Monday, September 30, 2002

Iraq, War, Peace & Prayer

"Give peace our time, O Lord;
Because there is none other that fighteth for us, but only thou, O God." [Mattins]

The talk of possible or impending war is daily discussed in the media and especially in that of the USA and Great Britain.

There is growing genuine disagreement between well-informed and well-intentioned people not only as to whether or not there should be a war against Iraq but also by whose decision such a war should be declared.

All agree that the government of Iraq has flagrantly disregarded and disobeyed resolutions of the UN over a decade and more. All agree that this government has committed many terrible deeds against its own people and other countries. Yet all do not agree that invasion of the country, removal of its government, destruction of its weaponry, and the installation of a new government is a clear duty for either the UN or for the USA and any allies. Yet most agree that the Weapons' Inspectors should go in and get on with their work.

Those advising President Bush seem to have a vision of the world that will only become a decent place if and only if it is made in the image of American democracy and capitalism. Thus for them this glorious end justifies the means. To bring about this state of affairs for the good of mankind, intermediate acts that disregard human rights, fall below the best standards and appear unjust or cruel may be necessary - such as holding prisoners without trial & the loss of innocent life in the war against supposed terrorism.

Motives ascribed to the Bush administration for its war talk on Iraq include the following: to put in place a government that thinks and acts like a good American government; to remove a source of chemical & biological agents being used for terrorism; to eliminate any nuclear devises; to gain control of 11% of the oil resources of the world and guarantee future supply of it to the western world; to eliminate the major enemy of Israel, the friend of the USA; to be in place to handle Saudi Arabia if it descends into internal disruption & anarchy and to ensure the oil supply from there for the future.

Whether public opinion & the Congress in the USA will allow the Bush administration to go ahead with its war plans and do so alone is difficult to assess right now. It seems that they will do so if and only if there is at least some partial endorsement by the UN. Certainly it looks more and more in Great Britain that involvement in any such war by her forces will only take place if there is some minimal UN approval for it.

Those who think that the Bush administration is much too influenced by one kind of think-tank and ideology and who want the greatest pressure to be put on Iraq by the UN for the immediate future, insist that time be given to allow the Inspectors to do their job and if in the end they are not able to do it thoroughly, then it be decided then and only then what to do. They fear that war [or heavy threat of war] will cause more problems than it solve - it will ensure that the outgoing government, having little regard for its own people, does as much damage as it can when attacked, that means of mass destruction get immediately into the hands of terrorists who are standing by to receive them, that oil wells are set on fire, that many thousands of innocent people die, that a whole region will be destabilized, that the economy of the world will be greatly disturbed; that Israel may be pressured to use atomic bombs; that the cleaning up operation will be ten times more difficult than in Afghanistan (which remains very unstable) and so on. Further, they point out that USA policy is not even-handed in the Middle East for it turns a blind eye to the non-compliance with UN resolutions of Israel.

What is particularly troubling to thinking Christians is the naivete of (a) liberal church leaders who speak of peace without due regard to justice and the containment of evil, and (b) evangelical preachers who judge and pronounce upon the events in the Middle East on the basis of their subjective interpretation of difficult passages of OT & NT prophecy and apocalyptic, which they read as a kind of right-wing manifesto.

We are called upon to pray fervently for the leaders of the nations that they will be inwardly moved to desire and work for those things that in the providence of God lead us out of the threat of war and into some state of affairs where there is the possibility of a peaceful resolution to the present crisis. "Give peace in our time, O 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

Sunday, September 29, 2002

Thank you

While the expression "thank-you-ma'am" (= a bump or depression in the road) has not entered the language of public prayer and worship, the shorter expression, "thank you" did so, and at least from the beginning of the 20th century.

In fact the use of "thank you" addressed to God in some prayers, choruses and children's hymns existed alongside the strict rule [in place until the 1960s] of, "We say, 'Thou, Thee' to God and 'you' to man" (originally framed by John Wesley as a grammatical rule for schoolchildren).

Why is this?

"Thank you" is a shortened form of "I thank you" and it has been around as such in English usage for a very long time, since the middle ages. So by 1900 it was an expression that had lost its original verbal structure and functioned as an appreciative way of giving thanks to someone. The "you" had no particular stress and was not thought of as singular, plural or distinctive.

Thus singing or praying, "Thank you God for everything," or "Thank you, Lord, for saving my soul" was a simple, idiomatic modification of the Wesleyan principle and was, clearly, natural and authentic.

The move to saying, "I thank you, God, for everything," was not simple or natural or authentic. It was revolutionary when it occurred in the 1960s in the public prayer and liturgies of the major Churches, from Roman Catholic to Southern Baptist. Never before had the "You-God" been addressed in public worship.

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

Saturday, September 28, 2002

Catholic Philosopher Jean-Luc Marion Points to Nihilism

(I commend to you the thoughts of this distinguished Christian philospher on an important topic --P.T.)

TRENT, Italy, SEPT. 27, 2002 ( Jean-Luc Marion, professor of philosophy at the Sorbonne in Paris, is the father of the so-called phenomenology of gift and a respected Catholic thinker.

Here, Marion reflects on the theme of the congress that brought him to Italy
recently: "Between Religion and Non-Religion: Fundamentalism and Indifference."

Q: Can fundamentalism and religious indifference be regarded as two sides of the same coin?

Marion: From my perspective, this coin is nihilism. The question is, if faith is a product made up by us, for our use and consumption or, instead, as I believe, if our recognition of a fact is stronger than we are, independent of us.

Q: How can one emerge from the morass of religious indifference and fundamentalism?

Marion: If religion is reduced to our own knowledge, we would only be able to choose between indifference and fundamentalism. We would use religion as a means of personal gratification, of self-identification.

Instead, if we conceive religion as a RELATION, then this implies experience -- perhaps even suffered -- of otherness; as revelation begins on the other side of the world, by the distant One who comes close to me. I cannot use it as a means of self-identification. In Christianity, the Other is the most distant Father, who existed long before me.

In sum, I think that revelation is the antidote for the double illusion of fundamentalism and indifference.

Q: But the problem arises when the other closes himself, as is typical of fundamentalism. Is it not illusory to seek an opening in the other when we meet only with blind opposition?

Marion: I think the first problem is not in opening up to those who are closed, but in the risk of our becoming as closed as they are. The first difficulty is not to convert others but that we not behave as they do. It is easy in these times to transform the other, regarding him as a "thinking object." Instead, we must experience fraternity, beginning with the experience of the otherness of God.

And what does this mean? I was able to ask myself. Even if we are very different, this difference between us men is much smaller that the greatness of God in relation to us. Our common Father is much greater than all our great differences.

Q: What contribution can philosophy make to spirituality?

Marion: I think spirituality can give more to philosophy than what philosophy can give. For example, the very concepts of otherness or of gazing do not belong to metaphysics.

Q: You are famous for your book on the phenomenology of gift, and now you will publish in France a new text on the philosophy of love. Can you tell us something about your latest research?

Marion: The principal idea is that love is not a secondary, peripheral determination of human experience, but the center. We must review, from its origin, the definition of the subjectivity of love.

In the history of metaphysics, I think in Descartes or in Hegel, the first definition of man was elaborated on the basis of the concept of knowledge of the object. The experience of feeling and of love was studied later. I think that the first question we must ask ourselves is not "what can I know in truth?" but rather "Is there someone who loves me?" This is the first question.

Q: You stress the centrality of love, despite the crisis of Western thought that still seems to be mired in the void of a nihilist crisis. Could your philosophical perspective be judged as too optimistic in relation to the historical facts and the report of events?

Marion: Optimism and pessimism are categories for imbeciles, Georges Bernanos said. Nihilism is the result of a crisis that has its origin in the definition of philosophy beginning with knowledge.

Instead, I think that the initial element of philosophy is included in its own name, it is the "desire to know." Why do we have this need? Well, precisely because we have a need to love! By definition, philosophy is a question arising from the desire to love.

To overcome nihilism, the only way open is to return, beyond knowledge, to the desire to know, the love of learning. Therefore, we must ask ourselves about the meaning of our first need to love and desire.

Q: This meeting held in a castle in northeastern Italy, has remained enveloped in mist. What is the mist that impedes contemporary man from confronting truth?

Marion: Fear of fear. We are very afraid. We all feel the weight of our culpability, of our fear. We are convinced that we have lost, although we do not know what it is that we have lost. But we are convinced that the game is over.

Q: What can help us to overcome this fear?

Marion: The only force to overcome the force of fear is the experience of being loved. The only remedy that contemporary man has to overcome fear and despair is to understand that we alone cannot give ourselves hope. ZE02092722

Friday, September 27, 2002

The divorce culture, its mindset and implications

A short meditation

Since the 1970s I have been watching the development of the divorce culture of the West and in the USA particularly. In the latter especially because there it has been absorbed by many of those [who constitute millions] who call themselves biblical and orthodox and evangelical and charismatic – as well, of course, as those who are liberals.

