Alice C. Linsley
The fervency of commitment and the humility of the English missioner priest left a lasting impression on me. When I joined the Anglican Church, I believed that I was entering into the fullness of the “one holy catholic and apostolic faith.” In retrospect, I believe that I had merely entered a liturgical form of Protestantism.
As an Anglican I was never persuaded by the Protestant view of Scripture and Tradition. It simply is not possible to separate the two in the way that Protestants do. The Protestant disposition to set aside Tradition makes it easier to embrace modernist innovations such as same-sex ceremonies and women priests. The Episcopal Church exemplifies this, as well as the loss of theological sagacity.
The Protestant flavor of Anglicanism is more than a reaction to Rome and more than a product of historical events. Among some Anglicans it is the heritage of revivalism. Certainly this is the case among many East African Anglicans and among low church Evangelicals.
Among others, it is often a preference motivated by denominational pride. Some Anglicans prefer the Articles of Religion above the writings of the Church Fathers. I regarded the 39 Articles as a significant historical document that reflects a specific period of Anglicanism, but not as a definition of Anglican theology, the way the Book of Concord is for Lutherans. Anglicanism is not a confessional faith.
I remember being asked to teach an adult class on the Articles of Religion because the priest considered this an essential feature of Anglican identity, but when I asked about teaching all the historical documents, I was told that Chalcedon Doctrine on the Two Natures of Christ and the Creed of Athanasius were too difficult for the laity to grasp. I was never very interested in making better Anglicans. In my view, the best Anglicans are thoroughly catholic. I think of figures such as Dorothy Sayers, C.S. Lewis, and Evelyn Underhill.
In my experience, thoughtful Protestants gravitate to catholicity because they sense that ultimately Protestantism lacks authority. It is removed from the fullness of holy Tradition concerning the Trinity, the Virgin Birth, and the ecumenical councils of the Church.
St. John of Damascus wrote, "I beseech the people of God, the holy nation, to hold fast to the tradition of the Church... for the gradual erosion of what has been handed down to us will bring down the whole fabric in ruins." St. John's warning has found fulfillment within Protestantism, especially in America where tradition is not valued.
Serving as a "priest" revealed to me the theological and hermeneutical weaknesses of Protestantism. I grasped intuitively that the full sacramental life of the Church had been lost by Protestants. I had yet to figure out how my being a priestess added to the confusion. That would come after years of research into the etiology of the priesthood.
As a priest I leaned toward the high church Anglo-catholic wing, but found no acceptance there. Instead I was often confronted by harsh words, and even verbal abuse, especially from gay clergy of that persuasion. I recall a drunk Church of England cleric, who upon discovering my opposition to his homosexual agenda, launched into an embarrassing tirade at a dinner hosted by my Senior Warden and his gracious wife.
Ultimately, I am not a Protestant because Protestants are removed from catholicity, in the fullest sense of that term. This means they are confused about the Gospel. Thus efforts to update what they see as irrelevant. This expresses itself in contemporary worship services, rock bands in church, and sermons geared toward explaining what can only be experienced through the full sacramental life of the Church.
When Protestants set aside the veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary, they lost the delicate gender balance that characterizes the true Faith. Orthodoxy has maintained that balance. Typically the Protestant will argue that veneration of Mary is not Biblical. This reveals how poorly they understand the Bible. The first prophecy of Scripture (Gen. 3:15) concerns the Woman who brings forth the “Seed” of God. Through His death and Resurrection He crushes the serpent’s head and restores Paradise (communion with God). Note that this Woman is not Eve, as Eve is not named until verse 20. Jesus claimed to be that Seed in John 12:24. The Bible and Holy Tradition are consistent in what they testify concerning the fulfillment of this first Biblical prophecy.
Related reading: The Unintended Reformation; Ideologies Opposed to Holy Tradition; What is Holy Tradition?; What is a Priest?; Priest or Presbyter?; Christianity Lacks Originality; Some Thoughts on Women Priests; Dr. Stanley Hauerwas, The End of American Protestantism; The Priesthood in England (Conclusion)