You might not know this but the numbers of people who say they attend church at least monthly has declined to below 50% nationwide. This is unprecedented in the history of our nation and it has many ramifications. One effect is that people do not have the same starting place or context for civil discourse. This has been disorienting to many, especially to active Christians.
It also gives us a real opportunity: the opportunity to ask ourselves as the church (and as Saint Thomas’, in particular), “What is my context? What is my foundation? Who and what makes me what I am and gives me my priorities? What is it that defines reality and determines life’s center of gravity?” For confessional Christians, the answer comes easily, if you know where to look. Thankfully, I know where to look and that place is the subject of this little article.
First of all, what is a confessional Christian? A confessional Christian is a Christian who has a confession of faith that is authoritative in his or her expression of Christianity. It typically describes someone who adheres to the tenets of one of the European Reformations in the 16th Century. Lutherans have the Augsburg Confession. Presbyterians have the Westminster Confession (among others).
Anglican Evangelicals have the Articles of Religion or 39 Articles (they are found in the back of your prayer book). They all affirm the creeds and councils of the undivided early church as well as distinguishing themselves from the Churches of Rome and Constantinople by appealing to Scripture as the supreme authority of the Church and affirming justification through faith alone (sola scriptura, sola gratia, sola fide, solus Christus, sola Deo Gloria).
Just as the Churches of Rome and Constantinople have resources for anchoring themselves in turbulent societal seas, so do we. Our resources are called the Anglican Formularies. They include the 39 Articles, the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and Ordinal, and Archbishop Thomas Cranmer’s Book of Homilies. These are the rock-solid foundations of our faith as confessional Anglicans and they transcend all sorts of historical and cultural upheavals, from the 30 Years War through the Enlightenment and our present day of Postmodernity.
These are trying times. These are frightening times. These are uncertain times. These are all the more so without mooring and bearing. We have mooring and bearing as confessional Christians. We have a point of orientation. We have the foundation of Scripture and of the Anglican Christians like us who have gone before. You are not alone. You have along with you a great cloud of witnesses.