A Traditional Anglican response to George Weigel's call... from 2008.
1. Communion with Jesus Christ, Personal and Real: ‘Are you born again?’ 'Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus?’ We often hear from our evangelical protestant brethren that we ought to have a ‘personal relationship’ with Jesus Christ to be faithful Christians, and that this relationship is prerequisite for salvation. Although we must not confuse our personal relationship with Our Lord in daily conversion and faith with being ‘born again’ or ‘born from above’, regeneration, which mystery of grace is conferred sacramentally in Holy Baptism, there can be no doubt that our evangelical friends are right, and that they should have no monopoly on the truth that living Christian witness requires a personal communion with Our Blessed Saviour. Every orthodox Anglican should be able to say most earnestly that he has a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ, the Eternal Word, the Incarnate Son of God and Son of Mary, is the crucified, risen and glorified Redeemer of all mankind – only in a personal and intimate communion with the Lord Jesus Christ, God made Man, can any human being be capable of ultimate fulfilment or of the discovery of the true meaning, purpose, end, dignity and glory of human life. As the Holy Fathers of the Church teach us, Jesus Christ not only reveals God to man; as Man, He reveals man to himself. We must know, adore and love Jesus; it is not enough merely to know about Our Lord in an intellectual or cognitive sense. Either Jesus is Lord of all, or He is not Lord at all…
2. Personal Holiness - the Greatest Attractant for Evangelisation. The Holy Fathers of the Church affirm that the greatest means of evangelism is holiness of life. One person sanctified by divine grace and advancing in the way of holiness is more powerful for evangelism than a thousand unconverted or nominal, ambivalent souls. People at large will be attracted to the Church more by the holiness of our lives than by anything else, for personal holiness has an inherent power to attract, convert and transform: the power is the Holy Ghost, Who makes the Saints His icon, His image. Saint John of Damascus instructs that the Son is the Image of the Father and the Holy Ghost is the Image of the Son. But where or who is the image of the Holy Ghost? It is the Saint, the human being who partakes of the divine nature (2 St Peter 1.4) and is changed from strength to strength and from glory to glory, who bears the image of that invisible Spirit Who ‘goes where He wills’ (St John 3.8). The invisible Spirit is made visible in His Saints. To escape a corrupt and hedonistic world, the ancient Desert Fathers retreated into the wilderness for the sweet solitude of prayer and communion with God; but the holiness of their lives was so compelling that men and women by the thousands flocked to the desert to be near them and learn Christ from them. We can and should learn from the example of the Fathers. Encouraged by their examples and aided by their prayers, we ought to turn to the Saints and follow the trail of holiness blazed by our forefathers in the Faith. The degree of our evangelism will be successful only to the degree that we seek to cultivate holiness in our own lives. We sanctify ourselves so that others may be sanctified.
3. Bible-Centred, Bible-Saturated Religion. Jesus Christ, the Word of God, lives mystically and salvifically in His written Word. Saint Jerome pronounces, ‘Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.’ A living Christian witness demands more than a simple profession of faith or regular church attendance; we are called to move from passive observance to full participation in the Christian life. God beckons us to submit our whole selves to the authority and Lordship of Jesus Christ and to gauge our lives by the standard of the Gospel, rather than attempting to mould the Gospel to our own limited experience. It is the Christian Faith that should transform us; we should not seek to change the Gospel into a projection of our desires and attitudes, that is, to re-make the Gospel in our own image based on our own experience. We all know painfully well the result of the exchange of the Gospel for subjective or emotional experience, as we have seen its consequences so vividly as of late in mainline ecclesial bodies and in society in general. We are summoned to be lovers and students of the Holy Scriptures: if we want to know how God works in our own lives, in our relationships with other people, and in the Church and Sacraments, we will be assiduous readers of the Holy Bible and will take its Word into our hearts and lives. If we do not read, mark, learn and inwardly digest the Holy Scriptures with the most careful dedication, we shall never grow or mature in our faith, nor shall we become the Christians and Saints God wants us to be. The Bible, in its theological, spiritual and moral application, should serve as the unique, indispensable and inexhaustible resource for the faithful Anglican Catholic. Let’s go to Bible Study!
4. The Sacramental System - the Covenantal Means of Grace. Our Anglican and Catholic Faith teaches us that we are not people of the written Word only; we are united to Our Lord by the Sacraments of the New Testament. The Seven Holy Sacraments of the Catholic Church, Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Penance, Matrimony, Orders and Unction, are the direct and most effective means of becoming holy, becoming what God wants us to be: they are given by Our Lord and the Apostles to serve us as covenantal means or channels of grace that assure and guarantee the grace and power of Christ in our lives. We should seek to receive the Holy Sacraments regularly and frequently, with faith, love and repentance. If we are to allow ourselves to be more closely conformed to the image and likeness of Jesus Christ, and to be empowered to serve as His faithful evangelists and disciples, we should be absolutely unfailing in our attendance at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on every Sunday and great Feast of the Church, and we should receive the Precious Body and Blood of Christ in Holy Communion with the greatest fervour. By the Blessed Sacrament, we become one Body with Christ, that He may dwell in us and we in Him. We should also strive to make a consistent and devout use of the Sacrament of Penance. By our sacramental communion with Christ, the life of Our Lord will be actualised in us and we shall be truly elevated into faithful disciples of the Saviour. A true Christian life is one nourished with the Sacraments, an Altar-centred life in which we live a Eucharistic fellowship - in the deepest communion with our Eucharistic Lord. Genuine evangelism is Baptismal, Confirmational and Eucharistic evangelism.
5. Orthodox Liturgical Worship. ‘Do this in remembrance of Me.’ The liturgical life of the Church, the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, through which the Holy Sacraments are administered and the Divine Office of the Church is offered, anamnetically makes present the Lord Jesus Christ in His saving Person and Work. The liturgy should therefore be celebrated ‘in the beauty of holiness,’ the ars celebrandi, in which the fullness of the Apostolic Tradition is expressed and embodied with all the reverence, transcendence, dignity, and the sense of the numinous that it deserves. The liturgy is not only the work of the People of God; it is the Incarnate Lord Himself present to us in mystery and sign. Only the very highest forms of music, architecture, ceremonial and Common Prayer are fitting for the celebration of the worship of the Church, elements which unite seamlessly to render unto the Holy Trinity what we call ortho doxa, right glory, the right worship of Almighty God. The Holy Eucharist, the Daily Office and personal prayer should routinely combine in the Christian life to create a dynamic and graced renovation of the believer. ‘It is the Mass that matters!’
6. Active and Involved Christian Formation. The administration of the Sacraments must also be accompanied by a living and active presentation of the Gospel message in preaching, teaching and catechesis: in order for the Sacraments to be fruitful and efficacious, they must be received purposely with faith, hope and love. To divorce the preaching of the Gospel from the ministration of the Sacraments is to empty the Sacraments of their potential power and transformative energy and to reduce the sacramental life to the mechanical and superstitious. All Churchmen should therefore take the most conscientious care that those who receive the Sacraments be afforded the maximum level and best quality of Christian formation. Especially the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Eucharist and Matrimony require that those who sponsor or receive them do so in a committed and devoted way and that those who desire them know the basic truths of the Gospel and manifestly intend to live a Christian life.
7. 'The Obedience of Faith' - Fidelity to Holy Tradition and Avoidance of Private Judgement. Catholic Christianity is a revealed Religion. Human convention or philosophy has not contrived the Gospel, for the Christian Faith is a divine revelation directly communicated by God. The fullest expression of the Gospel is located in Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition, one divine revelation communicated to the Church in two modes but containing the same Rule of Faith. As Saint Basil the Great professes, ‘Holy Scripture is fulfiled, clarified and interpreted by Holy Tradition.’ The Anglican axiom is: the Bible and the primitive Church. For Anglicans, the Holy Scriptures, the Holy Tradition and the Holy Church are absolutely inseparable and together transmit the saving Word of God for mankind’s salvation. If we are faithfully to live the Gospel and receive it in its entire truth, we must submit all private judgement in matters of doctrine, faith and morality to the authority of the universal, ancient and consentient Tradition of the Undivided Church. We are the children of the Church, called to live, worship, work, obey and pray in the heart of the Church. We are Churchmen, not sectarians. We are called to what Saint Paul characterises as the obedience of faith (Romans 1.5, 16.26).
8. Faithful Discipleship. Through Jesus Christ, present in His Word and Holy Sacraments, we are drawn by supernatural grace into a sanctifying and divinising union with Him: justified by faith working in love, we are called to an ever-deepening holiness and equipped by the Holy Ghost for good works in the life of grace. ‘For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them’ (Ephesians 2.8-10). In the Church, the School of Sanctity and the Ark of the New Covenant, we should learn to be faithful disciples and to eschew and reject all that is not of God, Who has brought us to the New Life of Christ. Christ’s life, death and resurrection have made us a New Creation.
9. Personal Evangelism. The New Testament Church, which is the New Israel, the ‘Israel of God’ (Galatians 6.16), is ‘a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people’ (I St Peter 2.9). In Christ, we are kings and priests unto God and His Father through our Baptism and Confirmation. Therefore, the common priesthood of the baptised shares in Christ’s Messianic Offices of Prophet, Priest, and King, and is given the Great Commission so that all the faithful, the sancta plebs Dei, the holy people of God, may be true witnesses of Christ to the whole of creation. We are all to be sent out, ‘apostled,’ to preach Christ and Him Crucified, and thus we should be formed and readied by the Church to teach the Gospel in word and action. Our determination to welcome others into the Church and to encourage them to follow Jesus Christ, as well as our eagerness clearly to teach the Faith Once Delivered unto the Saints, should be essential components of our Christian witness. Let us perfect the Saints and the work of the ministry, and edify the Body of Christ (Ephesians 4.12).
10. Unswerving Commitment to the Anglican Tradition. God has remarkably blessed us and we have a goodly heritage. Our special privilege and responsibility as orthodox Anglicans is to cherish thankfully, preserve unimpaired and transmit assertively those tremendous gifts which have been entrusted to us as children of the Ecclesia Anglicana. Rigorous commitment to the classical Book of Common Prayer and to the theological, doctrinal, moral, spiritual, liturgical and pastoral patrimony and ethos of orthodox Catholic Anglicanism should define our mission and our evangelistic efforts. To whom much has been given, much shall be required. Part of our vocation surely lies in our commission boldly to proclaim the Gospel as incarnated and inculturated in our Branch of Christ’s Church and to recall our accountability for that rare treasure which has been commended to us. Nothing evangelises like integrity and authenticity. Let us keep the Faith – and pass it on to the world!