Historical Connections between Anglicanism and Christian Reconstruction
- December 27, 2021
- Steve Macias
DISCLAIMER: The names of individuals or organizations listed below may or may not be associated with Christian Reconstruction today. It is not my intention to claim that any of the names below are current, complete, or even partial adherents of any particular version of Theonomy, Christian Reconstructionism, or of Dominion Theology. This exploration of historical connections does not constitute nor should be read as an endorsement or approval of any school of Christian Reconstructionsm by any of the individuals or organizations listed below.
The true intention behind the author’s exploration is to show the friendly connections of Evangelical Christendom – Reformed, Anglican, and Presbyterian – engaging decay in American culture from a Christian perspective.
Back in 2010, I spent some time living in Washington D.C. where I attended an AMiA Anglican Church, I was surprised to find that many in this circle read the same books and knew many of the authors I had been reading back in California. This was before I was ordained into the Anglican ministry and was my first exposure to Anglicanism. For as small as my branch of Reformed Christianity was (CREC, Postmillennial, Theonomic, Presuppositional, Federal Vision, etc.), Anglicanism showed up more than I expected.
Inside my previous denomination, we read NT Wright, CS Lewis, and some churches had even adopted a version of the 39 Articles as their confession. Also, Athanasius Press, a ministry of Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church, sold me a copy of MF Sadler’s “Second Adam and the New Birth” that played a large role in my journey down the Canterbury trail. I often credit my transfer to a CREC ordination study guide which challenged me to read the patristics. It was from the Fathers that my conviction for Episcopal Polity (Bishops) was developed.
A TIMELINE (WORK IN PROGRESS)
In 1953, The Rev. T. Robert Ingram became the founding Rector of St. Thomas Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Texas. He would later go on to contribute to the Journal of Christian Reconstruction’s Symposium on Biblical Law and his book, “The World Under God’s Law” (1970). His work is frequently referenced by Rushdoony in Chalcedon Foundation books and lectures.
In the 1960s, RJ Rushdoony encouraged his friend Rev. Norman Milbank to start Saint Paul’s Anglican Church and Canterbury School. Rushdoony has been quoted by Rev. Milbank as saying, “the Book of Common Prayer is one of the three great works to come out of the Reformation,” and Presbyterians could have had the Book of Common Prayer, and he believed they should have adopted it. Milbank had served as Bursar at Stanford University and Dr. Rushdoony worked with the Hoover Institute at Stanford.
In 1970, Dr. Rushdoony resigned from the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and help establish the Anglican Churches of America and Associates through the combined congregations led by Dr. Rushdoony, founder and head of the Chalcedon; Dr. C. Truman Davis, Trinity Church and School; and Reverend Milbank, representing St. Paul’s Anglican Church and later, Canterbury Christian School. These entities were fully independent, but could come together under the banner of this newly formed entity should that ever become necessary.
In 1987, Westminster Presbyterian Church (Tyler, TX) moved to become Good Shepherd Reformed Episcopal Church. The Church was Pastored by Rev. Ray Sutton and had counted the gifted teacher James B. Jordan as a minister. Rev. David Chilton had also served in Tyler (1983-1986) with Gary North (Rushdoony’s son-in-law), Sutton, and Jordan where Chilton wrote two books: Paradise Restored and Days of Vengeance.
1988-1989, Rev. Kim Riddlebarger and Rev. Michael S. Horton were both ordained as deacons in the Reformed Episcopal Church (Now known for the reformed White Horse Inn radio show).
In March of 1990, Dr. Gary North listed Rev. Ray Sutton as his pastor and Good Shepherd Episcopal as his Church in that month’s issue of the Christian Reconstruction Newsletter.
With Rev. Ingrahm’s death in 1994, Dr. Greg Bahnsen’s death in 1995, David Chilton in 1997, and Dr. Rushdoony in 2001. The “Christian Reconstruction” movement has been taken in a number of different directions by former adherents from Anglican, Presbyterian, and Reformed circles.