A long time ago I organized seminars and conferences in Oxford University for the study of revival and church growth and not a few of the big names in these areas came from America and several of them stayed with me. In two of them (very well known persons) I noticed a major change in their approach to the nature of marriage and morality from one year to another and then I realized that in both cases their children had been divorced and remarried and they were having to accommodate to this fact and it was painful and embarrassing. One immediate sign was that they talked of the ideal of one man and one woman in a one flesh union for life and avoided their previous [strong] talk of the commandment of God for such! (Another friend of mine who became a distinguished professor at Fuller Seminary has recently written in favour of blessing faithful homosexual partnerships based on the rights given to divorced people to remarry.)

Then when I lived in the USA from 1990 I noticed that the experience of divorce and remarriage caused many of those directly and indirectly involved to feel obliged to begin to approve various expressions of a lowered standard of morality, doctrine and forms of expression in other areas of life . Why? I guess not to be accused by themselves or by others of being judgmental. In other words, what they knew in their minds objectively to be that which is good and right and true, they were not able always fully to support because they felt that they had themselves failed and been given a new start and so did not want to be judgmental. So they gave support to a less-than-excellent standard. And of course different personalities expressed this in different ways, with varying levels of emotion.

I also noticed that the fact of a 40 percent divorce and remarriage rate in the churches and amongst clergy was rarely spoken about openly. Not a taboo but generally there was a general consent not to mention it except when really necessary. So it was taken off the table and discussions of doctrine and morality proceeded as if this powerful culture did not exist and was not affecting many of those who sat at table. Further, it was seen not as a doctrinal but as a psychotherapy problem and so entered quietly the massive field on non-judgmental counselling. At the same time serious attention was given to the care of children affected by the family upheavals; yet, sadly, this did not always work out into good mental health.

Yet, even though it is rarely mentioned, the discussion at the table is deeply affected by it because those who are obliged to support the divorce culture due to their personal participation in it (or via family) are influenced by this reality and instinctively feel a need to justify it or themselves or both. I do not say that they engage in justification in obvious ways; but rather, in supporting other things that dumb down standards they therefore in a general way give a kind of blanket approval to lowered standards that undergird the divorce culture. In particular they tend to support experiental religion in “community” where there is much emphasis either by ceremonial or by music or both on the feelings and coming to feel good about oneself, God, relationships, one’s partner and friends.

One exception to the rule of dumbing down seems to be – in evangelical circles - that there is little toleration for homosexual activity. This is strange because one of the reasons why the homosexual lobby has advanced in society & the churches is that it has appealed much to the divorce culture and said, “If you can exchange partners to achieve happiness and self-esteem why can’t we do our own thing?”

I think that one reason for the special attention being given by the conservative end of the divorce culture to opposition of the claimed rights of homosexual persons is that these supposed rights come too close to the claimed (and generally approved) rights of divorced and remarried persons [e.g., the right to personal happiness and personal fulfilment and the right to a second and third chance if the first fails etc.] and so they have to be silenced. Thus the arguments used against homosexuality are primarily at the level of biology, that it is the male and female bodies are made to fit together in sexual union (with scriptural verses added). And the case is made (as it has been recently over New Westminster) that homosexual acts are somehow more sinful than illicit heterosexual ones because only the latter are truly natural.

If those who are against the homosexual acts were to argue for chastity and that there is no automatic right given unto any of us for personal happiness, personal, realization and the like, then this would also be an argument against much of the foundation of the divorce culture. So it is rarely used.

In short, I think that when churches are so deeply involved in the divorce culture and are using primarily psycotherapeutical means to deal with it, then their whole ability to worship God aright, to create and understand doctrine, and to exercise discipline is deeply affected in negative ways (even if not perceived as such). They are in serious danger of engaging in much self-deception and of thinking that their experientialism is experience of the living God and that their search for self-esteem and self-fulfilment is sanctification.

I submit that the Episcopal Church could never have gone so quickly (1965 onwards) towards the denial of historic doctrine and morality had it not been a church which had by the 1960s absorbed the divorce culture and maintained this union through the decades. Thousands have entered the ECUSA in the last two decades from R Catholicism because there is a welcome for divorced and remarried persons in ECUSA and ready admittance to the “Eucharist”. There is little or no marital discipline in the ECUSA these days and this is celebrated as human freedom.

And this general spiritual disease affects all of us, however far we distance ourselves from the main-line/old line churches, and whether we participate in the divorce culture directly or not. Dumbing down because of it is the way things seem to be and look like being for a long time yet for all of us.

Regrettably the Church of England seems all geared up to follow after the ECUSA!

Thanks be to GOD that He is merciful and compassionate and in his justice remembers mercy!

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

Interview with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey

ACNS 3146 - AUSTRALIA - 26 September 2002

For broadcast on "The Religion Report", Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 25 September 2002

Stephen Crittenden: Dr Carey, thanks for taking the time to join us. In your speech the other day, you appealed for unity and said you feared the fragmentation of the worldwide Anglican communion. You seemed pretty pessimistic. Is some kind of schism between liberals and traditionalists in the church a real possibility at this time?

Archbishop Carey: Well look, no, I'm certainly not pessimistic. In my time as Archbishop of Canterbury I've seen a growing sense of unity and mission. And here at our Anglican Consultative Council we have many reports of growth and great encouragement. What I think, Stephen, I'm trying to do, is to alert people to potential problems. And so in my warnings I was pointing to a number of incidents around the communion that could undermine our growing sense of communion - of becoming a global communion. So that's why I pointed to New Westminster in Canada, to incidents in the United States, and Sydney itself.

SC: Well let's take up this particular incident in Canada, where the Bishop of New Westminster, Bishop Michael Ingham, has decided to allow the blessing of same-sex unions. Now, Bishop Ingham has subsequently replied to your speech, saying your criticisms were "inappropriate", "oversimplified" and that you did a "great disservice to truth". That's a surprisingly direct and heated response!

GC: Yes, it was really, and I was sad he didn't have an opportunity to come and talk to me about his concerns. But my response to him will take the following form: first of all I had to refer to him and his diocese by name - otherwise there was no way of people understanding what I was describing. Secondly, that I do regard what is happening in New Westminster as a very serious problem for the communion if we don't address it. For example, he says he has had regard - due regard - for the rest of us, but in fact he hasn't. He hasn't spoken to me about it, and I'm one of the key points of unity in the communion. He hasn't referred it to the primates' meeting. You see, in other words, he hasn't really consulted. Secondly, the issue of blessing raises major questions about marriage itself. It undermines -

SC: Well can I take up this question of consultation. He says his synod has been pushing him in this direction over a number of years, that his decision has only come after a long and cautious process, that he has been consultative. Does he have any choice BUT to respond to the synod and the people who've elected him, in the end?

GC: No, because as a bishop in the church he has a wider responsibility. The church appoints him to a ministry like this. He's accountable as a bishop to guard the faith, and so I think he's oversimplified it himself. He's not simply accountable to his people. Indeed, I think he's been a bit of an evangelist on this issue. He's been pushing the issue, and my warning to him is that he must consult. And I'm hoping that he might do this and take this to his House of Bishops when it meets in two weeks time. I'm hoping the House of Bishops in Canada will try to draw him back from this decision. Whether it can, I don't know.

SC: On the theological side of the issue, same-sex marriages have been introduced in a number of countries in northern Europe - perhaps they're even on the cards in New Zealand. Here in Australia, two of our four political parties at a federal level are now led by gay men. Even the military seems able to come to terms with same-sex relationships. Is the church basically holding out against an unstoppable tide?

GC: What I'd say about that is that we must respect homosexuals in the church. I've got many homosexual friends, the issue is not in any way a homophobic reaction on my part. There's a tenderness, a deep desire to understand, and to draw them into the fellowship. What I think is that we in the church - and especially I as an Archbishop - I'm responsible for maintaining our rules, and making sure we hold to unity in the Body of Christ. Now, I'd want to put it this way: If a person says to me, what is the largest mammal in the world - it's got big ears and a long nose? I would say it sounds very much like an elephant to me. If someone talks about union, fidelity, a monogamous relationship, love, blessing, I would say it sounds like marriage to me. And blessing, you see, I think is undermining our sacrament of marriage. That's why the issue is a theological one, and it's not a minor matter in the hierarchy of Christian truth. That's why it's important. But that's why, also, we must listen to one another. Homosexuals matter. We want to hear their voice in the church - that's what the Lambeth Conference said in 1998 - and I'm anxious to maintain that unity while we listen to one another. But what we mustn't do is to rush ahead of a decision that belongs to us all.

SC: You've also been critical of the Diocese of Sydney over the issue of lay presidency. Can I put it to you that, in fact, that's a far more substantial issue - it actually has the capacity to shake the very foundations upon which Anglicanism is built, to undermine the whole idea of priesthood, and indeed to demolish that whole flank of Anglicanism which it holds in common with the Catholic Church.

GC: Well, let me put it this way on that issue, that I'm very conscious about Sydney, and if it goes ahead with lay presidency. I've been in touch with Archbishop Peter Jensen, and let me say I respect his view on this very much indeed. Sydney is a strong diocese. Its commitment to social welfare is second to none, I respect it as a diocese. It is, as you say, Stephen, a very important issue, and it could undermine ecumenical relationships - undermine our notion of what it is to be a church that is Reformed and Catholic. I wouldn't want to, though, in terms of the hierarchy of truths, say it's a more serious problem than New Westminster. Both these issues are important, they're different in kind. And I think my motion, that I want to present later today, which talks about "interdependence", I think hits both issues, and so there's an evenness, an even- handedness about it.

