Saturday, November 30, 2002

What has The Trinity to do with Christmas?

A Meditation for Advent

First of all, we note that neither the expression "The Trinity" nor the word "Christmas" is found in the biblical narratives concerning the birth of Jesus who was called the Christ. This is true both of the New Testament (Matthew 1, Luke 1, John 1) and of the passages in the Old Testament regarded as prophetic of this birth (e.g., Isaiah 8:14).

"Christmas" is a noun used in the Church to speak of the festival of the birth of Jesus, son of Mary and Son of God the Father, who is the Christ [Christ-Mass]; while "The Trinity" is the Name given by the Church to the One God, who by self-revelation has made it known that He exists eternally as Three Persons [the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost].

This said, The Trinity (as the Christian word for Deity) has much to do with that which is celebrated in the festival of Christmas. Let me explain.

In the Gospel accounts of the birth of Jesus and its meaning we certainly read of "God the Lord" [Jehovah/Yahweh], of the presence of "the Holy Ghost/Spirit" of and from this God [who is the God of Moses, David and the Prophets], and of Jesus who is called "Emmanuel" [God with us]. Further, "God the Lord" is also called "the Father" and Jesus is called "the Word made flesh" and "the Father's only [begotten] Son."

We may say that what we have in the New Testament are doctrines about God as the Father, about Jesus as his Son, about the Holy Ghost as the Spirit of the Father and the Spirit of the Son. In the narratives and the doctrines of the N.T. are examples of how each of the Three acts in human redemption in relation to the Others and in relation to mankind. So the Father loves the Son and the Son obeys the Father. The Holy Ghost causes the conception in Mary's womb which is also simultaneously the assumption by the eternal Son of human nature/flesh. And so on. Yet in the NT we have not reached any fixed or settled way of stating the unique equality and unity of the Three and of how they are a plurality in unity so that there is only one God.

From this teaching and evidence, and through her ongoing experience of God as One yet Three, the Church by the 4th century created what we call the dogma of the Holy Trinity [Nicene Creed]. This is first of all a statement about God as God is in and unto Himself - He is a Trinity in Unity and a Unity in Trinity: One God and three Persons. There are not three gods but there is One God (one Godhead, divine nature/substance) who eternally exists as three Persons [the Father & the Son & the Holy Ghost]. For Western Christians the fullness of this dogma is declared most succinctly and powerfully in the Creed we know as the Athanasian Creed [the Quincunque Vult].

Then from this dogma of The Trinity (known to theologians as the doctrine of "the immanent Trinity") the Church created what is called the doctrine of the Economic Trinity [God the Trinity acting in relation to the world and to the human race]. That is, with the insights from the dogma of the immanent Trinity, and using the biblical material, the Church spoke of the action of God in space/time and especially in the economy or action of salvation/redemption. This sophisticated talk of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost (the Economic Trinity) engaged in the creation and redemption of the world is found in sermons and liturgies from the Early Church and is the most basic level of the language in the classic liturgies of the Church through time. For example, it underlies all statements in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer (first edition 1549). In the historic Divine Liturgy of the Orthodox Churches we have marvelous presentations of both the Dogma of the [immanent] Holy Trinity (one Substance/three Persons) and of the doctrine of the Economic Trinity based upon that Dogma and interpreting the biblical doctrines and narratives for the purpose of doxology.

Thus what occurred in the original historical actions that we commemorate in the Festival of Christmas is, we may say, an Event of the Holy Trinity. The Father sends His Only Son, the Word, into space and time, and in that coming the Holy Ghost causes Him to assume human nature and flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary and to be born from her. Though there are specific actions of each of the Three [the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Ghost], in and through all these actions is the action of the One Godhead, the One Deity. Thus we celebrate the action of a Trinity in Unity and a Unity in Trinity as the essential background to the very human story of a young woman giving birth to her first child, a son, and giving him a name, Jesus [the Lord our salvation]. By and through this son who is also the incarnate, enfleshed Son of God the Father, the Trinity has devised and will accomplish the salvation of the world.

To continue this meditation -- we see in all the great saving events of the life of Jesus the revelation of the Holy Trinity - e.g. in his baptism at the Jordan, in his Transfiguration on the Mountain, in his death on the Cross and in his Resurrection from the dead. The Incarnate Son is never alone for he is in Communion with the Father; and the Holy Ghost rests upon him and indwells his human nature. Further, at the deepest level He is the Second Person of the Holy Trinity and shares the one and identical divine nature with the Father and the Holy Ghost.

The LOVE that came down at Christmas is movement from the Love of the Father for the Son in the Holy Ghost, the inter-Trinitarian love, focused upon human sinners and their need in space and time.

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon

Friday, November 29, 2002

Archbishop Rowan Williams, Homosexuality & a Third Province

In a wide-ranging interview with the London Church Times (29th November), Dr Williams states that the Church of England should seriously consider creating a Third Province (to exist alongside those of Canterbury & York) for those parishes and priests opposed to women bishops. (It will be recalled that it was Dr Williams who pushed the Church in Wales to appoint an Episcopal Visitor for parishes in Wales which did not wish to receive bishops who ordained women.) At the moment there is a C of E Commission headed by the Bishop of Rochester looking into the ordaining of women to the Episcopate and these statements will probably have an influence on what is recommended to the Church.

Further, since Williams will have great influence in the General Synod when this is discussed this is good news for traditional anglo-catholics and evangelicals.

Williams also states that he will not ordain any person who is living in "a relationship" or partnership with a person of the same sex and that he will publicly abide by the resolution of the Lambeth Conference, 1998 on this matter. He had already made this clear in a Letter to all the Primates. Yet, at the same time, he would like the topic of sexuality still to be discussed.

In my judgment Williams' theology has been somewhat misunderstood and unfortunately attacked by some conservative evangelicals. There is no doubt but that he is a liberal Catholic theologian who has drunk deeply of Orthodox theology (he studied orthodox theology in Russia for his doctorate) and so he is deeply committed to the traditional and orthodox dogmas of the Person of Christ as the God-Man and of the Holy Trinity as Three Persons and one God. He has the great ability to take seriously all competent expressions of theology and is much more tolerant of traditional believers than most bishops I know. Further he is very gracious and kind person.

I repeat my call again to pray for him as he gets near to taking up his new Vocation in the See of Canterbury. Here is the Collect that I wrote several months ago, and I am grateful that some parishes in several provinces use it weekly.

"Almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in thy providence hast established the ancient See of Canterbury as the primary instrument of unity of the Anglican Communion of Churches, we pray for Rowan whom thou hast called to be the Archbishop of Canterbury: By the abundance of they mercy, grant that he, repenting of his sins and conforming to thy holy law and wisdom, will enter into this holy office in the fullness of the blessing of the Gospel of the same Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son, to whom with thee and the Holy Ghost be ascribed glory and dominion now and for ever. Amen."

Web site of the CT is

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon

November 30th St Andrew's Day

[Between American Thanksgiving Day and Advent Sunday, St Andrew can get forgotten. Here is a reminder!] -- P.T.

If Archbishop Cranmer had used the Collect for St Andrew's Day in the Latin Sarum Missal (which had been used for many years in Ecclesia Anglicana) he would have translated it something like this:

"We humbly implore thy Majesty, O Lord, that as the blessed Apostle Andrew appeared on earth as a preacher and ruler of the Church, so he may be for us a perpetual intercessor with thee in heaven. Though Christ our Lord."

But this Collect was not used because the Reformed Church of England had set aside the medieval practice of asking for the intercession of saints.

Instead, for the first Book of the Common Prayer (1549) either Cranmer or a colleague provided this Collect:

"Almighty God, which hast given such grace to thy Apostle saint Andrew, that he counted the sharp and painful death of the cross to be an high honour, and a great glory: Grant us to take and esteem all troubles and adversities which shall come unto us for thy sake, as things profitable to us for the obtaining of everlasting life: through Jesus Christ our Lord."

But this Collect was rejected and a new one provided for the second edition of The Book of Common Prayer in 1552. Why? Because the foundation ( established in the relative clause, "which hast given.") was recognized to be a legend and not either a sure fact of history or a sound doctrine of the sacred Scriptures. We do not know for sure how Andrew died but a prominent legend states that he was martyred at Patras in Achaia in AD 60 on a cross shaped like a capital X. [See also Eusebius, Book 3. i.1]

By 1552 Cranmer was insistent that the basis of any petition to the Lord our God through Christ the Saviour must be on a sure biblical foundation.

Thus we come to the Collect placed in the 1552 Prayer Book which has remained the Anglican Collect for St Andrew's Day since then. This reads:

"Almighty God, who didst give such grace unto thy holy Apostle Saint Andrew, that he readily obeyed the calling of thy Son Jesus Christ, and followed him without delay: Grant unto us all, that we, being called by thy holy word, may forthwith give up ourselves obediently to fulfil thy holy commandments; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

Here the foundation for the petition in the relative clause ("who didst give.") is certainly scriptural, found in Matthew 4:18-10 & John 1:35-43.

In the Anglican Communion St Andrewstide has long been associated with intercession for foreign missions.

Since circa 750 St Andrew has been regarded as the patron saint of Scotland.

For all of us, St Andrew's Day is first and foremost a day of to pray that we shall be as ready to obey the call of the Lord as was Andrew.

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon

Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Thanksgiving Day 2002 (Thursday)

To the ADELPHOI in the USA

Have a great day and holiday -- but in a Christian sense!

We are all very aware that one daily task of the Church of God is to adore, glorify, praise and thank the Lord on behalf of the whole of the created order.

