Thursday, January 31, 2002


The count down to the beginning of Lent continues.

We got off to a solid start last week, Septuagesima. In the Epistle we were taught that "it is never too late to be damned" even if one is an apostle (1 Cor.9:24ff); and in the Gospel we learned that that "it is never too late to be saved" by the mercy of the heavenly Father (the vineyard owner of the parable in Matthew 20:1ff).

Thus there is need for constant vigilance in the management of one's whole life before God, as well as for constant trust in the grace of the merciful Father, through Jesus Christ the Lord.

This week from the Epistle we learn more of the total consecration of the apostle Paul to his Lord and to his vocation and how much he suffered in body and soul for this commitment (2 Corinthians 9:19ff.). Thus we are provided with an example of what serving the Lord wholeheartedly could entail. In the count down to Lent and in Lent itself, through self-examination, we are to ascertain where we have failed in our consecration and to look for ways to intensify and enlarge our commitment to the Lord and his cause.

The Gospel (Luke 8:4-15) is the Parable of the Sower and the Seed. This provides a strong word of both warning and grace to us. God's Word is propagated and he desires that it be heard, received and obeyed. Yet only a few of us will actually prove to be persons in whom the Gospel truly bears fruit. Most of us will receive the Gospel but only partially or only alongside some other commitment. That is most of us will provide examples of how the power of the devil, temptation, the pressures of the secular world and our own innate sins push out the claims of the Gospel. This is why the churches are so morally and spiritually weak and why, where they seem to prosper, they are so worldly and conformed to secular value systems.

In the count down to Lent and in Lent there is time to repent and to become, by grace alone, those who hear the Word, engage in self-examination and go on to bear fruit for the Word.

The Collect is the prayer of those who have been led by their own fragile state and moral weakness to cast themselves wholly upon God's mercy.

"O Lord God, who seest that we put not our trust in anything that we do; Mercifully grant that by thy power we may be defended [by the protection of the Doctor of the Gentiles] against all adversity; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

(the words in square brackets were in the original Latin but omitted by Archbishop Cranmer in 1549)

See further the Eucharistic Lectionary contained in the editions of the classic Book of Common Prayer

The Rev'd Dr Peter Toon, Vice President of the American Prayer Book Society, January 31, 2002

Tuesday, January 22, 2002

Septuagesima is here again! Wonderful!

For those who follow the ancient Eucharistic Lectionary which is in the classic BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER (1549, 1662, 1928 -USA) the Sunday that falls three Sundays before the first Sunday in Lent is called SEPTUAGESIMA (Latin = 70th). It is followed by Sexagesima (60th) Quinquagesima (50th) and finally Quadragesima (40th). Ash Wednesday comes between Quinqagesima and Quadragesima.

It seems that in the Latin-speaking Church in the late sixth century the faithful were not content with the forty days of Lent (beginning on what we now call the First Sunday in Lent or what used to be called, Quadragesima) as a time of preparation for the right celebration of the Pasch [Easter]. It was not long enough! So they added as a preparation for Lent a period of three weeks and called the Sundays of these weeks (by analogy with Quadragesima), Quinquagesima, Sexagesima & Septuagesima because they were round numbers. Of course, only Quinquagesima is strictly accurate in mathematical terms for there is 50 days from the Sunday before Ash Wednesday to the end of Lent.

And then to make the number of days of Lent to be exactly 40 and not to include the Sundays in Lent (because they are celebrations of the
Resurrection) the beginning of Lent was fixed for what we now call Ash Wednesday. And because this period heralded the approach of Spring, the word Lent (meaning Spring) was used in northern Europe.

The Epistle [1 Cor 9:24ff.] and Gospel [Matt. 20:lff.] for Septuagesima have been used in the West since the sixth century. The late Monsignor Ronald Knox perceptively remarked that: "Septuagesima has an Epistle which warns us that it is never too late to be damned and a Gospel which tells us that it is never too late to be saved." (The Epistles & Gospels, p. 96). How right he was!

Let us look briefly at the Epistle and the Gospel.

1. In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 the apostle Paul makes use of illustrations from the athletic contest (Isthmian Games) and from boxing to make important points about the "running & disciplining of the Christian life." As the athlete must exercise self-discipline and be rightly focused in order to run for the prize, so also the authentic and committed Christian must exercise moral discipline and look constantly to the goal of his journey, the prize of being with the Lord Jesus Christ. Further, as the boxer is not to indulge in shadow-boxing or to throw punches aimlessly, but to make all punches count, so the Christian is to punch successfully, in this case not another but himself by constant moral and spiritual disciplinary blows.

In verse 27 he makes a very personal and profoundly challenging statement: "I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself
should be disqualified." So Knox wrote of an Epistle that warns us it is
never too late to be damned.

2. In Matthew 20:1-16 we read the Parable of the Vineyard and the Labourers and, though it presents a familiar picture of Jewish life, it is nevertheless full of surprises. The purpose of the parable is to teach how God receives people graciously into his kingdom.

The first surprise is that the employer himself (not a servant of his) goes down to the market square to recruit workers for his vineyard. And he does so not once but several times, hiring men at different times of the day.

The second surprise is that at the end of the day when the workers are paid the employer pays those whom he hired last a full day's pay. He is a generous employer.

And the third surprise is that we are told about the reaction of those who had worked all day and were paid the same as those who worked only part of the day. The answer to their complaint is that they were paid what they were promised and that this amount was good pay for a day's work.

This Parable is all about the grace of God who welcomes into his kingdom, under conditions which he alone sets, people of different kinds and achievements. To stand in the kingdom of God does not depend in any way at all on human merit but upon God's call and mercy, generosity and justice. God welcomes "late comers" as well as "early comers" into his kingdom. In the words of Knox, "it is never too late to be saved."

3. Conclusion. In terms of preparation for Lent, these two Bible readings proclaim to us two sides of the one divine coin of truth. On the one hand we cannot earn our way into God's kingdom for it is wholly and totally by grace and mercy. On the other hand, in the kingdom we are to live as befits servants of the King, that is disciplined, obedient, holy and righteous lives.

"I would not work my soul to save for that my Lord has done, but I would work like any slave for love of God's dear Son."

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon January 22nd 2002

Friday, January 18, 2002


In the Eucharistic Lectionary of "The Book of Common Prayer" (1662) for the Second Sunday after the Feast of the Epiphany is John 2:1-1. The American 1928 edition of the BCP has transferred this Gospel to the Third Sunday and made Mark 1:1-11 the Gospel for the Second Sunday. In 2002, due to the early arrival of Septuagesima John 2:1-11 will probably not be heard this year in those parishes which use the American 1928 Lectionary.

Certainly there was a marvellous Epiphany at the river Jordan after Jesus was baptized by John and this is why Mark 1:1-11 was chosen by the American revisers in the 1920s. The unique Sonship of Jesus was revealed and manifested by the Voice of the Father from heaven and by the descent of the Holy Ghost as a dove upon him.

What happened at Cana of Galilee after Jesus had been baptized, had spent 40 days in the wilderness and had called men to be his disciples is a further Epiphany, or shewing forth of his true identity and vocation.

As at the first Epiphany when the visiting Magi gazed upon the infant Jesus so now at this third Epiphany, the mother of Jesus is present. The scene is a Jewish home in Cana on a Saturday evening after the Sabbath had ended at dusk. There is a wedding feast to which Mary, Jesus and his band of disciples have been invited. Apparently, the band of disciples were not on the original guest list and so the wine intended only for a small reception did not last long!

Mary is conscious of the embarrassment of her friends, the hosts, and instinctively looks to Jesus for help. What kind of help he could provide she probably did not know, but help she knew was required. And so she bluntly tells him that "they have not any wine."

Jesus speaks to his mother in a way which, both in the Greek of the New Testament and in English translation, sounds harsh. Yet Mary did not seem bothered by that reply and proceeded to say to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you." In fact Jesus used a Semitic idiom (see 2 Samuel 16:10; Mark 5:7 & Luke 8:28) and form of speech which expresses a desire to be left in peace and is not either harsh or rude.

"Woman, what I have to do with thee?" is best rendered as "Do not interfere with me, mother." And then the reason why this should be so is given, "Mine hour [time] is not yet come." What we do not have is the tome of voice and the facial expression of Jesus which must have been reassuring to Mary.

"Mine hour" or "my time" is a reference to the doing of the Father's will that will be fulfilled and completed by his death and subsequent glorification, which is the true "hour/time". Until that future moment his actions are signs of what is to be and his words are parables of what is to be. Thus what Jesus is really saying is that he is a man under the authority of his heavenly Father and he can only act at Cana in accordance with the will of his Father. He can only help the hosts if the Father directs him so to do.

And the Father directed him to act and to do so in a way that even Mary his beloved mother did not envisage. In what he did for those folks, Jesus also provided an Epiphany, a shewing forth of his true identity, as the Only-Begotten Son of the Father made man.

For this act of compassion and SIGN of his identity, Jesus made use of the six stone waterpots - now nearly empty - provided for the washing of the hands of the guests at the feast. He ordered the waiters at the feast to fill the six jars to the brim with water. When they had done so he asked one of them to pour out some "water" from one of the jars and take it to the head waiter for him to taste. He was most impressed with what he tasted and said to the bridegroom, "Every man serves the good wine first and the inferior wine when they are drunk; but you have kept the good wine until the present moment!"

The immense amount of water in the large stone pots that was turned into wine points to the fullness of life provided by the Gospel of the Father. And the statement of the head waiter that the new wine is better than the old points to the superiority of the Gospel era/New Covenant to that of the Law/ Old Covenant.

In the Fourth Gospel the revealing, redeeming and compassionate actions/miracles of Jesus are consistently named "signs" (2:23; 4:54; 6:2,14,26; 7:31; 9:16; 10:41; 11:47; 12:18,37; 20:30).

Those who to whom the true identity of Jesus has been manifested must choose how they respond to the One who is the Incarnate Son of God, Saviour of the world, the Lord of lords and the King of kings. Mary's word is thus
apposite: "Whatever HE tells you to do, do it!"

The Rev'd Dr Peter Toon January 17, 2002

Saturday, January 12, 2002

Epiphany 1 The Incarnate Son shews forth & manifests the relation of the Father & the Son

In the Eucharistic Lectionary of the classic Book of Common Prayer the Gospel for the first Sunday after the Feast of the Epiphany is Luke 2:41-52.

This is the account of the visit of Jesus, at the age of 12, with his parents, Mary & Joseph, to the Feast of the Passover at the Temple in Jerusalem. It was his first visit there since the Presentation when he was an infant. But now having reached the age of maturity in Judaism, Jesus makes his first visit to a Festival in the Temple. The Law prescribed that Jewish males should attend three Festivals each year: Passover, Pentecost & Tabernacles (see Deuteronomy 16:16). However, it had become normal for those from outlying areas to attend only one, usually the Passover. Mary went out of godly piety for she was not required by the Law to go.

He went up taken by his parents in the caravan [large group journeying together] that traveled from Nazareth to Jerusalem. It was common for the women to travel together with the children and the men separately. As they approached Jerusalem we can imagine them singing the "Songs of Degrees" (Psalms 120-134). In Jerusalem, the men and women would be separated and in different accommodations.