SC: There is a tension here, isn't there, between an appeal to the universal church - to unity - and then the contrary impulse which is the local impulse?

GC: Absolutely. We've got to hold on to both, you see. And it's important for Sydney to listen to these concerns. I don't know much about this, but I would imagine that the issue of lay presidency is driven by a concern to deepen the faith, to share together, to develop new congregations -

SC: And to do away with anything that smacks of the Mass?

GC: Well, that could well be, and therefore it's anti-Catholic. And if it's anti- tradition, then it does undermine the way we have traditionally perceived being a church which at the Reformation didn't toss out the baby with the bath water. That is, I fear, what Sydney may be doing. But the other issue of homosexuality is equally important. What we've got to do, is to find ways of handling disagreement in a loving Christian way.

SC: You've raised the Reformation. The Sydney diocese is involved in a debate over the nature of Anglicanism, in fact, which goes way back to your predecessor Thomas Cranmer, who I suppose was a bit of a "proto-Calvinist". The question I've had stored up that I've always wanted to ask you: I know that you're pretty evangelical in your own views, but I don't know how important Calvinism was in your own formation. My question is: What does Calvinism have to offer in the 21st century?

GC: Well I am not a Calvinist, and wouldn't want to go along with that, and I'm not quite sure if Cranmer was a full-bodied Calvinist himself. I think what Calvinism may offer us is that God's in charge of his world. But I don't think God is the kind of God who predetermines us to destruction, Hades, or eternal life. I mean he's compassionate - that's why I suppose I'm a bit of an Arminian as well as balancing that with Calvinism. God loves us all, wants us all to share his kingdom, has a role for us all. And what we have to do in the church today is to look out at a very needy world, seek to serve it, and to show that unity we have in Jesus Christ.

SC: Archbishop Carey, what do you look back on as your great achievement in your time as Archbishop of Canterbury?

GC: Well I want other people to judge that, it's not for me to do so. I mean can look back with great pleasure on what has happened in Sudan, and our commitment to people who are persecuted in that kind of way. I think in my own country, at the way we've seen through the ordination of women to the priesthood, which I'm delighted about, and that will move on to another level before very long. We've coped with a huge financial crisis in the Church of England, Stephen, in 1992. I think we've been able to reform our structures in such a way to ensure this never happens again, and we've brought together policy and money - which I can tell you in the Church of England is quite a big thing to do. On the inter-faith level, Stephen, I've put a lot of energy into that in recent years, especially over the last year since September 11 - trying to understand Islam, and trying to make sure that we listen to one another there. And that without in any way reneging to our commitment to mission and so on, to find out what we have in common for the sake of our world.

SC: I was very interested to hear that the dialogue with Muslims was actually underwritten by the British government. That's very interesting.

GC: Well that was post September 11, when I had a call from the Prime Minister asking if I could take some initiatives in this area to convene an international scholarly seminar between Muslims and Christians, which we did at Lambeth Palace in January. And it's now going on to a second phase, when a Muslim government in Qatar - the Emir of Qatar - is organising the next one, next April. My successor, Rowan Williams, will of course be involved in that. This is very good, this is governments realising that religion must be part of the answer, as well as part of the problem, as it often is. We've got to find ways of confronting the issues that divide - and at the heart of cultural issues, you often find religious.

SC: Your successor, Rowan Williams, is not a member of the established Church of England, he's part of the dis-established Church in Wales. Are we likely do you think - and would you like to see, a move towards the dis-establishment of the Church of England? Which after all, must look stranger and stranger in a multicultural Britain, to have the Prime Minister of Great Britain approve the next Archbishop of Canterbury?

GC: Well the issue of establishment, of course, is a moving target. It's changed a lot over the last hundred years, and no doubt will change further. I'm on record as being understood to be a supporter of a reformed establishment, in which other Christian denominations, and other faiths, play a major part. But there's no great desire in England to do anything like that at the present moment. And other faiths actually do appreciate the enormous role that the Church of England plays in representing them.

SC: Do you think that the next coronation will be a very different affair from the last one?

GC: Well it will be, obviously. We've got to take into account a changed England, and that of course goes without saying.

SC: Would you like to see some kind of ecumenical service?

GC: Well it will be definitely ecumenical, I'm sure, when the time comes. It won't be part of my responsibility, but it will be the Archbishop of Canterbury's, whoever's in charge then, whoever is the Archbishop of Canterbury will obviously have a very significant role in formulating that service.

SC: Could I turn, finally, to the momentous events in the Middle East, where the Anglican Church has a long history. The Christian churches have spoken out against another war on Iraq with almost one voice. Public opinion in Britain, and in Australia, is strongly opposed. What do you think about the way that the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, has been trying to talk the British public into the war?

GC: I think Tony Blair has been trying to help the American government to realise that an isolationist policy is doomed. Reading between the lines, I think he's been playing his cards very skillfully. But as you have intimated, I am among those who would be very wary of any military action in the light of Saddam Hussein's willingness to allow the weapons inspectors to go in. I see no grounds whatsoever for taking any military action. It will undermine - well, I think it would deepen the crisis of terrorism in the world. I think it would be a shocking thing if the Americans went in on their own without the backing of the United Nations, and we need to be convinced that Saddam Hussein actually poses a real threat.

SC: Over the past week we have heard the United States President, George W. Bush, disparagingly compare the United Nations with the League of Nations. At the weekend, we saw the emergence of what seems to be a new American doctrine, which says that America has no intention of ever relinquishing its military pre-eminence. Now, the international community has spent 50 years trying to develop a co-operative framework of law to overcome the old framework of militarism. Is America coming close to junking all that hard work?

GC: All I do is refer to the sermon I preached on September 11 in New York - that even though America has the might, and has the means, what I think constitutes a great nation is the moral quality to say, even though we have the might and the means to do this, we have to take into account what should be done, what ought to be done as a great nation. And I hope America will realise as the only superpower now, it really must use its power in a way that's going to build up the world, and to support the United Nations. So that would be my response.

SC: Just finally, Dr Carey, to the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians. The Israeli army is now demolishing Yasser Arafat's headquarters in Ramullah. There's talk of the need for a new generation Palestinian leaders. What do you think of this approach?

GC: Well honestly, I'd want to say, Stephen, that I'm closely in contact with the situation in the Holy Land, I grieve at the suffering of the Palestinian people, but again, we've got to be even-handed. The Israelis have suffered a great deal, we must condemn suicide bombers, and we must never say that the plight of the Palestinians justifies this terrible thing. But what we also have to say: the Palestinians deserve and should have a valid and proper state of their own, and we must work on that. If America is going to use its great influence, it ought to be doing so in the Middle East, and condemning the pressure on Chairman Arafat at the present moment, which is actually not only undermining his office, not only undermining him, but making it impossible to deal with the roots of terrorism within his own ranks.

SC: Would his forced removal be a mistake?

GC: Well let me put it this way, Stephen. I'm not a politician. We've got to trust the politicians with these decisions. What I can do as a Christian leader, is to find ways in which I can support the people on the ground there. And, indeed, I've been actively involved in what is called the Alexandrian Declaration of Peace between the religious leaders in the Holy Land. We're having a meeting in a couple of weeks time in Lambeth Palace. I'm taking a lot of responsibility for that. At the heart of it is the issue of religion again. We can make a contribution there, and hope that the politicians will follow our good example, and come up with a declaration that will lead to a lasting peace in a land that's beloved to all Christians and people of all faiths.

SC: Archbishop Carey thank-you for your time.

Official Anglican Web Portal launched by the Anglican Consultative Council

Subject: ACNS3144 [ACC12] Official Anglican Web Portal launched

ACNS 3144 - ACC12 Media Release No 14 - 24 September 2002

[Hong Kong - ACNS] A major expansion of the Anglican Communion web site, published by the Anglican Communion Office, London, was announced on 23rd September at the 12th meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council. The web site will become the Official Anglican Web Portal and be a comprehensive source for news, photos, information, and educational resources and have links to other official Anglican web sites around the world.

ACC members gave the news of the Anglican Web Portal a rousing welcome and enthusiastic endorsement. The Revd Canon Emmanuel Adekola, Director of Communication for the Church of Nigeria, was also present and offered a powerpoint explanation of CHONACONet, the latest development in 'global private telecommunications.'

The new portal will be available soon at and is expected to improve the way information about the life and work of Anglicans is accessed on the worldwide web. Members and leaders in the Church, the public and the media will be able to use the portal to locate or request information about the worldwide Anglican Communion and its 38 primarily national Provinces with 70 million members.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, who presided at the portal launch, was praised and thanked by the Revd Canon Oge Beauvoir of the Parish of Trinity Church, Wall Street, New York, as a model for Anglican leaders by the way he has used email and the web to stay in touch with issues and colleagues during his extensive travel and global ministry. Canon Beauvoir said, "He has been a model by his avid and even experimental use of the internet as a tool for research and intercommunication in his own ministry."