As the People of God we have been given minds to think, hearts to feel and wills to act. We are made in the image and after the likeness of the Lord, the Creator, and thus are uniquely placed as members of both the old creation (Genesis 1) and by grace members of the new creation (Rev 21-22) to speak out on behalf of all creatures (except the angels who can speak for
themselves) the thanksgiving of the whole creation to its Creator.

The Daily Office(s) of the Church of God has always been seen as not merely the prayer of the Church as Church, but the prayer of the Church as the priest of creation, representing the whole order.

On THANKSGIVING DAY the Church of God in the USA is surely called to exercise this priestly ministry with special joy and divine efficacy as She thanks God not only for her own receipt of blessings but also for the varied harvests of provision of food and clothing, shelter and providences that He provides for all men.

If there is any nation upon earth that has reason to be thankful and to express that thanksgiving to Almighty God the Father it is the United States of America.

Let THANKSGIVING DAY be more than feasting, revelling and sporting. Let it be what it was intended to be when instituted, and may the Church of God fulfil her priestly ministry of uttering & expressing thanksgiving and making intercession for all, including enemies!

We shall be with you in spirit in Great Britain!

See the BCP 1928 for Collect & readings for Thanksgiving Day.

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon

Monday, November 25, 2002

In Thy Faith and Fear

(I wrote this back in 1993/4 for Trinity Seminary in Pittsburgh and I have recently found it and a friend scanned it! I hope you find it has something to say to modern worship....) -- Peter Toon

Apparently few Christians today are convinced that "the fear of God," so important to the Anglican Refor­mation and its liturgy, is a necessary or legitimate ingredient of genuine spirituality. Some clergy have rep­rimanded me for claiming that it is part of authentic Christianity. Usu­ally they quote St. John, who said "Perfect love casts out fear" (7 John 4:18) or Jesus, who said "Fear not" (Luke 5:10).

By "fear" they understand the emo­tion that reduces one to uneasiness, anxiety, insecurity, and immobility. Surely (they reason) the God who is love does not want to reduce His creatures to such a state. He is not like the stern Victorian father whose arrival makes his child nervous, worried, and frightened. He is like the father whose arrival makes his child happy, contented, and expect­ant.

The Christian concept

The Christian concept is not "fear" but "filial fear" (happily "filial" applies to female and male). This fear is a gift of the Holy Spirit. As the Spirit of the Messiah, He is the Spirit of "the fear of the Lord," for the Messiah delights "in the fear of the Lord" (see Isaiah 11:2-3). As the Spirit of Christ, He causes believers to cry out "Abba, Father." Thus the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the fear of God and of our adoption by God.

The best way to get people to under­stand the "fear of the Lord" is by studying the incidents where God creates "fear," such as Jacob's exper­ience at Bethel in Genesis 28:17. A general definition would go some­thing like this (the second sentence in each section shows the intensi­fication of fear in the new covenant).

First, fear is the sense of dread and awe felt by the creature (made in God's image and after His likeness) before the majesty of the holy God, the eternal Creator. When God is also known as a Holy Trinity of Persons, fear is more profound.

Second, it is the sense of fear felt by a guilty sinner before God the all-seeing, all-knowing, all-pure Judge, whose holiness rejects and punishes sin. When God is also known as the Incarnate Son, who bore the wrath of the holy God against sin for sinners, fear is intensified by a great sense of unworthiness and gratitude.

Third, it is a sense of profound re­spect and reverence for God's self-revelation, will, and law and a fear of displeasing Him by being irrev­erent, disobedient, and selfish, and thus it leads to glad submission to Him and His will. When God is also known as revealed in Jesus Christ, who perfectly obeyed His Father's will on behalf of sinners, there is a greater feeling of reverence, respect, awe, and determination to do the will of God freely and gladly.

Therefore this filial fear is the very foundation from which, and the very atmosphere in which, love, joy, faith, hope, worship, and freedom as fruit or gifts of the Spirit of Christ func­tion best. Filial fear is the right atti­tude of a believing sinner who has been placed in a right relation with God through the saving work of Jesus Christ.

Without filial fear it is easy to cheapen the grace of God, to mini­mize duty to God and the neighbor, and to diminish the glorious attri­butes and transcendence of the eter­nal God who is the Lord our God.

Biblical background

Those who insist that "the fear of God" belongs to the old covenant and has no place in the new covenant have to avoid a range of texts in the New Testament.

Jesus said, for example, "I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him" (Luke 12:4 5). After the death of Ananias and Sapphira we learn that "great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events" (Acts 5:11), for "it is a dreadful [fearful] thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Hebrews 10:31). Then, in Revelation, the angel proclaims: "Fear God and give him the glory" (Revelation 14:7). This is followed by a voice from God's throne that says, "Praise our God all you his servants, you who fear him, both small and great!" (19:5).

This positive meaning of fear is also found in great richness in the Old Testament, especially in the Psalms and Proverbs. Here to fear the Lord is not only the beginning of wisdom but also the hallmark of genuine piety, devotion, and religion. It is a dread, a reverence, a profound respect for the living God who has revealed Himself. This godly fear becomes the basis of ready obedience to God's law and of walking in His ways. Thus the command to fear God supports the command to trust, obey, love, and worship Him.

The Book of Common Prayer

If we go back to the sixteenth cen tury we find that for both Protes­tants and Catholics the "fear of God" was a basic emotion of the Christian life and a necessary ingredient of authentic spirituality. The affection or emotion of godly fear is certainly fundamental to the spirituality set forth and encouraged by the English Book of Common Prayer of 1662.

The Catechism in the Prayer Book explains "my duty towards God" as "to believe in him, to fear him, and to love him, with all my mind, with all my soul and with all my strength." At confirmation the bish­op prays for the candidates in these words: "Fill them, O Lord, with the spirit of thy holy fear, now and for ever. Amen."

In the Litany the Church prays that "it may please thee to give us an heart to love and dread thee" and that God would rule the sovereign's heart in "thy faith, fear and love." In the marriage rite the first cause given for the institution of matri­mony is "the procreation of children to be brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord and to the praise of his holy name."

The Collect for the Second Sunday after Trinity begins: "O Lord, who never failest to help and govern them whom thou dost bring up in thy steadfast fear and love . . .". And in the Order for the administration of the Lord's Supper the priest prais­es God for the faithful departed: "We bless thy holy name for all thy servants departed this life in thy faith and fear." In the same prayer he has already asked God that the assembled congregation "with meek heart and due reverence" may hear and receive the divine Word.

Obviously, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer and the other theologians who worked on the Book of Common Prayer felt no tension between the godly affections of fear and love. In fact, as the sermons and treatises of that period indicate, clergy were well aware of the variety of mean­ings of the word "fear" in the Bible. However, they believed that there is a right and appropriate use of fear as a necessary affection of the soul as it comes before God in the name of Jesus Christ.

They knew something that we in a generation of instancy and of famil­iarity seem to have forgotten. They knew that a profound reverence and dread of the eternal, infinite, holy God who is our Creator, Redeemer, and Judge, is the very foundation of our true spiritual worship, service, love, and obedience. While He has united himself to us by the Incar­nation, and while He bids us to come boldly to Him through Jesus, He still expects us to come to Him in holy dread and reverence, always aware of who He is and what we are.

Some would argue that one weak­ness of both modern Anglican and Roman Catholic liturgies, and es­pecially of charismatic services, is that the emotion of godly fear is often minimized, marginalized, or even eliminated altogether. Though part of the problem is the liturgical rites themselves, often those who preside believe that to be joyful in the Lord a believer must not have any feelings of dread before God.

I do not suggest that they reject godly fear, but that they do not see that this emotion of the regenerate soul ought to develop in worship. They have simply absorbed the modern view that fear belongs to the old and not to the new covenant.


If godly fear is a genuine part of authentic Christian spirituality, we need to ask whether our piety and worship allows for the proper exercise of godly fear.

My own conviction is that godly fear is a genuinely Christian emo­tion and that we can and must recover it in our spirituality and worship, without losing our sense of charismatic power and joy. For Anglicans the use of the Book of Common Prayer might help in the recovery of the sense of fear, awe, and dread before the LORD, the living God.

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon

Saturday, November 23, 2002

Community relations, Theism & the Uniqueness of Christianity

a meditation to inspire better meditations

In Britain and elsewhere in order to achieve good community relations in cities and towns the Christian Church seems often to be ready to minimise its message and to leave out of it the distinctive content, the cutting edge.

Judaism, Christianity & Islam agree that God's purpose for man as his Creator is:

1. That his distinctive role in the order of creation is to develop his spiritual faculties of intellect, will and love , and cause his bodily nature to reflect God's glory.

2. That his spirituality is fulfilled only in self-conscious communion with God, which is the supreme glory & final end of his existence.

3. That this communion is to be everlasting for he is created for immortality wherein alone his potentialities can be realized.

4. That his noblest activity is adoration and praise of God wherein he fulfils his own nature as being that of a creature made in the image and after the likeness of God.

To these four propositions Christians very importantly and necessarily add:

That God's purpose for every man is that he should become like Christ, by being united with Christ Jesus through the Holy Spirit in the relation to God the Father.

This is to say that what distinguishes Christianity from other religions is the belief that the Creator became man in one, specific figure in history. Let us unpack this assertion.

"The one, totally new thing which Christianity brought into the world was the belief, hammered out over the first four-and-a-half centuries of its existence, that in Jesus of Nazareth the true and living God had been living a genuine human life.

Other religions had gods walk the earth incognito, or had proclaimed the divinisation of some hero or sage. Christianity alone took a historical person and said, 'Here in this human personality, with all the limitations and sufferings of our human condition, was the eternal God, the Cause and Origin of all that is.' As defined in all its classical rigour (in the definitions of the Ecumenical Councils) this is the unique feature of the Christian religion, its only valid claim to separate existence.