When the time came for the caravan to begin its return journey, Mary assumed that Jesus was with the men and Joseph presumed he was with his mother. But Jesus was on one of the terraces in the Temple listening to the leaders of the Jews from the Sanhedrin who offered teaching and answered questions. So it was only when Joseph and Mary were well into the journey that they discovered that Jesus was not with them and they returned immediately to Jerusalem to find him.

They found him in the Temple participating in the informal teaching sessions held there at the latter part of the Festival. And further, they found that he had caused something of a minor sensation as a young man because of the depth of his understanding of the Law and the Prophets revealed in his questions to the teachers of the Jews.

Mary obviously remembered very well the short conversation that she had with Jesus when they found him there. From here Luke received it and put it into his Gospel.

Both relieved and annoyed, Mary asked Jesus: "Son, who have you treated us so? Behold your father and I have been looking for you anxiously."

In his reply Jesus expresses surprise that his parents did not know WHERE to find him. His reply obviously surprised her and Joseph: " How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house [or engaged in my Father's business]?"

"Where should a child be but in his father's house? And my Father is GOD!" is what he says.

This question and statement from the Twelve Year Old surprised them and at that moment they did not realize what he meant. But Mary who kept these words in her heart and pondered them understood them later.

It is notable that the first recorded words of the Messiah, the Incarnate Son, are an expression ( an epiphany) of his divine Sonship as Man.

We need to focus on the word "Son." Most certainly Jesus was Mary's Son, conceived in her womb, born from her body, suckled at her breasts. Yet Joseph was not his birth father, but his (gracious) adoptive father. Before his conception in the womb the babe whom Joseph named Jesus existed as the only-begotten Son of the Almighty Father, creator of heaven and earth.

Here in the Temple Jesus is conscious of his unique relation to the Father and thus he speaks in a manner that no Jew would normally speak, even when in the closest communion with God. "I must be [it is necessary that] in MY Father's house [or, engaged in his business]." This is a relation that is of a different kind than his being a son of Abraham and therefore a son of the God of Abraham.

Yet although it is a unique consciousness of a relation to God as "my father" it is still the consciousness of a twelve-year old and not a thirty-year old. For after this holy incident Luke tells us that "Jesus increased in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man." His consciousness of his unique relation was to grow and mature even as he grew and matured in his manhood. And this occurred as he lived under the Law of Moses and in obedience to his parents.

As readers of the Gospels we have to wait about 18 years for the next Epiphany - the manifestation of Jesus as the Incarnate Son at his Baptism by John in the river Jordan.

By faith we are to live in this age in the light and the power of the Epiphany, for what the Gospels record has occurred and the Lord Jesus Christ is enthroned at the right hand of the Father.

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon January 12 2002

Wednesday, January 09, 2002

Lambeth Palace confirms that Archbishop George will retire in October 2002
[a piece written for my American friends]

On Tuesday January 8 the BBC News announced that Lambeth Palace had confirmed that Dr George Carey, Archbishop of Canterbury, will retire at the end of October 2002. Then on Radio 4 it hosted discussions about whether the Church of England should be dis-established. The person who spoke against this was Dr Alistair McGrath of Wycliffe Hall, Oxford. Later on the evening news on the various TV Channels the same announcement was made with speculation as to who would succeed him.

The process of choosing a Bishop in the National and Established Church of England is very different from that in the Episcopal Church of the USA. The whole process is wrapped in secrecy and is ultimately the choice of the Queen on the advice of her Prime Minister. We recall that when it was announced that George Carey was to be the new Archbishop in 1991 most people were taken by surprise for they had not realized that he was even being considered.

The Prime Minister is provided with a short List of Names in a specific order by a Commission made up of senior bishops and lay persons from the General Synod of the Church of England. This Commission is committed to secrecy and its members do not comment after their meetings or share information with people outside the membership. On receiving the List the Prime Minister can reject all names thereon or put them in a different order. When he presents a name to the Queen she must as a constitutional monarch accept the advice of her Prime Minister. Only then is contact made with the person so named and accepted. And technically he has the right to say "no."

The persons considered by the Commission must fulfill the basic criteria as set forth in canon law for candidates for the epsicopate or they must be already bishops. We recall that Thomas Cranmer, editor of the first Book of Common Prayer, was an Oxford don and in priest's orders before being ordained and consecrated the archbishop of Canterbury. The criteria in English canon law prevent the appointment of priests or bishops from overseas unless they have been ordained and served in the Church of England.

The names being mentioned by the media and in the church press and by members of General Synod include the following. In providing them I must make the point that even as the appointment of George Carey was a complete surprise so may be that of the next archbishop.

It is possible that the commission and the Prime Minister will look for a man who is in favor of the ordination of women and who will be prepared to be the chief consecrator of the first woman bishop for the Church of England (say in 2005). They may also look for someone who will be supportive of the Anglican Communion of Churches and wish to be deeply involved in its oversight. But chiefly they will be choosing the diocesan bishop of the diocese of Canterbury (and not the equivalent of an ECUSA presiding bishop who has no diocese).

The Bishop of London, Richard Chartres.
He is a very capable and learned man but is regarded as less than an enthusiast for General Synod and its workings. Further, he is not supportive of women bishops.
The Bishop of Winchester, Michael Scott-Joynt.
He is a thoughtful and pastoral man, whose name has been attached to a controversial Study of Marriage Policy for the C of E. He favors the ordination of women.
The Bishop of Liverpool, James Jones.
He is an evangelical who is liked by the Prime Minister and he is supportive of women's ordination.
The Bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali.
He was a bishop in Pakistan before working in the Church of England. He is intellectually capable and is chairing the latest official Commission on Women Bishops. He is in favor of women's ordination. His appointment would make the C of E appear more multi-racial.
The Bishop of St Albans, Christopher Herbert.
He is very committed to women ' ordination and has a wide following.
The Archbishop of Wales, Rowan Williams.
He is a former Oxford Professor of Theology. He is very committed to the ordination of women.

We shall have to patient for six months or more, perhaps up to a year, to find out who it is that the Prime Minister chooses and the Queen approves.

The Revd Dr Peter Toon Jan 9 2002

Monday, January 07, 2002

[the ECUSA bishops will discuss "flying bishops" in March and FiF & AAC are talking of them. Here is my old friend Roger Beckwith on the topic]

Evangelicals, flying bishops and the future

R.T. Beckwith

Published from Oxford Comments, 310 Woodstock Road, Oxford OX2 7NR.

Evangelicals are not renowned for the important place in their thinking which they give to bishops. The local congregation and its pastor, with his traditional freehold, are much more central for them. In the local parish they can provide biblical teaching and worship as they think suitable, and can maintain fellowship with like-minded parishes elsewhere, in and out of the diocese. The role of the bishop is apt to be seen as just providing diocesan administration, especially of a financial sort, and making occasional visits to confirm adolescent and adult believers.

Such a long-range and intermittent relationship with the bishop is very different from the theological ideal, according to which the bishop, like the presbyter, is a pastor and teacher, and should be the chief pastor and teacher in his diocese. Both bishop and presbyter find their origin in the presbyter-bishop of the New Testament, and should be doing similar work to each other, co-operatively, even if in somewhat different spheres. The problem is that, with so many bishops and Evangelical clergy out of sympathy with one another because of their conflicting views, the bishop is often regarded by the incumbent as a threat more than a support, and close relations are consequently avoided.

The Anglo-Catholic incumbent sees the bishop in a rather different light. Since the Anglo-Catholic's primary concern is not for the ministry of the word but for the ministry of the sacraments, he can contemplate close relations even with a bishop of very different views, provided that he too ministers valid sacraments. With that proviso, he can fairly happily think of himself as the delegate in his parish of the diocesan bishop, and as a member of the bishop's team of clergy, working towards common goals throughout the diocese.

When, however, a bishop starts to ordain or license women priests, he is seen by the Anglo-Catholic as causing a schism in his diocesan team, by introducing among them those who will minister sacraments which are at the very least dubious, and quite possibly invalid. In the Anglo-Catholic's eyes, this is even more serious than false teaching, and causes him to look for a different bishop. The creation of the Provincial Episcopal Visitors (PEVs), popularly called 'Flying Bishops', under the 1993 Act of Synod has been a response to this quest, and since the PEVs appointed have all up to now been Anglo-Catholics, Anglo-Catholic clergy have naturally developed a very close relationship with them, closer indeed than they may ever have known with a bishop before. Busy though the PEVs have undoubtedly been, it has been a business with pastoral work, since they have not been burdened with diocesan administration, and this has maximized their close relation with their clergy and parishes.

Evangelical Difficulties

Evangelicals, however, have had a threefold difficulty in availing themselves of the ministry of the PEVs, despite the generous willingness of the PEVs to provide it.

The first difficulty has been the characteristic Evangelical attitude of wanting to keep bishops at long distance, and to run the work of the parish with a minimum of intervention from outside.

The second difficulty has been the hesitancy of Evangelical clergy to ask their parishes to pass the resolutions against the ministry of women priests, one or both of which is required by the Act of Synod to be passed before a request is made for alternative episcopal oversight. This hesitancy is due to the fact that even those many Evangelicals who consider the ordination of women as presbyters unbiblical would not regard it as the greatest problem facing the church, with homosexual activity and multi-faith worship being allowed and encouraged as well. To concentrate on the ordination of women would seem to show the lack of a due sense of proportion.

The third difficulty has been the fact that the existing PEVs, though excellent men, are all Anglo-Catholics, the repeated requests for an Evangelical PEV having been refused. Particularly in dioceses where the diocesan bishop is an Evangelical, sound in all respects except the ordination of women, an Evangelical parish would not be easily persuaded to ask for an Anglo-Catholic PEV instead.

But though Evangelicals have, with some exceptions, hesitated to avail themselves of the ministry of the PEVs, it is hardly possible for them to be satisfied with the status quo.

For one thing, to belong to an episcopal church but to shun the ministry of bishops is an inconsistency, which only exceptional circumstances could justify. If a bishop also is a teacher and pastor, parishes really need their bishop as well as their incumbent.

For a second thing, recent legislation has made it more important than ever for parishes to have the support of a friendly bishop. An unfriendly diocesan now has great power to interfere with the work of even strong parishes when a vacancy occurs. Under the Pastoral Measure he can suspend presentation and appoint a priest-in-charge of his own choosing; and under the Benefices Measure, even if he does not suspend presentation, he can veto the patron's and parish's choice of a new incumbent. It would be much more difficult for him to do either of these things, however, against the determimed opposition of a PEV.

And for a third thing, the repeated requests for an Evangelical PEV are tacit acknowledgement of the great benefit that this ministry has brought to Anglo-Catholics; and the desperate measures to which Evangelicals in the Newcastle and Worcester dioceses have recently been driven in the absence of any such provision (however justified in the circumstances those measures may have been) could not provide permanent solutions to the problem, except in terms of a further serious weakening of discipline and order, and might even lead to complete separation from tbe Church of England.

