anglican to step into the Anabaptist’s ring.  Trying to find the boundary markers for Anglicanism within Canada today is about as tough as finding an organist at an Acts 29 church planting conference.

The video of the lecture can be found here.

Bruxy Cavey begins the series by making a claim that he believes denominational differences have the potential to be a great strength for the church today if churches will centre ourselves around Christ first as they examine diversity.  I must admit, I was looking for a more lengthy discussion about denominations up front, but I was left wanting.

I was happy to hear from John Bowen, the director of the Institute for Evangelism at Wycliffe College.  Though the Reverend was not in a collar, he did make mention of his liturgically coordinated red (for Pentecost Sunday) shirt.

After a brief historical overview of the development of the Anglican Church, Bowen made some ecclesiological notes about the Anglican Church.  He mentioned two points which are worth summarizing.

The first major point that Bowen made related to ecclesiology was that Anglicanism tries to include everyone who would call themselves Christians within their communion.  Bowen places the Anglican Communion’s big tent position against some churches that force everyone to agree on to “100 essential doctrines” before they can become members.  While this point does help the audience understanding contemporary Anglicanism, I couldn’t help but be disappointed by the fact that Bowen did not even mention the 39 articles!  His church is 61 articles short of 100, but 39 is still more that other churches.

The second major point Bowan made related to ecclesiology was that  Anglicanism believes that believer’s children are to be members of the church, and that’s why Anglicans baptize infants.  Bowan makes a case for infant baptism, but fails to engage the Scriptures.  He uses the argument that baptism enrolls the individual into the life of a disciple of Christ, and children should be welcomed into this life.

Bowan quickly noted that some Anglican ministers do not practice or believe in infant baptism (I am working hard to track these ministers down), yet they are still allowed to remain within the Anglican Communion.  This was a curious point to me, and I hope to find some of these individuals an interview them in a subsequent blog.

Bowan also notes that the Anabaptist tradition actually rejects Anglican sacraments, yet  Anglicans will accept the Anabaptist’s sacraments.  Bruxy was forced brushes this criticism off by saying that The Meeting House doesn’t believe sprinkling is actually baptism.  (I look forward to the time when Bruxy admits that, for a while, the Brethren in Christ only allowed baptisms that were forward into the water and not backwards).  Denying the validity of another traditions baptism is a dangerous and arrogant statement to make, and I was glad to see this point made.

I couldn’t help but be disappointed by the fact that Bowan failed to talk about what baptism actually does or provides for the one being baptized.  This short-coming was noticed by one savvy congregant as she asked if the whole baptism discussion is nothing more than semantics, as some churches practice baptism and then confirmation later, while other churches practices dedication than baptism.  Is baptism more than a wet baby dedication?  I certainly hope the Anglican Church can give a positive answer to this question.

Overall this discussion was disappointing because it lacked discussion of the Anglican view of apostolic succession, Anglican ecclesiology in general, ordination, the sacrament as means of grace and any discussion of an Anglican theology of worship.  The audience was left believing, “Anglicans are just like us, except they go to war and baptize babies,” a statement to which probably would make Anglicans like Stanley Haurwas and Thomas Cranmer vomit in their mouth!