Wednesday, October 24, 2001

What is it that has made the USA a great nation?
A French philosopher, who toured the United States about 170 years ago, Alexis de Tocqueville, published his poignant observations. He said:

"I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers, and it was not there.

I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her fertile fields and boundless forests, and it was not there.

I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her rich mines and her vast world commerce, and it was not there.

I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her public school system and her institutions of learning, and it was not there.

I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her democratic congress and her matchless constitution, and it was not there.

Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power.

America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great."

Goodness as a fruit of the presence of the Holy Spirit in the believer and the church flows over into the basis of civil goodness and civil responsibility and duty.

Today, it would appear, many pulpits in the USA no longer “flame with righteousness” and do not exhort people to be perfect as God himself is perfect and holy as God himself is holy. Instead, what is likely to be presented is a lukewarm soup of self-help psychology mixed with shallow political liberalism, couched in the language of Zion and expressed in a jolly experientalism. The vibrant biblical theme of the Kingdom of God and the righteousness thereof is generally ignored or not appreciated by the clergy of today.

The war declared by terrorists on the USA in September & October has raised the level of public decency, cooperation and goodness and brought out the best in many American people.

How long will it last? And does the present “goodness” match the more solid “goodness” that De Tocqueville saw?

The Revd Dr Peter Toon Oct 24, 2001

Saturday, October 20, 2001


Collect for Trinity XIX

“O God, forasmuch as without thee we are not able to please thee; Mercifully grant that thy Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

English-speaking Christians have always found most difficult to accept – mentally and more especially practically – the truth contained in this Collect. That is why Pelagianism began as a British disease and has remained so – spreading wherever the Brits have gone!

The truth that we are not able to please God the Father in thought, word, attitude or deed unless He Himself, through Jesus Christ and by His Holy Spirit, is involved in helping, guiding, purifying and blessing us.

Or, the truth that our best and highest human achievements (for which we may be celebrated and decorated by human authority) are not acceptable to God as good works that please Him unless they are inspired by the Holy Ghost.

By grace are we saved through faith and both the grace and the faith are gifts from God. Only as we are united to the Son of God and in Him to the Father by the Holy Spirit are we in a state of salvation and acceptance with the Father.

Of ourselves we may think that we can truly believe unto salvation. Of ourselves we may think that we can do good works both to please God and to advance our own reputation. But if we so think we are sadly misguided, even though much modern religion may encourage us so to think.

Certainly we are called to believe, trust, be faithful, obey, worship the Holy Trinity in spirit and in truth, love the Lord our God, and love our neighbors. And this must be our daily decision, commitment and consecration. However, what we do has to be done consciously recognizing that we are always dependent on the presence of the Holy Ghost with us (which is another way of saying “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ with us”).

The error and spiritual condition that this Collect seeks to keep us from is found in all forms of “orthodox” Christianity – traditional Prayer Book religion, traditional Anglo-Catholic religion, modern evangelical charismatic religion and so on. It is found in all because it is in origin a condition of the human heart/soul -- a state of mind, that is particularly pleased to be in a culture that has much to say about self-worth, self-affirmation, self-determination, self-sufficiency and self-justification. And also pleased to be in a culture that values what we may call “religious experiences in community” and “individual spirituality” that cause one to feel good about oneself and the world and others.

This disease of the soul thus permeates everything from sermons to testimonies, from vocabulary used in church-talk to the words of choruses and hymns, from the hug at the passing of the peace to the hug at the church door, from internet messages to printed tracts, and from evangelistic, missionary work to social service. It may even be declared on the church notice board.

A good place to start to recognize the truth of this Collect, and begin to live by it, is Paul’s Letter to the Romans and the first eight chapters. Careful attention to his delineation of human nature before the holy, righteous God and to the portrayal of the work of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost for our salvation will help us see that before God in our naked humanity “there is none righteous, no not one” (3:10) – no one that is except the Incarnate Son, whose righteousness is reckoned unto those who believe on His Name and repent of their sin.

Certainly a Collect to pray daily….

The Revd Dr Peter Toon, October 19,2001

Wednesday, October 17, 2001


Almighty God, who calledst Luke the Physician, whose praise is in the Gospel, to be an Evangelist, and Physician of the soul: May it please thee that, by the wholesome medicines of the doctrine delivered by him, all the diseases of our soul may be healed; through the merits of thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. [BCP 1662]

Almighty God, who didst inspire thy servant Saint Luke the Physician, to set forth in the Gospel the love and healing power of thy Son; Manifest in thy Church the like power and love, to the healing of our bodies and our souls; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. [BCP 1928] ============================================================================

Two books of the New Testament come from the pen of Luke, the physician. He wrote the Gospel and the Acts as he was inspired by the Spirit of the Father and of the Son and thus his writings became part of the Canon of the New Testament.

Because he proclaimed the Gospel in his writing and as traveled with the apostle Paul, he is called an Evangelist. Not an apostle but an evangelist.

His was a physician by training and profession, but in becoming an Evangelist the healing that was uppermost in his mind and central in his vocation was God’s salvation which embraces the whole man, body, soul and spirit. He proclaimed that fullness of healing which is brought to completion with the resurrection of the body and eternal life in the kingdom of God of the age to come.

The EVANGEL (Gospel) that he records is good news from God the Father concerning His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and it is for all people, the Jew and Gentile, the poor and rich, male and female, young and old. It begins with the Incarnation of the Son of God and includes his ministry, precious death, glorious resurrection, and the sending of the Holy Spirit to create the people of the new covenant, the holy catholic Church. It ends with the continuing advance of the EVANGEL into Rome and to the ends of the earth.

This GOSPEL, though a message of joy, came into being through suffering and death [the passion & Cross of Jesus]; further, it is advanced in the world through witness that often requires and includes suffering and martyrdom.

The HEALING that is offered in the Gospel is not a quick fix for a bodily ailment or pain, but it is the curing of the diseases of the soul by the gift of the Holy Spirit in such a way that the healing power also energizes the body. For Luke there is no mere healing of the body as if a person is primarily a body meant for life only in this world. Rather, man is a whole being for whom healing by the Gospel begins in the soul/spirit and moves to include the body (in part in this life and in full at the general resurrection of the dead).

The emphasis in the Collect for St Luke’s Day in the BCP 1662 emphasizes that healing by the Gospel is of “all the diseases of the soul” by “the wholesome medicine of the Gospel.” Here we are faced with the possibility of being cured of that which can cause eternal damnation.

The emphasis of the 1928 BCP moves to the “healing of body and soul” and this tendency – the psychosomatic --- has accelerated in recent decades. Today the diseases of the soul identified now are often those that are identified and healed by psychotherapy. They seem to be less serious and less harmful diseases - in fact different -- than previous generations identified. The modern ones do not, it seems, cause a person to be damned, only to have an unhappy and confused life here in this world. And there seems to be little or no sense in the modern healing processes that full and complete healing of the body will be achieved only and finally by the resurrection of the body.

In the 1979 prayer book of the ECUSA St Luke is said to set forth “the love and healing power” of Jesus Christ. Of course he did, but only if we understand “Love” and “Healing” in ways that are uncommon today!

Perhaps the best way forward is to READ the Gospel of Luke and then to read the Acts of the Apostles (the two parts of his magnum opus) and after doing this to write down for our edification what Jesus and Peter and Paul, as recorded by Luke, actually said about Love, Healing, Salvation and so on! It may be an eye-opener and a soul-saver!

The Rev’d Dr. Peter Toon October 17,2001

(I ask my friends to compare this Letter with the statements issued by the ECUSA House of Bishops and its President...this Letter is clear and traditionally Christian while theirs were confused and based on post-modern religion using Christian terminology. I am reminded of the Gulf War when the then Presiding Bishop had nothing of value to say to the other President Bush!)


October 16, 2001
The Honorable George W. Bush
The President of the United States of America
The White House
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

Like all Americans, I have been reflecting a great deal on the Evil events of September 11, 2001, and about their immediate and long-term consequences. I write to thank you for the strong and wise leadership you and your administration have been providing, and to express my prayerful support for the multidimensional response to the terrorist attacks that you have been detailing for the American people.

Mr. President, you have rightly called these attacks acts of war. They are the most catastrophic in a series of lethal assaults that include the earlier attack on the World Trade Center and the bombings of United States embassies, a military barracks and a naval vessel. Undeniably, terrorists pose a threat to the lives and security of all people, and a particular danger to Americans here and overseas. Our government has the right and the duty to defend its people against this modern plague upon mankind. It is encouraging to see that other nations also recognize that same moral obligation as they join us in protecting humanity from the evils inherent in this latest form of tyranny.

Over the past few weeks, calls for retaliation motivated by anger and vengeance have been replaced by careful reflection on the need for self-defense. You and your chief advisors aver that the responses by our government and the international coalition currently underway * political, financial, economic and military * are directed toward defending the free world. The United States and its partners in the coalition made clear their preference to protect humanity by diplomatic means rather than military force. Sadly, because past and recent diplomatic efforts and political and economic sanctions failed, military action became necessary. These facts, together with the well-founded hope that we will ultimately succeed in the war against terrorism, demonstrate that we are engaged in a just war.

You, your administration and the Congress are to be commended for the manner in which this war has been conducted so far. The formation of an international coalition, the shared intelligence and coordinated efforts of national and international law enforcement agencies and the steps undertaken to cut off the terrorists' financial resources are all part of a well-conceived and effective plan. By all reports, the military action which began on October 7, 2001, has been both measured and discriminate. I have every confidence that our government will ensure that all future military action will continue to be directed only against the terrorists and the regimes that protect and support them.

You are to be commended also for the humanitarian assistance currently being given to millions of innocent people in Afghanistan who have suffered for more than a decade at the hands of the Taliban. It is heartening to know that the leaders of the coalition intend to continue this assistance in the post-Taliban era, and to create the conditions needed for the people of Afghanistan to establish a just and stable government. It is also heartening to know that the United States and other nations are prepared to support such a government in addressing the conditions and causes of poverty and illness that have brought so much suffering to the innocent people of that land. Hopefully, the unique alliances forged by this war on terrorism will foster new political and diplomatic attempts to address the poverty, suffering and hopelessness from which so many people in that region and elsewhere in the world continue to suffer.

Mr. President, you have been realistic and forthright in stating that the war against terrorism will take a long time. We, the American people, must be equally realistic in recognizing that it will involve sacrifice on our part. It will require patience in coping with security measures that will cause inconvenience and may seem overly intrusive. It will require a willingness to put the common good above some individual civil liberties. It will require unity, courage and steadfastness, especially at times when there may be little tangible evidence that we are succeeding or that a serious threat still remains. For the men and women of the armed forces, the sacrifices will be great indeed. They must be reassured that the cause they champion is just, and that this nation supports every moral means they employ in our defense.

Many Americans believe that life in the United States was changed forever by the terrorist attacks of September 11. To a degree, this is unquestionably true. The unspeakable evil made vivid in the horrific images of commercial aircraft commandeered by suicidal murderers crashing into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field are now permanently etched in the national memory. Mercifully, those images are offset by countless displays of the fundamental goodness of the American people. They have turned to God in this hour of need and prayed for guidance, strength and healing. They have mourned the dead and prayed for the repose of their souls. They have tended to the physical and spiritual needs of their families and of all the injured. The valor and dedication of the rescuers, medical personnel, clergy, civil and religious leaders as well as the loving and tangible concern of the entire nation prove that the American spirit was not buried beneath the rubble. In its best instincts and highest ideals, America remains unchanged by the barbaric attacks that killed thousands of innocent men and women. I pray that, in time, this nation will also recover its sense of security and return to its way of life.

As we search for reasons for the attacks, we must be careful to avoid two unsupportable conclusions: first, that they were God's punishment for moral decay within our nation; second, that they were an inevitable and deserved response to United States foreign policy. These were the acts of men with evil in their hearts, perpetrated against innocent human beings. No reason can be given to explain them or the loathing which inspired them. Still, as a nation victimized by acts of incomprehensible hatred and violence, we must emerge from this experience with a more profound respect for one another, for the world community and for human life itself. A new world order without terrorism must also be one of global solidarity in caring for the needs of every human being.

The anxieties of these perilous times have reminded us all of our utter dependence upon God. Let us continue to ask Him to help all men and women to pursue justice and to live in peace.

With gratitude and with prayers for God's blessings upon you and this great nation, I am

Sincerely yours,

Anthony Cardinal Bevilacqua
Archbishop of Philadelphia
Archdiocese of Philadelphia
222 North 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103

Tuesday, October 16, 2001

GOD and LOVE and WAR

Whenever human suffering becomes a reality through the pain of a loved one or the onset of the casualties of war (e.g., in Afghanistan) at least some of those who believe in God ask questions about God’s Love.

So it is appropriate to reflect for a while on the Love of God.

We can understand the Love of God as something that God IS; as something that God HAS; and as something that God DOES. And, further, we can recognize that the Love of God is not wholly contained in this description, for God’s Love, being infinite and eternal Love (as Agape and Caritas), transcends our best attempts to describe it.

In terms of defining God’s Love, modern theological opinion is divided at least into two major camps.

Classical theists portray God, the Holy Trinity, having the intent and the ability to do good to creatures and this is his Love. Here the internal Love between the Persons of the Trinity overflows to creatures, especially in the Incarnation of the Second Person, but God asLove and loving remains unchanged and unchanging, not affected in His own being by the attitudes, actions and responses of his creatures to his love. God is Love and wills to Love whatever be the reaction of his creatures.

Panentheists or Open Theists portray God the Holy Trinity as in a dynamic relation[ship] to the world and to creatures where God’s love for them while everlasting is not unchanged and unchanging because it is affected by the responses of creatures. Here God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit wills to be open to the effects of his love and he feels the pain and suffering, the joy and celebration of his creatures.

Both positions seem to be upheld by the contents of Hosea 11 in which we read of the husband’s love for his harlot wife [portraying the LORD’s Love for Israel]. On the one hand there is the portrayal of unchanging/unchanged love and on the other the portrayal of a change of heart/mind. Here is a chapter to read and meditate upon.

For Christians, whether they are Open Theists or Traditional Theists the resolution of this tension in Hosea 11 is in the fact of the Suffering and Atoning Death of the Incarnate Son of God and of the meaning that the New Testament draws out of this Event. We must surely avoid making our concept of God fit into our modern sentimental views of love [saying “Love is God”] ; but we must face the full scope of God’s Love in relation to human sinners and their sin and think and live in the light of it.

Unless we are prepared to accept the portrayal of God’s Love as given in the whole of sacred Scripture, we shall never be able to begin to understand how the God who is Love also reveals his wrath against wickedness and sin. Further, we shall never be able to understand how God the Lord as the Sovereign Ruler of the world does use human agents (e.g., armies) to do his will and even to display his wrath. St Bernard described mercy and judgment as the two feet of God and urged his monks to be aware of both feet (Sermon 6 on Song of Songs). They were to temper sorrow for sin with the thought of divine Love/mercy, so as to avoid despair; and they were to temper meditation upon God’s Love/mercy with remembrance of his judgment against sin.

Likewise today in thinking about the relation of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ to the “war against terrorism” and to the human suffering involved, we need to hold together, via the Cross of Jesus, doctrines not only of the Love/mercy of God the Holy Trinity but also doctrines of God’s wrath and His judgment against sinners and sin.

We shall not help people by sentimental and sloppy notions of love and of vague statements that there is truth in all religions. Christian witness has to plumb the depths of Scripture and be informed by the best of the Christian tradition, which includes the doctrine of the Just War, before it utters pronouncements in press releases from denominational headquarters and bishop’s palaces!

The Revd Dr Peter Toon
October14 2001

Monday, October 15, 2001


THE traditional Collect for this week (Trinity XVIII) together with the set Collects for Morning Prayer are as relevant now as they were when first written (in Latin) and when they were first rendered into English. (If you have a problem with older standard English, they can easily be rendered into modern standard English!) They can be prayed profitably by Christians in Afghanistan as well as in the USA.

Consider first the two Collects to be used on every day of the year – 365 times.

The first one fits the industrialized and technological age as much as it fitted the pre-industrial world.

“O GOD, who art the author of peace and lover of concord, in knowledge of whom standeth our eternal life, whose service is perfect freedom: Defend us thy humble servants in all assaults of our enemies; that we, surely trusting in thy defence, may not fear the power of any adversaries; through the might of Jesus Christ our Lord.”

We address GOD THE FATHER from whom alone true peace and concord come. We acknowledge that to know him (through His Incarnate Son) is eternal life and to serve him is genuine freedom (in comparison with which the great political and civil liberties of the USA are but dung). This freedom in the Spirit is the spiritual and moral sphere in which the fruit of the Spirit can grow in the soul and be seen.

The enemies who attack those who love God begin with Satan and his hosts and then include all those human beings who do the will of the Devil – many of whom may appear as angels of light! Against these adversaries, Christian believers trust in the Lord Jesus who is mighty, put on the armour that He supplies and know that they are perfectly well defended (as spiritual and moral beings). So at home, at work, in a car, a bus, a train, an aircraft or whatever, believers “surely trust in thy defence.”

The second set prayer likewise envisages a world of sin wherein there is spiritual, moral and perhaps physical danger at every turn:

“O LORD our heavenly Father, Almighty and everlasting God, who has safely brought us to the beginning of this day: Defend us in the same with thy mighty power and grant that this day we fall into no sin, neither run into any kind of danger; but that all our doings may be ordered by thy governance, to do always that is righteous in thy sight: through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

We acknowledge that God our Father is by His providence in control of everything and everyone (even though we have free will!) and therefore we look to him to guide us safely through the day ahead. We do not want to sin against him or be in danger but to do what he has commanded and what is pleasing to him. We are protected and guided by God to do what is RIGHT in his eyes for not only are we declared righteous by and in Christ through faith, but we are called to be righteous in thought, word and deed. And this calling applies every day whatever be the political/civil freedom (or lack thereof) in which we live.

Finally the Collect for the week:

“LORD, we beseech thee, grant thy people grace to withstand the temptations of the world, the flesh and the devil and with pure hearts and minds to follow thee the only God: through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Whether we live in plenty or in poverty the world around us incites temptations within us; and whether we are in good or bad health, our flesh is also the source of temptations. To these we add the persistent work of the devil to tempt us directly, spirit to spirit, and via the world and the flesh…and he is as present in the USA as in Afghanistan!

Temptations in and of themselves are not sinful. Sin is to yield to them! So we pray that we shall be able to withstand them all and, importantly, go on to serve the Lord (whatever our outward circumstances) with pure hearts and minds.


The Revd Dr Peter Toon
October 15 2001

Sunday, October 14, 2001

Prevent or Precede

Are we to drop the use of "to prevent" in its older meaning?

The Collect for Pentecost XIX in the 1979 prayer book seems to be the same as the Collect for Trinity XVII in the classic BCP of 1662 & 1928.

But is it the same?

The answer all hinges on a verb “prevent” or “precede”

1979 – Lord, we pray thee that they grace may always precede and follow us and make us continually to be given to all good works…. 1928 – Lord, we pray thee that they grace may always prevent and follow us: and make us continually to be given to all good works….

The reason for the change from “prevent” to “precede” is simple. The common & modern meaning of “to prevent” is “to stop or keep from doing or happening.” And this is not the meaning intended by the traditional Collect.

The old meaning, based on the Latin verb, venire = to come, and prae = before, is “to come before.”

In theology, we have long spoken of “prevenient grace”, that grace that is secretly and invisible active in the human soul (heart, mind and will) BEFORE the person actually is aware of this action of the God of grace. By this action he or she is prepared to say “Yes” to the God of all mercy.

This use of the verb “to precede” attempts to preserve this meaning of praying that the Spirit of the Lord our God will be active in us before we know that we need his action!

“Precede” comes from “prae” (before) and “cedere” to move and so has the meaning of “to go before in time.”

The advantage of keeping the traditional English verb, “to prevent,” (and taking a few seconds to explain its meaning in the Notices or Sermon) is that it connects with the long western theological tradition that is known as the doctrine of Prevenient Grace.

Most traditional believers would agree that it is very important that we keep this tradition of understanding because in the current western/ American culture of self-affirmation, self-development and self-realization, we all need to be told and to know that salvation is wholly the work of God to which we humbly and gratefully say (by divine assistance) “Yes.”

We all need the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ by the secret action of the Holy Spirit of God both to come/go before us, to be with us, and to follow us. We certainly need to be surrounded by GRACE, the personal presence of the Blessed Trinity of the Father with the Son and with the Holy Ghost.

The Revd Dr Peter Toon Trinity XVII.
Pentecost XIX

Thursday, October 11, 2001


In what is known as “A General Thanksgiving” in “The Book of Common Prayer” there is a definite and chosen order of that for which “Almighty God, Father of all mercies” is thanked by his covenant people. That which belongs to this life is separated from that which belongs to the life of the age to come by the words “BUT ABOVE ALL.”

For our creation, preservation and all the blessings of this life “we bless Thee, O GOD.”

BUT ABOVE ALL “we bless Thee for thine inestimable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ, for the means of grace [Sacraments, Preaching, Bible study etc.] and for the hope of glory [in the life of the age to come].

The way of the Bible and the classic “Book of Common Prayer” is to evaluate the blessings that come through the Incarnation, Death, Resurrection, Exaltation and Session of the Son of God differently – and on a higher plane – than those which flow from the fact that we are creatures and God is the good Creator and Sustainer of life.

Certainly the blessings that are ours merely as creatures are and can be precious; and if in God’s providence we have good health, sufficient food, good lodging and civil liberties then we can think that we live in a kind of heaven on earth.

But, for those who are “born from above” the blessings that come through GRACE are so much more profound and precious, are not merely temporal but everlasting, and completely satisfy for ever the desires and longings of spirit, soul and body.

So it is most appropriate that baptized and committed Christians say “BUT ABOVE ALL” – above all else, above everything in the visible creation that is ours to use and enjoy.

What concerns me and worries me is that much modern western piety and prayer, be it in the charismatic-evangelical or the Lesbigay movements or in the middle of the way churches, seems to have reversed for all practical purposes the divine order of the Bible and the classic BCP.

We bless God for the hope of eternal life and then say “but above all” and go on to bless God for our liberties in “the land of the free.”

Certainly, in comparison with the refugees in Afghanistan & Pakistan we have very much, exceedingly much, to bless God for in terms of food, lodging, health and civil liberty. Yet the authentic Christians in these poor countries whose hearts are set on things above where Christ is (Colossians 3:1ff) and who are living in the faith of “but above all” as they experience “the hope of glory” know more of Christ and Christianity that do we who tend in our materialism and secularism to reverse the order of the blessings of the Father of all mercies.

Authentic Christian piety, Catholic, Orthodox or Protestant, normally and habitually lives in the spirit of “But above all…”

The Rev’d Dr. Peter Toon October 11, 2001

Wednesday, October 10, 2001

Anglo-Catholics, Roman Catholics, the C of E & the Diaconate

Probably anglo-catholics inside the ECUSA made a theological and strategic mistake when they took the position in the 1970s thru the 1990s that women could be ordained deacons but not priests.

Ten years ago, the Rev’d Professor Charles Caldwell and I argued that the case against the ordination of women was severely weakened and even sabotaged by ordaining women as deacons. Our argument was wholly rejected by the Episcopal leadership of the ESA (now FinFNA) and thus women serve as deacons in the so-called two or three orthodox dioceses of the ECUSA. In contrast, most of the Continuing Anglican Churches have not introduced female deacons, though some have deaconesses (who are not considered to be in holy orders).

The position Caldwell and Toon took was that there is no biblical or patristic basis for a female diaconate and that the use of women deaconesses (who were not seen as within holy order) in the Early Church ceased for good reasons.

It is gratifying therefore to find a distinguished R. C. theologian, Manfred Hauke of Germany, making this same case this year but with more erudition and authority than we had in 1991/2.

In a Vatican publication, Father Hauke has written that deaconesses, though fulfilling a variety of tasks in the Early Church, were never considered as part of the ordained hierarchy like male deacons were. For example, he said, records showed that female deacons in both Eastern and Western churches were prohibited from preaching at Mass. They also were ``ordained'' with a formula that did not link them to the male deacons' ordination in the Acts of the Apostles.

He explained that deaconesses did not serve ``at the altar'' like deacons did, and mainly were called upon to perform functions that would have been improper for men: for example, anointing the bodies of women who were being baptized. Because the number of adult baptisms dropped by the end of the eighth century, the institution of deaconesses faded out, he said.

From a historical point of view one must conclude that the various manifestations of the deaconess were distinct from the priestly ministry of which deacons were a part. Modern proponents of women deacons, however, call for a ministry that is equal to that of male deacons, and so would not be satisfied with a re-introduction of deaconesses that is limited and faithful to ``the testimony of tradition.''

``Introducing a `pastoral diaconate' would not give any comfort to women, but would only intensify the anger and demands of the feminist movement,” Hauke wrote. ``It would be like a gift desired by virtually no one.''

In addition, Father Hauke said he thought the church still needed time to mature its conception of permanent male deacons, which were re-instituted after 1,000 years by the Second Vatican Council.

Turning from the USA and Rome to England, we notice that there is a new House of Bishops’ Report from the Church of England on the diaconate. And this proposes all those things that worry Hauke, Caldwell and Toon!

The report ”For Such a Time as This: A renewed diaconate in the Church of England” , says that the diaconate must be taken more seriously, and needs to be seen as more than a transitional stage on the way to priesthood. There are at present only about 75 permanent deacons in the Church of England. Others, female and male, who were ordained deacon went on to being ordained priest

The report attempts to set out what is “distinctive” about the ministry of deacons and constantly makes references to the “overlap” with the work of Readers, bishops and priests. However deacons might specialize according to the needs of their parish and their own gifts.

Their work might include co-ordinating and monitoring faith-development courses, preparing candidates for baptism, preaching, conducting confirmation and marriage preparation, specialist counselling, or teaching/training roles in the diocese or deanery.

Pastoral tasks assigned to a deacon should be threefold, the report says: care for the “faithful members of the Christian community”; outreach to those who have “backslidden from church attendance or whose faith has become weak and troubled”; and mission to the unchurched, a “vast mission field”.

The mission of deacons should never be detached from the Church’s liturgical life, the report states. Their distinctive role is to assist the bishop or priest who is presiding. This work might include reading the Gospel, leading the prayers of penitence or intercessions, serving, and administering holy communion. The deacon might conduct the daily offices, or officiate at baptisms, funerals and burials.

But the report emphasizes that “a renewed diaconate should on no account absorb expressions of ministry that are entrusted to lay people”.

It seems beyond reasonable doubt that this Report is lacking in theological clarity for it does not begin from any sound basis. It appears to be truly pragmatic and utilitarian.

We hope that the promised Vatican Report on the Diaconate, which is in the process of being written, will appear soon and bring much needed clarity to a confused area of church ministry. Meanwhile we hope that deacons male and female know what they are doing.

The Revd Dr Peter Toon October 10 2001
Life abundant after death

The young Palestinian men who volunteer to become human bombs and commit suicide in order to punish/kill others appear to have a vivid sense of abundant life after death. They receive this faith and the description of such immortality from their Islamic teachers.

I mention this phenomenon, which is also common in groups living in the Middle East, the Arab world, and places life Pakistan, not to seek to analyze it. Rather my purpose is to note that amongst YOUNG MEN belief in the LORD GOD, Creator and Judge, and in LIFE AFTER DEATH with God is very real, so real that they are prepared to live/die in the light of it and for it.

In contrast, in the West, because of what we call secularization, it is difficult to find any young men, even church-attending young men, who have a vivid belief in, and sense of, the gift of eternal life.

In the main-line, old-line churches, there is very little evidence that members live their daily lives “watching and praying” for the Coming of the Son of God in glory, or thinking and behaving as if they were merely pilgrims and sojourners in this world. Rather, religion seems to be very much for this world and for appropriate comforts and blessing in this life with the occasional nod to belief in heaven. And, in the churches with more conservative theological traditions, while there is a lip service given to the gift of eternal life and the threat of hell, this does not seem to have much effect upon the general life-style and deportment of the members.

Of course, within the life of the Church through history up to the present day, there is a persisting and pervasive witness wherein Christians’ hearts are so set on things above, where Christ is, that they are prepared to give all and sacrifice all for him, even if this means martyrdom or persecution or early death.

That is, there have always been Christian people (even if rare in the West now) who are so committed to the kingdom of heaven that for them all other reality is secondary and subservient. And, strange to relate, Christians of this kind have usually been of more earthly use than those whose minds were set on things below!

Part of the spiritual weakness of American Christianity (which has many adherents and much money and influence) is that it is earthly-minded, so secularized that the authentic Christian whose mind is set on things above (Colossians 3:1ff) is seen as an oddity or a nuisance by the majority.

I get the impression that there is very little desire within Western Christianity of either the liberal or conservative varieties to recover the sense that we are to be pilgrims and sojourners in this world for it is not our home. We seem to want to accommodate the Christian Faith to being mostly about this world, with only an appendix about the life of the world above us, beyond us and to come.

One question that arises is – Are we seeking to be genuine Christians? Or are we better described as religious people using the Christian tradition as a source for our religion?

The Rev’d Dr. Peter Toon , October 10, 2001

Tuesday, October 09, 2001

Dressing up or down

As the armed forces engage in military activities of defense or attack they dress smartly. Their uniforms are clean and pressed; their shoes or boots shine and their hair is groomed. How they dress is seen as part of their readiness and discipline. Likewise with the police and nursing staff.

Most Christians used to believe that going to a church to join in the worship of the Blessed, Holy and Undivided Trinity was an activity for which they were to be appropriately dressed. As they were going into the presence of the LORD God Almighty they held that not only were they to be humble and contrite of spirit but also dressed appropriately (since they were having an audience with the King of kings and Lord of lords). The way they dressed for leisure activity or for garden work or for daily jobs was seen as not the right dress for church. Only the best and cleanest attire was good enough for the Lord.

Today while a few still hold to the traditional view, a majority seem to dress in what may be described as casual dress. Some even wear jeans and sneakers (especially it seems do acolytes in Episcopal churches). I have seen eucharistic ministers in the R C church distributing the Holy Communion wearing shorts and colorful shirts/blouses. In other words, many folks dress for church in the same way that they dress for non-formal occasions.

There seems to be both a historical connection and a psychological relation between the dress of modern Christians and the type of worship in which they participate. Where the worship is called “contemporary worship” then casual dress is the norm and where the worship is called “traditional worship” then “dressing up” is common.

What this probably means is that where God is perceived to be close, near, nice, loving and friendly, affirming us in our weakness , then contemporary worship with casual dress seem to be in place.

And where God is perceived as above us in his holiness and majesty yet drawing near to us in mercy, then traditional worship with “dressing up” seems to be in place.

Or dressing up goes with organs and order, while casual dress with guitars and drums and spontaneity?

What I am not sure about is whether or not there is in people conducting and attending contemporary worship any sense of dressing up in what is perceived within this ethos and culture as the very best in this category – e.g., we put on our very best jeans for church for we are to meet wit an important Person, the Lord our God! Or is part of the statement being made that we are to worship just as we are in ordinary life for that is what God wants of us?

And, very importantly, what kind of dress for worship is the right kind of expression of a person who is humble and contrite of heart and is seeking the Lord’s face?

The Revd Dr Peter Toon October 8, 2001

Wednesday, October 03, 2001


I have read this Statement [see below] several times and I confess that I do not know precisely what it is that is being said about the Bishops’ vision of their/our calling.

The understanding of religion here seems to have no eternal dimension, no heaven and hell, but appears to be essentially for this world looking to a future time of peace and goodwill.

In this world, God’s passionate desire, we are told, is for "justness" (not justice or righteousness?) which is achieved through “waging reconciliation” (whatever that expression means).

Biblical expressions are used by the bishops but what is offered is not biblical and creedal theology but vague hope dressed in pious words.

When a House of Bishops is committed to the religion of the 1979 prayer Book and the Rites approved since 1979, as well as to the 1979 “Baptismal Covenant” that commits all to work for peace and justice in this world, then this Statement is the kind of sentiment we should expect from them – Niceness of a liberal kind, dressed in effusions of piety with biblical quotes. And a Niceness that calls devotees of Islam “brothers and sisters.”

Had the Bishops been committed to the classic Anglican Way (abandoned by most of their predecessors in the 1970s) then the tone and content of this Statement would have been very different – that it, it would have been imbued with an overwhelming sense of God, the Holy One, who is the God of all mercy, before whom we all are to give an account.

I cannot see how this Statement will bring genuine comfort or hope to any who are in pain. It is a statement of the spiritual and theological poverty of the leadership of the ECUSA.


On waging reconciliation

Statement from Bishops of the Episcopal Church

released by the Office of the Presiding Bishop

26 September 2001

[ENS 2001-272] We, your bishops, have come together in the shadow of the shattering events of September 11. We in the United States now join that company of nations in which ideology disguised as true religion wreaks havoc and sudden death. Through this suffering, we have come into a new solidarity with those in other parts of the world for whom the evil forces of terrorism are a continuing fear and reality.