Necessary Developments

What, then, is the right way forward? Surely it is to work for a development of the ministry of PEVs, such as would provide for the needs of Evangelicals, without ceasing to provide for the needs of Anglo-Catholics. A development of what already exists is always easier to achieve than something completely new, and in this case the kinds of development needed are logical extensions, which ought not to be highly controversial. Regretfully, the cautious report of the Bishop of Blackburn's working party to the House of Bishops on the Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod, recently published, has not proposed any of these developments, and even what it has proposed has not been warmly received by those unfriendly to the Act of Synod; but that is no reason why Evangelicals, from quite outside the working party, should not propose them, or why the Archbishops (who appoint the PEVs) or the PEVs themselves should not sympathise with what they propose. Certainly, the Archbishops would rather see Evangelicals embracing the concept of PEVs in some form, than engaging any further in irregular ordinations or confirmations. And, to make this possible, as well as to give logical completeness and consistency to the concept of a PEV, the following proposals in particular would seem to be called for.

1. It would be logical to extend the duties of PEVs to all pastoral tasks performed by bishops, not only the confirmation of the laity (the task originally envisaged for PEVs) but also the selection of ordinands and the ordination and institution or licensing of the clergy. In some dioceses the PEVs already play a part, by permission, in selecting ordinands and in ordaining clergy, and though institution and licensing are at present witheld from them, there are insistent requests that within their constituency all these tasks should be conceded, and the Bishop of Blackburn's working party has made a slight move in this direction. The PEVs cannot ordain candidates without considering their suitability for ordination, or for the sphere where they hope to serve, so why should the diocesan bishop duplicate the PEV's role here? And the PEVs are the natural choice to institute or license clergy to the parishes in their care, especially clergy whom they have themselves ordained. From the parish's point of view, moreover, a parish needs to be able to relate to one and the same bishop on all pastoral matters.

2. It would be logical to extend the grounds on which parishes may request the ministry of a PEV from the fact that the diocesan bishop ordains women priests to the fact that he engages in other controversial forms of teaching and activity which are widely regarded by Anglicans as being in conflict with Holy Scripture, and which cause deep offence at the parochial level. Topical examples concern sexual morality and multi-faith worship. (One notes that it was homosexual permissiveness and not the ordination of women which motivated the appointment in January of "missionary bishops" for the USA by the Archbishops of Singapore and Rwanda). Frivolous or trivial objections to the diocesan bishop's ministry would of course be rejected. But sadly we live in a generation when the grounds for complaint about bishops are sometimes anything but frivolous or trivial. This extension of grounds would not prevent the parish, in appropriate cases, calling for the diocesan bishop's resignation, but it would take account of the fact that unorthodox bishops usually do not resign, even when called upon to do so by the two Archbishops (as in the case of the late Bishop E.W. Barnes of Birmingham).

3. It would be logical to provide that in future the parish's request for alternative episcopal oversight should be addressed not to the diocesan bishop (an interested party) but to the Archbishop, who would discuss it with one of his PEVs before deciding on his answer. (Technically, it would then not be "extended episcopal oversight", as it is officially called, but "extended archiepiscopal oversight", and at the same time "alternative episcopal oversight" - the popular name). The first and third of these proposals would put the PEVs on a parity with the diocesan bishops in all important pastoral matters, though administrative matters would remain for the present with the diocesan bishop. In the long run, and with sufficient back-up, the PEVs ought probably to be willing to take on administrative burdens as well, and the diocesan bishops ought to be willing to surrender them. The idea of the geographical integrity of dioceses, stressed once again by the Bishop of Blackburn's working party, is an obstacle to this, but the geographical integrity of dioceses is an entirely modern phenomenon in England (formerly dioceses often contained peculiars in the jurisdiction of bishops from elsewhere); and since the Archbishop commissions the PEV to work throughout his province, the PEV ought to be free to do so without constantly deferring to the local diocesan bishop. It should be borne in mind that the PEV is not a suffragan in the diocese of Canterbury or the diocese of York - he is a provincial suffragan, like a diocesan bishop, and ought to have the same degree of independence, subject always to his duty to the Archbishop.

4. It would be logical for the Archbishops to say publically (what has already been said privately) that, just as they have appointed Anglo-Catholic PEVs to minister to Anglo-Catholic parishes, so they woruld be willing to appoint PEVs of other schools of thought to minister to their own constituency, if there were sufficient demand for them from parishes. (We would then need to show that there is.)

These proposals could be discussed with others in the church working to promote alternative episcopal oversight (notably with the Third Province Movement and Forward in Faith) and then, hopefully, be put forward to the Archbishops with their support. It seems quite possible that the Archbishops, who are known to appreciate the ministry of the PEVs, would sympathise with all four proposals (though there would obviously be some in the General Synod and the Archbishops' Council who would not). The question of a third province belongs to the future, but these four modest proposals could be implemented, perhaps by amendments to the Act of Synod, straight away. With determination on the part of those making the proposals, and goodwill on the part of the authorities, they can be.


Sunday, January 06, 2002


A sermon for the Feast of the Epiphany -- Fr Louis Tarsitano of Savannah GA.

"Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; And to make all [men] see what [is] the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly [places] might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Ephesians 3:8-11).

This rather long quotation from St. Paul is necessary because Paul is attempting to express as a single complex thought the purposes of men, angels, the Church, and the world, as they all begin in the unified purpose or "intention" of Almighty God. All of the effort, all of the work, and all of the striving of every creature is rooted in the good will of God and in his wisdom, which St Paul calls "manifold" or "comprehensive and including all things."

All behavior on the part of any of God's creatures whatsoever is, thus, unavoidably connected to the will and wisdom of God. We can, however, without any effort at all, think immediately of all sorts of wicked, destructive behavior. We can see it all around us every day. This observation does not, nevertheless, disprove the derivative nature of all creaturely purposes from God's purpose. Rather, the evil behavior that we see confronts us with a hard fact-all behavior, including our own and that of those we love, is either undertaken in obedience to God's purpose or in rebellion against it.

There is not the least word, thought, or action that is "morally neutral," so that it can be regarded as separable from God's comprehensive purpose for creation. We both serve and praise God by every breath we take, or we fight against him. And if we fight against him, we will lose, and we will join Satan and every other rebellious creature in the abyss of hell. The irony of hell, of course, is that those who have insisted on their own loss and condemnation still praise God by their self-inflicted punishment. Their pain and their self-separation from everything good and decent still point to the grandeur and glory of God and demonstrate eternally that God's good will, his purpose, and his manifold wisdom cannot be changed or overcome. The damned still serve, despite themselves.

Now, St. Paul calls the fixed and changeless will of God, along with all of its workings out in his mighty acts and in the behavior of his creatures, a "mystery," but we have to understand that word as Paul meant it, and not in the careless way that we often use it today, as an excuse for not thinking about what we don't understand. In St. Paul's Greek, a "mystery" was a truth that could be known, but only if someone of greater wisdom revealed and taught it first. We find an echo of this old meaning of "mystery" in the modern "mystery story," where the detective is the person of superior wisdom who reveals the solution of a crime. The whole point of this sort of "mystery" is that the truth can be known, but only through wisdom and revelation.

St. Paul makes it very clear in his Epistle that the riches of Jesus Christ are "unsearchable" (Eph. 3:8). He means by this that no mere creature can discover on his own the glory of the Lord God in Jesus Christ. The purpose of God in Christ, which is the single, changeless eternal purpose of God in creation, cannot be discovered by any earthly means. Even in heaven, the greatest of the angels, which St. Paul calls "powers" and "principalities," as mere creatures, still do not possess the power to know the mind and purpose of God, since that common mind and singular purpose are the sole possession of the Blessed Trinity, of God the Father, and God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, in eternal unity.

And so we come to the remarkable event that we celebrate today-the Epiphany, or the Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles. The "gentiles" are all of the peoples and nations of the world not directly descended from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And on the day we commemorate, the wise men received on behalf of their fellow Gentiles the revelation that God had first given the angels and the Israelite shepherds and villagers on Christmas night.

An "epiphany" is a "showing forth," and in the Epiphany of Jesus Christ, God revealed the mystery of his eternal purpose in the face of his only-begotten and eternal Son made man. God himself, from within his manifold wisdom, revealed in the blessed Person of Jesus Christ (true God and true man) the divine Truth that ratifies all truth. All creatures exist for God's glory, and that glory is expressed in God's love for his creatures and in his creatures' response to that love with love, in obedience, in duty, in worship, and in awe.

So great is the love from within the Blessed Trinity for creation, that the Second Person of the Trinity entered the realm of creation by being made man, by the will of the Father, and by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary. God's purpose is to share the life, love, and unity of his own eternal existence with creatures, with mankind, made in his own image and likeness.

The revelation on the day of the Epiphany looks backwards and forwards. The life of Jesus Christ proves beyond a reasonable doubt that words and promises spoken by the Holy Ghost through the Prophets of the Old Testament are all true. The birth, life, preaching, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ prove that God's good will is towards all men in Jesus Christ, and that nothing in this world, nothing in our lives, is purposeless or random. God wills good for us, even if the whole world should hate us and inflict its worst cruelties upon us. We are secure in God made man for our salvation, come what may.

Moreover, what is coming is very good for those who love God by the grace made manifest at the Epiphany. Our Lord Jesus Christ is coming again to judge the quick and the dead on the Last Day, when all evil will be put down and shut away for ever. The earth and the heavens will be made new, and we will be resurrected from the dead as Jesus Christ rose again on Easter.

All of this splendor was in the face of the holy Child at the Epiphany, but God has made the now-revealed truth of his will even more explicit. He has revealed the details necessary to take us to the life of the world to come "unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit" (Eph. 3:5). The Old and the New Testaments of the Bible deliver to us, together, the ongoing Epiphany of God in his Son. Still today, those who open the Bible in grace and faith receive exactly what the shepherds and the wise men received-the Son of God made manifest in their lives for their salvation.

But the true Epiphany is never solitary or individualistic. Israelites and Gentiles alike received the Christ together, becoming one new people in God' s grace. We call that new people "the Church," from a word that means "those who serve in God's house." The New Testament generally calls this redeemed and recreated people in Jesus Christ "the ecclesia," those who have been called out of old lives for the new. And St. Paul uses a very special term today, when he calls the faithful united in Jesus Christ, sharing through him his fellowship with the Father and in the Holy Ghost, "the fellowship of the mystery" (Eph. 3:9).

We are a fellowship or communion of revealed truth, life, and purpose in Jesus Christ, or we are nothing-that is, we are still at war with God. If we live according to God's revealed truth, we will find that all our purposes have been replaced by God's purpose: "To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly [places] might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord." We are to teach angels and men by our love for God. We are to continue the work of the Epiphany by our own lives. And a life lived this way, whatever troubles we encounter, however we stumble in our weakness, is already the beginning of our eternal life, just as long as we maintain the fellowship of the mystery, and just as long as we continue to love God as he has loved us first.


The Revd. Dr. Peter Toon
Christ Church Rectory
Hot Lane, Biddulph Moor
Stoke-on-Trent ST8 7HP


O God [the Father], who by the leading of a star didst manifest thy only begotten Son to the Gentiles; Mercifully Grant that we, who know thee now by faith, may after this life have the fruition of thy glorious Godhead; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

[Note that this Collect is to be said daily throughout the Octave]

Epiphany means "showing forth" or "manifestation". God the Father manifested and showed forth His only begotten Son with/ in his human nature to the magi from the East. They came to worship this Son, the baby Jesus, whom they confessed as the King, the Messianic King of the Jews.

God had led these Gentiles by various means ( a star and Jewish prophecy) to Bethlehem where having been shown the boy King, they offered their kingly gifts of gold, incense and myrrh. They had desired and longed for communion with GOD and this was given to them as the Incarnate Son of God was showed and revealed to them. In and through the Son, God the Father almighty was made known to them.

Taking the content of Matthew 2:1ff. to heart as facts of divine providence, revelation and redemption, baptized Christian believers pray that God the Father will likewise grant to them - to us - a "showing forth" and a "manifestation" of himself and of that one Divinity/Deity/Godhead that he shares within the Blessed, Holy and Undivided Trinity with the Son and the Holy Ghost.

We ask God the Father in his great mercy that at the end of our present pilgrimage, wherein we know him by faith, we shall be given "the fruition" of his "glorious Godhead." We ask that we move from seeing by faith to a more profound means of knowing and seeing God.

It is by grace and mercy that we know God the Father through the Lord Jesus Christ by the Holy Ghost in this present evil age. We walk by faith in hope and with charity.

In hope we look for the resurrection of the dead and the glorious life of the age to come wherein we shall be totally and completely satisfied and ravished in our service of the Holy Trinity. We shall behold and enjoy with exceeding great joy the glory of the Father shown forth in the face of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Son.

Thus we shall have "the fruition of thy glorious Godhead." We shall have the immense, satisfying pleasure and joy of possessing by grace the beatific vision, the sight of the glory of the Father in all his majestic and pure divinity revealed by the Incarnate Son.

What was showed forth to the magi was glorious. What shall be showed to the saints in glory is and will be even more glorious.

We pray daily for 8 days for this heavenly Epiphany!

[ Note: The word "fruit" here bears the meaning of the experience of enjoyment --- e.g. of what is eaten as the produce of the tree or the bush or the plant. See a larger Dictionary.]

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon The Feast of the Epiphany 2002

[the letter inside the January parish magazine of CHRIST CHURCH, BIDDULPH MOOR. My 0.5 status means I shall have time to write if I can make enough to keep the rectory lit and warm….]

Dear Parishioners,

New Year Greetings in the name of Jesus, the Christ and the Lord.

Out of the window I can see snow on the ground, and for us this is the first sight of English snow for eleven years. On my many visits from the USA to the UK from 1990-2001 we do not recall seeing any snow. But it is a pretty sight.

It is good to be back in the Church of England again, where there is a level of sanity and orthodoxy which is absent from the Anglican Church in the USA (called The Episcopal Church). And it is very good to be in a parish where the classic Prayer Book, The Book of Common Prayer, is still in regular use. I am not against the use of dignified and biblically orthodox modern services; but, I do rejoice to use the great treasure of Christian doctrine, liturgy and piety, and also standard English, which is the Prayer Book of 1662.

It is also good (and exciting for me) to come to a parish that is called CHRIST CHURCH. This is a marvelous name for a building that is consecrated to the service, worship, adoration and praise of the Lord Jesus CHRIST.

Christ Church is the translation of the Latin, AEDES CHRISTI, and means “The Temple of Christ.” I cannot think of a better Name for a consecrated building (= church) than this. It is also the Name of the Cathedral in Oxford and since there is attached to the Cathedral a College, its name is also “Aedes Christi.” And this is my Oxford College from where in the mid 1970s I studied to obtain the Doctor of Philosophy degree.

I think that I need to explain that the Diocese of Lichfield has determined that this parish, Christ Church, Biddulph Moor, in terms of clergy work and stipend a 0.5 (or half-time parish). Thus do not be surprised if you see my helping out at another parish soon.

You may have seen me walking around the parish. I try to walk a mile or two most days of the week and I have been seeking to discover the many roads and lanes within the parish boundaries. Soon I hope to learn all the footpaths.

I would like to visit every person/family who is on the Electoral Roll and also any persons who are home-bound and would like me to visit. Please call me to tell me that I would be welcome – 513323. I am desirous to do this as soon as possible.

In a week or two, when we have got the Rectory sorted out you will be most welcome to knock on the door and pay us a visit. Vita and I will be glad to see you.

We all are most grateful to the Church Wardens, the Reader and others who have worked hard and long to keep this parish in good shape in the long period since the Rev’d Mr. McGuire left.

At the beginning of 2002, I would like to express my earnest desire & prayer that that you will find CHRIST CHURCH in Biddulph Moor a holy place where, by the presence and help of Almighty God, your spiritual and moral needs will be fulfilled.

The Rev’d Dr. Peter Toon

The Revd. Dr. Peter Toon
Christ Church Rectory
Hot Lane, Biddulph Moor
Stoke-on-Trent ST8 7HP

THE EPIPHANY -- Greek, TA EPIPHANIA [The Manifestation]

In the Western Church since the fourth century January 6 has been kept as “The Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles” in the person of the Magi [wise men from the East – see Matthew 2].

With this Festival we reach the Twelfth Day and the end of the Christmas Season.

The traditional Collect, Epistle and Gospel in the Western Church take up the theme of the visit of the wise men to Jesus and the supreme benefits brought to the Gentiles by the Incarnation of the only-begotten Son of the Father [see the Collect, Epistle and Gospel in the BCP of 1662 & 1928].

In contrast, in the Eastern Church the manifestation of the Son of God Incarnate to the world is associated with his own Baptism by John in the river Jordan and his first miracle [sign] at Cana in Galilee. Here it is kept as a major Festival, a Day of Lights, with the blessing of the waters.

As we are westerners let us stay within our tradition for January 6 and reap the great benefits associated with the right keeping of the Feast of the Epiphany. We can turn to meditation upon the Baptism of Christ in a week’s time.

Let us begin with the GOSPEL – Matthew 2:1-12. Perhaps we are tired of singing carols about the three kings or wise men! If so let us concentrate on the internal spiritual state of these visitors from afar who looked for God’s salvation in the land of the Jews.

“They rejoiced with exceeding great joy” at the culmination and completion of their long pilgrimage. They knew that they had reached the place where the baby King was to be found and they were overjoyed. Do we rejoice each time we recall and remember that the Incarnation of the only-begotten Son of the Father has truly occurred?

“They bowed down and worshipped him.” Though a babe, he was the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the Son of God in human nature/flesh and they as Gentiles recognized him as such and offered their adoration and worship. Do we, who are Gentiles, worship the Lord Jesus Christ as God each time we enter into a Sanctuary or do we treat him merely as a kind of super leader and saviour who is above us but not truly God incarnate?

Let us turn to the Epistle – Ephesians 3:1-12. Here the apostle Paul announces his commission to take the Gospel of the Father concerning his incarnate Son to the Gentile world. Further, he writes of what the offering of the whole Gospel to the Gentiles means, that they are actually and really fellow heirs with Jewish believers and members together of one Body. Do we take this great privilege of being made members of God’s People in the new covenant of grace for granted?

Let is turn finally to the Collect where there we pray that we shall be led by heavenly light on to “the fruition of thy glorious Godhead” even as the wise men were led by the star to experience the manifestation of the only begotten Son of the Father in Bethlehem. The end of the pilgrimage for the wise men was to see the face of the King of kings and to worship and adore. This manifestation from him to them of his glory and veiled divinity was the fruit of their long search.

Likewise, the end and fruit of the discipleship & pilgrimage of the people of God will be after the resurrection of the dead. And it will not be the open vision of the Blessed, Holy and Undivided Trinity [which even archangels cannot behold], but the sight of the all-glorious Father reflected in the face of the exalted incarnate Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, by the presence of the Holy Ghost. This will lead to adoration and worship and praise that is unceasing and perfect.

Is “fruition of thy glorious Godhead” the supreme goal and purpose of our lives? To partake in the Feast of the Epiphany is to claim that it ought to be, should be and is!

January 4, 2002 the Rev’d Dr Peter Toon

The Revd. Dr. Peter Toon
Christ Church Rectory
Hot Lane, Biddulph Moor
Stoke-on-Trent ST8 7HP

Tuesday, January 01, 2002

New Year’s Day 2002 – a Collect & Message

“O eternal Lord God, who has brought thy servants to the beginning of another year; Pardon, we humbly beseech thee, our transgressions in the past, and graciously abide with us all the days [of 2002 and] of our life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

This Collect is from the Proposed English [Deposited] Book of Common Prayer of 1928 and is found in The Shorter Prayer Book of 1946.

This prayer contains two general petitions which apply to every baptized Christian --- forgiveness for sins past and divine help through the divine presence for the present and future.

If we add to this Collect, the old English Collect for January lst, feast day of “The Circumcision of Christ”, then we give more content to the petition for divine assistance in 2002.

In this Collect we pray: “Grant us the true circumcision of the Spirit; that, our hearts and all our members, being mortified from all worldly and carnal lusts, we may in all things obey thy blessed will…”

It was Moses and the prophets of Israel who first talked and wrote of the “circumcision of the heart and mind” (see Deuteronomy 10:15-16; 30:6; Jeremiah 4:4; Ezekiel 36:26-27). They did not deny the need for the covenant sign of circumcision of the flesh for Jewish males, but they emphasized that with the fleshly went the spiritual. Circumcision of the heart pointed to inner repentance and a humbly and right response to and relation with God and applied to male and female.

The Apostle Paul took up the teaching of Moses and the prophets and wrote:

“It is not the outward Jew that is a Jew;
Nor is external, physical circumcision true circumcision:
He who is one inwardly is the (real) Jew:
And circumcision is of the mind, spiritual not literal" (Romans 2:28-29).

In the days of the New Covenant, inaugurated by the blood of Jesus the Christ, Paul teaches that what God the Father looks for is not an outward cutting of the flesh, for the law of the Lord is not to be seen as being fulfilled at this level. The circumcision that God now looks for is the circumcision of the heart, what the prophets had called for and thus something that applied to male and female, Jew and Gentile. And this spiritual and moral circumcision which involves the cutting away of all forms of sin and selfishness can only be achieved by the presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit and by his guidance and help.

In his Epistle to the Colossians the Apostle takes up the theme of TRUE circumcision again:

“In Christ you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands by putting off the body of flesh in the circumcision of Christ; and you were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead…” (Colossians 2:11-12).

In union with the Lord Jesus Christ through faith by the Holy Spirit and in Baptism, believers are circumcised in heart and mind. The old is put away the new is put on. However, in the Christian life, this newness has to be put on continually and the old put off continually. Thus Paul constantly calls for the mortifying of the evil thoughts and deeds of the body of flesh, an humble submission to Christ Jesus as Lord, and the worship of the Father of the Lord Jesus in spirit and in truth.

Thus to the church in Philippi he wrote: “We are the true circumcision, who worship God in spirit, and glory in Christ Jesus, and put no confidence in the flesh” (3:3).

Here, then, is the message for New Year’s Day. By union with Christ Jesus in Baptism you have been spiritually circumcised. Resolve to Renew that circumcision daily in your humble trusting, obeying and following of the Lord Jesus Christ.

New Year’s Eve 2001

The Revd. Dr. Peter Toon
Christ Church Rectory
Hot Lane, Biddulph Moor
Stoke-on-Trent ST8 7HP