When asked about Christian Reconstruction today, an Anglican priest once very closely associated with Christian Reconstruction told me, “For me, the tension has been resolved by becoming whole-heartedly Anglican. Over time, I began to see a deficiency in Reconstructionism in their views of the Church and Sacrament. Also, as I studied Church history, I saw a Catholic faith that looked more like Anglicanism than Reconstructionism. Finally, everything I really wanted to have from Reconstructionism I have in Anglicanism – and more!”
There’s also a significant historical connection if we trace backward from Rushdoony, who considered Cornelius Van Til as a significant influence. (See Rushdoony’s book By What Standard, 1958)
In 1939, the Reformed Episcopal Seminary published Van Til’s book Christian Apologetics, while Van Til was a professor at the fledgling Westminster Seminary. As of 2021, the Reformed Episcopal Church (REC) seminary in Dalllas called Cranmer House requires Greg Bahnsen’s book Always Ready alongside Kreeft’s Socratic Logic in its apologetics courses. Dr. Bahnsen studied at Westminster under Cornelius Van Til and was a friend and admirer of Dr. Rushdoony. A bibliography I received while taking the course at Cranmer also included Van Til, Frame, and Schaeffer – among non-Van Tillians Chesterton, Alister McGrath, Morison, etc. It is also worth noting that Cranmer House is overseen by Bishop Sutton.
Van Til himself considered two men to be his primary influences: Dutch theologian Abraham Kuyper and American Presbyterian J. Gresham Machen.
Abraham Kuyper’s connection to Anglicanism relates to his conversion, which occurs while reading a popular novel by Charlotte M. Yonge – a disciple of Father John Keble, who closely supervised the writing of the book. John Keble was a leader of the Oxford Movement in Anglicanism – often called the Tractarians – associated with John Henry Newman and Edward Pusey.
In his autobiographical essay, “Confidentially,” Abraham Kuyper outlines the circumstances of his conversion to orthodox Christian faith. One pivotal moment is his reading The Heir of Redclyffe. Kuyper says: “Though not in value, it stands next to the Bible in its meaning for my life.”
The English novel, a gift from his fiancée, Johanna Schaay, had a profound emotional effect on Kuyper, literally bringing him to his knees in repentance. He notes: “This masterpiece was the instrument that broke my smug, rebellious heart”
Kuyper’s describes his own conversion, “was not a gradual shift from childlike piety to a sweet sense of salvation, but rather demanded a total change of my personality — heart, mind, and will”
J. Gresham Machen has many connections to Anglicans and was respected enough by the Reformed Episcopal Church to be the commencement speaker for the Theological Seminary of the Reformed Episcopal Church in 1932. Machen helped lead many from the PCUSA into the Presbyterian Church of America (Later forced by the courts to rename itself the Orthodox Presbyterian Church). During this process, Machen found aid from various men in the REC/Anglican World.
The Reformed Episcopal Church of the Atonement in Germantown offered its auditorium to Machen’s group, and a telegram of greeting was read to the general assembly of the Presbyterian Church of America (OPC) from the Rt. Rev. Robert Westly Peach, presiding bishop of the Reformed Episcopal Church.
Machen’s vision for the OPC and Westminster itself began as the League of Evangelical Students, with headquarters at the Reformed Episcopal Seminary in Philadelphia (which is noted in the Christianity today, July 1935, Vol. 6 No. 2).
Reading the “Presbyterian Guardian” archives from the OPC we can find numerous articles from Reformed Episcopal Bishops and professors from the Reformed Episcopal Seminary who were invited to speak at events like Commencement at Westminster. The Rev. Fred C. Kuehner (Reformed Episcopal) led the prayers for Westminister Seminary’s Commencement in 1945.
Another notable figure of this time period was Gordon H. Clark (a prominent figure in presuppositionalism) who taught at the Reformed Episcopal Seminary during the Great Depression under Reformed Episcopal (Anglican) Bishop Rudolph and his son Robert Knight Rudolph (below pictured with Cornelius Van Til).
Gallery of Rev. Rev T Robert Ingram