A God of goodness, a Creator who cares, Christianity shares with Judaism and philosophical theism. A man who truly reflects the nature of the divine is no new thing to the Hindu or the Baha'i. A divinely inspired prophet, even one miraculously born, is acceptable to Islam. The Spirit of God indwelling men and guiding and strengthening their lives is a religious commonplace. Divine food received in a sacramental meal is Zoroastrian; ritual washings and initiation rites are found universally. Islam holds fast to judgment, heaven and hell; Judaism to repentance, amendment, and God's merciful pardon.

At every point accommodation is possible save at this one: this unique claim about Jesus, with its undergirding in the doctrine of the Holy, Blessed and Undivided Trinity. If this goes then the end of Christianity as an independent entity cannot be indefinitely delayed. No Incarnation, No Christianity."

Obviously this message has to be proclaimed graciously and set in the context of good works which glorify God. But if it is left out for fear of offending then while community relations may improve (questionably) the march of Islam especially will continue unabated for Muslims have learned how to use human rights, government subsidies and liberal and nominal Christianity to press ahead with their expansion.

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon

Wednesday, November 20, 2002


The season of Advent starts on the first Sunday of December and this is also the beginning of the Christian Year.

Let us use the letters of the word "Advent" as an aid to reflect upon this four-week season of watching and preparation.

A points to ARRIVAL.

Advent ends with the celebration of the first Eucharist/Mass/Holy Communion of Christmas. Thus Advent is all about preparation for the arrival of the Incarnate Son of God, born of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Bethlehem. Although the Incarnation is a past event and has occurred, it is yet to come in liturgical time. Thus the people of God prepare themselves during the four weeks to celebrate the arrival of the Saviour. At the same time as they look forward in liturgical time to Christmas, they look forward in real time to the arrival of the same Incarnate Son of God from heaven to judge the living and the dead. They exercise Christian hope as they watch and pray and keep themselves in readiness to greet the arrival of the Lord of glory.

D points to the Day of the Lord.

The arrival in real, chronological time on earth in glory of the once crucified and now exalted Lord Jesus Christ in order to judge the nations will be "the Day of the Lord," of which the prophets of the Old Testament often spoke. This Day will be a day of judgment and pain for the disobedient and of joy and salvation to the faithful. Jesus taught us to watch and pray and to be prepared!

V points to "Venite, exultemus Domino."

Advent is a time especially for the people of God to say one to another in the language of the Psalter, " Venite, O come, let us sing unto the Lord" and "O come, let us worship and fall down" (Ps.95 etc.). They prepare to kneel at the manger wherein lies the infant, who is the Son of God incarnate, and with the angels to worship the One who is born King of the Jews and Lord of all nations. " Venite, O come let us adore him, Christ the Lord." At the same time they also prepare to worship the Lord Jesus Christ at his Second Coming and to confess that he is Lord to the glory of God the Father - O come let us worship and fall down before him.

E points to Encouragement and Edification.

The duty of pastors of Christ's flock during the season of Advent is to encourage the lambs and sheep of Christ to prepare in liturgical time for the First Advent and in real time for the Second Advent. They are to teach God's people from the Scriptures the truth concerning Jesus of Nazareth, his relation to the Father, his relation to the Jewish people, and his relation to the world. In so doing they are to edify the Body of Christ and build up its members in the most holy faith. Likewise the members themselves are to encourage and edify one another so that their joint celebration on Christmas Day is such as to be worthy of the event being remembered.

N points to the Nativity of Jesus, Son of Mary

In Christian doctrine Mary is given a unique title, Theotokos. This comes into English via the Latin as "Mother of God" but the Greek is better rendered, "Birth-Giver of God." The baby born from the holy womb of Mary, the Virgin, was truly a human baby. At the same time this infant was a unique boy for he was much more than he appeared to be to human eyes. Only the eyes of faith could recognize his true identity at his Nativity. He was certainly One Person, but he had two natures. One nature, the human, he received from Mary, but the other nature, the divine, he possessed from all eternity as the eternal Son of the Father. He was Immanuel, "God with us."

T points to Transcendence

It is possible so to treat the biblical accounts of the Nativity (Matthew 1 & Luke 1-2) that we treat them as merely and only belonging to the horizontal plane. This is very obvious in much of the commercial use of the Christmas story and in the over sentimental use of the crib and of Mary, Joseph, Jesus, the shepherds and animals therein. In the Nativity, and events surrounding It, the transcendent world enters the world of space and time as God visits and redeems his people.

The Collect for Advent.

Almighty God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son. Jesus Christ, came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious Majesty, to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and for ever. Amen.

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

Stir Up Sunday: The Sunday next before Advent

This Collect in The Book of Common Prayer (1662, 1928, 1960) is a free translation by Archbishop Cranmer from the Latin original for this Sunday in the Gregorian Sacramentary & "The Use of Sarum."

"Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

One of the great spiritual diseases is lethargy. We remain content with where we are on the highway of holiness and in the climbing on Mount Zion. There is always tomorrow to strive the more; today we can relax! We rest as pilgrims and do not seek to conquer more of the path in front of us.

It is all too easy not to press on towards the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13-14).

So the major petition of this Collect is that God the Father will cause the Holy Ghost to stir up our lazy and inactive wills and to rouse us from the slumber of complacency. Yet, as we know, a fire when stirred does not always blaze and a sleeper, when roused, does not always get up! In the final analysis we are given a measure of freedom by our Creator so that we can respond to his call in freedom and love. This said, it is also true to say that our wills in and of themselves need divine inspiration and assistance in order to be directed towards the glorifying of God in good works.

Thus there must be stirring up and there must be wholehearted cooperation by ourselves to the motions of the Spirit in our souls.

The idea of plenteous reward for good works freely and lovingly done is a scriptural doctrine. "Let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not" (Galatians 6:9); "Be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 15:58). Of course, the rewards are at the end of the age and pertain to the life of the world to come.

We offer this prayer not on the basis of our own merits and achievements (assuming we have any!) but through the one Mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ, in and through whom there will be reward for the faithful in the age to come.

Finally, what would this Collect have been like if Cranmer had translated it fairly literally.

"Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, more readily following after the effect of thy divine working, may obtain from thy fatherly goodness larger assistances [of grace]. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

We may note that "the effect of thy divine working" and "the fruit of good works" are not the same thing, However, there is an intimate connection between them and both Collects fall within related biblical themes and theology. Probably Cranmer went the way he did was to preserve good sounding English for all the Collects were intended to be read aloud.

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon

Sunday, November 17, 2002

English Prayers & Collects and the original Deus Qui


My last meditation upon the JEWELLED MINIATURES of Anglican Liturgy

The English language in its high flexibility has the ability to form relative clauses, an asset not shared by other languages as diverse as Welsh and Hebrew. This confers upon English both convenience and accuracy of expression as well as rhetorical power in the construction of long sentences. It can be well studied in The Book of Common Prayer (1549 & 1662 & USA 1928) where it is embodied in the English (Anglican) language of prayer for it occurs in numerous Collects and Prayers. We owe this presence to the hand of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, who perfected in English translation the style [Deus qui] he found in many of the Latin originals with which he worked.

Of the 45 Collects that use the relative clause in the The Book of the Common Prayer (1549), there was already such a clause in the original Latin of 36 of them. Further, Cranmer made use of the relative clause in no less than seven of the Collects for Saint's Days, written for the first Prayer Book. And of the total of 82 Collects in the BCP there is no relative clause in 36 of them (including a blank run from Trinity XIV to Trinity XXII), leaving 46 of them with it.

The Prayer of Consecration

This most attractive and interesting (perhaps unique) use and exploitation of the relative clause on a big scale is in the Prayer of Consecration in the Order for the Administration of the Lord's Supper (1552 & 1662 England; cf. also 1928 USA). Here the opening address to & invocation of God ("Almighty God, our heavenly Father") is followed not by one relative clause but by two, with one inside the other: "which of thy tender mercy didst give." and "who by his one oblation of himself." And on the wings of these two relative clauses the single, vast and profound sentence soars to its first exclamatory climax, "Hear us, O merciful Father." And, importantly, it is in another relative clause ("who in the same night that he was betrayed.") that the actual words of consecration are framed and thus the Words of Institution remain part of the Consecration Prayer.

If Cranmer's Prayer is compared with the Latin prayer in the medieval Sarum Missal, we find that the formula of consecration there is in a subordinate clause, "who, the day before he suffered, took bread"; but if we may dare say so, the whole exordium is less attractively constructed in Latin than in Cranmer's English.

It is sad that we must note that in modern Eucharistic Liturgies in English the architectural structure of the Prayer of Consecration has been demolished, usually with the removal of the first two relative pronouns & clauses. Instead of the people of God being reminded of what their God is to them and has done for them by use of carefully constructed relative clauses, the Deity himself is told by his creatures of what he has done for them (!!!), in words such as these: "You gave your only Son.." [which invites the response from Heaven, "Oh! Did I do so?"]

Reverence before God is greatly assisted by appropriate words.

Indeed, one of the many differences between the classic language of prayer in The Book of Common Prayer and the "contemporary language" in post 1970s Anglican liturgies is in the contrast of attitude in prayer as created by the form of words used. In the traditional idiom, language is stretched and poetically formed in order to produce reverence and awe before Almighty God who is the merciful One, while in the modern liturgical language it tends often to be used in a commonplace and pedestrian manner in order to make worshippers feel welcomed by and near unto God, present amongst them.