We grieve with those who have lost companions and loved ones, and pray for those who have so tragically died. We pray for the President of the United States, his advisors, and for the members of Congress that they may be given wisdom and prudence for their deliberations and measured patience in their actions. We pray for our military chaplains, and for those serving in the Armed Forces along with their families in these anxious and uncertain days. We also pray "for our enemies, and those who wish us harm; and for all whom we have injured or offended." (BCP, page 391)

At the same time we give thanks for the rescue workers and volunteers, and all those persons whose courageous efforts demonstrated a generosity and selflessness that bears witness to the spirit of our nation at its best. We give thanks too for all those who are reaching out to our Muslim brothers and sisters and others who are rendered vulnerable in this time of fear and recrimination.

We come together also in the shadow of the cross: that unequivocal sign that suffering and death are never the end but the way along which we pass into a future in which all things will be healed and reconciled. Through Christ "God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross." (Col. 1:20) This radical act of peace-making is nothing less than the right ordering of all things according to God's passionate desire for justness, for the full flourishing of humankind and all creation.

This peace has already been achieved in Christ, but it has yet to be realized in our relationships with one another and the world around us. As members of a global community and the worldwide Anglican Communion, we are called to bear one another's burdens across the divides of culture, religion, and differing views of the world. The affluence of nations such as our own stands in stark contrast to other parts of the world wracked by the crushing poverty which causes the death of 6,000 children in the course of a morning.

We are called to self-examination and repentance: the willingness to change direction, to open our hearts and give room to God's compassion as it seeks to bind up, to heal, and to make all things new and whole. God's project, in which we participate by virtue of our baptism, is the ongoing work of reordering and transforming the patterns of our common life so they may reveal God's justness - not as an abstraction but in bread for the hungry and clothing for the naked. The mission of the Church is to participate in God's work in the world. We claim that mission.

"I have set before you life and death...choose life so that you and your descendants may live," declares Moses to the children to Israel. We choose life and immediately set ourselves to the task of developing clear steps that we will take personally and as a community of faith, to give substance to our resolve and embodiment to our hope. We do so not alone but trusting in your own faithfulness and your desire to be instruments of peace.

Let us therefore wage reconciliation. Let us offer our gifts for the carrying out of God's ongoing work of reconciliation, healing and making all things new. To this we pledge ourselves and call our church.

We go forth sober in the knowledge of the magnitude of the task to which we have all been called, yet confident and grounded in hope. "And hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us." (Romans 5:5)

"May the God of hope fill us with all joy and peace in believing through the power of the Holy Spirit." (Romans 15:13)

[Statement from Bishops of the Episcopal Church released by the Office of the Presiding Bishop]
From: ACNS []

Tuesday, October 02, 2001


St. Paul wrote to Timothy: “I exhort therefore, that, first of all supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty, for this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour” (1 Timothy 2:1-3).

For those who have an Anglican heritage, the basic way to “pray without ceasing” for the President, his cabinet, the Congress, the Armed Forces etc., as the war against terrorism proceeds at a variety of level from military to diplomatic, is to make use of the two daily offices and their set prayers in the morning and evening, to add to them when possible the Litany, and at other times to offer brief prayers to the Lord our God as we go about our daily routines.

In the required prayers in Morning Prayer of the BCP (1928) are two “Prayers for The President of the United States, and all in Civil Authority.” The second one reads:

“O Lord our Governor, whose glory is in all the world; we commend this nation to thy merciful care, that being guided by thy Providence, we may dwell secure in thy peace. Grant to THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, and to all in authority, wisdom and strength to know and to do thy will. Fill them with the love of truth and righteousness; and make them ever mindful of their calling to serve this people in thy fear; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.”

In the Collection of Prayers and Thanksgivings (BCP, 1928, pp.35ff.) to be used to supplement the prayers in Morning and Evening Prayer, there is a Prayer for the Congress, to be used during their session:

“Most gracious God, we humbly beseech thee, as for the people of these United States in general, so especially for their Senate and Representatives in Congress assembled; that thou wouldest be pleased to direct and prosper all their consultations, to the advancement of thy glory, the good of thy Church, the safety, honour, and welfare of thy people; that all things may be ordered and settled by their endeavours, upon the best and surest foundations, that peace and happiness, truth and justice, religion and piety, may be established among us for all generations. These and all other necessities, for them, for us, and thy whole Church, we humbly beg in the Name and mediation of Jesus Christ, our most blessed Lord and Saviour. Amen.”

And because God created the whole world, let us pray also for those in authority in other lands, whether we deem those places friendly or hostile to the USA. St Paul’s exhortation to Timothy covered all rulers known to them!

Finally, a Prayer for the Armed Forces:

“O Lord God of Hosts, stretch forth, we pray thee, thine almighty arm to strengthen and protect the armed forces of our country. Support them in the day of battle, and in the time of peace keep them safe from all evil; endue them with courage and loyalty; and grant that in all things they may serve without reproach; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Lord have mercy upon us!

The Revd Dr Peter Toon
October 2, 2001