Canon James M Rosenthal, Director of Communications for the Anglican Communion, said, "The web portal will allow us to provide much more than web pages. It will be the hub of a computer networking system on the Internet that will offer online collaboration tools for church related committees and staff; private email based discussion groups for bishops and other leaders; and an enlarged online shop for books and materials about the life and mission of Anglicans."

This telecommunications initiative is being funded by a two year grant from the Parish of Trinity Church, Wall Street, New York City, in response to requests and consultations from and with web specialists and communication officers from Anglican Provinces and Dioceses, many who already are developing web sites in their parts of the world. They have cited the need for a coordinated and comprehensive web portal, a "Window on the Web," to represent and serve the Anglican Communion.

The Trinity Grants program has supported innovative telecommunications ministries since 1985, recognizing before many others, the potential for using emerging technologies to further the Gospel and the mission and ministry of the Church, according to the Revd James G Callaway Jr, Trinity Parish Deputy for Grants.

The Revd Clement W K Lee from the Office of Communication in the Episcopal Church, USA, and an adjunct staff member of the Anglican Communion Office is convener of the working group developing the new portal. The group, doing most of its work online, includes Canon James Rosenthal and Mr Christopher Took, from the Anglican Communion Office, the Revd Dr Joan Butler Ford (California), Dr Dennis Johnson (Washington, DC), Mr Tom Lopez (New Mexico), Mr John Allen (New York), the Revd Canon Emmanuel Adekola (Abuja, Nigeria), and the Revd Peter Moore (Gilgandra, Australia).


(From the ACC News Team: Dan England, Margaret Rodgers, James Rosenthal)

Thursday, September 26, 2002

Church, church & community (not forgetting relation, relatedness & relationships)

Let us consider this sentence:

"I went to church in the hill-top community where my friend lives and in the church service, as the local assembled church, we prayed for the Church militant here on earth."

Here we have "church" [Greek kyriakon] referring to the local temple or building consecrated to the worship of God in the name of a Saint or an Apostle - e.g., St Thomas Church. And this church may be further identified as e.g., "St. Thomas Church, Embdon, Diocese of Havercroft."

Then we have "community" (Latin word not Greek) referring to a geographical area where there is a village or town where people live in an ordered way, bound together by basic laws, customs and culture. We have called this Embdon. Here there are relations and relatedness of blood, kith and kin. There are relatives who may or may not like each other.

Finally we have the "Church" that is prayed for - the one, holy catholic and apostolic Church [ekklesia] which is the people of God, the Body of Christ, the Temple of the Holy Ghost - and the local assembly as a microcosm of the former, which is also the local "church". Here there are relations established by grace, between man and God and between men in Christ Jesus unto salvation. Further, where people know God experientially there are those high moments of relationship (experienceds relation) when the Spirit witnesses with the human spirit.

[Let us admit that the meaning of the word church as both building and assembled people can be confusing, but this usage is very long established and we live with it.]

When we start to call the local or the universal expression of the Ekklesia of God by the name of "community" then we can easily get confused.

There are already 90 or so images/models/metaphors of the Church of God in the New Testament (see Paul Minear, Images of the Church in the NT) and community is not one of them in the translations adopted in all the older and in most modern versions of the Bible.

Why then has community become so popular since the 1960s?

Translations of the documents of Vatican II made much use of the word [which has a long history in Catholicism due to the calling of Monasteries and Convents by the name of Communities) and it stuck! Communion was used of the spiritual union between the Lord and his Church and community was sometimes used (along with other words) for the human membership of the Church, usually in once place, with its property.

But for Protestants the use of community came more and more into use because of the desire to combat what was seen as excessive individualism. One of the great emphases of the liturgical movement was the participation of all people in the Liturgy and community was used as the word to indicate that "individuals" were united as one in the liturgy in a shared celebration. Once the word got into general church usage then it was taken up by bible translators and preachers and church newsletters etc. The Creed was changed from "I believe" to "We" in order to force this sense of "community" (forgetting that the "I" of the Creed is the Body of Christ addressing its Head as one membership, thus in the 1st person singular).

But in the wider world, community is now used in a very expansive way - the old usage as of an inhabited area with laws and customs remains (as in my public prayers on Sunday!) but we also have the word being used for the associations of people/nations of like mind or like profession - community of scientists, social-work community, medical community, international community of the United Nations, and now also community of pets. In the modern usage a community is not necessarily stable but lasts as long as that which unites is prominent and is accepted by all.

So if used of a group of people who meet for worship, it is an imprecise word (for the use of it in modern English gives no strong, specific content) and points at most to people of like mind meeting for a common purpose and seeking to help each other in appropriate ways.

It seems to me that when in the Bible and in Christian tradition there is such a bountiful supply of words to use of the assembly of the baptized for the worship of the LORD God through His Son on the Lord's Day, it is regrettable that we simply imitate the fashion of the times and go for a word that at best relates primarily to the subjective aspects of religion.

And if we call the assembly/congregation/ekklesia by the name of "community" what do we call the Irish neighbourhood, the Afro-American neighbourhood, the Mexican quarter and so on?

And if we translate "koinonia or communio" as community then how do we distinguish the invisible binding power of the Holy Ghost from the external ordered societies of human beings?

Of course it is not heresy in normal circumstances to call the assembly of the faithful by the name of Christian community. But it is to add further imprecision to the general imprecision of modern Christian discourse.

In the edition of THE OXFORD DICTIONARY OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH that I have the only use of "community" in an entry is of the name of a religious society that has property (monastery & college).

In the very recently published edition of THE NEW SCM DICTIONARY OF LITURGY AND WORSHIP (2002) there is no article or entry on community of any kind.

Let us speak of the Church of God wherein people are related to Christ Jesus unto the Father, and to each other, in fellowship and by grace, and that this Church is IN the world, FOR the World , but not of the world (local community). Yet She exists for the world!

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

Wednesday, September 25, 2002

Social Justice & Rights & Christian Discourse

Churches talk about social justice as if it were obvious as to what it is and how it is justified. One of my correspondents thinks that the expression SOCIAL JUSTICE is not appropriate for Christian discourse because,

* It implies that bad things that happen to people (such as poverty) are always the result of injustice on a grand and collective scale, rather than as a result of wrong actions (either by the victim himself or by some other individual person), simple bad luck, or the human condition.

* It is rooted in the "rights culture", which is essentially first-person focused (rights demanded for oneself) rather than second-person focused (loving one's neighbour) and is therefore the antithesis of Christianity.

* It is part of a way of thinking which seeks to build God's kingdom here on earth - surely a futile, if not blasphemous, ambition? - at the expense of true Christianity, which is about winning hearts, minds and souls.

NOW I invite you to read this short piece by an American professor of economics which states something similar.

September 25, 2002

Right versus wishes

We hear so much about "rights" -- a right to this and a right to that. People say they have a right to decent housing, a right to adequate health care, food and a decent job, and more recently, senior citizens have a right to prescription drugs. In a free society, do people have these rights? Let's look at it.

At least in the standard historical usage of the term, a right is something that exists simultaneously among people. A right confers no obligation on another. For example, the right to free speech is something we all possess. My right to free speech imposes no obligation upon another except that of non-interference. Similarly, I have a right to travel freely. That right imposes no obligation upon another except that of non-interference.

Contrast those rights to the supposed right to decent housing or medical care. Those supposed rights do confer obligations upon others. There is no Santa Claus or Tooth Fairy. If you don't have money to pay for decent housing or medical services, and the government gives you a right to those services, where do you think the money comes from?

If you said "From some other American," go to the head of the class. Your right to decent housing and medical care requires that some other American have less of something else, namely diminished rights to his earnings.

Let's apply this bogus concept of rights to free speech and the right to travel freely. If we were to apply it to my right to free speech, my free speech rights would confer financial obligations on others to supply me with an auditorium, microphone and audience. My right to travel freely would require that others provide me with airplane tickets and hotel accommodations. Most Americans, I would imagine, would tell me, "Williams, yes you have rights to free speech and travel rights, but I'm not obligated to pay for them!"

As human beings, we all have certain unalienable rights. Of the rights we possess, we have a right to delegate to government. For example, we all have a right to defend ourselves against predators. Since we possess that right, we can delegate it to government. In other words, we can say to government, "We have the right to defend ourselves, but for a more orderly society, we give you the authority to defend us."

By contrast, I don't possess the right to take your earnings for any reason. Since I have no such right, I cannot delegate it to government. If I did take your earnings for housing and medical services, it would rightfully be described as an act of theft. When government does it, it's still theft -- the only difference is that it's legalized theft sanctioned by a majority vote.

If you're a Christian or simply a moral human being, you should be against these so-called rights. After all, when God gave Moses the Eighth Commandment, "Thou shalt not steal," I'm sure that he didn't mean thou shalt not steal unless there is a majority vote in Congress. Moreover, I'm sure that if you were to have a heart-to-heart conversation with God and asked him, "God, is it OK to be a recipient of stolen property, property that Congress has taken from another American?" I'm guessing He'd say that being a recipient of stolen property is also sinful.

Decent housing, good medical care and decent jobs are not rights at all, at least not in a free society -- they're wishes. As such, I'd agree with most Americans because I also wish that everyone had decent housing, a high paying job and good medical care.