Taken over from the patristic, Latin idiom of prayer and developed by Cranmer, the use of the relative clause became one of the means used by the Anglican language of prayer to be reverent and humble before God while, at the same time, recognizing that in Christ Jesus and by divine revelation we have been brought near unto the Father and have by his design a duty to ask petitions of him that he will grant. Thus there is both a logical and a linguistic use of the relative clause. Its use is a means by which the worshippers point out to God in a suitably humble and reverent way that he has both the means and the propensity to grant the petition.

In the Communion Service the relative clause may be seen not only in the Prayer of Consecration but also in other places. The Collect for Purity begins:

"Almighty God, unto whom all hearts be open, all desires known and from whom no secrets are hid: Cleanse." [Modern liturgies proceed to inform the omniscient God by saying "Almighty God to you all hearts are open and desires known.."]

It is there in the Absolution: "Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who of his great mercy hath promised forgiveness of sins to all them that with hearty repentance and true faith turn unto him: pardon and deliver you from all your sins.."

And, of course, it is there in the Communion Service in many of the Collects used on Sundays and Saint's Days. Here are two examples from the many:

"Almighty and everlasting God, who art always more ready to hear than we to pray, and art wont to give more than either we desire or deserve: Pour down upon us the abundance of thy mercy." [Trinity XII]

Almighty and merciful God, of whose only gift it cometh that thy faithful people do grant unto thee true and laudable service: Grant, we beseech thee.." [Trinity XIII]

Contemporary Language of Prayer

A common way by which these traditional prayers/collects have been rendered into "contemporary English" is not by using the "You" form for the "Thou" but by abandoning the relative clause altogether. Thus we get, "Almighty God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray." etc.

And sometimes when the use of the relative clause has been maintained in the contemporary English, the form of the verb has been wrong! This is seen in "The Book of Common Prayer for use in the Church in Wales" where not a few Collects have bad grammar. For example, "Almighty God, who has created the heavens and the earth." and "Almighty God, who shows to those who are in error the light of the truth."

In the address to God "Thou hast" should become "You have" and "Thou showest" should become "You show". In "O God, who have . . ." the subject of the verb "have" is "who." And "who" has become 2nd person because of the unstated antecedent "you," though the antecedent does not appear. [Examples such as "I who am your teacher tell you this" are awkward, but correct. Some of us may recall memorizing this principle: A relative pronoun agrees with its antecedent in gender, number, and PERSON; it takes its case from its use in its own clause. On this basis, we at least have the tools with which to analyze and correct such bad grammar as "They led in the man WHOM we thought was the criminal" as well as the productions of careless liturgists.]

However, it is exceedingly good to be able to record that in 2002 the Vatican, which around 1970 pioneered the move into the most accessible and simple forms of the vernacular the translation of the Latin Mass, is calling for the restoration of the DEUS QUI, the relative clause, to prayers and collects in English where it is there already in the Latin originals! Let us hope that this is done correctly and sympathetically in the new Roman Collects & Prayers, and that Anglicans follow on.

(For more sophisticated discussion of this and related matters see the brilliant essay, "The Question of Style", by Ian Robinson in the book, "The Real Common Worship," edited by Peter Mullen from Edgeways Books, The Brynmill Press, Norfolk, IP20 0AS - ISBN 0 907839 67 3 ---

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon

Saturday, November 16, 2002

The Church of England and Divorce


At a recent General Synod (Nov.2002), where it was decided to retain the requirement that clergy must wear appropriate vestments when taking church services [even when the parish requests that they wear regular clothing], it was also decided that it would now be possible, by the law of the Church, for divorcees to be married in church using the official marriage service of the Church of England. Only one bishop voted against and he is the sole "flying bishop" in the Synod.

It has been possible for divorcees to be married in church for a long time, but this has been because the C of E is an established church and her clergy are marriage officers of the state. Thus the latter have been able to take the marriage ceremony allowed by the civil law even if not allowed by church law. In doing so they were open to be disciplined by the bishop. Now the Church law moves by a big step towards reconcilation with the liberal State law.

Church law, ever since the 16th century, has forbidden the marriage of a divorced person in church; and in England annulments have not been officially given by the Church, only by the State and that rarely. What has been passed by the Synod is not on paper a free for all, although once implemented it will be very difficult indeed to say "no" to any couple for if the local minister has conscientous objections, another minister will be asked to do the job.

Thus the C of E once again follows the secularist way of the ECUSA and in so doing will very soon like the ECUSA be allowing the blessing of same-sex couples. The one seems inevitably to follow the other in a culture of rights, self-esteem and self-fulfilment, and lack of objective, moral standards. No fence can be erected now in the C of E against the blessing of gay marriage.

I predict that [liberal] evangelicals & catholics who once opposed women's ordination and then became advocates for it, and who now seem wholly to favour this new liberal measure of Synod concerning holy matrimony as "pastoral", will (like a growing number of USA liberal catholics & evangelicals) soon be calling for certain limited rights for same-sex couples in church -- not in 2003 but by 2007.

One friend wrote to me in these terms on hearing the news:

"I am guessing that the Church of England has abandoned any official, common, and enforceable discipline regarding marriage. As far as I can see, besides the conscience clause given as a sop to the scruples of dissenting clergy (meaningful only as a private matter, not with a backing from the Church in any teaching capacity), there is absolutely nothing to prevent any and every kind of remarriage. The whole body of the Church of England cannot be held to the disciplines that some of the parts might enact, with varying intensity, and the teaching seems to be irreversible.

"Life-long" now seems to mean that people can have a succession of lives. It also seems that "exceptional" cases are now the rule, given that there is no rule to give meaning to the exceptions. Additionally, it seems that every (civil) divorce is a de facto Church annulment. This was not the intent, but this is the result. Or if annulment does not even enter into the equation, then state decretals are all the Church needs (plus a personal plea convincing to the mind of a single cleric) to perform a marriage."

May the Lord have mercy upon all who are called Anglican & Episcopalian! The Mother Church has taken another huge step in abandoning the Faith of the reformed Catholic Ecclesia Anglicana!

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon
Minister of Christ Church, Biddulph Moor,
England & Vice-President and Emissary-at-Large
of The Prayer Book Society of America

COLLECTS - the Religion of the English Collects

The content of Christian Doctrine & Faith presupposed and declared in the Latin Collects of the western, medieval Church is not identical with that of the reformed Church of England from 1549.

Of course, there is much in common in terms of the doctrines of (a) the Blessed, Holy and Undivided Trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, one God; (b) the identity, person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ; (c) the work of the Holy Ghost in the Church, in individual believers and in the world; (d) the Last Things; (e) the sinfulness of mankind and its need for reconciliation with God and also of holiness before God; (f) the Revelation of God given to men and recorded in Sacred Scripture, and so on.

When Archbishop Cranmer began the task of translating and editing the Collects he inherited from the medieval Church (through the "Use of Sarum"), he made the decision to make them conform to the reformed doctrine that had been recovered or discovered or produced through what we call the Protestant Reformation, especially the work of Martin Luther. Now as used in Germany a Protestant originally meant a Christian who protested on behalf of the Christian Message found in Holy Scriptures, as that Message had been received and understood in the Early Church of the first five centuries or so. Hereby a distinction was made between the teaching of the Early Church and of the Medieval Church.

Thus Cranmer and his colleagues believed that they had to purify the religion received from the Medieval Church since in their judgment it had been overlaid with all kinds of accretions which were neither biblical nor in accord with the known mind and message of the early Church.

In particular, the Archbishop believed he had a duty to introduce with clarity the doctrine of justification by faith (= justification by the grace of God through faith which is a gift of God) and at the same time to remove all suggestion of salvation through human merit. Further, he saw it as a theological task to remove (a) all requests to the saints in heaven to pray for the church on earth, and (b) all references to purgatory and prayers by the church on earth for the souls of the departed. Then with regard to the Mass he believed he had to remove any traces of the doctrines of transubstantiation and of propitiatory sacrifice.

Thus if we begin with the Latin Collects in "the Use of Sarum" and see which ones were used and how they were translated; note which were not used; and then look at the content of the ones composed for the 1549 BCP we can get a vivid sense of the reforming mind of Cranmer and his colleagues and of the reformed Catholic religion they professed, and which became the doctrine of the Church of England. To do this large task here is impossible. All we can do is to note a few examples.

1.The Collect for All Souls' Day was totally omitted as also was the commemoration of the day, because they presupposed purgatory and prayed for departed souls. Here is what was rejected: "O God, the Creator and Redeemer of all the faithful: grant unto the souls of thy servants and handmaids the remission of all their sins; that through devout supplications they may obtain the pardon which they have always desired. Who livest..."

2.The Collect for All Saints' Day was completely rewritten in order to exclude ideas of merit and requests for the intercession of departed saints. Here is the prayer rejected by Cranmer: "Almighty and everlasting God, who in one solemnity hast vouchsafed unto us to venerate the merits of all thy Saints: we beseech thee; that, at the intercession of so great a multitude, thou wouldest bestow upon us, who entreat thee, the abundance of thy mercy. Through our Lord, etc."

3.The Collects for other special days - commemoration of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Apostles - were also completely rewritten to exclude requests for the intercession of these saints. In the Collect for St. Mark's Day, the medieval Church prayed: " O God, who hast elevated thy blessed Evangelist Mark by the grace of gospel preaching; Grant, we pray, that we may always profit by his instruction, and be defended by his praying." Cranmer removed all reference to his intercession and concentrated here and elsewhere on the example to be followed.

4.Collects for certain Sundays were rewritten to exclude suggestions of earning merit before God for good works performed and to emphasize justification by faith. The Sarum Collect for the first Sunday in Lent illustrates what was not acceptable to the Reformers: "O God, who dost cleanse thy Church by the yearly observance of Lent; Grant to thy Family that what it strives to obtain from thee by fasting, it may carry out by good works." In contrast the new Collect is addressed to Christ who fasted for 40 days and asks him for grace to subdue sin and pursue righteousness.

The reformed Catholic religion of the C. of E. thus claimed to be scriptural and in essentials patterned upon the religion of the Church of the first five or so centuries.

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon

Friday, November 15, 2002

Does it matter how we end our prayers?

Collects & their terminations

Over the centuries the Church in the West (as in the East) developed suitable ways of ending her Collects and Prayers. For example, the ending of the Eucharistic Prayer (Prayer of Consecration) addressed to the First Person of the Blessed Trinity is a fine example of a Christological, Doxological and Trinitarian ending:

"Through Christ our Lord, through whom thou createst all these things, ever good, and sanctifiest, quickenest, blessest, and givest them unto us. Through him, and with him, and in him, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, all honour and glory be unto thee, God the Father Almighty, world without end. Amen."

Normally, endings were/are not so extensive in the Western Church.

Yet each Collect or Prayer has to have a termination which has both to sound right and to be (theologically & grammatically) right. Here is a typical, medieval example of the written Rules to be followed by Officiants & Celebrants in the Daily Offices & Services as to the proper way to end Prayers/Collects:

"If you address the Father in your prayer say [at the close] "through the Lord Jesus Christ."

"If you make mention of Christ [in the course of your prayer] you should say at the end, "through the same Lord Jesus Christ."

"If you address your prayer to Christ, remember to say at the end, "who livest and reignest with the Father."

"If Christ is mentioned at the end of a Collect, say "who with thee..."

"If you make mention of the Holy Ghost, say near the end, "of the same," [i.e. in the unity of the same].

In general, Archbishop Cranmer followed these rules in the creation of The Book of the Common Prayer (1549) and so did editors of later editions. It will be noticed that these terminations presuppose and propose the role of Jesus Christ as Mediator and the nature of God as One in Three and Three in One.

But let us investigate further the terminations of the Collects of the English Prayer Book.

First of all, when prayer is addressed to the Father we usually find what may be termed as a brief termination which recognizes absolutely that we approach God always and only through the one Mediator between God and man, Jesus Christ. Examples of this are many: "through Jesus Christ our Lord," "through Christ our Lord," "through our only Mediator and Advocate, Jesus Christ our Lord," "through Jesus Christ our Mediator and Redeemer," "this we beg for Jesus Christ's sake," "for thy dear Son's sake, Jesus Christ our Lord," "for the love of thy only Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ," "through the merits of Jesus Christ our Saviour," and "through the merits and meditation of thy blessed Son, Jesus Christ our Lord."

In the second place, when prayer is addressed to the Father we sometimes find a termination which both includes mediation and doxology. Examples of this include: "to whom [the L.J.C.] with thee and the Holy Ghost be all honour and glory, world without end" (General Thanksgiving); "through the satisfaction of thy Son our Lord, to whom with thee and the Holy Ghost be honour and glory, world without end" (4th in Advent); "through the same Jesus Christ to whom, with thee and the Holy Ghost, be all honour and glory, now and for evermore" (St Thomas); and "the Lord the righteous Judge, who liveth and reigneth one God with the Father and the Holy Ghost, world without end" (Consecration of Bishops).

Thirdly, there are occasions when the termination includes mediation, doxology and a specific expression of the Unity as well as Trinity of God. Examples include the four major Feast Days: "who liveth and reigneth with thee, and the same Spirit, ever one God, world without end" (Christmas); "through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end" (Easter); "who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end" (Ascension); and "through the merits of Jesus Christ our Saviour, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Spirit, one God, world without end" (Whitsunday). Then there is the fine ending to the first post-Communion Prayer (BCP,1662): "through Jesus Christ our Lord; by whom and with whom, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, all honour and glory be to thee, O Father Almighty, world without end."

It will be observed how critical is the use of prepositions (through, with, by, in etc.) in the composition of prayer, if it is to be doctrinally orthodox, and pleasing to the ear of God and of man.

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon

Thursday, November 14, 2002

From where do the Collects of the BCP come?

While the Collects of The Book of Common Prayer (PECUSA,1928) generally conform to a common structure, they come from a variety of sources. Most of them are derived from the English editions of the BCP (1549 & 1662). So let us look at from where the Collects of the 1662 Prayer Book derive.

We find that (a) the largest group is made up of translations (chiefly by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer) from the Latin Collects of the Missal in the "Use of Sarum", and behind this medieval English source, to original Latin collections from late patristic times; (b) the middle-size group are English prose creations of Thomas Cranmer himself (or of a colleague) written for the first BCP of 1549; and the smallest group is by Bishop John Cosin in the 17th century.

The "Use of Sarum" was created by Bishop Osmund of Salisbury (Sarum) in 1085 and quickly became the principal text for the Liturgy/ Mass in the Ecclesia Anglicana, the Latin-speaking Church of England. And it remained in use until the sixteenth century, being still the norm during most of the reign of Henry VIII. It was similar to, yet different in details from, the Roman Use/Liturgy. In assembling this Use, Bishop Osmund collected and edited existing liturgical texts and sources from the Early Church. The Collects, Epistles & Gospels were taken chiefly from three ancient Sacramentaries (hand written books containing the Collects and the major part of the Mass) related to the names of Pope Leo I (d.461), Pope Gelasius (d.496), and Pope Gregory the Great (d.604). About fifty- three from these sources, as found in the "Use of Sarum" were used in The Book of the Common Prayer (1529).

Five of the Collects used by Cranmer for Holy Communion come from the Leonine Sacramentary. They are those for the Third Sunday after Easter, and for the Fifth, Ninth, Thirteenth and Fourteenth Sundays after Trinity.

Twenty and a half of the Collects used by Cranmer for Holy Communion come from the Gelasian Sacramentary. They are those for the 4th in Advent, Innocents Day, Palm Sunday, Good Friday II, Easter Day (1/2), 4th & 5th after Easter & I, II, VI, VII, VIII, X, XI, XII, XV, XVI, XVIII, XIX, XX, & XXI after Trinity; then, also, in addition to the Eucharistic prayers, the Morning and Evening Collects for Peace, the Evening Collect for Aid against all Perils, the Prayer for Clergy and People, the Confirmation Prayer for the seven-fold Spirit and others are from there as well.

And twenty-seven and a half of the Collects used by Cranmer for Holy Communion come from the Gregorian Sacramentary. They are those for St Stephen's & St John Evangelist, the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th & 5th after Epiphany, Septuagesima, Sexagesima, the 2nd, 3rd, 4th & 5th Sundays in Lent, Good Friday I, Easter Day (1/2), Ascension, Whitsun, III, IV, XVII, XXII, XXIII, XXIV & XXV after Trinity, the Purification, the Annunciation & Michaelmas; then also others in the Litany and Baptismal Service, and such others as "Prevent us,O Lord.".

Now we move on to note the creations of the sixteenth century, particularly the hand of Cranmer. Six of the Sunday Collects - Advent I & II, Lent I, Quinquagesima, Easter I & II, and fourteen others - Christmas Day, All Saints' and twelve Saints' Days. All these are written in the same prose, style and structure as the translations from the Latin of the others.

In 1661 in preparation for the BCP (1662) Bishop John Cosin of Durham wrote three new Collects (Advent III, Epiphany VI and Easter Even) and made major adjustments to that for St Stephen's Day.

Then, not in the BCP (1662) but in the American BCP (1928) there are Collects for "A Saint's Day" from William Bright, "Dedication of a Church" from John Dowden, "Ember Days" from William Heathcote DeLancey, "Rogation Days" from John Cosin, "Independence Day" from Edward Lambe Parsons, "Burial of the Dead" from John Wordsworth, and a few others whose authorship is not known.

The Collects of the reformed Catholic or Anglican way, it has been said, like the truths of the Gospel, are both old and new. Some of them were made new in the sixteenth century; but, the very Collects that were old then became new because of the freshness of the translation into English. So in the first Prayer Book of 1549 there are 48 old collects translated, 9 altered and 25 made new. And the structure and style of the new ones are based upon those of the old ones. They are excellent prayers to learn by heart!

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon


We find in classic editions of The Book of Common Prayer that the word "Collect" is distinguished from both the Litany and the Eucharistic Prayer and appears to be used in two senses, a precise and also a general sense.

In the strict or precise sense, it may be said that only those are truly Collects which are used with the Epistle and Gospel in the Eucharistic Lectionary, and as the Collects of the Day in the Morning and Evening Prayer.

To these we may add (a) the last prayer in the Order for the Burial of the Dead (1662) which originally had an Epistle and Gospel attached to it, and
(b) the opening prayer of the Order for Holy Communion, the Collect for purity, which summarises the preparation of the people of God for this eucharistic service.

Then in a less precise sense we have the Collects in the Services of Holy Baptism being (a) the two prayers before the Gospel in The Ministration of the Publick Baptism of Infants (1662) and (b) the prayer before the Gospel in The Ministration of Holy Baptism (1928). Then in an even less precise
sense: (c) the two sets of two Collects, which follow the Collect of the Day in both Morning and Evening Prayer; (d) the prayers at the end of the Litany, introduced by "Let us pray" and (e) the "Collect or Prayer" for all Conditions of men.

Collecta is the original Latin word, meaning a gathering of any sort. So what does the Collect gather together? There are various possibilities and there appears to be a measure of truth in each of them:

1.The gathering together in a precise form certain aspects of the teaching in the Epistle and/or Gospel to which it is attached. 2.The gathering together of the thoughts (recollection) of the people of God, a collectedness of mind. 3.The prayer to be used when people actually assemble together for worship - oratio ad collectum.

