Please note that I said "formularies." I was not referring specifically to the 1979 prayer book, which is specific to the ECUSA (and which, however, has its own problems). Also, I am addressing the specific viewpoint of Fr. Jonathan, who is an Episcopal Priest but who has a number of views which differ from the broader picture of Episcopalianism.
The formularies are typically understood to include the 39 articles, the prayer book, and the ordinal, as well as the homilies approved in the 39 articles. (While the ECUSA has relegated the 39 articles to mere historical documents, Fr. Jonathan considers them binding and authoritative for all Anglicans.)
There was a time where, to ascertain what the Church of England and her offshoots believed, one could turn to the 39 articles. The Anglo-Catholic movement considerably muddied the waters in that regard, but the 39 articles are still regarded as authoritative by many Anglicans, including some Anglo-Catholics like Fr. Jonathan. There is manifestly heretical content in those articles, though many artful attempts have been made to lend them an orthodox interpretation.
The most obvious heresy is in article XXVIII: Of the Lord's Supper. It explicitly denies transubstantiation (we Orthodox don't typically use that word but our belief is essentially the same) and says, "The Body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten, in the Supper, only after an heavenly and spiritual manner. And the mean whereby the Body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper, is Faith.
" This is basically the eucharistic theology of Calvinism. This heresy is also spelled out in the "black rubric" found in the 1662 BCP. I am aware of all kinds of ingenious devices which some Anglicans use to get around this (Here's Fr. Jonathan's attempt
) and King Charles helped them a lot by adding a preface to the articles demanding that they be interpreted in the literal and grammatical sense. This allows Anglo-Catholics to wiggle out of the historical and theological context of the articles and find all kinds of loopholes in the wording.
Another big heresy in the articles is iconoclasm. Article XXII condemns the "Romish doctrine" about purgatory, relics, icons, etc. Anglo-Catholic defenders of this article point out that the article is primarily about purgatory and practices surrounding the doctrine of purgatory. They also highlight the "Romish" aspect. So this article, they say, is not really condemning icons and relics per se, but only as they were exploited and abused within the context of the teaching of Purgatory, indulgences, etc. One big problem with this argument: iconoclasm was quite rampant and officially approved in the Church of England, before, during, and after the composition of these articles. And one need look no further than Article XXXV (Of the Homilies) which lists homilies that are supposed to be read out in the churches as containing good and wholesome doctrine. The second homily, "Against Peril of Idolatry," explicitly endorses iconoclasm and approves of the historic Byzantine iconoclast movement.
One Anglican argument I have seen is that Article XXXV merely says that these homilies "contain a godly and wholesome Doctrine," not that they are correct on every point. I hope I don't need to point out why that's silly. Another one I've heard- "But nobody reads the homilies anymore!"
These are some examples.
The modern ECUSA has its own set of problems. The 1979 BCP, as I recall, doesn't really have any objectionable theological content (unless you count the historical documents) apart from the gender-neutral Psalter. Its main goal is to be an inoffensive link between the evangelicals, Calvinists, liberal protestants, and Anglo-Catholics (that is, those who aren't using Roman missals). That actually leads to a different set of problems, those of omission. For example, the invocation of saints is absent- saints are only recalled as examples. There are no prayers to the Mother of God. So the fullness of genuine Christian worship is not possible without supplements.
But, perhaps more to the point, the BCP does not constitute even a minimum rule of belief for the Episcopal Church. Why? When Bishop Spong openly denied basic tenets of the Christian creed, he was not disciplined. He remained a bishop of the Episcopal Church until he retired in good standing. If you pay the bills and are a good little soldier, Christianity is optional in ECUSA.
That was a very-well analyzed statement on the problems besetting Anglicanism, Iconodule. And I have an equally-complex response regarding the actual personal EFFECT these problems have on a member of the TEC, which I was for 15 years.
My biases: I am a possibly over-enthusiastic newly-illumined Orthodox and I readily admit that I "merely-existed" as a TEC member for 15 years in a "spiritual holding pattern" because of what TEC isn't
: An avowedly non-Christian cult like Seventh Day Adventism, which is what I grew up in. The lack of "prophetic" pretense and insane doctrine was breathtakingly refreshing, as long as it lasted. Some initial "bullet points" on my experience:
a). The very public controversy regarding ordination of women and gays, and the support for gay marriages had absolutely no effect whatsoever on the local churches I attended.
It simply never came up and was never discussed. It was a non-issue. If I wanted to find out anything about it, I had to resort to reading about it in the newspapers. Furthermore, at the time I began moving away from TEC and towards Orthodoxy, these issues had zero impact on my thinking. I wonder if that had to do with my studious detachment from the experience overall?
b). The beliefs that you aptly describe that were propounded by Bishop Spong have very practical effects. DISCLOSURE
: At the time the following perceptions occurred, I was already badly-smitten by, and obsessed with Orthodoxy, so my feelings likely should be taken with a grain of salt. However, the last two times I received the Eucharist in the drop-dead gorgeous cathedral I was attending at the time; I developed the very STRONG
impression that when the Bishop handed to me the host, he was thinking "You are a smart, well-educated guy. You REALLY
cannot possibly believe in this nonsense, can you?"
c). Notwithstanding the two prior bullet points, I left TEC with no hard feelings and nothing but overwhelmingly-positive memories of how I was invariably-treated. And one of my original attractions to it, became what I realized to be my "problem," and why I had completely ceased growing spiritually. TEC harbors doubts. And I harbored doubts (resulting chiefly from my SDA upbringing). Nothing wrong with a season of doubts. All of the great Christian thinkers had them a time or two. However, history is very clear: doubts while absolutely-necessary to growth in Christ must someday, somehow reach resolution. They were never designed to be a permanent fixture. My doubts have been emphatically-resolved as a newly-illumined Orthodox. My experience has been just that dramatic. It is clear that the actual EFFECT
of Orthodoxy's adamant claim that it is the fullness of the apostolic church has been extremely and personally powerful and transformative. I notice evidence of that inadvertent transformation everyday, which often catches me by surprise, since I have made NO effort directly specifically at overcoming some of those character defects, defects that I simply learned to tolerate - along with my doubts - while a TEC member.
Lastly, from a strictly modern meta-communicative standpoint, Orthodoxy's ancient "multimedia" Divine Liturgy is amazingly consistent with the most-modern, technologically-advanced theories on effective communication. Just one example: It is clear that modern communication via the internet is becoming increasingly-more "video" rather than "writing" or "still picture." Several of the most advanced single lens reflex cameras are clearly evolving to be more "video-oriented" rather than "still-picture oriented" to the howls of indignation from purists. Our internet lives are becoming multi-dimensional instead of one- or two-dimensional. Ancient and timeless Orthodoxy, with its insistence on traditions (particularly Icons) is ripe to become the Church "of the future" due to its very profound compatibility with the modern technological revolutions. And Icons are not "pictures," but "windows into Heaven." How much more "modern" could you possibly get?
It is just STRIKING
how visceral the impact of Orthodoxy is compared to Anglicanism. Just striking.