Contact Walter Williams | Read his biography

©2002 Creators Syndicate, Inc.


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, September 24, 2002

Community of Faith & Household of Faith

Is the use of "Community" for the assembled congregation of Christians/the church a right and good use of this word?

Let us look at the RSV & NRSV to see how they use "community."

1.The RSV does not use the word ( as does not the KJV & RV & ASV). 2. The NRSV uses it 21 times (9 times in Deuteronomy; 2 times in Amos; 5 times in the Apocrypha; and 5 times in the NT). The NT references are John 21:23; Acts 6:2, 5 & 25:24; Ephesians 6:23.

If we examine the N T use we find the following:

John 21:23; the Greek word is adelphoi (literally brethren) and this is an example of inclusivism and bad translation. RSV has brethren.

Acts 6:2 & 5; the Greek word is plethos (literally multitude) and refers to the whole body of the disciples whom the12 called together. RSV uses first "body" and then "multitude." Community is hardly the best translation. The REB has "whole company" and the NJB has "whole assembly."

Acts 25:24; the Greek word is again plethos and refers to the local Jewish people. RSV has "whole Jewish people."

Ephesians 6:23; the Greek word is adelphoi (literally brethren) and the RSV has brethren. Again as with John 21:23 the NRSV is into inclusivism and seeking not to upset feminists.

Of these five only the use at Acts 25:24 is in line with the common usage in standard English (British and American) where a community is a recognizable people living in an area with their own structures and organizations (e.g., a village, or the Jewish part of a city, or the Irish part/descendants of Chicago, or the Mexican areas of San Antonio, or the Cuban parts of Miami etc etc).

Yet there has developed in modern liturgy and modern theology the very strong habit of referring to the gathered Christian congregation for worship as "community." As so used it is difficult to distinguish the gathered church as being in the world, but not of the world and yet for the world from the various communities from where its members come.

And when we follow another modern habit and speak of "community/communities of faith" then we enter into subjectivism. We are saying that what unites this people is something that is within them and which they recognize as all of them having in some degree or another.

In the NT the Church is described in many ways, one of which is Household of God (not Household of Faith). This image of the Church, along with such others as Temple of the Holy Ghost, Body of Christ, People of God and so on, takes us out of subjectivism into talk that gives objective status in true reality to the Church.

The constant talk of the Church as community and the equating of the N T supernatural reality of "koinonia" (fellowship or communion) with community are assisted by a variety of factors which include:

1. translations into English from German where community is preferred when the meaning has also reference to communion 2. usage within medieval Catholicism and since of community to describe monasteries etc where there is territory involved 3. the desire to combat modern individualism and bring people together as a working whole with structures (this also leads to the use of "we" in creeds) 4. the general dumbing down of the supernatural aspects of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church of God to make the church as one group alongside other groups in this world.

If the Church is not OF this world but is IN this world and exists for mission TO and FOR this world then to use the word of it that is already used of local groups, ethnicities, and the like is to confuse people.

Further, to speak of the Church as the Community of faith is to make it merely and only a group whose experiential an subjective experiences mark it out from others!

There are in all 90 or so images/metaphors/pictures of the Church in the NT and community as understood in standard English is not one of them! We need to be able as the people of God to pray for the communities from which our people come and we need to be able to evangelise these communities so that the converts can enter into the fellowship of Christ's Body, the Church & Household of God the Father.

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


It is amazing how some words come into everyday speech and then having arrived there seem to be indispensable. Such is RELATIONSHIP.

Until the mid-20th century it was comparatively rare. It was the word used to denote the experience of, or the enjoyment of, a relation; and a relation [the key word] was a permanent kind of association or union or partnership between persons, even as a relative is a person to whom one is bound for ever by ties of blood or marriage.

In fact relation [Latin relatio] was hallowed because it is the word used in classic Christian theology of that which with the one divine nature unites the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity. Since these relations between Father & Son, Father and Holy Ghost, Son and Holy Ghost are eternal, ineffable and infinite, then relation was used in human affairs of permanent unions and links, not temporary ones.

Since World War II, one usage of relationship as an empirical reality that accelerated its entry into common vocabulary was that of avoiding speaking of fornication or of adultery by saying that "he was having a relationship." This took any moral judgment out of what he was doing.

Now, it has come to refer to be used indiscriminately of any kind of association or union or partnership or cooperation or being alongside of persons, organisations, countries, pets and so on. It is a word (like
values) that has no moral content and is merely intended to be descriptive of an association that can be broken at any time by one or other of the participants.

Listen to the Radio for an hour any day any time and you will be sure to hear its use in all kinds of ways - I have just done so with the BBC Radio with references to the broken relationship between the USA and Germany and of relationships between person well known in them media and of same-sex partnerships.

Try to go for a day without using the word and you will see how common it is!

Why should we avoid it in Christian discourse, especially evangelism, preaching and teaching and language in worship?

1.To speak of a relationship with God is to demean God, his covenant of grace and ourselves. The relation into which we enter through baptism/faith/conversion and signified through justification is not an ephemeral, temporary one but is an eternal being "in Christ" unto the Father. Even if we are faithless HE holds on to us for the covenant of grace is sure. The Bible provides us with many words by which to speak of this holy relation and we do not need to use the word relationship.

If we offer people a relationship with God we are offering them something that bears no relation to the biblical data and to the Christian doctrine of the new covenant!

2. To speak of marriage as a relationship (which most of the popular books and sermons seem to do so) is to demean God, the institution of marriage and ourselves. Marriage is a relation, an order within creation, and is intended by God's design to be permanent, not merely as long as one of the spouses feels like it. If we offer people a relationship via marriage we offer them the divorce culture. Again there is a sufficient supply of words available in the Bible and Christian tradition to describe marriage and we do not need to use relationship.

3. To speak of relationships between the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity is to speak heresy and is to blaspheme! That which binds the Three together and which also distinguishes their separate Personhoods are relations of Holy Order and are more than eternal and more than infinite. Since the time of St Augustine the Church has called these RELATIONS.

Sept 24,2002

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

Presiding Bishop John Paterson elected Chairman of Anglican Consultative Council

ACNS 3140 - ACC12 MEDIA RELEASE NO 8 - 21 September 2002

In the closest of votes, the Primate of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, and Bishop of Auckland, the Most Revd John Paterson was elected chairman of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) during its 12th meeting in Hong Kong on 21 September 2002. The other nominee was Professor George Koshy of India, a lay person.

The vote was 34/33 in favour of the Primate Paterson over Professor Koshy. Both candidates have been long-serving ACC members with Bishop Paterson just completing his term as vice-chair. There was one spoiled ballot.

Principal nominations speeches were made by Archdeacon Winston Halapua for Bishop Paterson and by Bishop James Tengatenga for Prof Koshy.

Great care was taken by Mr John Rea, head of the nominations committee, to instruct ACC members in the voting mechanics. Voting was supervised by the ACC Chancellor, the Revd Canon John Rees.

Following the announcement of the election, Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey led the assembly in prayer with both Bishop Paterson and Prof Koshy at his side.

The new chairman will be installed at the final Eucharist of the meeting on Wednesday, along with the new vice-chairman, to be elected early next week.

The ACC meeting continues until 26 September. On Sunday the 22nd the group will worship at Holy Trinity Parish, Kowloon, with Archbishop Carey preaching and the Archbishop of the Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui presiding. In the afternoon the ACC members will join local church members in dedicating a new home for the elderly, after which a Chinese Autumn Festival celebration will be held for the international guests.

Monday, September 23, 2002

The BBC, David Moyer and Who is a Christian

On Sunday, 22 September, I listened to the programme on BBC Radio 4 entitled 'Sunday'. It is the weekly BBC religious affairs programme and goes nationwide to presumably millions of listeners in Great Britain and abroad.

The Bishop of PA and David Moyer were interviewed as were also two other 'experts' who commented on the Rosemont affair and its relation to the Anglican Communion.

The Bishop said in a clear matter of fact way that he had followed the Canons of the Episcopal Church and that, as he understood them, it was his duty to follow the path they lay down. He had no alternative and these canons took their course with the result of the removal of David from the Ministry.

David Moyer said that he had advised the Bishop not to come to his parish but that he had not forbidden him. He explained that if the Bishop had turned up on a Sunday he would have invited the congregation to go with him into the church hall for 'Mass' and leave the church to the Bishop and whoever stayed. When asked, 'Why?' he replied that he regarded the Bishop as NOT a Christian. Later he accepted that he had wanted at least in part to create a crisis and bring to a head the deep problems in the ECUSA. Thus the Rosemont affair was a kind of microcosm of the whole Church in crisis.

The statement that the Bishop is not a Christian is very puzzling to most British people - at least if the people I know are representative.

In old respectable British society, Christian - Gentleman. Anyone who plays cricket and does not eat his peas at dinner off a knife is necessarily a Christian - so for David to say that Bennison is not a Christian might well be translated here as "He is no gentleman"! Yet such a viewpoint is rare these days. In the modern multi-religious society people ask, 'If the American bishop is not a Christian is he a Muslim or Hindu or Sikh or Jew or is he an Atheist or an Agnostic or something like that?'