The Collects, precisely so called, normally have a common structure, though sometimes one of the parts thereof is missing.

First, there is the Invocation where God (usually God the Father, but sometimes the Lord Jesus Christ) is addressed and invoked.

In the second place, there is the Recital and remembrance of some doctrine or else fact of a biblical topic or theme - e.g., of salvation, redemption, or providence.

Then, thirdly, there is the Petition, which constitutes the body of the short prayer.

In the fourth place, there is the Aspiration or devout wish.

Finally, there is the Pleading of the Name of Jesus, the Mediator, when the prayer is to the Father.

This structure may be illustrated from the long Collect appointed for the Burial of the Dead (1662).

"O Merciful God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the resurrection and the life; in whom whosoever believeth shall live, though he die; and whosoever liveth, and believeth in him, shall not die eternally; who also hath taught us, by his holy Apostle Saint Paul, not to be sorry, as men without hope, for them that sleep in him: We meekly beseech thee, O Father, to raise us up from the death of sin unto the life of righteousness; that when we shall depart this life, we may rest in him, as our hope is this our brother/sister doth; and that, at the general resurrection in the last day, we may be found acceptable in thy sight; and receive that blessing, which they well-beloved Son shall then pronounce to all that love and fear thee, saying, Come ye blessed children of my Father, receive the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world. Grant this, we beseech thee, O Merciful Father, through Jesus Christ, our Mediator and Redeemer."

Invocation: "O Merciful God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Recital: "who is the Resurrection and the Life.that sleep in him."
Petition: "We meekly beseech thee, O Father, to raise us up from the death of sin unto the life of righteousness."
Aspiration: "that when we shall depart this life, we may rest in"
Pleading: "Grant this, we beseech thee, O Merciful Father, through Jesus Christ, our Mediator and Redeemer."

There are other ways of expressing the Structure of the Collect, e.g., "(i) an introductory address and commemoration, on which is based (ii) a single central prayer: from this in turn (iii) other clauses of petition or desire are developed, and (iv) the whole concludes with some fixed form of ending" the last usually being, if the prayer is addressed to the Father, a variant on "per Iesum Christum dominum nostrum" sometimes followed by a doxology.

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon

Wednesday, November 13, 2002

TRINITY XXV (= Epiphany VI) Meditation on the Collect

RUBRIC for November 17th, 2002:

If in any year [as in 2002] there be twenty-six Sundays after Trinity, the service for the Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany shall be used on the Twenty-fifth Sunday.

so that on the Sunday immediately before Advent Sunday the appointed Collect, Epistle and Gospel for "the Sunday next before Advent" can be used for those who use the ancient Eucharistic Lectionary in the BCP:

O God, whose blessed Son was manifested that he might destroy the works of the devil, and make us the sons of God, and heirs of eternal life: Grant us, we beseech thee, that, having this hope, we may purify ourselves, even as he is pure; that, when he shall appear again with power and great glory, we may be made like unto him in his eternal and glorious kingdom; where with thee, O Father, and thee, O Holy Ghost, he liveth and reigneth, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

The Epistle: 1 John 3:1-8 The Gospel: St Matthew 24:23-31

This Collect was written by Bishop Cosin in 1661 for the BCP of 1662 and is an excellent example of 17th century writing of a compact prayer for public worship.

The Prayer begins by the people of God recalling in the presence of God the Father Almighty some of the primary reasons why his only-begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, became Incarnate of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Three are stated - to destroy the works of the devil, to make us sons (children) of God, and to make us the heirs of eternal life.

St John tell us that "for this purpose the Son of God was manifested that he might destroy (literally "loose", apply a solvent to) the works of the devil" (1 John 3:8). Jesus successfully resisted the temptations of the devil in the wilderness, was continually casting devil/demons out of sick people, and saw his sacrificial death upon the Cross as the final part of his battle with the devil. The death of Jesus, instigated by the devil, was in the wisdom of God the great means of defeating the devil. Of his apostles he said, "In my name they shall cast out devils" (Mark 16:17).

Those who believe on the name of the Lord Jesus are forgiven, justified and made the children of God by adoption and heirs of eternal life with the same Lord Jesus in heaven. "If children then heirs, heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ" (Romans 8:17).

The Son of God's Incarnation and Saving Work has a twofold aspect. It is both destructive and creative - destructive of sin which is in origin the devil's work, and creative of divine sonship & eternal life, which is in totality divine work.

From recollection of the purpose of the Incarnation, the prayer turns to petition, basing the petition on the declaration of Christian hope already expressed - "sons of God and heirs of eternal life." We pray that "we may purify ourselves even as he is pure" and that "we shall be made like unto him."

Purification corresponds to the destructive work of Christ - to remove & destroy sin in order to be purified. "As Christ was manifested to destroy sin by his sacrificial blood of the Cross, grant that we, fully cooperating with his grace, may destroy sin in ourselves." (Cf. 2 Corinthians 7:1).

Being made like him in the resurrection of the dead for life in heaven corresponds to the creative and renewing work of the Father through Jesus Christ by the Holy Ghost. "We know that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is" (1 John 3:2).

The conclusion of the Collect is different from others because of its specific invocation of the First (the Father) and Third (the Holy Ghost) Persons of the Blessed, Holy and Undivided Trinity - "with Thee, O Father, and thee, O Holy Ghost." It has the effect of placing the minds of the petitioners in front of the eternal throne, prostrating themselves in a spirit of adoration before the LORD God, the Father, in Christ Jesus the Son and by the Holy Ghost, unto ages of ages.

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon

Tuesday, November 12, 2002

Classic Collects as Golden Bowls full of Incense

"When the Lamb had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and with golden bowls of incense, which are the prayers of the saints; and they sang a new song, saying, 'Worthy art thou.'" (Rev. 5:8).

In the last book of the Bible, the Revelation of St John, which is filled with fascinating imagery, Jesus Christ is called the LAMB twenty-nine times. Though he still bears the marks of his being slaughtered, he also has the marks of exaltation (for his seven horns [= omnipotence] and seven eyes [= omniscience]). And his heavenly habitat is filled with music, as Christian Rosetti once said: "Heaven is revealed to earth as the homeland of music." The praise is from all creation (represented by the four living creatures) and from the elect people of God of the Old and New Covenants ( 12 + 12, 24 elders). It is also from the myriad of angels. The whole creation, visible and invisible joins in the praise of the Creator.

In this picture of a whole universe praising Christ, the prayers of the saints, who still labour on earth for the kingdom of God, are described as golden vessels filled with the sweet odour of incense. This picture recalls the use of incense of the Jewish Temple: "Let my prayer be set before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice."

Prayer comes from the depths of the soul and it is expressed in words created by the mind and uttered by the lips. In personal, private prayer the words are often ejaculatory and extempore. But no so in public, common prayer where normally there is the reaching for excellence and thus prepared forms of prayer.

In the vision from Revelation 5 the prayers of the saints are in a golden cup, vessel or bowl. Gold was the most precious of metals and thus the golden vial points to the sound, sterling quality of the words and their felicitous and elegant arrangement. But there is more to prayers than their excellence in grammar, syntax and style. They are to be through Christ Jesus unto God the Father as sweet smelling odour, as holy incense. That is, they are to be biblical and in conformity with God's will and mind, and arising from purified affections, desires and intentions of the souls of the baptized.

In the Collects of the classic Book of Common Prayer (e.g., editions of 1549, 1662, 1928) we have the golden bowl, the excellence in words of public prayer to God the Father. First in Latin and then in English they have been for 1400 years as the manna in the wilderness to devout spirits, and are, next to Scripture itself, the clearest standard whereby genuine piety may be discerned; the surest guidance by which its progress may be directed; the highest mark to which its wishes would aspire. Obviously their passionate and elegant words need to be matched by appropriately devout affections, desires and intentions of the soul in the congregation of the saints.

As naturally as kindled incense ascends upwards, the public prayers of the congregation of the saints also ascend to the Father because of the merits of his Son, and they are "an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God" (Phil. 4:18).

If a choice has to be made between, on the one hand, the use of excellent Collects [as in the classic BCP] by an apostate congregation, and, on the other, the use of poorly constructed Collects [as in some modern Anglican Liturgy] by a faithful congregation, then the devout soul will choose the latter; but, he will surely wish that this faithful congregation would use the excellency of the golden bowl of incense, rather than one made of an inferior metal!

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon

Sunday, November 10, 2002

Bishop Colin Buchanan on Liturgical Reform

The most well-known evangelical advocate of the reform and "renewal" of Liturgy in the last third of the 20th century was Colin Buchanan, as he worked from St John's College, Nottingham and then as a suffragan Bishop in Birmingham. He demonstrated learning, enthusiasm and advocacy for the creation of a whole new, modern liturgy for the Church of England and Anglican Churches abroad. To this day, Grove Books, which he founded, publishes all kinds of liturgical and other studies. (But now in the 21st Century Colin is perhaps best known as an advocate of the dis-establishment of the Church of England.)

In 1982, twenty years ago, he wrote of liturgical reform:

"Essentially, English language revision took place in two stages: 1. 'Thou '-form texts, which ruled unchallenged until 1966, and yet never produced a new text after 1968. 2. 'You'-form texts, which were unthinkable before 1966, and invariable after 1968." ("Liturgical Revision" in LITURGY RESHAPED, ed. K. Stevenson, 1982, p,147)

He went on to claim that this analysis covered the C of E, the R.C. Church & the Methodist Church in Britain, as well as Anglican Church abroad.

We may recall that immediately after Vatican II Roman Catholics used traditional English for translation of the Mass but that this ceased around 1970, with the big push for the use of a modern vernacular translation from Rome. Since 1970 only a modern vernacular translation has been permitted.

But did the production of "Thou-form" texts cease as he says by 1968? I think not. If we look at the 1979 Prayer Book of the ECUSA, we find that there are "Thou-form" services and while they have much in common with those in the 1928 BCP they are certainly not identical. The "shape" of the Communion Rite is changed to fit the "shape" of Rite II and a totally new Prayer of Consecration is provided as an alternative in Rite I. The latter was specially written for the 1979 book. Further, there are verbal (doctrinal) corrections & omissions made in not a few places in traditional prayers and exhortations.

So did the production totally cease with the 1979 book? I think not.

If we look at the "Common Worship" (2000ff.) of the Church of England, we find that there is in the "Thou-form" both the use of modified/adjusted services (Morning & Evening Prayer, Litany & Holy Communion) from "The Book of Common Prayer" (1662), and the creation of new Collects, Prefaces and Prayers to go with Days not covered in the BCP of 1662.

Of course Buchanan is substantially right. No new prayer book as such, or no completely new Rites, have been produced in traditional language since 1968.

So the question comes to mind and surely has to be faced --- WHY 1968? WHY the late 1960s? What was it about the 1960s that caused all the Churches
from Roman Catholic to Pentecostalist to decide to leave behind centuries of hallowed use of the classical English language, idiom and dialect of public prayer and worship?

And a further question arises - WHY do some congregations insist in the 21st century on continuing to use the pre-1966 Rites?

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon

Space & Place in worship

a discussion starter

One way of stating the needs of the baptized believer attending worship, or the needs of the searching soul also entering the house of worship, is to say that they are needing both "a PLACE of recognition & acceptance" and "a SPACE for privacy before God." If they are provided with both then "blessed are they."

The late Canon W. H.Vanstone wrote: "If a parish church is to provide adequately for the ferment of private and personal life in the parish, it must provide in its worship both ' a place' and 'a space' for each person who comes to worship. One has one's place to the extent that one is individually known and that one's particular needs and aspirations are recognized and met: one has also one's space to the extent that one retains one's privacy and is addressed and treated in worship simply as a creature in the presence of the Creator or as a child of God in the Father's house."

Let us reflect for a moment on "place." If one is warmly greeted at the door, if one's particular prayer requests are addressed, if one is invited to this or that event/meeting, if one is warmly hugged in the passing of the peace, if one is asked to do something in the worship service, if one's children are well catered for, and if one is generally noticed, it may be said that one is experiencing "place" - that is there is a real place for one in this assembly and in this congregation and in this house of worship.

Now let us reflect on "space." If one is allowed to find a pew, given
liberty to pray quietly & meditate in silence, to kneel or stand as one wishes, not be invaded by a hug or tight handshake, not be cajoled into singing loudly, and permitted to leave with minimum fuss then it may be said that one is experiencing "space" - that is one's privacy is being respected and one is being given room to worship according to one's own convictions, without hurting another.

In terms of Anglican worship, we may say that "space" is usually much available at traditional services be they of Holy Communion at 8.a.m. or of Choral Mattins at 10.00.a.m. on Sundays. Here there is no "passing of the peace" and people are usually allowed to come and go with minimal attempts to ascertain by the resident clergy or sidesmen who they are, from where they are and how they are.

Further, we may say that "place" is usually much available in popular, evangelical and charismatic services. The visitor is identified, watched over and gently interrogated. The regulars are noted and celebrated and their particular needs explained and prayed for. All seek to establish the self-worth of each person through such means as fellowship through laid-back singing, the greetings in the "peace," and the jokes in the notices.

It seems to me that it is easier to make provision for "place" in the traditional service where "space" is usually primary, than it is to make provision for "space" in the modern service where "place" is primary.

In traditional congregations, it is possible by restrained but gracious welcomes and goodbyes, by careful naming of needy persons in the intercessions, by measured, attractive and short notices, by appropriate follow-up visiting, by edifying mid-week meetings/services and by a general sense of warmth, to cater for "place" as one provides "space." Of course, the sense of place will never be as overt as with the modern type of services.

To create "space" in modern services where one's "place" is so prominent, exalted and celebrated is a tremendous and difficult task. I confess that I do not know what to suggest in terms of providing it!

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon
Minister of Christ Church, Biddulph Moor,
England & Vice-President and Emissary-at-Large
of The Prayer Book Society of America

U.S. Crisis Linked to Lack of Formation in the Faith

(I personally have found Glendon's books most helpful and the lady herself an exemplary Christian -- P.T.)

Harvard's Mary Ann Glendon Points to Roots of Problems

ROME, NOV. 4, 2002 ( Mary Ann Glendon believes the sex-abuse scandals involving priests in the United States points up a key lesson: the need for formation.

Glendon, a Harvard law professor and John Paul II's delegate at the World Conference on Woman, said she agreed with theologian Father Richard John Neuhaus, editor in chief of First Things magazine, "when he says that the crisis of 2002 is threefold: fidelity, fidelity and fidelity."

"But, perhaps because I'm a teacher, it seems to me that the problem is not so much fidelity as it is formation, formation and formation -- formation of our theologians, formation of our religious educators, and thus formation of parents," Glendon said.

The professor made her comments today at a conference at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical Athenaeum on the theme "Ecclesia in America: Reform, Renewal and the Role of the Laity in a Time of Turbulence" (see the Forum section).

She acknowledged that Catholics have long faced problems in the United States.

"When Catholic immigrants began arriving in great numbers, that Puritan anti-Catholicism fused with nativism and erupted into violence," Glendon said. "In 1834, an angry mob in Boston burned an Ursuline convent to the ground while police and firemen stood by and watched."

"The national best seller in 1836 was a book purporting to be the true-life confessions of an ex-nun -- it contained sensational revelations of sexual misconduct by Catholic nuns and priests," the professor continued.

"This book, 'The Awful Disclosures of the Hotel Dieu Nunnery, by Maria Monk,' was a complete fabrication, but it sold 300,000 copies and helped to inflame anti-Catholic passions," she said. "The following year, 1837, arsonists destroyed most of Boston's Irish quarter, and similar atrocities were repeated across the country.

"But the immigrants kept pouring in -- from Ireland, Italy, Germany, Poland and other parts of Eastern Europe. And by the turn of the century, the Roman Catholic Church was the country's largest and fastest growing religious group, with 12 million adherents. Faced with exclusion and discrimination, those immigrant Catholics built their own separate set of primary and high schools, hospitals and colleges. They formed countless fraternal, social, charitable and professional organizations -- Catholic lawyers, Catholic doctors, Catholic labor guilds."

Glendon pointed out the crisis of society and of Catholics at the end of the 1960s.

"The 1960s marked the beginning of a breakdown in sexual mores and a rise in family disruption, accompanied by a culture of dissent as many tried to rationalize their departures from moral norms," she said. "The developed nations were engaged in a massive social experiment, for which neither the Church nor the societies in question were prepared.

"We hardly noticed that many of us Catholics were developing a kind of schizophrenia -- putting our spiritual lives in one compartment and our daily activities in the world of work in another. We hardly noticed how many Catholics were beginning to treat their religion as an entirely private matter, and to adopt a pick-and-choose approach to doctrine."

Regarding a crisis identified with the Church in recent months -- that of clerical sexual abuse -- Glendon raised a skeptical note.

"For months, the press created a climate of hysteria by describing the story as a pedophilia crisis, when in fact only a tiny minority of the reported cases involved pedophiles -- abusers of pre-pubescent children -- as distinct from homosexual relations with teen-aged boys," she explained.

"For months, and to this day, the media has singled out the Catholic Church as a special locus of sexual abuse of minors, whereas all the studies indicate that the incidence of these types of misconduct is actually lower among Catholic priests, than among other groups who have access to young children," law professor Glendon indicated.

Quoting John Paul II's postsynodal apostolic exhortation "Ecclesia in America," Glendon said: "America needs lay Christians able to assume positions of leadership in society.

"It is urgent to train men and women who, in keeping with their vocations, can influence public life and direct it to the common good. That's quite a challenge. In a sense, the time has never been better for Catholics in the U.S. to take up that challenge."

"There are nearly 64 million of us -- almost a fifth of the U.S. population," Glendon said. "And Catholics have arrived -- they have gained enormous influence in social, professional, cultural and political life. One would think that ought to be enough leaven to raise the social loaf." ZE02110406

Friday, November 08, 2002

Church Times and Women's Ordination


The Church Times of London has in the issue of 8th November an 8-page supplement on the Tenth Anniversary of the Decision to Ordain Women taken by the General Synod of November 11, 1992. I am one of the many quoted to say where I was and how I heard about the decision (I was in Wisconsin in an anglo-catholic setting and the decision was received with horror.)

In the interview with the C T reporter to ascertain where I was, I explained to her that little attention was being paid to the doctrine of Reception, and, not surprisingly to me, when I looked through the 8-page supplement I found no reference to it.

Once you ordain women in a Church where not all are in favour of this innovation (and where some of these believe it to be an act of defiance against Divine Order), you have created a situation of imperfect or broken communion. True enough the basic communion created by the Spirit and water in baptism remains in place, but eucharistic communion of all becomes difficult or impossible if women are to be celebrants.

The doctrine of reception, first suggested in ecumenical discussions, was taken up and developed by the Eames Commission (see Report, 1994) in order to find a way and a context wherein all Anglicans could stay together in basic fellowship until, through time, the mind of the Lord was wholly and fully known on this matter.

The acceptance of this doctrine requires especially bishops, but also national church and diocesan synods, to treat women's ordination as a form of ministry that is being experienced and tested over the longish term in order that, by the kind providence of God, there will come a time in the future when it will become clear, and commonly believed, that this innovation is to be permanent or is to be undone.

In this period of reception, it is important that a majority on one side of the divide or the other does not treat the question as finally settled. In the ECUSA, the General Convention has decided that it is over and the matter is finally settled. Thus there are penalties imposed on the minority. It seems that such also is the case in some dioceses of the Anglican Church of Canada and of the C of E.

What I think we need to bear in mind in all talk of women's ordination is that it remains an innovation, and that, according to the accepted doctrine of the Lambeth Conference and the Primates' Meeting etc. it is a privileged innovation in the process of being received and tested, by careful discernment. It is not sure to remain as a permanent feature of the Church.

Some Episcopalians want to add to the innovations being received and tested the blessing of homosexual partners and the ordaining of active homosexual persons. This is worrying.

Why not order from Bill Atwood of Ekklesia Society, a copy of the book which I helped him to produce for the Primates - TO MEND THE NET (ed. Archbishop Gomez and P Bishop Sinclair, 2001) - and in which there is an essay, written by me, and approved by the Primates, on Reception?

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon

Tenth Anniversary.

In some circles, especially feminist-inclined, there will be celebration this weekend, for there is an important TENTH anniversary of a victory for women.

The Church of England decided by a majority vote in its General Synod on November 11, 1982 that henceforth women could be ordained as presbyters/priests in the Church. Looking back over the ten years (and of course much longer in the Episcopal Church of the USA) what can one say, in brief, about the decision? I offer some thoughts as discussion starters.

1.It was a major innovation for there is no sure record of women as presbyters in the Catholic Church before this time. Whether it was right or wrong, good or bad, it was an innovation, which both the R C and Orthodox Church state that they can never follow. As an innovation it has changed the nature of the Threefold Ministry as it is known in the Anglican Family.

2. As an innovation, it involved the Church of England in pressing to the limits, or probably beyond the limits, the doctrine of provincial autonomy. This innovatory doctrine had not been first decided by the whole Anglican Communion and then implemented locally where desired, but simply adopted by individual provinces claiming their rights as autonomous units. It helped to establish thereby a dangerous precedent.

3. As an innovation it was energised, if not given birth by, the human rights and feminist movements in secular culture. This is not to say that MANY godly women were not caught up in it and had the best of motives to serve the Lord, but it is to say that without these secular movements and agendas, there would not have been such decisions for women presbyters made by Church Synods. These godly women would have remained godly but laywomen.

4. Once the innovation was in place, and once its knock-on effects were seen & felt in terms of impaired communion and relations within the Anglican Communion of Churches, then there was need for further innovation in terms of creating a doctrine to cover this strange and disturbing state of affairs. So a Commission produced the doctrine of reception, which states that the view that women are proper recipients of the sacrament of ordination is a doctrine which is in the process of being received for the purpose of testing within the Communion of Churches. And as such, the final result of the reception and testing could be the wholesale adoption or the general rejection of the innovation. (It has to be said that in practice only lip service is usually paid to this doctrine by provinces which have women in place as priests. Too often people do not know or pretend not to know that this doctrine exists! Thus those who do not favour the ordination of women are passed over for promotion and sidelined in general.)

5. Again, once the innovation was in place the calls intensified from the feminists for adjusting the language of worship, doctrine, and practical faith. They insisted that women as ministers of word and sacrament could not be expected to use language that was supposedly heavily laden with sexism, patriarchalism and androcentricism and the like. And their cries have been heard. Modern liturgical language is thus wholly unstable for it is in a continual process of adaptation to the last call for inclusion.

6. Since the C of E legislation of 1992 only covered the ordaining of women as priests, there is now in place a Commission looking into the ordaining of women as bishops and the impact this will have on the Church. It is likely that this Commission will suggest ways for protecting the consciences and livelihoods of those who cannot receive women as bishops. If it does so then it will have learned a lesson from North America!

7. Once a Church knowingly and deliberately innovates in a major area and that area is one which runs parallel to what is happening in society (as with ordaining of women) then it has made it more difficult not to innovate in other areas when there is societal & cultural pressure - as we see with such matters as divorced persons remarrying in church, divorced clergy being licensed to serve in parishes, active homosexual persons being ordained and placed in important church positions, and so on. The more the Church door is opened the more the wind from outside is felt inside. Instead of overcoming the world for Christ's sake the present tendency in the western Church seems to be absorbing the world for the devil's sake - that is if you believe that the 1960s and post 1960s zeitgeist is not wholly from the Lord!

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon
Minister of Christ Church, Biddulph Moor,
England & Vice-President and Emissary-at-Large
of The Prayer Book Society of America

Tuesday, November 05, 2002

A Cautionary Tale

The story of how the American R C Church got to where it is now in respect to sexuality is, I suggest, a cautionary tale.

As early as the 1950s & early 1960s when R C Bishops heard about priests interfering sexually with children, they worried more about bad publicity from the media than the judgment of Almighty God and so moved these priests on to other parishes, hoping the problem would go away. But it did not. Now the whole of the world knows about some of this immoral activity.

Likewise, the Bishops always knew about active homosexuality in seminaries, a practice that goes on to the present day, and again they have done little or nothing about it, apparently fearing bad publicity more than they fear God himself.

Likewise in regard to Pope Paul’s encyclical “Humanae Vitae” in July 1968, which was greeted by massive public dissent led by professors and religious in the rebellious 1960s, the Bishops have done little to insist that its teaching is to be followed by faithful Catholics. In fact they issued “norms of licit dissent” in late 1968 and have not prevented those who dissented from the official teaching on birth control from being promoted to high positions in the Church in the USA. So those Catholics who seek to be faithful to the Church’s teaching on sexuality and defend it are regarded as extremists and those who teach a modified version of what general, western culture holds, as put into a Christian dress, are regarded as normal.

In other words, artificial birth control has become as essential to pursuing the good life as owning an automobile or having air conditioning for most Catholics. Sexuality is seen as a source of personal pleasure and self fulfilment as long as it is between consenting adults and is respectful of each person concerned. Further, with the creative use of psychology and misuse of canon law, the reality of divorce and remarriage in catholic parishes has been addressed by massively extending the giving of annulments so that some (but not all of) the divorced and remarried can stay in membership of the Church.

Of course, what the secular media has primarily focused on is not the tremendous rebellion of married R Catholics against the law of God for marriage, or of the presence of much homosexual practice in seminaries, or on the abuse of giving annulments for less than good reasons, but on cases of priestly abuse of minors and it is this only which the Bishops, under the watchful eye of the Vatican, have begun seriously to address (but to address apparently not as Prophets of God but rather as Managers and Psychotherapists) this year.

But here is the cautionary tale for those with ears to hear as told by a leading R C layman.

“If the Church has taught wrongly that every marriage act must be open to the transmission of life, as the dissenters believe and teach and as the bishops, in effect allow – that is, if there is no necessary connection between the use of our human sexual faculties and the procreation and education of children in Christian marriage – then there is similarly no necessary connection between the use of these same sexual faculties and marriage itself: Sex need not be limited to marriage in other words.

Moreover by the same logic, the use of the sexual faculties for mere sexual satisfaction or expression need not be limited to actions between those of different sexes: sexual acts carried out on oneself or between people of the same sex cannot be excluded (if there is no necessary connection between sex and procreation). It all hangs together. Further, the same logic applies if we try to exclude sex between adults and children….” (Kenneth D. Whitehead, in latest Touchstone magazine)

If the R C Bishops only truly address the problem of priestly interference with minors then they are not facing the root cause. If the R C Church is to prosper and be true to herself as the Church of GOD in the USA, then she must not only officially teach the whole truth but her Bishops must do all in their power to implement that teaching. They must fear God much more than they fear the media or their own professorial & professional members.

I think that a parallel story can be told of the ECUSA, which also during the 1960s took major steps away from her heritage and continues to reap the bad fruit of the sowing of new seed then. Here again the bishops are a major part of the problem, for they have offered no apostolic leadership.

The Episcopal Church (as did the Lambeth Conference!) welcomed the arrival of birth control, but at the same time, not intentionally at first, absorbed the secular culture that went with it! So it was not long before all kinds of adjustments were being made to the doctrine of marriage, of sexual satisfaction therein and the like; the word “relationship” came into its own first to describe adulterous liaisons and then other (previously sinful) ones; divorce became common and so did remarriage in church; homosexual and lesbian persons saw their opportunity (if sex is for personal satisfaction and enhancement, why not for us as well…etc) and began their successful push for recognition as normal; male priests divorced and remarried; many incoming female clergy came in looking for a career after a divorce; falling membership in ECUSA was buttressed (a) by incoming Roman Catholics who because of marital problems did not feel welcome in their own church, and (b) lesbigay persons seeking a safe home; stories of interference with minors by clergy, organists etc increased and so checks on everybody who came anywhere near children began; and so on.

Merely to address the problem of the abuse of minors (which has to be addressed) or merely (as seems to be the current evangelical approach) to oppose the blessing of homosexual partnerships (which has to be opposed) will not solve any problems in the long term and it will not bring the Church in line with the will of God. Of course abusing children is wrong and so is active homosexuality, but so is (a) much if not most of the modern teaching on the meaning and purpose of marriage in terms of personal autonomy, satisfaction and fulfilment and (b) the present practice of divorce and remarriage of clergy and laity in the church. There has to be a fully positive agenda as well as a negative one in place!

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon