I have been suggesting that the words Thomas Cranmer wrote, and the churches of the Anglican Communion required every man ordained to pledge for nearly five hundred years, are a necessary secondary foundation upon which a new Anglican Reformation must stand. The first foundation being the preaching of “Jesus Christ and him crucified.” The second being “the doctrine and sacraments, and discipline of Christ…as this Church and Realm have received the same….”
I am further arguing that the Anglican Family of churches, a community much wider than the formal communion, must explicitly identify themselves as a Christian community of Jesus Followers, before requiring anything else of her members or leaders. Without this expectation being required there is little hope for Anglicans to play their God given role in the New Reformation that is already spreading throughout the world.
Now, let us look again at Cranmer’s glorious and stirring standard: “the doctrine and sacraments, and discipline of Christ…as this Church and Realm has received the same.” Which “Church” and which “Realm”?
The “Church” Cranmer referred to was that planted in ancient Britain, when direct knowledge of the apostolic era was still alive. Historical scholarship has shown that is is not unreasonable to believe the ancient legend that the faith first came in the first century. Archeological evidence has been found in modern England dating to AD 125, which clearly buttresses the ancient tradition.
The “Realm” which Cranmer referred to was that which succeeded the most ancient kingdoms of the Britains, and which was subsequently consolidated into the kingdom which the Magna Carta claimed (along with the Church of the English) was “free.”
These facts point us to the Church which bequeathed to us “the faith once delivered to the saints” by the Lord Jesus and his appointed apostles. This is the Church that received the apostolic faith, “the apostles teaching and fellowship.” This is not simply the Realm of the 16th century, when Cranmer lived, nor of the 6th, when Augustine came from Rome, but the realm whose roots go back into the mists of time in Britain.
There was a Church in Britain, holding fast to the truth as it is in Christ Jesus, before there was a General Council in Nicea in AD 325. There was a Church in Britain before there was a Council of Constantinople in AD 381. There was a Church in Britain before there was Council of Chalcedon in AD 451. It was a Church that had received “the doctrine and sacraments, and discipline of Christ,” and (as Cranmer went on) “as the Lord had commanded…according to the commandments of God….”
What then are the consequences of these facts for Anglicans? They are monumental. Cranmer’s standard must stand. Reform to this standard will last. Here we must stand.
Next Week: Cranmer’s Standard Examined (I).