I think that David is choosing the wrong explanation by saying the Bishop is not a Christian. The Bishop was baptized in the Name of the Holy Trinity and confirmed in the same. He was validly ordained as a deacon and presbyter and probably also as a bishop. So by all the outward signs (and what else can one go by when speaking in a secular yet multi-religious and multi-ethnic society) he is a Christian and furthermore he believes and says that he is. Any law court would assume that he is [i.e. at least a nominal Christian].

What David means, I presume, is that he is a nominal Christian who does not confess the basic tenets of orthodox Faith and Morality (David told the BBC that the Bishop does not believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus and the Bible as the inspired Word of God etc.). Now there have been many liberals who have held such views in all the Churches; but, in terms of a contrast with Muslim and Jew they are Christians in that they have been baptized and they do not leave the Church. So they are heretics or backsliders or apostates according to traditional orthodox standards. Yet in the modern Church, especially the ECUSA, heresy & apostasy are normal for much of the
time and for many people, and so it is not wise to call them heretics or apostate in public for it makes little or no sense there.

The point I am making is that to say the Bishop is not a Christian is not the kind of statement that makes much sense - in fact it sounds preposterous - in a secular context. As far as the world is concerned there is an internal dispute in the church amongst its members between those who believe this and those who believe that.

If our stories from within ECUSA are to be taken to the secular press (in contrast to Christian radio stations) and if we are to be willing to be interviewed (for it is our choice whether we are) then we need to find a way to state the problem which makes sense in the secular context. If we cannot it is best I think to keep quiet.

The more I ponder this story & dispute, the more I realize that it is nearly impossible to make sense of it in secular terms, other than a fight to the end of two men, both of whom have strong views, one of a traditional kind and one of a radical liberal kind, and one who is very critical of the new religion of ECUSA and one who has embraced the new religion of ECUSA. At the human level the Bishop is seen by many as justified for it is well accepted that the CEO a manager cannot tolerate indefinitely one who does not keep to the company rules.

Since I share much of what David believes, teaches and confesses I heartily sympathized and continue to sympathize with him. Yet I think his explanation that the Bishop is not a Christian is not helping his cause at least on THIS side of the great Pond.

He needs to say - we need to say - in simple terms that the Bishop has said and done things which by their very nature make him into a person whom it is unreasonable and impious for priests to obey. But to do this in a Radio Interview may be impossible due to time factors. The case of Bp Bennison is so much easier to present in a short time - here is a disobedient priest with whom I was patient for a long time and in the end I had to apply the canon law to him.

The Revd Dr Peter Toon Sept 23, 2002

Harvest Festival, English style?

Harvest Festivals have been so much part of the Church of England scene for a century or so that it is difficult to believe that it was only in 1862 that permission was granted in the Church of England for there to be a special service that served as a harvest festival. Thus virtually all the hymns sung at harvest festivals were written in the Victorian era.

The Book of Common Prayer of 1662 contains no provision for such a service for it was assumed that prayer for the crops and thanksgiving for the harvests were part of the general annual rhythm and cycle of prayer and praise.

In England the origin of modern Harvest Festivals is only in the 19th century and seems to be associated with giving a religious dimension to the long-standing and popular harvest home thanksgivings (the celebration in food and drink and dance) on the farms, in the villages and market towns when the various crops were safely gathered in. Of course the clergy had gone to these for centuries and offered prayer when asked.

From 1862 until the arrival of liturgical revision and the new liturgical freedoms in the 1970s a harvest festival could be held on any day of the week and had to make use of and adapt officially approved forms of service (e.g., Morning or Evening Prayer with appropriate Bible readings and extra collects). The proposed revision of the BCP that was rejected by Parliament in 1928 did contain a Collect, Epistle and Gospel for such a festival if it were to involve Holy Communion. In the new prayer books of the late 20th century and early 21st, provision is made for a Harvest Festival but it is not a required service.

In the USA, the American edition of the BCP provides for Harvest Festival on a specific date – Thanksgiving Day in November. This is a major holiday (moreso than is Christmas) and had its origins in the thanksgiving of the Pilgrims in New England after they had survived a year in America in 1621.

I do not think that the intention in 1862 was that these local Festivals in the C of E would be held on a Sunday. Rather they would be held on the day of the local celebrations of harvest-home, and the people would go from church to feast and jollity. The move to have the religious service on a Sunday as the major service of the day, with the decoration of the church as if it were a major Christian festival -- and then a meal/feast on a weekday -- is relatively new and, I suspect, against the historic Christian understanding of Sunday worship.

If we look back through history, the Jewish Church, being a nation, people and territory, did have major festivals to celebrate the ingathering of harvest (e.g., Pentecost). This was not so of the Church of Jesus Christ for she understood the New Covenant to be of the supernatural order and so all her major festivals are a celebration of one or another aspect of the Incarnation of the only-begotten Son of the Father and the Acts of Redemption from sin and into eternal life.

This is not to say that the Church paid no attention to this world and the necessary harvest each year for bodily sustenance.

In the West for example, November 11, the feast of St Martin of Tours, was celebrated as a harvest thanksgiving, the ingathering of the harvest. Apart from attendance at Mass, it was essentially secular in character being a public holiday in many areas. [It was this celebration continued in the Netherlands after the Protestant Reformation that the Pilgrim Fathers experienced there and took with them to New England, there to become the origin of Thanksgiving as a holiday in the USA.]

In England, August l, was a feast of thanksgiving for the firstfruit of the grain harvest and was called Lammas [Loaf Mass] Day. Bread made from the new corn was presented at the Mass and solemnly blessed. This custom ceased in the 16th century (a few tried to revive it in the 19th century but the new harvest festival made their attempts redundant).

There is, as already noted, within the classic BCP, used from 1549 through to the 1970s in all parishes of the C of E and abroad, rogation days and specific prayers of thanksgiving for harvest as well as prayers for the growth of the same. These prayers are for use on Sundays and weekdays as required. Then there were/are local customs of going out from the church to bless the fields, animals and crops.

Where the modern Sunday harvest festival of the C of E departs from Christian tradition is that it takes over the major Sunday service and thereby a celebration of the old creation is made central on the Lord’s Day, which is intended to be Always a day which is the festival of the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Happily American thanksgiving day is never on a Sunday.

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

Orthodox - is it any longer a useful adjective?

We seem to know what is orthodoxy and who is orthodox; yet "we" are not one unit but many units and thus there are multiple definitions of orthodoxy and differing interpretations of who is orthodox.

This is perhaps inevitable when the Church scene at its more conservative end is that both of competitive denominations/jurisdictions and competitive groups within a denomination.

Because of individualism begin taken as a given in Western society, we speak of this or that person and this or that group being "orthodox." Yet there is no commonly agreed definition of orthodoxy.

Of course, if we accept that older patristic definition of orthodoxy, as that is still embraced in the Orthodox Churches and by the Roman Catholic Church, then we say that orthodoxy is first and foremost an attribute or quality of the true Church and that a member thereof is orthodox because as a baptized believer he has embraced the true Faith, believed, taught and confessed by the true Church. Here there is no individualism as such for the attribute belongs only to the Church as Church and is applied only to faithful members thereof. [One may find a similar approach in the Caroline Divines of the C of E in the 17th Century.]

From my observations it is also true that we Anglicans or Episcopalians change our definitions of orthodoxy in order to serve the cause that we have embraced. For example, you will hear Forward in Faith members defining orthodoxy to include the Threefold Ministry as being by Christ's design a male-only Ministry. Then when they want to praise certain Bishops in the AAC, who ordain women, but who have been kind to F in F members they will call them orthodox.

This implies that orthodoxy has a minimal and maximum definition and perhaps also that the minimal is what is necessary to eternal salvation in Christ Jesus while the maximum is the listing of everything that should be believed in a perfect situation. It may also imply a hierarchy of truths wherein the all-male Ministry may not be in the top ten.

I have never read a definition of orthodoxy from either F in F or from the AAC. But neither have I from the AMiA. The Prayer Book Society has always assumed that those who use the classic Book of Common Prayer according to its internal spirit and rubrics will be orthodox at least in intention.

Maybe in a pragmatic world and for practical purposes, it is best that there is not any clear and final definition of orthodoxy for without such there can be a fluid situation when political necessity requires cooperation with & affirmation of the other (or the opposite!). So one can move from a minimal to a maximum and from a maximum to a minimal as occasion requires.

When it comes to bringing together (in convergence & congress and then into comprehensiveness in a National Anglican Church) the various schools and expressions of Anglicanism/Episcopalianism that claim to be or aspire to be orthodox, obviously the very minimal definition will have to be used first of all in order for there to any possibility of the meeting of minds and the beginnings of conversation and cooperation. That is, a general acceptance of the Bible as the inspired Word of God, the truth of the Creeds, the necessity of the two dominical Sacraments, the Three fold Ministry and the historic Formularies of the Anglican Way (classic BCP, Ordinal and Articles). This acceptance would not be an agreement as to the interpretation of these Standards but the granting that they are basic to what has been and is Anglicanism. Thus it would leave room at the start of dialogue for those who believed that women were to be within the Threefold Ministry and for those who wanted to use modern prayer books (but with the classic BCP as the standard of worship & doctrine) and so on and so forth.

