The Road to St. Louis
Part 12. The Affirmation of St. Louis: The Magna Carta of Anglicanism
The ‘Affirmation of St. Louis’ was described, by the late Perry Laukhuff, President of the Fellowship of Concerned Churchmen, as “the Magna Carta of Continuing Anglicans.”1 After more than forty years it is still regarded, by many including this author, in the same breath as the “Creeds and the articles of Religion.”2 The Principles of Doctrine, written for the most part by the Rev. Dr. Carmino de Catanzaro, future first Bishop of the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada, is a definitive statement of Anglo-Catholic belief. Most of the Continuing Churches claim it as a foundation of their faith.
Related Continuing Anglican Churches around the world have proclaimed the principles of the ‘Affirmation of St. Louis’ as their own. Even the Eastern Orthodox quarterly review, Doxa has described the ‘Affirmation’ as ‘an amazing document’ and similar to an ‘Orthodox Confession of Faith.’ This non-Anglican source expresses what Anglican Catholics believe, which is that it gives strength to the traditional Anglican and to read it “quickens the spirit.” 3
As the Anglican Communion continues to experience institutional distress, the ‘Affirmation of St. Louis’ remains a positive reminder for traditional Anglicans within the Anglican Communion that there are ways of proclaiming Anglican faith authentically. The ‘Affirmation’ is a model for those within the entire Anglican Continuum who may wish to hold onto the essentials of Catholic Truth and Order whilst remaining faithful members of the Body of Christ. The ‘Affirmation of St. Louis’ can serve as both a unifying theological model for Catholic-minded Anglicans and as a way forward for parishes that seek a theological and moral compass. This path is a natural line to catholic thought and practice.
This is the great legacy of the St. Louis Congress and its most sacred Catholic document, the 'Affirmation of St. Louis, and Anglican Catholic identity is forever linked to it.
Part 13. Recognizing Anglican Catholic Identity: The Legacy of the Affirmation of St. Louis
The Anglican Catholic Churches, at the parish level, is the Body of Christ in that particular community. It is the people who gather into congregations to be living examples of Christ obediently absorbing the faith and sharing it with others. Each parish is empowered to uphold the essentials of Evangelical Truth and Apostolic Order; affirm the Bible as Sacred Scripture and make real God’s presence in the world. The parish affirms the Creeds, which are statements of faith that bind the early Church with the present-day Church. The congregation proclaims to the world their faith. The parish expresses itself explicitly through the seven Sacraments and it supports individual members on their particular faith journey from birth till death.
Anglican Catholic Churches pronounce on issues of morality, but it is the parish, no matter how small, that helps form good conscience in the individual Christian. Matters that affect the sanctity of human life and the family are chief issues for the local church. It is the parish that instructs people on issues of individual responsibility and morality, and it is up to the parish to take on ethical issues that face both the church and secular world at large. However, the parish can also be a place where people come and acknowledge their own brokenness, turn away from sin and accept the redemptive Grace of Jesus Christ. This way, through the parish, people can reject an immoral world and begin to live the Christian life.
The ‘Affirmation of St. Louis’ affects the Anglican Catholic parish because it teaches us, at the local level, to promote a faith that is an active witness to the evil which is present in the world. In our communities, evil permeates, and it is the duty of the parish to point that out. It can be argued that the local parish is better suited then national or international bodies to handle the effects of evil because it confronts evil on a more local level.
It is the Christian duty of the Anglican Catholic parish to point out that there is a solution to the evils in the world. It is not a solution that will appease Anti-traditional theology or post-Modernism. However, it is also not a solution that will give in to social pressure by offering alternate forms of worship and belief. But it is a solution that offers essential Truth and Order.
As part of maintaining Anglican tradition, Anglican Catholic Churches place, as their standard, the Book of Common Prayer. The parish as a way of remaining true to the 'Affirmation of St. Louis' and offering continuity for all Anglicans, use the Book of Common Prayer, as well as other approved forms of liturgy, for its Order of Divine Services.
Even though new expressions of faith may reveal itself over time and different ways of celebrating Christ will come along through things such as new hymnals, styles of worship etc., Anglican Catholics are ever mindful not to alter the Bible, change the Creeds, pervert the Sacraments or rationalize Morality. On the contrary, Anglican Catholics discern the Bible, believe in the Creeds, experience the Sacraments and are encouraged to live the Christian life. This is, in part, the legacy of the ‘Affirmation of St. Louis.’
End of Series
Sources for this article:
1. Laukhuff p.1
© 2010 Article taken from Doctoral thesis Recognizing Anglican Catholic Identity: An Historical Review of the Anglican Catholic Movement, the Affirmation of St. Louis and the Traditional Anglican Communion.