In the end, orthodoxy (minimal or maximum) as right belief, without the holiness of the members of the beauty, reverence of worship and warm-hearted evangelization, is cold and hard. In fact genuine orthodoxy embraces worship, doctrine and discipline.

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

Saturday, September 21, 2002

Values or Virtues

I do not intend to write about my friend, David Virtue, or his web news service, Virtuosity, but about Virtues (plural) as an ethical theme!

A well known best-selling book entitled THE BOOK OF VIRTUES was originally intended to be called, THE BOOK OF VALUES. Then the distinguished author, William Bennett, was told by friends (including I think Gertrude Himmelfarb, who has written eloquently on Victorian Virtues) that what he had written about was "Virtues" not "Values" and the publisher agreed to change the title.

Mrs Margaret Thatcher is well known for her espousal of "Victorian Values" [e.g., hard work, thrift, intelligence, sobriety, fidelity, self-reliance, self-discipline, respect for the law, devotion to family and community, cleanliness, God-fearing and so on] but according to her autobiography she originally spoke of "Virtues" and the Media changed the word to "Values" and she did not try to change it once it had taken off, as it were. So she is associated with the rightness of "Victorian Values" even though the Victorians themselves most carefully and distinctly referred to "Virtues." They did not use "Virtues" in its plural form.

But there is a big difference (if we use words aright) between values and virtues.

From Aristotle we get the cardinal virtues - wisdom, justice, temperance, and courage, together with prudence, magnanimity, munificence, liberality and gentleness. From Christian tradition we get faith, hope and love/charity as the theological virtues. The classical philosophical, together with the Christian tradition, saw moral standards and law as objective and so virtues belonged to objective reality and standards. Virtues were very serious things possessing authority (for they were anchored in objective reality).

In contrast, "values" as a plural noun was first used by F Nietzsche not as a verb meaning "to esteem something" (e.g., I value his contribution) and not as a singular noun meaning the measure of a thing (i.e., the economic value of money or labor or property) but describing the attitudes and beliefs, moral and social, of a given society.

Max Weber the sociologist took up this use of "values" and so it moved from sociology to ordinary speech, accelerated into common conversation by the radical & revolutionary 1960s. This use of "values" came with the general assumption that all moral norms and ideas are entirely subjective and relative for they are mere customs, conventions and mores, that belong to different societies at different times in their history and experiences.

Thus for sociologists it can be a most useful word!

However, it is really disastrous for Christian discourse and teaching when the word values is used in such expressions as "biblical values"!!! Regrettably American and British Evangelicals seem wedded to this and like expressions and do not seem to realize that they undermine the whole basis of the norms of God in creation and in redemption by using such a word. The only biblical values that there are - and this is a sobering thought - are those condemned by prophet, Messiah and apostles in the OT and NT as being of the world, the flesh and the devil and of being totally opposed to [that which is commended] the virtues or fruit produced by the indwelling Spirit of the Lord in the Church of God. The Bible as a whole places supreme value on the objectivity of the revelation of God's law and of the standards [virtues] or righteousness and holiness therein set forth.

I recall that at the first meeting of what has become the Anglican Congress Movement (Richard Kew et al) I had to protest strongly to get the word "values" out of the major statement that was produced (I think in the end they went for kingdom norms). I suspect that few people really appreciated what I was talking about for the word is so much used by those who claim to be biblically-based! [But alas so are many other words and phrases which by their use actually make the norms and standards of the Bible subjective and relative!]

Let us use "value" both as a verb and as a singular noun, and let us seek to avoid it in its plural form when we are referring to objective, God-revealed norms and standards.

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

The Relation of AMIA to SE Asia

This makes clear the relation of the AMiA to the Province of S E Asia --P.T.

From the Anglican Messenger of the Diocese of West Malaysia

Provincial Synod

The second meeting of the second session of the Synod of the Province of South East Asia was held from 6 to 8 March 2002 at Bayu Beach Resort, Port Dickson. The theme was "Grow Up Into Christ". This was followed by the third meeting of the second session of the Provincial Standing Committee from 8 to 9 March 2002.

Once the Provincial Synod meetings began, they were immediately overshadowed by the issue of Archbishop Datuk Yong Ping Chung's co-consecration of four bishops for the Anglican Mission in America (AMiA) in Denver, Colorado, U.S.A. on 24 June 2001 in the absence of any consensus between him and the Diocesan Bishops of Kuching, Singapore and West Malaysia. The AMiA brings together Anglican clergy and laity in the U.S. who are against, among other things, the ordination of practising homosexual priests and the celebration of same-sex unions, but exists outside the recognised Episocpal Church of the U.S.A (ECUSA). Because they are outside ECUSA, they are not considered by the Archbishop of Canterbury to be in communion with him.

Archibishop Yong used his opening address to the Provincial Synod to defend his actions against chrges that he had acted unconstitutionally. He insisted that the call to uphold biblical authority, orthodoxy and morality, which was obedience to God's laws, outweighed adherence to the consitution of the Province, which was man-made.

In reply, Bishop Lim Cheng Ean reminded delegates that the co-consecrations did no have the approval of the House of Bishops, and furthermore, went against the advice of the Archbishop of Canterbury, whose advice had been sought by the Diocesan Bishops of Kuching, Singapore and West Malaysia. It also went against accepted practice for an Archbishop to exercise his archiepiscopal authority in another province. While the events in the U.S. were important in the effect that it had on the world-wide Anglican Communion, so too did Archbishop Yong's disregard of convention.

While sympathetic to the issue of biblical authority, orthodoxy and morality, the Diocese of West Malaysia nonetheless felt it necessary to propose a motion to distance the Province from the co-consecrations and the AMiA, arguing that it was unconstitutional and against the concept of consensus practiced by the House of Bishops for Archbishop Yong to have proceeded. The Diocese of Sabah in turn proposed a motion affirming and supporting the actions of Archbishop Yong. After an extremely robust debat, the Provincial Synod endorsed and supported a compromise resolution from the House of Bishops proposed by the Dioceses of Kuching and Singapore which, while accepting the status quo of the consecrations, confirmed that all further consecrations of bishops must observe the due process of election, appointment and consecration contained in the constitution of the Province. The AMiA was placed under Archbishop Yong's own covering, and no longer involved the Province. However in order to address issues that are presently adversely affecting the biblical and apostolic faith, life and mission of the Anglican Communion, the Province would take a broad-based approach to mobilse and link up with like-minded Provinces and Dioceses, Primates and Bishops, through for example the South-South Encounter. The motion was carried by 24 votes for to none against, with 5 abstentions.

Once the issue of AMia was out of the way, Provincial Synod got down to a review of developments within the province itself. Each constituent diocese presented a report on activities and developments within their respective dioceses. The Diocese of Singapore reported on their project to upgrade their 9 diocesan schools and new construction over a period of 5-7 years, as wells as the S$68 million development of St. Andrew's Village, a 30-acre site that will house the relocated St. Andrew's Junior College, the new St. Andrew's Secondary, upgraded Junior Schools, the Ascension kindergarten and the new Diocesan Centre.

There were also reports on the Province of South East Asia Mission Services (PROSEAMS) and the various "joint ventures" between dioceses in outreach, for example to West Kalimantan, Indonesia (between Kuching and Singapore), to Phnom Penh, Cambodia and Tarakan in East Kalimantan, Indonesia (both between Sabah and Singapore), and in Medan in Sumatra, Indonesia (between Singapore and West Malaysia). Provincial Synod also received reports on the growth of the Anglican churches in Indonesia (which aims to establish 10 parished by 2005 and is working towards the goal of becoming a Diocese by 2008), Thailand (now an Archdeaconry, and working to become a Diocese by 2009), Laos, Cambodia and Nepal (which became part of the Diocese of Singapore in February 200) and Vietnam.

The Provincial Youth Network (PYNET) reported on their various activities of drawing together the youth of the Province, for example through the PYNET Conference in Sepang, Malaysia in August 2001, youth/young adult camps and through sports ministry. There were also opportunities for youth to participate in overseas activities, e.g. with the Dioceses of Oxford and Lichfield.

The Provincial Synod ended with a reminder that there were 400 million people who lived in the countries of Southeast Asia. As such, there were so many more people to reach out to.

Although the Provincial Synod meets once every 2 years, the next meeting will be held in Kota Kinabalu from 18 to 21 November 2003. The highlight of that meeting will be the election of the next Archbishop of the Province of South East Asia in succession to Archbishop Yong.

Andrew Khoo

The Cross Is a Symbol of Love, Says Pope

On Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy SEPT. 15, 2002 ( In an increasingly secularized world it is crucial that the faithful see in the cross a source of blessing and salvation, says John Paul II.

"For man, tormented by doubt and sin, it reveals that 'God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life,'" the Pope said today, quoting the Gospel of St. John.

"In a word, the cross is the supreme symbol of love," he added.

The Holy Father delivered his comments at midday to several thousand pilgrims in the courtyard of the papal summer residence. He is staying in Castel Gandolfo until the end of the month.

On Saturday the Church celebrated the liturgical feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, he noted, and today it marked the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows.

"Christianity has its principal symbol in the cross," the Pope explained. "Wherever the Gospel has put down roots, the cross is there to indicate the presence of Christians."

"In churches and homes, in hospitals and schools, in cemeteries -- the cross has become the sign par excellence of a culture that draws truth and liberty, trust and hope from the message of Christ," he continued.

"In the process of secularization, which characterizes a great part of the contemporary world, it is all the more important that believers fix their gaze on this central sign of Revelation and gather its original and authentic meaning," he said.

In proclaiming the reality of the cross of Christ, the Church presents to the world "the ultimate and full meaning of every single existence and of the whole of human history," John Paul II emphasized.

"Christian young people carry it with pride through the streets of the world," he said. Over the past year, the World Youth Day cross was carried throughout Canada and even made it to 9/11's ground zero in New York. The cross will be carried throughout Germany before World Youth Day 2005 in Cologne.

The Pontiff concluded by entrusting to the Virgin Mary "young people and families, nations and the whole of humanity" especially "the sick and the suffering," "innocent victims of injustice and violence" and "Christians persecuted because of their faith."

"May the glorious cross of Christ be for all a pledge of hope, rescue and peace," he said.

This summer at Castel Gandolfo the Pope has come down to the courtyard to meet the faithful, instead of greeting them from a window. As at Wednesday general audiences, he has also greeted a few pilgrims personally at the end of the Sunday encounters.

Friday, September 20, 2002

a friend wrote to me saying,

The language of "ideals" moves matrimony from the realm of the real world into the realm of pure ideas, more or less granting in advance that in the mundane realm the ideal will not be possible because even the best marriage will be less "pure" than the idea of marriage.

Under the canon of modern pragmatism, to fail to accomplish that which is impossible cannot truly be a "sin." One merely learns from his mistakes and tries, tries, tries again.

This same pragmatism builds on the common experience of multiple marriages in a divorce culture as a demonstration that lifelong, monogamous marriage is an unrealizable ideal (and thus, in the end, impossible) to do away with all commandments, which are in turn transformed into ideals themselves. "All have fallen short" ceases to be a confession of sin and a plea for mercy, becoming instead a sort of "So what. Everybody does it."

The net result is a type of practical incomprehension of the meaning of the doctrines of grace. Why should anyone who tries his best to do the impossible be thought "guilty" or in need of an unmerited redemption? Thus, we end up telling one another that we're all good chaps after all, which leaves Jesus hanging on the cross for no particular reason.

The first generation or two that treat marriage and other commandments as an ideal may very well retain some sense of sin and redemption, however vague. But the generations of children that they raise, who see their parents and their pastors doing what God forbids and not doing what God commands, will tend to draw the inference that the whole business of sin and redemption is quaint and out of date. They don't, after all, see any major consequences of sin or failure in this world. If anything, they see a great deal of self-affirmation among those who have departed from God in this or some other particular.

But if we imagine Adam and Eve declaring to God that they had a right to happiness and that the forbidden fruit was an integral part of that happiness, we can see how silly such arguments are.

We need to keep fighting on this line.

Ideals and Commandments

(I have been asked various questions about the content of my opinion piece on Ideals, Values & Relationships. Here is a response to questions about marriage as an ideal.)
What is an ideal?

It is an idea in the mind of what is possible & desirable & attainable with effort and thus what should be aimed at as a goal of a life-commitment or a major pattern of behaviour.

That ideal may be the equivalent in terms of definition and realization of a moral duty derived from conscience, natural law or revealed, divine law.

The difference between describing it as an ideal and a commandment/duty/divine ordinance is in the realm of how one assesses one relation to it and thus how one assesses failure to achieve it.

In modern society & the modern Church to try hard and to fail to reach the ideal (especially if it is difficult like life-long marriage in a divorce
culture) is a cause for congratulations and the real possibility of general agreement of the opportunity of a second chance.

In biblical terms and in the Gospel Church to fail to obey a commandment, however difficult and for whatever reason, is a sin against God and requires penitence and absolution before even the possibility of a second chance to obey can be considered or properly in place.

There is no doubt that Jesus taught that the divine ordinance of marriage was a one-flesh union of two persons until death parted them. Under the Old Covenant because of the weakness [hardness of heart] of human beings God allowed divorce under certain conditions; but, this permission did not change the basic order of creation and divine order within the covenant of grace. Jesus republished the original law and ordinance of God for marriage as binding on his disciples - what God has joined together let no man (modern let no-one) put asunder - and offered to them the Spirit of the new covenant to assist them obey divine Law.

Thus in no way can the Christian doctrine of marriage be said to be an ideal for baptized believers. It is not only an ordinance of creation but it is also a commandment of the Lord to those who are members of the new covenant and of the Household of God.

Of course in a divorce culture, pastoral care (a) for those who are involved in seeking to obey the commandment faithfully & lovingly and (b) for those who break the commandment of one-flesh union for life must be available, gracious and in line with the will of God, making use more of Gospel-based moral and spiritual advice than modern therapeutical norms and methods, which are related to ideals not divine ordinances.

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

Thursday, September 19, 2002

Ideals & Values & Relationships

An Opinion Piece & A Discussion Starter
I find it very strange that those who claim to be biblical and desirous of expressing biblical theology & morality make much positive use of such words as "ideal" & "values" and "relationships."

I think that this usage is a sure sign of how pervasive was the social and cultural revolution of the 1960s and how powerful have been its after-effects in terms of the influence of social science and psychotherapy, to mention only two areas.

In popular evangelical books, sermons and radio/tv talks we hear of "the ideal of marriage as a life-long union and commitment," of "biblical values" for church, world and individuals and of the need for "a relationship with God" and for good "human relationships."

1. For Christians to speak of life-long marriage as an ideal rather than as an ordinance of God "until death us do part" is to diminish the Christian doctrine of marriage. An ideal is only to be worked towards and aimed at: it is not a command or a duty to be performed by the express commandment & will of God and with his grace to help. To portray or to preach on marriage as an ideal is thus not to preach biblical doctrine but a way of escape from duty, if the way is hard.

2. For Christians to refer to biblical values is to diminish the biblical presentation of the absolute commands of God and the perfect principles of the kingdom of heaven. The plural word "values" was coined by sociologists in order to have a neutral word to speak of the general rules & mores by which people and societies live, as observed by social scientists. The word was used in order to avoid the use any of the traditional words of the Christian moral and ethical vocabulary. Thus a sociologist could study the behaviour of Christians of a particular area or church and then tell us by what values they lived. Yet at the same time those Christians, if genuine, would be looking to commandments, statutes, ordinances, laws, duties and responsibilities set forth in Scripture and Christian tradition, and looking to them not as values but as revealed Law for they refer to the relation of people to God.

3. Finally, for Christians to claim that they have a relationship with God and that also they have a warm relationship with other Christians is to claim something less than the biblical norm. The whole doctrine of the covenant of grace and the doctrine of justification by grace are premised on the fact that God the Father God establishes a relation through & in Christ with those who repent and believe in Christ. This is not a temporary kind of easy going association or coming together while we feel like it (as are relationships in modern experience & talk) but a permanent order of grace. Likewise the key word for speaking of what unites the Persons of the Trinity is relation [relatio in Latin] not relationship. And moving on we may note that in the order of creation we have "relatives" by blood and by marriage and we have them whether we like them or not. These are permanent human relations. To speak of relationships is to speak of voluntary associations or unions that can be broken at anytime by one or other of the participants or partners. Thus relationship is a bad word to describe union with God through Christ and union in holy matrimony until death us do part.

In good translations of the Bible and sound Christian books you will not find the words "ideal, values or relationships" used in translation where the reference is to God's positive commandments for his children! And the reason is because there is nothing in the positive self-revelation of God than can be accurately conveyed by these words. However, you will probably find them in modern paraphrases and popular commentaries, where there is a dumbing-down of the perfect standards of God's holy word.

There are other over-used and/or carelessly-used words such as "I feel" & "community of faith" & "Celebration" and "Presider" but I will not deal with such here!

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

Homilette On The Web

Patient Friends,

In Web language, a Homilette is a Homily available in digital form that can he heard via the computer from a web site. It is not a deliberely short homily or sermon!

At the web site of the small English parish of Christ Church, Biddulph Moor, you may hear if you have sound facilities with your computer, the latest homilette by myself.

It is a shortened form of the Homily delivered in the Chapel of Sidney Sussex College Chapel, University of Cambridge, to members of the Prayer Book Society of England on Sept 15th at Choral Mattins.

It takes about 12 mins and does not not have any of the local references or references to the mission of the PBS in the C of E, which were part of the original Homily. It is Homilette 2. There is also Homilette 1 and lasts 8 minutes and this commends traditional reverent and intimate language in the addressing of the Almighty Father through His only-begotten Son.

Go to

The site is faithfully and regularly maintained by Barbara Rabett who is joyful person even though she lives with permanent disability

Thank you.


The latest issue of Mandate with a full page photo of Rowan Williams on the front is now available both on the Web Site of the PBS ( or as a trial free copy from PBS, Box 35220, Philadelphia, Pa. 19128-0220

Let us press on....

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon