Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Circumcision, the feast of [January lst] & The Second Sunday after Christmas Day

“By the mystery of thy holy Incarnation; by thy holy Nativity and Circumcision…” (Litany).

“Almighty God, who madest thy blessed Son to be circumcised, and obedient to the law for man; Grant us the true circumcision of the Spirit; that, our hearts, and all our members, being mortified from all worldly and carnal lusts, we may in all things obey thy blessed will; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

The Epistle: Romans 4. 8-14 The Gospel: St Luke 2.15-21

The Book of Common Prayer (1662) makes no special provision for the Second Sunday after Christmas (which occurs 4 out of 7 times), but directs that what is provided for the Feast of the Circumcision be used on this day also. Editions of the Prayer Book since 1928 do, however, usually provide Propers for the Second Sunday (see e.g., the PECUSA Prayer Book of 1928).

The Collect is addressed to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who by adoption and grace is also our Father. Circumcision was the entrance into the covenant of the Law (Genesis 17:12) and to receive it implied taking on the whole obligation of the Law. It was the Father’s will that his Incarnate Son should, as one born of a woman and under the Law, submit to that Law. Thus “when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called Jesus” (Luke 2:21). Yet he did not submit to the Law for his own sake, but for ours in order to fulfill in our place our debt to the whole Law of God, ceremonial and moral. He was born to be our Representative and Substitute, whether we be Jew or Gentile. And the shedding of the drops of blood at his circumcision point to the greater shedding of his precious blood for us at Calvary, thirty or so years later.

In the light of this crucial doctrine about the Incarnation, Circumcision and Obedience (active & passive) of Christ Jesus, we earnestly pray for an internal gift of grace, the true circumcision of the Spirit. Not the old circumcision of the flesh but “circumcision of the heart, in the spirit” (Romans 2:28-29). That is, we ask for the action of the Holy Spirit upon our spirits that energized by heavenly power we shall be enabled to cut away all sinful desires from our hearts and to put them to death (mortified – see Colossians 3:15). For it is only when the power of evil desires and habits is dispelled from the various faculties and recesses of the soul, that we are able seriously to obey the will of the Lord, our God, in the name of his blessed Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Thus, when spiritually circumcised and whether male or female, we are able to present out bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God (Romans 12:1). Hands, cleansed and ready to work on God’s assignments; feet, washed and ready to run his errands of mercy and love; eyes, purified from lust, ready to meditate upon and contemplate God’s works and words; ears, cleansed of flattery and enticement, ready to hear the voice of God and the cry of the needy; the tongue, mortified of evil speech and idle words, ready to praise the Lord – in all a living sacrifice!

It seems that Archbishop Thomas Cranmer created this Collect not by translating the Collect in the Sarum Use, but by using and adopting the Latin benediction for this feast. Translated this Benediction runs, “Almighty God, whose only-begotten Son on this day received bodily circumcision, purify your minds by the spiritual circumcision from every allurement of vice, …”

In conclusion, even as the Litany joins together the Nativity (“made of a woman”) and the Circumcision (“made under the law”), so let us celebrate these Events by our faithful use of this Collect to the salvation of our souls and the redemption of our bodies.

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon M.A., D.Phil. (Oxon.),
Christ Church, Biddulph Moor & St Anne's, Brown Edge

Calculating Christmas

The article below is from the December issue of "Touchstone" magazine, and has generated interesting and informative follow-up on the magazine's weblog site (you will have to scroll down to read them). Also, follow this weblink

to a British site devoted to the question of the origins and dating of Christmas. --P.T.

Calculating Christmas
William J. Tighe on the Story Behind December 25

Many Christians think that Christians celebrate Christ’s birth on December 25th
because the church fathers appropriated the date of a pagan festival. Almost no one minds, except for a few groups on the fringes of American Evangelicalism, who seem to think that this makes Christmas itself a pagan festival. But it is perhaps interesting to know that the choice of December 25th is the result of attempts among the earliest Christians to figure out the date of Jesus’ birth based on calendrical calculations that had nothing to do with pagan festivals.

Rather, the pagan festival of the “Birth of the Unconquered Son” instituted by the Roman Emperor Aurelian on 25 December 274, was almost certainly an attempt to create a pagan alternative to a date that was already of some significance to Roman Christians. Thus the “pagan origins of Christmas” is a myth without historical substance.


Saturday, December 27, 2003

The Pill - NY Times 27th Dec

This may be of interest - the relation of the pill to sexuality--P.T.

The Big Lie About the Little Pill

Published: December 27, 2003 in the New York Times

The recent recommendation by two advisory committees that the Food and Drug Administration should legalize over-the-counter access to the morning-after pill seems likely to intensify the culture wars that have dominated public and political discourse over the years.

Opponents of the emergency contraceptive, known as Plan B, say they are concerned that among other things, widening access to the morning-after pill will encourage sexual promiscuity, particularly among young people. It was this apprehension that led Dr. W. David Hager of the University of Kentucky to join three other committee members in voting against the recommendation. Dr. Hager said he worried that Plan B was no less revolutionary than the birth control pill, which he claims ushered in "a new day and age for the expression of sexuality among young people.

Dr. Hager's argument is a common one. Legalized by the F.D.A. in 1960, "the pill" has been widely described as starting a revolution in sexuality and morals. But that is based on a misunderstanding of the history of America's sexual revolution and the pill's role in it.

Before 1960, the story goes, the natural constraints of human biology held Americans to strict standards of sexual discipline; after 1960, and after the pill, Americans threw off the shackles (or, depending on one's political perspective, the civilizing influence) of sexual propriety. Ever since, we've been either slouching toward Gomorrah or, as Clare Boothe Luce once famously announced, living in an age when the "modern woman is at last free as a man is free, to dispose of her own body, to earn her living, to pursue the improvement of her mind, to try a successful career."

That's a lot of power for one little pill. In truth, this narrative is flawed. Though the pill surely made contraception easier, and while it gave women more power and responsibility in family planning, it hardly created a sexual revolution. American sexual habits had been changing long before the pill found its way onto the market. Early sex surveys revealed that about half of all women who came of age in the 1920's admitted to engaging in premarital sex (defined as coitus), a figure that held steady for women in later decades.

Americans were also practicing birth control long before the pill. As early as 1938 a poll commissioned by The Ladies' Home Journal found that roughly four of every five women approved of using birth control. Just over two decades later, on the eve of the pill's legalization, 80 percent of white women and 60 percent of nonwhite women reported practicing some form of family planning.

Even the heightened sexual permissiveness of the 1960's can't be attributed to the pill. Throughout the better part of the decade doctors generally prescribed the first oral contraceptive, Enovid, only for married women, who made up the drug's largest market share in its early years. As late as 1971 only 15 percent of unmarried women age 15 to 19 used the pill. Even in recent times, only about 23 percent of women age 15 to 24 report using it.

The pill, then, did not create America's sexual revolution as much as it accelerated it. And that revolution had been a long time in the making.

Over the course of the 19th century the average number of children born to married couples dropped to about four from about seven. Americans probably weren't having less sex. Instead, couples - particularly those in the growing middle class, whose families no longer required legions of children to work on the farm - were practicing birth control. They were coming to view sex as an activity that wasn't merely procreative, but also central to pleasurable and loving marriages. In the early 20th century many Americans began experimenting with sex outside of matrimony - partly because they could. By the 1920's a majority of Americans lived in urban areas where they enjoyed greater anonymity and social freedom. Meanwhile, a growing leisure culture provided a host of places - from dance halls to movie theaters - where men and women could meet.

At the same time, as an educated work force became increasingly important to the vitality of America's advanced economy, more young people (75 percent by the 1920's) attended high school, creating a new heterosocial peer culture. In the early 20th century more young women also entered the work force, where they came into increased contact with men and enjoyed a limited amount of financial and social freedom that could translate into a loosening of sexual mores. This was particularly the case in the early 1940's, when millions of women (and exempted men) mobilized for war production, and 16 million of their husbands and boyfriends enlisted in the armed services. The resulting demographic and social upheaval created an explosion of sexual freedom.

Finally, the ever-rising influence of consumerism and advertising after 1900 chipped away at the Victorian-era culture of asceticism and self-denial, in effect legitimating the pursuit of pleasure. In a world where Americans were encouraged to "find a road of happiness the day you buy a Buick," other activities that made people happy - like sex - seemed less taboo than in prior years.

Though many young women from the 1920's onward engaged in premarital sex, they probably did so with the intention of marrying their partners. The revolution in morals was tame by later standards. Nevertheless, women and men were steadily redefining the boundaries of romance and sex long before the pill appeared.

The history of America's encounter with the pill helps inform today's debate over Plan B. Oral contraception was a vital development in women's reproductive rights and health, but it didn't cause a revolution in morals and behavior any more than Plan B is likely to sexualize a nation of young people who are already sexually active. Surveys suggest that more than 75 percent of young people have sex before they turn 20, yet only about one-fifth of sexually active high school girls use the pill. None of this minimizes the importance of either the birth control pill or Plan B. Technology has always been an important catalyst of historical change. But America's sexual revolution was a long, complicated phenomenon. No pharmacist can stuff it into a bottle. Cultural critics shouldn't try to do so, either.

Joshua M. Zeitz, a lecturer in history at Cambridge University, is writing a book about flappers and American culture in the 1920's.

Gregorian Chant in the Parish

ROME, DEC. 23, 2003 ( Answered by Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical Athenaeum.

Q: I am involved in a Latin schola, consisting mostly of people in their 20s and 30s, which sings Gregorian Masses, Latin hymns, as well as appropriate songs in English, our vernacular. It has been my experience that young people, used to contemporary music at Mass, quite appreciate Latin and other beautiful liturgical hymns when they hear them. / What guidelines could you give for the use of Gregorian chant in a parish Mass? -- JMG, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and others

A: Gregorian chant may be used in any parish, even when Mass is celebrated in the vernacular. Not only is it appropriate, but Church documents positively recommend that all Catholics know at least some Gregorian melodies.

To cite only the most recent documents, the Holy Father's recent letter on liturgical music reiterates the importance of Gregorian chant and No. 41 of the new General Instruction on the Roman Missal, published in 2002, specifically states:

"All other things being equal, Gregorian chant holds pride of place because it is proper to the Roman Liturgy. Other types of sacred music, in particular polyphony, are in no way excluded, provided that they correspond to the spirit of the liturgical action and that they foster the participation of all the faithful. Since faithful from different countries come together ever more frequently, it is fitting that they know how to sing together at least some parts of the Ordinary of the Mass in Latin, especially the Creed and the Lord's Prayer, set to the simpler melodies."

Therefore any parish may sing, for example, the Kyrie, Glory, Creed, Sanctus, Pater Noster, Agnus Dei and even some newer parts such as the acclamation after the Mysterium fidei and the "For yours is the Kingdom" which follows the embolism of the Our Father.

Some Gregorian melodies are very simple. From personal experience I have found that if repeated for a while most parishioners can pick up more complex melodies such as the Missa de Angelis and readily join the choir. Eventually the assembly even becomes capable of alternating with the choir. The people may also learn some of the simpler eucharistic and Marian hymns.

Other Gregorian motets from the proper of the Mass, as well as many hymns, would probably be beyond the ken of the average assembly but may be sung by the choir. Of course, some space should be reserved for singing by the whole assembly. But there is no reason why the people should have to sing everything.

There are some moments, such as the preparation of the gifts or just after the distribution of Communion, when a Gregorian or polyphonic piece can create a climate of prayer and meditation.

While all should know some chants, from a pastoral and practical point of view it might be better to reserve the habitual use of chant to one of the principal Masses so that those who wish to worship using vernacular settings have the opportunity to do so.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Christmas & “By the power of…” in Common Worship

Consider this -- your dog's puppies were conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, but the Lord Jesus was conceived BY the Holy Ghost!

In Common Worship, the collection of alternative services of the Church of England, there are on pages 302-303 of volume one special provisions for the period “from Christmas Day until the Eve of the Epiphany”. Amongst these are three Prefaces for the Eucharistic Prayer, and in each of them, in referring to the conception and birth of the Messiah, the expression “by the power of the Holy Spirit” is used. (E.g., “… by the power of the Holy Spirit, he took our nature upon him…”)

Where does this expression “by the power of the Holy Spirit” come from? It is used in the translation of the Creed that was used in The Book of Alternative Services (1980) and now discarded. “Conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit” was dropped for the Creed used in Common Worship, where the expression is simply “by the Holy Spirit”. The latter is what is also found in the translation of the Creed in The Book of Common Prayer from 1549 to 1662 and it is a literal and correct translation of the original.

So it seems that Common Worship has retained material from The Book of Alternative Services when it ought to have revised it in order to be in harmony with the translation of the Creed in the same book. Is this a case of careless editing?

Of course, and very importantly, there is a major theological reason why “conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit” is wrong when referring to the assuming of manhood in the Virgin’s womb by the only-begotten Son of the Father (which divine act is also at the same time Mary’s conception of Jesus). All procreation and reproduction in this world is according to the laws of nature and is possible by the power of the Holy Spirit, the power of God present through the universe. The unique conception by Mary, which is also the Incarnation of the Logos/Son, is directly by the Person of the Holy Ghost, the Third Person of the Holy Trinity. He is directly and immediately present in an unique manner of presence in order to cause this miracle of miracles to occur.

Your cat’s kittens were conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit but the Son of God assumed human nature and Mary conceived Jesus BY the Holy Ghost.

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon M.A., D.Phil. (Oxon.),
Christ Church, Biddulph Moor & St Anne's, Brown Edge

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Episcopal News Service on the new NETWORK

ACNS 3717 | USA | 23 DECEMBER 2003

Plans for network of dissenters prepares to take next step

by James Solheim

[ACNS source: Episcopal News Service] A network of parishes and dioceses that dissent from decisions by last summer's General Convention to endorse the consecration of an openly gay bishop coadjutor in New Hampshire and acknowledge that some dioceses are blessing same-gender relationships is poised to take the next steps toward creating a formal relationship.

In a December 15 Advent letter, Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh, moderator of the new network, said that "a group of orthodox bishops, who stood against the decisions of General Convention, has agreed to form a Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses-dioceses which, through their stand against General Convention's decisions regarding the consecration of Gene Robinson and the development of rites for same-sex unions, remain in communion with the rest of the worldwide Anglican Communion."

Duncan also said that Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams "has encouraged the formation of such a network in private dialogue with members of the orthodox caucus. The network is being formed, in good faith, within the constitution of ECUSA."

Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold, however, said that Williams has made it clear that he has no intention of interfering with reconciliation attempts as the church seeks to work out matters of "extended episcopal ministry" within its own provincial borders, and dissenters should not expect "direct intervention" by anyone outside the Episcopal Church in the United States-including the archbishop of Canterbury, Griswold wrote in a December 5 letter to the Church's House of Bishops.

Draft circulating among bishops

Griswold has sent a draft of guidelines for providing "Supplemental Episcopal Pastoral Care" to the bishops of the church, outlining a plan for dissidents who find it difficult to accept the leadership of their diocesan bishops. In an October 31 cover letter to the five-page draft, Griswold said that it built on work done when the bishops met at Camp Allen in Texas in March 2002. The current draft "is the work of the Committee for Pastoral Development of the House of Bishops and my Council of Advice," he wrote. "It is presented to you for your consideration, and where appropriate, immediate use, to deal with situations that might arise in your diocese."

"It is my hope that this plan will meet the needs of the present moment and also answer the concerns that have been expressed regarding episcopal pastoral care for those whose consciences are seriously strained by formal actions of our church," he wrote. The bishops "will have an opportunity to take counsel together and to make modifications and adjustments based on our experience," he said.

The plan calls on bishops "to provide for pastoral care of those who are in distress," especially in situations where there are differences between the diocesan bishop and some congregations. "At all times, however, we must recognize the constitutional and canonical authority of bishops and geographic integrity of diocesan boundaries," it added.

No direct intervention from Lambeth

Griswold pointed out that the draft was also sent to Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. "I have been in consultation with the Archbishop, and in a conversation earlier this week he made it clear that the responsibility for working out a form of extended episcopal ministry lies within our province," he said. "Indeed, the consultation envisaged in the statement of the primates following our October meeting is precisely that and does not involve some kind of direct intervention on his part." Calls for such direct intervention, either by Williams or the primates, have been made by various conservative groups within the Episcopal Church.

The American Anglican Council (AAC), chief sponsor of the network, has dismissed the plan as inadequate. Duncan said that the network was "essential to prevent the orthodox minority from being marginalized," calling it "a family table-a gathering place-for those who stand in solidarity regarding the repudiation of the anti-Scriptural decisions of General Convention."

The network has now posted its theological charter on a new web site . The Preface says that the statement of "confession and calling" is necessary because of the "threat to the historic Faith and Order" of the church posed by the consecration in New Hampshire and the decision by the Diocese of New Westminster in the Anglican Church of Canada to bless same-gender relationships.)

Duncan and several other bishops met privately with Williams after the Primates' Meeting in mid-October and met again in London November 20 to draft a Memorandum of Agreement that outlined the process for establishing the network. Joining Duncan were Bishop Edward Salmon of South Carolina, Bishop James Stanton of Dallas, Bishop Jack L. Iker of Ft. Worth, and four Anglican primates. When the memorandum was circulated, nine other bishops signed on, selecting Duncan as moderator and convenor of the network.

Confusion over involvement

The actual number of dioceses involved in the network at this point has stirred some controversy and confusion. Duncan told the New York Times that 13 had joined the network. The claim has stirred confusion, however, since only a handful have formally acted to affiliate. (According to subsequent news reports only Pittsburgh, South Carolina and Ft. Worth have taken official action.)

The original list of 13 identified by Duncan and published in the New York Times, brought some strong reactions from bishops who said that the decision had not been made yet by their dioceses. The list included Albany, Pittsburgh, San Joaquin (California), South Carolina, Florida, Central Florida, Southwest Florida, Dallas, Ft. Worth, Quincy, Springfield (Illinois), Western Kansas and Rio Grande.

Among those objecting to being included on the list is Bishop John Howe of Central Florida, who said in a letter that the newspaper account "has gotten the cart way, way ahead of the horse."

Howe said that when he and the other bishops met with the archbishop of Canterbury on October 17, "he encouraged us to form what he called 'a network of confessing dioceses and Parishes' specifically to help address the call the primates had made the day before to provide for 'adequate Episcopal oversight.' He seemed to be saying that he would be personally involved with such a network, and when the 13 bishops signed a Memorandum of Intent last month to create such a network we did so as individuals, not presuming to speak for our dioceses."

Howe added, "In recent weeks, the Archbishop has made it clear that he believes any provision for Episcopal oversight must be worked out within ECUSA itself, and that he will not be personally involved." Howe said that several bishops who signed the memorandum "have expressed reservations and questions about how and even whether the network should proceed. The perception of many is that it appears to be laying the foundation for a kind of 'shadow province,' the very thing I have repeatedly said I do not wish to be part of. Bishop John Lipscomb of SW Florida and I have both been very clear that we have no intention of leaving ECUSA, or of attempting in any way to move our dioceses out of ECUSA."

A statement on Lipscomb's diocesan Web site said that "while he and Duncan served on a panel that drafted a theology statement for a network of confessing dioceses and parishes, he has not agreed to officially join any structure that would create further division in the Episcopal Church."

Divisive network?

At its monthly meeting, Central Florida's board as a whole was reluctant to sign on to the network and no motion to sign on was presented, according to Joe Thoma, the diocesan communications officer. He reported that the board did vote to send Howe to the network's January meeting in Plano "to find out more about what the network hopes to accomplish, and to report back at our diocesan convention at the end of January."

According to Thoma, four board members voted against sending anyone, saying that "it would give the impression that the Diocese of Central Florida is joining the network, and that the network seems divisive regardless of its or its members' stated intentions at this point." Howe said he had not planned to attend the January Plano meeting, but he will honor the will of the diocesan board and make the trip."

January launch in Texas

The real direction and strategy of the network will be more obvious after the scheduled charter meeting in Plano, a suburb of Dallas, January 19-20. That "formal launch" of the network, according to a press release from the American Anglican Council, "will include one diocesan bishop as well as two clergy and two lay leaders from each of the 13 dioceses that have already joined the Network." A charter will be drafted and serve as the incorporating document for the network.

According to the AAC, the network bishops will "participate in providing adequate Episcopal oversight to congregations within the ECUSA who request it. Parishes from 37 dioceses have already requested oversight through the AAC's oversight application process," according to a December 17 news release.

ACC president David C. Anderson said that the network is "a crucial component of Anglican realignment in North America. It will serve as a lifeboat for orthodox dioceses and parishes who feel abandoned and betrayed by ECUSA, as well as for those faithful Episcopalians enduring harassment and intimidation by their rectors, bishops, or both."

James Solheim is director of Episcopal News Service

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Tragedy in South Carolina

(Lou Tarsitano comments on dispute over property in S C)

I agree with a dear friend that the situation in South Carolina, in which the bishop of the Episcopal diocese is attempting to take over All Saint’s Parish, which has joined the Anglican Mission in America, is a tragedy. I also fear that attempts to attribute blame are beside the point. Whether the Bishop of South Carolina were 100% right and All Saints' were 100% wrong, or vice versa, it would still be an error for the Diocese of South Carolina to pursue the property and control of All Saints' parish.

In 1789, when the American church was reorganized following the Revolution, it was the Scriptural, historical, and charitable decision of the uniting state churches that bishops should have spiritual, but not temporal authority in the Church in the United States (see Clara O. Loveland, "The Critical Years"). This principle was a solemn obligation among Episcopalians, and it took almost two centuries for honor and charity within the Episcopal Church to decay to the point that the Dennis Canon was pushed through a General Convention, more or less at the last minute, after the final edition of the official "Convention Daily" had been published.

One of our number asked why parishes did not rebel or remove themselves in 1979, in response to the Dennis Canon. Many of the traditional parishes were willing to give the Episcopal Church one more chance; many others simply did not believe that a church canon could nullify the civil deeds to their property. After all, in 1870, when Bishop Cummings led the Reformed Episcopal Church out of the then-PECUSA, efforts had been made to retain property for the national church, especially in Chicago, where Christ Church and its rector Dr. Cheney were sued. Christ Church won the right to retain its property, which it held by civil deed.

In response, the General Convention of that time added to the canons a section on the alienation of property. The same General Convention, however, also passed a resolution urging the several bishops and dioceses to seek civil title to property in their several states. The 1954 edition of the official commentary on the constitution and canons of the Episcopal Church, often known as White and Dykman, offered, with the sanction of the General Convention, the opinion that ecclesiastical law could go no further than the limits recognized in 1870, and that canon law was insufficient to secure property. Needless to say, the edition of the commentary published after Dennis in 1981, removed this information.

Thus, a great many Episcopalians, lay and clerical, simply did not believe that bishops and dioceses could claim property to which they held the civil deed or to impose an involuntary, retroactive trust upon them. This opinion is not very remarkable when one remembers that the Roman Church in the United States does not own property by canon, but by civil law. This matter was settled at turn of the 19th century, in what was called the Trusteeship Controversy. When the American courts refused to enforce Roman canon law, Roman canon law was changed to require that those entities joining the Roman Catholic Church in America must first deed their property civilly to the American Roman Church. Roman Catholic "hierarchy" as a model of Episcopalian "hierarchy" has always been a red herring, since the Roman Church acted, not on the basis of ecclesiastical hierarchy, but on the basis of American civil law (as the General Convention had proposed to the dioceses in the 1870s, although virtually all Episcopal dioceses failed to take these steps in civil law).

Then a strange thing happened. From 1976 on, the Episcopal Church began to divide into three main groups ( or "tendencies," if one prefers) that had nothing to do with "churchmanship," another red herring in these arguments, since terms like "catholic" or "evangelical" are meaningless in this context. One group, call them the "traditionalists," considered the replacement of historic formularies, along with their doctrine and order, beyond the authority of the General Convention. They could not accept the 1979 book as a valid prayer book or the ordination of women as a valid ministry. The second group, call them the "moderate liberals," agreed with the ordination of women, did not consider the formularies a fighting issue, and imposed a large measure of orthodoxy (apart from the matter of ordaining women) upon the weaker sections of the 1979 book. While liberal in its outlook, this group had no intention or desire to move beyond a moderate, honorable, albeit contemporary, reading of Scripture.

For the third group, the "radical liberals" or "revisionists," even the moderates' attachment to Scripture was an outrageous "fundamentalism," and the traditionalists' stand was actually a crime to be punished. The goal of the radicals was not merely to revise the life of the Church, but finally to re-invent human nature itself. This mania for re-invention has led to such distortions of reality as the consecration of Gene Robinson (a divorced man, who left his family to live with another man) and the desire to bless almost any form of sexual intercourse outside of Christian marriage.

What was strange was this--to a greater extent than anyone cares to admit, the moderate liberals joined with the revisionists in the punishment of the traditionalists. Moderates, with just as much to lose as the traditionalists in the end, testified against traditional parishes' ownership of their property. They encouraged the view that the bishop was no longer merely a sacramental overseer, but really the CEO of Episcopal, Inc., abandoning a positive obligation to the spiritual, rather than the temporal bishop. They helped to aggrandize the temporal authority of the bishops to the point that in the Accokeek case, the civil judge ruled that the Episcopal bishop in question had more power than any Church of England bishop or even the Bishop of Rome, since both the English and the Roman bishops have to answer to a higher standard than whim.

Years ago, in the 1980s, one of the moderate bishops accused me of disloyalty to the Episcopal Church for not accepting the General Convention's word on the Prayer Book and the ordination of women as final. I suggested that he and people like him were making a mistake since they were eliminating allies for the day when the General Convention inevitably acted against his and their conscience. He assured me that this would never happen. His name, however, was listed among those bishops who objected to the General Convention's approval of Robinson's election to New Hampshire. Also on the list was at least one other bishop that I know to have testified against a traditional parish's ownership of its property.

Unfortunately, the position of the moderates and their cooperation with the revisionists has come back to bite them. People who either agreed to or acquiesced in the position that traditionalists did not have a right to their witness or to their property are now asking, "But what about our witness? What about our property that our people have worked so hard to maintain?" And the answer, which they have too often helped to shape, is that the General Convention and the bishops loyal to it are the highest judicatory of the Episcopal Church and the rightful owners of all property connected with the Episcopal Church.

As a traditionalist, I have the highest esteem for Bishop Salmon, Bishop Murphy, and all involved, even though I would include them in the moderate liberal category, at least as far as the ordination of women is concerned. I love them as Christian brethren, even though I believe that they are in error on certain critical matters. What does upset me, however, is to see the moderates doing to one another what was done to the traditionalists. The ukase of the General Convention is not a higher authority than Christian charity or the historic ethos and obligations of the Episcopal way of life in America. A bishop is not required to behave, certainly not morally, as a landlord (which fact Bishop Murphy might also keep in mind when someone says no to him in conscience). A bishop is not required, certainly not morally, to enforce the Dennis Canon against the history and the agreed-to fellowship of the Anglican Way in America. Nor does our affection for one bishop or the other require us to make excessive claims, for one and against the other. None of us has to do the work of the revisionists against each other.

Moderation is often a good thing, although it can lose energy and become mere paralysis, so that we act out of habit and mistake habit for principle. The Episcopal Church has developed a number of nasty habits in the past 25 or 30 years, and not a one of them is worth preserving. American Anglicans within and without (often driven out) of the Episcopal Church are simply going to have to get out of the habit of being what the Episcopal Church has become in order to be Episcopalians again. The traditionalists are going to have to learn to talk to the moderates again, and the moderates are going to have to stop identifying with the coercive or dismissive ways of the revisionist mutual opposition, if we are ever to put together some sort of real fellowship and communion among Anglicans in our country once again, God being our helper.

So my prayers and the prayers of my parish go out to the brethren in South Carolina, not that God pick a winner and a loser, but that he lead us all to a better way of serving him and caring for each other.

Louis Tarsitano (, St. Andrew's, Savannah

Saturday, December 20, 2003

May I try once more to provide clarity...

(Earlier posts in this thread are found below)
My dear Father Kim,

Before Christmas demands all out time and attention, may I try once more to explain to your patient List that:

(a) I do not want to ban the 1979 Prayer Book of the ECUSA. I simply want folks to recognize that it is not what it calls itself, "The BCP". I want people to see that It is in structure and content a Book of Varied Services and is thus part of a common genre that is found in Anglicanism from the 1970s onwards; its creators are fully aware that it is a new genre.

(b) I want to claim that the true BCP of the PECUSA (later ECUSA) is the classic edition of the BCP, that which began its American life as the 1789 edition (edition of 1662 adapted to USA) and was last edited and published in 1928. I suggest that this latter ought to be the Formulary of the ECUSA & Network, with the 1979 book as a Book of Varied Services alongside it and under its doctrinal authority.

(c) I recognise that the Network of Bob Duncan et al is in the making and its foundations are not yet set in concrete. This is why I strongly suggest that it gets its thinking and statements clear not only on Scripture and sexual ethics but also on Worship & doctrine, by signing on to the Formularies of the PECUSA/ECUSA as they were until the 1970s, when the innovations came in thick and fast and undermined the reformed catholic Faith of the PECUSA/ECUSA and cast out these Formularies (classic BCP, classic Ordinal, classic Articles)

Unless the Network recovers the traditional PECUSA Formularies I cannot see how it can ever claim to be the genuine continuing PECUSA/ECUSA. Rather it will be the present ECUSA modified, not given real and new (yet old) foundations.


Thanks for your patience.

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon M.A., D.Phil. (Oxon.)

A friendly suggestion to Bishop Duncan, Canon Anderson and to members of the proposed Network

(December 19th, 2003)

I wish to comment on the following paragraph in your Declaration in order to make suggestions by which your aims are made more specific and related specifically to the history of the Anglican Way in the USA. Here is what you have written:

I.5. We confess, hold and bear witness, in particular therefore, that this trust is given to us in the Holy Scripture’s received authority: the “Word of God” making known the “mysteries” of God through the prophets and apostles by the Holy Spirit (Col 1:25ff.; Rom. 16:25f.; Eph. 3:5; Nicene Creed). This Word is made known and rightly apprehended, furthermore, in the Church’s life as it is bound in the unity of love and truth before the eyes of the world (Jn. 17:20-26; Col 2:1-6), expressed in the common Creeds and Canons of the Christian churches, as they have been led in recognized council across the ages. Within the Anglican Church of which we are a part, this means that Scripture’s meaning is rightly discerned in addition through the theological ordering of our common historic formularies, including the sixteenth and seventeenth century authorized Books of Common Prayer and the Thirty-Nine Articles which ground the belief and practices of our Communion’s life. “In this way the authorities, which the church needs for her mission, are defined and limited.” (Barmen Declaration Article 1).

I comment on the second half of the paragraph which deals with the Anglican Way, which we believe is a jurisdiction of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.

Against the background of the Creeds (Apostles’, Nicene & Athanasian) and Canons (I presume especially those of 1604 in England and from before the 1960s in the PECUSA/ECUSA) you speak of the common, historic formularies. We agree, I think, that these are (a) The Book of Common Prayer; (b) The Ordinal – services of ordination; and (c) the Articles of Religion.

What we need to agree upon next is that the classic edition of these Formularies is that of 1662 – in The BCP of 1662 there is contained all Three Formularies and this edition has been translated into over 150 languages. May I suggest that the Ordinal is a Formulary and should be stated also in your paragraph.

Since the Anglican Communion is now made up of self-governing Provinces and each one has its own particular cultural and political context, these edition of 1662 Formularies have been received in a specific manner in each Province since the eighteenth century. This means that they have been adapted to local reality. Thus in the Thirteen States of the USA in the 1780s they were received and then adapted to local reality – e.g., no longer prayer for the King but prayer for President & Governor.

So the PECUSA had specific Formularies (approved by the Bishops of the C of E) of its own by 1800 and these were of the same nature and content as those of the mother Church but adapted to local circumstances.

It would, I submit, be far better and more realistic, for your Declaration to state that you are committed to the Formularies as they were received and adapted by the General Convention in the late eighteenth century and then slightly modified in 1892 & 1928. In other words you are committed to specific edition of the Formularies, that is the USA edition. Likewise to the Canon Law as received in the PECUSA before the revolutions beginning in the 1960s.

Stating a general commitment to Formularies as you do opens the door to vagueness and misunderstanding and leaves the 1979 prayer book hanging in free space.

So I suggest that what you really need to state is that the 1979 prayer book, while called “The BCP” by the ECUSA, is not a genuine BCP in the line of the classic & historic editions of 1549, 1552, 1662, 1789, 1892 & 1928. It is of a different genre and ethos – it is a BAS, an ASB, a book of alternative services not a new edition of the classic BCP of 1662 & 1928.

You could call this new kind of prayer book “The American Book of Alternative Services” or “The ECUSA Prayer Book” as you also specifically state your commitment to the classic American Formularies, those of 1928. However, if you so declare, then I suggest that then you need to state very specifically that while the 1979 prayer book is the chief Formulary of the present, disordered ECUSA it is not so any longer for you; for you it is only a book of alternative services, even if you like parts of it very much.

If you follow my suggestion then I submit that you will be really fulfilling the citation from the Barmen Declaration. I mean “defined and limited.”

(I hardly need add what you know that the Gene Robinson affair is merely the last of a series of innovations (based usually on secular understandings of rights, individualism etc.) within the ECUSA that was given a tremendous send off in the 1970s with the daring innovation of setting aside the chief formulary of the Anglican Way and replacing it with a different one, but calling the new one by the old name! What a preposterous thing to do and so many accepted it because they were drugged by the spirit of the 1960s! Let us shake off that drug!)

May the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ give you courage, strength and wisdom to do the will of the heavenly Father.

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon M.A., D.Phil. (Oxon.)

Friday, December 19, 2003


My Dear Fr Kim:


May I make a contribution to the discussion about the new NETWORK within the ECUSA on your List (and congratulations to you on the energy you show day by day - as not a young man - in getting out all the material to hundreds of places and people).

To set the scene of American Anglicanism - as I see it we have now (with some overlapping and untidiness) (a) those within the ECUSA (the Network) who wish to be "a church within a Church" and to be given a stamp of approval by overseas bishops of the Anglican Communion; (b) those in the new Anglicans United loose Federation (REC, AMiA, APA, Charismatic Anglicans etc.) of Anglican Groups, and (c) the old, classic Continuers (PCK, ACA, ACC and their offshoots). (a) is talking to (b) and (b) to (a) but not as much as really is needed. Then a very few in (a) and (b) are talking to (c). Within (c) there is the beginning of talking with one another. There is need for continuing conversation within and between all groups.

On the face of it the NETWORK is simply accepting the ECUSA as it was in July 2003 before it took on board the Gene Robinson affair. That is, it is accepting the Canon Law and Formulary (the 1979 prayer book with its catechism & ordinal) as its basis.

However, I think it is true to say that there is a growing recognition that to stay within the ECUSA as a church within a church needs to be seen "as a church within an apostate church". For it is not only the accepting of same-sex relations as normal and approved by God that is the problem the Network has to face. Since the 1960s there has been an accumulation of innovations each of which has been an accommodation to the secular society and to the modern doctrines of human rights, self-affirmation and democracy. The apostasy is caused by the total effect of these innovations on the worship, doctrine & discipline of the ECUSA. Of course there are parishes which have resisted parts of this total program of innovations but all parishes in the ECUSA and all clergy are infected by the cancer even when they protest against it. They are members one of another and thus share the same bloodstream as it were.

I believe that Bishop Duncan, Canon Anderson, Bishop Ackerman and others see this picture rather clearly and they desire to move this Network from its present doctrinal position into a sounder one, and this will mean the imposition of discipline in their own Network, the like of which the Episcopalians have not known before.

So my belief is that we should encourage the Network to explore its Anglican roots within the PECUSA and while the Scriptures are read and meditated upon in its parishes. This I think will cause the members to wish to desire to be governed by a Canon Law and Polity that is free from the infections that began in the 1960s and also it will help them to move to the recognition that the 1979 prayer book is at best a book of alternative services (= ASB, 1980 & BAS 1985 of England & Canada). There is absolutely no hope for the Network as a truly Anglican body if it does not get its Formularies and Canon Law right - to something like they were before the 1960s. Protesting it is based on Scripture is not enough in 2004 for the Network since it must in its constitution and basis confess and teach sound orthodox Anglican Reformed Catholic Faith; and keeping the 1979 book as its formulary tells us that it is committed to the revision of Anglican Faith that began in the 1960s and is not much different (except for same-sex matters and a few other
things) from the ECUSA itself.

So I hope that there will be a recovery of roots and of reformed Catholic Faith in the Network, a move by the Network towards the "Federation" and also, more gently and carefully, towards the classic Continuers.

Let us remember that Anglican Way knows only in its Polity one province in one country and so if the ECUSA is by apostasy not that province any more for the USA, then the Anglicans outside it and on the edge of it in the USA need to work together to create in God's good time the replacement - together they need to rebuild the American Anglican Household. This is a holy and urgent assignment!

The Revd Dr Peter Toon December 18th 2003

A reader responds:

P.T:On the face of it the NETWORK is simply accepting the ECUSA as it was in July 2003 before it took on board the Gene Robinson affair. That is, it is accepting the Canon Law and Formulary (the 1979 prayer book with its catechism & ordinal) as its basis.

I wish people would stop trying to infer things, and actually engage the material instead. I've seen no interaction with the Network's theological statement, which seems to address this, at least in part:

"Within the Anglican Church of which we are a part, this means that Scripture’s meaning is rightly discerned in addition through the theological ordering of our common historic formularies, including the sixteenth and seventeenth century authorized Books of Common Prayer and the Thirty-Nine Articles which ground the belief and practices of our Communion’s life. “In this way the authorities, which the church needs for her mission, are defined and limited.” (Barmen Declaration Article 1)."

The Network does not see itself as a church within a church, but as the eventual replacement for ECUSA as the legitimate voice of Anglicanism is the US in communion with the rest of the Communion. Let me tell you, Kendall Harmon expressed his negative opinion of the '79 book in Dallas, and no one I know disagreed with him at all. There is no need for those who will likely be members of this Network to "move to the recognition that the 1979 prayer book is at best a book of alternative services." They are already there. They agree with you already. Duncan, I believe, has already said that other prayerbooks beside the '79 should be used. I think most would probably go that route.

P.T: Let us remember that Anglican Way knows only in its Polity one province in one country...

Well, I think this development was more a practical one than one founded in Christian theology or in scripture, and as such I do not think it is one that is necessary to continue. And there are, after all, provinces of more than one country. I don't think this is something that we must hold on to in order to remain Anglican.

Dear Father Kim,

May I reply to the anonymous writer below, whose comments you circulated. Kindly pass this on to your patient readers.

Will she or he tell me how many of those involved in the Network have recognized before God, before history and in their own minds that the 1979 prayer book is not and can never be The Book of Common Prayer. It is in structure and content much like the 1980 ASB and the 1985 BAS.

I know that the AAC and the Network pay lip service to the classic editions of the BCP in their statements but nevertheless they still call and treat and use the 1979 book as though it were a genuine edition of the BCP, when in fact, as all who see it can recognize, it is really and truly a book of varied services. It was called the BCP 1979 by the very ECUSA Convention which authorized later same-sex relations and approved Gene Robinson. To call it the BCP was a greater act of defiance against God than was the approval of Mr Robinson, bad though the latter was. To make it the chief formulary of the ECUSA was another act of defiance against heaven and against the Anglican Way. The Network must surely deplore and repudiate these decisions.

What I look for is a real move -- not merely in long statements at a web site hurriedly put together -- by the AAC & Network actually to make it very clear that the 1979 prayer book is wrongly named and is at best a book of alternative services, while the true BCP of the PECUSA/ECUSA is the edition of 1928. When they do this, then I think that they will show that they are really intending to be the replacement for the present apostate ECUSA.

Let the AAC and the Network declare that like the C of E and other Churches they believe it is right to have the specific classic Formularies (BCP, Ordinal and Articles) and also to have alongside them a Book of Alternative Services. In the USA the edition of the BCP that is authentically American is the 1928 (which is a revision of 1892/1789/1662). A Church cannot say it is committed to all prayer books for each is related to a place and time.

In terms of the Unity of the Anglican Way, to state that there is to be one Province in one geographical area is to state what the classic American Prayer Books have stated (1789, 1892 & 1928 editions). This idea of one united province is not a form of colonialism it is the Polity of the Anglican Way and thus in the USA what is called for is a Province uniting all the anglican household that is biblically based and desirous to be orthodox. I see this as a most important vocation for the Network for the Household is now divided into so many groupings, many of whom are outside the ECUSA and critical of those remaining in there!

I am optimistic that there will be a recovering by the Network of the roots of genuine Anglicanism that is there richly in US history and is found all over the present world. But I say again there can be no recovery that does not include dropping the 1979 prayer book from its pedestal and replacing it with the 1928 BCP as chief Formulary. If the 1979 is to be used as the book of alternative services for a while - OK - but it must not be as now for the Network (as it is in ECUSA) the official Formulary if the Network is to be takens seriously by the Extra-Mural Anglicans and by observers abroad.

When the 1979 book is put down from its pedestal there will also come with it various innovations that are supported and energized by it. But that is step 2. Step one is to get the Formulary right! Let's do that first.

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon M.A., D.Phil. (Oxon.),
Christ Church, Biddulph Moor & St Anne's, Brown Edge

The Archbishop of Canterbury's Commission


The full Commission will meet as a whole on three occasions: in February; June; and September 2004. It intends to complete its initial report on the nature, extent and consequences of Impaired Communion in the Anglican Communion as a result of recent developments by the end of September 2004 for submission to the Archbishop of Canterbury in October. Intensive work will also be commissioned from individual members of the Commission and others, and undertaken beyond the main sessions set out above.

As required by its mandate, the Commission will begin by considering recent work elsewhere on the issue of Communion. It will give primary consideration to the resolutions of the Lambeth Conferences of 1988 and 1998 on this issue, together with a consideration of what has been achieved in the Grindrod, Eames and Virginia Reports, which addressed matters of Communion, particularly in relation then to the issue of the ordination of women to the episcopate. It will also wish to give especial attention to the recent work of the Inter Anglican Theological and Doctrinal Commission on the theological nature of Communion, and the various statements and pastoral letters issued by the Primates at their recent meetings.

There are no plans at this stage to hold sessions of the Commission in public, but it is felt that it will be important for the work of the Commission to be as open as possible. For this reason, evidence considered by the Commission will generally be published on the web site associated with the Commission, and it is intended to publish interim reports of the work of the Commission following each plenary session. Specific submissions to the Commission will be invited from particular groups or individuals, both in written form and by the reception of evidence in interview, either at plenary sessions, or at subsidiary meetings and sub-committees. The Initial Report in its final form will not be published until it has been received formally by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Submissions of evidence may be forwarded unsolicited for the consideration of the Commission, provided that the following criteria are met:

* Submissions must relate strictly to the terms of reference of the Commission (key questions are set out below), and be sent in electronic format to the email address of the Commission's Secretary set out below.

* Submissions should be in word processed format, and no longer than one side of an A4 sheet of paper or the equivalent.

The Commission may decide to request clarification or development as it feels appropriate. All submissions may be published on the Commission web site at the direction of the Commission's Chair, Archbishop Robin Eames.

The Commission should be grateful if members of the Anglican Communion, and our ecumenical partners, will hold the Commission's work in their prayers, together with the life of the Anglican Communion.

Information on the Commission and its ongoing work may be found on the web site:
(, or by contacting the Secretary to the Commission, the Revd Canon Gregory Cameron, on

Media enquiries should be addressed to the Press Officer of the Archbishop of Armagh:

The Revd Brian Parker
Tel: +44 (0) 28 90 232909
Mobile: +44 (0) 7775 927807

The Commission's Key Questions:

Taking into account work on issues of communion carried out by Lambeth Conferences 1988 and 1998, and the views of the Primates Meetings since 2000:

1. What are (a) the legal and (b) the theological implications flowing from ECUSA decision to appoint a priest in a committed same sex relationship as one of its bishops? (See LC 1998 Res. I.10)

2. What are (a) the legal and (b) the theological implications of the decision of the diocese of New Westminster to authorise services for use in connection with same sex unions?

3. What are the canonical understandings of (a) communion, (b) impaired communion and (c) broken communion? (What is autonomy and how is it related to communion?)

4. How (do and) may provinces relate to one another in situations where the ecclesiastical authorities of one province feel unable to maintain the fullness of communion with another part of the Anglican Communion?

5. What practical solutions might there be to maintain the highest degree of communion that may be possible, in the circumstances resulting from these two decisions, within the individual churches involved? (eg [alternative] episcopal oversight when full communion is threatened)

6. What practical solutions might there be to maintain the highest degree of communion that may be possible, in the circumstances resulting from these two decisions, as between the churches of the Anglican Communion? (eg [alternative] episcopal oversight when full communion is threatened)

7. Under (a) what circumstances, (b) what conditions, and (c) by what means, might it be appropriate for the Archbishop of Canterbury to exercise an extraordinary ministry of pastoral oversight, support and reconciliation with regard to the internal affairs of a province to maintain communion between Canterbury and that province? (see LC 1998, Res. IV.13)

8. Under (a) what circumstances, (b) what conditions, and (c) by what means, might it be appropriate for the Archbishop of Canterbury to exercise an extraordinary ministry of pastoral oversight, support and reconciliation with regard to the internal affairs of a province to maintain communion between that province and the rest of the Anglican Communion? (see LC Res. IV.13)

ACNSlist, published by Anglican Communion News Service, London, is distributed to more than 7,500 journalists and other readers around the world. For subscription information please go to:

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

How EXPERIENCE has changed doing theology in the ECUSA in 50 years.

A discussion starter

In 1950 most theologians and bishops of the Episcopal Church were content to state that the Anglican Way was based on Scripture, tradition and reason. (This formula is usually traced to Richard Hooker although he never actually stated it as such.) They claimed that this formula rightly summarized the theological method of the standard divines of the Anglican Way who treated the Bible as the Word of God, to be read and interpreted by godly reason informed by the best insights of the Church over the centuries and in the light of her Creeds and Formularies.

Then after the 1960s the formula became - Scripture, tradition, reason & experience.

After the social and cultural revolution of the 1960s, it was apparently difficult for broad-minded people to deny, for example, that the EXPERIENCE of struggle for liberation and human dignity/ equality by ethnic groups and by women was a source of human knowledge and even of divine revelation. Thus the ECUSA began to innovate in doctrine and discipline - and later in liturgy - to incorporate the insights and lessons from experience! Thus, the ordination of women, the equating of the kingdom of God with the search for justice and peace, the relaxing of marriage discipline and then the inclusive language for church services and bible readings. (The beginnings of all this are clearly to be seen in the 1979 prayer book of the ECUSA.)

Now, in 2003, within the more radical parts of the ECUSA, the formula has been turned inside out and is: Experience, scripture, tradition and reason.

What is selectively taken from the social, cultural scene and from the human sciences dominates the mindset of the new Episcopal religion. The Scripture is read in such a way as to conform to - not challenge - the latest revelation from EXPERIENCE, and reason is used to make sure that Scripture and tradition do not provide any substantial arguments against what is taken as prophetic and innovatory word of God from EXPERIENCE. The Gay Agenda in the churches is the most obvious but not the only example of the working out of the new formula, for serial monogamy with church blessing is close by it. In fact when Experience takes over as THE source of authority and doctrine then of course it is no longer The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who is worshipped but rather some idol of human creation.

The classic 1,2,3,4 & 5 of the Anglican Way were and remain : ONE Canon of Scripture; TWO Testaments within it; THREE Creeds to summarize its essential content; FOUR Ecumenical Councils to provide the essential dogma concerning the Holy Trinity and the Identity of Jesus Christ based on Scripture; and FIVE centuries of church life, liturgy, polity, canon law and Bible interpretation to learn from.

Here there is experience but it is experience within the doctrinal, ethical and liturgical framework and it is experience of God, grace, salvation and so on.

The new 1,2,3,4 & 5 is wholly innovatory and is probably:
  1. Contemporary experience as reported by the human & behavioral sciences;
  2. personal experience of self-worth, self-realization and self-expression;

  3. corporate experience in social and political activism;

  4. congregational & synodical experience in religious worship and fellowship;

  5. and individual meditation, prayer, reading of holy books and seeking after "God".

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon M.A., D.Phil. (Oxon.)

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Why BBC Was Wrong About AIDS Prevention

SPUC Director Says Science Backs Up Church's Emphasis on Chastity

LONDON, NOV. 21, 2003 ( A recent television program on AIDS prevention failed to note that scientific evidence indicates the Catholic Church is right when it advocates abstinence and marital fidelity, says a pro-life observer.

John Smeaton, national director of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, said as much in an open letter to the director general of BBC in response to the network's program "Sex and the Holy City."

The program, which was screened to coincide with the recent 25th anniversary of Pope John Paul II, claimed to investigate the Church's teachings on sexuality.

Smeaton shared with ZENIT the scientific and empirical evidence that contradicts the BBC's statements, which he thinks implied that the Pope's personal views on contraception and abortion are causing misery and death in the developing world.

Q: What inspired you to write this open letter to the BBC?

Smeaton: The BBC continues to command a great deal of influence and respect around the world, but it remains accountable to virtually no one. When it makes unsubstantiated and misleading allegations of this nature, the results are very damaging for all those who work to protect human life.

SPUC is not a religious organization, but the Panorama program attacked the Catholic Church's teachings on abortion and human sexuality that we share. We felt duty-bound as a Society to expose its one-sided and inaccurate coverage of this subject.

Q: What were your main points of contention with the BBC program?

Smeaton: From beginning to end, the program presupposed that the Church's prohibition of abortion and birth control was the major cause of poverty and suffering in the developing world. This view was never once challenged in the course of the program.

In the part of the program that dealt with Nicaragua, cheap pro-abortion tactics were used unashamedly, such as the use of unreferenced figures for maternal death through illegal abortion and the portrayal of pregnant child rape-victims as the norm.

In the section on Manila, outdated Malthusian arguments were used to present contraception as the magical answer to poverty and homelessness. In the part about Kenya, the program went so far as to suggest that the Church was condemning people to death from AIDS by "peddling rumor and superstition."

We are not saying that the issues do not warrant scrutiny. Our major complaint is that the BBC made no attempt at presenting a balanced, honest and accurate report.

Q: What are the problems with using condoms as the primary solution to stopping AIDS?

Smeaton: The major problem is that they are not safe. This is not even a contentious point. The condom manufacturers themselves point this out. The issue of viral leakage is certainly open to dispute but, even simply taking into account the danger of a condom's rupturing or slipping off, the risk of HIV transmission is very real.

Condom use may reduce the risk of transmission, but to spread the message that condom use prevents AIDS is a dangerous lie. It is no good saying that the risk is "only 15%," or "only 1 in 10" when we are talking about human lives.

We have to ask ourselves whether the decision-makers and birth control advocates would be quite so cavalier if we were talking about a terminal condition that was transmitted non-sexually. For example, would health care professionals advise a chain smoker at serious risk of lung cancer to smoke cigarettes with better filters rather than giving up smoking altogether?

Worse, would they advise him to give his wife and children masks to reduce the amount of smoke they breathed in so that he could smoke freely around the house rather than telling him to act responsibly and not expose them to any risk at all?

The second major problem is that condoms encourage irresponsible behavior because people believe themselves to be better protected than they actually are. A paper entitled "Condoms and Seat Belts: The Parallels and the Lessons," which was published in a UK medical journal called The Lancet, noted that "a vigorous condom promotion policy could increase rather than decrease unprotected sexual exposure if it has the unintended effect of encouraging a greater overall level of sexual activity."

The figures bear this out. Botswana has the highest distribution of condoms, but 39% of the population is infected with AIDS. However, when the archbishop of Nairobi made the same point in a reputable medical journal, he was accused of talking "scientific nonsense."

Q: Are there independent scientific studies that back up objections to condoms?

Smeaton: Yes there are. First, to reaffirm my previous point, there is not a single scientific study I have come across that promotes condoms as 100% effective.

All reputable studies admit a failure rate caused by a variety of factors. Besides the ones already mentioned, latex is a natural substance that can degrade if stored in unsuitable conditions, if exposed to extremes of temperature or if stored for an extended length of time.

Condoms are also used incorrectly in many cases. Studies often refer to "ideal" or "consistent and proper" use compared with "typical" use, where the failure rate and associated risks are higher.

To give a couple of examples, the U.S. National Institute of Health study on condoms that was cited in the Panorama program gives a failure rate of between 1.6% and 3.6%. It also quotes an estimate from National Surveys of Family Growth that suggested that 14% of couples experienced an unintended pregnancy during the first year of "typical" condom use.

With any failure rate connected with pregnancy, one has to bear in mind that a woman can only become pregnant for between five and seven days of her cycle whereas a person can be infected with HIV at any time. Also, while a conception involves the creation of a new life regardless of how the couple considers the child, HIV infection can only ever be a tragedy.

Q: Could you explain why programs based on promoting abstinence and marital fidelity may be preferable to massive distributions of condoms?

Smeaton: Programs based on abstinence and marital fidelity are always preferable to condom distribution in the fight against AIDS -- and it is not just the Church that tells us this. The World Health Organization and the condom companies say so, too.

Now, condom companies are not exactly supporters of the "theology of the body," nor are they guardians of Christian marriage. However, even the makers of Durex condoms say quite clearly that "for complete protection from HIV and other [sexually transmitted infections], the only totally effective measure is sexual abstinence or limiting sexual intercourse to mutually faithful, uninfected partners."

The logic of abstinence and marital fidelity programs is beautifully simple and straightforward. If a person sleeps around and uses a condom, they run the risk, however reduced, of contracting HIV; yet no one has ever died as a direct result of virginity.

It is the same if a man and a woman are faithful to one another in marriage, having abstained beforehand. The Church's teaching on human sexuality is not the idealistic dream that the Panorama program claimed. It is the common-sense system by which billions of people have lived over generations.

Q: What is the success rate of AIDS prevention or reduction in areas that have abstinence and marital fidelity programs compared with areas where condoms are distributed?

Smeaton: Uganda is perhaps the biggest success story in the fight against AIDS and much of its achievement is because of changes in sexual behavior, particularly emphasis on abstinence and fidelity.

Condoms have been promoted as a last resort, but a report by USAID on Uganda found that condoms were not a major factor in the decrease in HIV transmission. In fact, the decline in transmission rates began before the widespread promotion of condoms.

Critics of abstinence claim that people are not strong enough to resist, but this is unsubstantiated propaganda. In one district of Uganda, it was noted that fewer than 5% of 13- to 16-year-olds were sexually active in 2001 compared with 60% in 1994, a significant change in sexual behavior achieved in just seven years.

Unlike some of its neighboring countries, Uganda has had a decline in HIV transmission for well over a decade and 98% of people with no education are aware of AIDS -- one of the highest awareness rates in the world.

Q: What are the best ways of changing public attitudes and the conventional wisdom about using condoms to fight AIDS?

Smeaton: We need to circulate honest, accurate information. The facts speak for themselves. Governments and aid agencies need to put aside their anti-family agendas and put their energies into programs that actually make a difference.

The public needs to be made aware that abstinence and monogamy are positive and beneficial choices for individuals and for society. No one should be condemned to die because of Western resistance to responsible sexual behavior based on a model of marital fidelity.

Distinguishing Truth from Heresy - Vincent of Lerins

Here is the famous "Vincentian Canon" much prized by genuine Anglicans over the centuries! Worth re-visiting!

Vincent of Lerins, "A Commonitory", Chapters 2-3, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 11, "A Select Library of the Christian Church", edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. Hendrickson, 1994. pages 132-133.

Chapter II.
A General Rule for distinguishing the Truth of the Catholic Faith from the Falsehood of Heretical Pravity.

[4.] I have often then inquired earnestly and attentively of very many men eminent for sanctity and learning, how and by what sure and so to speak universal rule I may be able to distinguish the truth of Catholic faith from the falsehood of heretical pravity; and I have always, and in almost every instance, received an answer to this effect: That whether I or any one else should wish to detect the frauds and avoid the snares of heretics as they rise, and to continue sound and complete in the Catholic faith, we must, the Lord helping, fortify our own belief in two ways; first, by the authority of the Divine Law, and then, by the Tradition of the Catholic Church.

[5.] But here some one perhaps will ask, Since the canon of Scripture is complete, and sufficient of itself for everything, and more than sufficient, what need is there to join with it the authority of the Church's interpretation? For this reason, - because, owing to the depth of Holy Scripture, all do not accept it in one and the same sense, but one understands its words in one way, another in another; so that it seems to be capable of as many interpretations as there are interpreters. For Novatian expounds it one way, Sabellius another, Donatus another, Arius, Eunomius, Macedonius, another, Photinus, Apollinaris, Priscillian, another, Iovinian, Pelagius, Celestius, another, lastly, Nestorius another. Therefore, it is very necessary, on account of so great intricacies of such various error, that the rule for the right understanding of the prophets and apostles should be framed in accordance with the standard of Ecclesiastical and Catholic interpretation.

[6.] Moreover, in the Catholic Church itself, all possible care must be taken, that we hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all. For that is truly and in the strictest sense "Catholic," which, as the name itself and the reason of the thing declare, comprehends all universally. This rule we shall observe if we follow universality, antiquity, consent. We shall follow universality if we confess that one faith to be true, which the whole Church throughout the world confesses; antiquity, if we in no wise depart from those interpretations which it is manifest were notoriously held by our holy ancestors and fathers; consent, in like manner, if in antiquity itself we adhere to the consentient definitions and determinations of all, or at the least of almost all priests and doctors.

Chapter III.
What is to be done if one or more dissent from the rest.

[7.] What then will a Catholic Christian do, if a small portion of the Church have cut itself off from the communion of the universal faith? What, surely, but prefer the soundness of the whole body to the unsoundness of a pestilent and corrupt member? What, if some novel contagion seek to infect not merely an insignificant portion of the Church, but the whole? Then it will be his care to cleave to antiquity, which at this day cannot possibly be seduced by any fraud of novelty.

[8.] But what, if in antiquity itself there be found error on the part of two or three men, or at any rate of a city or even of a province? Then it will be his care by all means, to prefer the decrees, if such there be, of an ancient General Council to the rashness and ignorance of a few. But what, if some error should spring up on which no such decree is found to bear? Then he must collate and consult and interrogate the opinions of the ancients, of those, namely, who, though living in divers times and places, yet continuing in the communion and faith of the one Catholic Church, stand forth acknowledged and approved authorities: and whatsoever he shall ascertain to have been held, written, taught, not by one or two or these only, but by all, equally, with one consent, openly, frequently, persistently, that he must understand that he himself also is to believe without any doubt or hesitation.



What Toon & Tarsitano seek to achieve by their writings
This is an explanation and an apology produced as an expression of koinonia amongst orthodox-minded American Anglicans, who feel the pain and the strain of the present position and divisions of the American Anglican Family.

Since the publication of the Statement of the Primates of the Anglican Communion on October 16, Peter Toon & Lou Tarsitano have written a series of short essays, articles and pieces on the general topic of REBUILDING THE AMERICAN ANGLICAN HOUSEHOLD.

They have not had in mind the creating of a new organization or society; in fact, to do such a thing has not even been discussed or contemplated by them. They have no money to create any cause: they simply write when they are free from parish duties, for both are parish ministers.

As two persons committed to the unity without uniformity of the Anglican Way in the USA, on sound and generous principles, they are seeking each week to offer theological insights to their brethren in order to encourage serious reflection on (a) the basis of the Anglican Way in terms of its doctrine & formularies; (b) the Polity of the Anglican Way as a fellowship of National Provinces; (c) how the divided but orthodox-minded members of that Way in their many groupings in America can be brought together into one reformed and renewed Household, and (d) where the concerned Primates’ fit into all this as external helpers and guides.

Much of their writing is posted at to which you are encouraged to go for a sample!

Both have their own strong convictions and both have been treated less than kindly in the past by bishops of the erring ECUSA – which means that they can begin to understand the pain of others therein now. Yet they long to see the “faithful remnant” that is left within the ECUSA and the growing number of Extra-Mural Anglicans outside the ECUSA (and thus officially outside the present Anglican Communion) find substantial ways as quickly as possible to enter into full dialogue with each other.

They have proposed that this dialogue should lead on eventually to a full congress of representatives of all the parties (and they have suggested it be under a Convener from outside – a person of stature respected by all). They themselves do not wish to have any leadership or steering role in this development (or in another like unto it). They see their vocation as merely preliminary, that of putting positive ideas before Anglicans, and thus into the common “floating” fund of such ideas, so that in God’s good providence there will arise soon from within the Anglican Household the common leadership to provide the means necessary to organize the full dialogue & the full growing together of the now “separated brethren,” who have more in common than in what divides them. The longer this growing into unity takes the greater will be the obstacles to overcome.

Thus they are not in competition with others be they the Fellowship of Anglican Churchmen, Anglicans [Episcopalians] United, the American Anglican Council, the Ekklesia Society, the Forward in Faith, the Traditional Anglican Communion or any further societies. Rather, their ideas call for the members of these groupings to be expressions in their decisions and witness of the centripetal grace of God bringing separated brethren together from their present seeming centrifugal [and thus divisive] activities.

November 22, 2003.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Reconciliation in the Anglican Way?


Perhaps impossible.

Perhaps it is not worth trying.

Perhaps the disorder will remain in the USA until the Parousia.

Or, perhaps soon those who are walking away from each other will begin to walk toward each other and to the One Christ to be together in the Anglican Way in the USA!

Let us remember a few things.

Before the revolutionary 1960s virtually all Anglicans/Episcopalians in the USA were within the comprehensive Protestant Episcopal Church. Those outside were not more than 1%.

After the 1960s, and the rush by the Episcopal Church into the adoption of innovations in liturgy, doctrine and order in the 1970s, the whole Anglican Family and the total Anglican Map in the USA were torn apart. Disorder, disorientation and dysfunctionality became the obvious external signs of this ancient Family. Internal controversy and division increased within the Episcopal Church itself, and there was soon also internal controversy and division amongst those who left the Episcopal Church (via the gate of St Louis)in 1977 with high ideals to form "the Continuing Anglican Church."

And, regrettably, controversy has continued unabated since the 1970s and the schisms, splits and divisions have multiplied, so that there is within the Episcopal Church not only different schools of thought but parties who are not in communion one with another; and, further, amongst the Extra-Mural Anglicans/Episcopalians the divisions have also continued to appear and create an every increasing number of Anglican groups, who are often not on talking terms with each other.

Yet, amazingly within all this turmoil some churches/parishes both inside and outside of the Episcopal Church have prospered both numerically & spiritually. God is good and does not always remember our sins!

But from the outside and with a bird's eye view the picture is grim - " by schisms rent asunder by heresies distressed."

Happily, there is a growing number who know in their hearts and minds that Anglicans, who claim to be biblically-based and true to their own tradition and polity, ought to be in fellowship and pulling together. But they seem to be fighting against the odds for the simple reason that every grouping/denomination/jurisdiction has its own internal reasons for perpetuating its own existence and independence, and the "freedom" which is the American ethos makes apartness so easy to maintain.

Do enough American Anglicans care sufficiently about the will of the Lord Jesus for the unity of his people to work to re-unite those who aspire to orthodoxy (from within the Episcopal Church and from the Extra-Mural Anglican diaspora) and who are now so tragically divided? It seems like an impossible task but, after all, with God all things are possible!

Let us pursue: Unity in Truth and Truth in Unity, but Unity without Uniformity!

The Revd Dr Peter Toon November 20 2003

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

"By Schisms rent asunder, by heresies distressed"

The Call to Anglican Unity in the USA
A discussion starter


Jesus intended that his Church on earth be unified (unity without uniformity?) and prayed to his Father for this (John 17). His apostle, Paul, gave much teaching on the same duty and goal (see e.g., Romans 12:3-8).

The Anglican Polity (in the context of a divided Church in this world) requires that there be one Province in one geographical area, one National jurisdiction in one Nation, and usually one diocese in one specific area.

BUT in the USA there is not only the spectacle of the Church of God divided into a multitude of jurisdictions, denominations and groups, but also, in terms of Anglican Polity, there is the official Province (ECUSA) and then a great number of Extra-Mural Anglicans, Anglicans in Exile & Potential Anglicans outside the ECUSA in a variety of organized groups. FURTHER, the official Province has substantially departed from the worship, doctrine and discipline of the Anglican Way and has within it a "remnant" which is calling for intervention from outside to rescue it and to make it secure and safe.

There is to put it kindly a Great Mess which does not adorn the Gospel of Christ!

Within this situation there is obviously a divine requirement that those who claim to be of one persuasion - the Anglican Way - immediately find ways to unite in truth within the doctrinal & liturgical parameters of their heritage and vocation. This means that the "remnant" from within ECUSA together with the Extra-Mural Anglicans etc. (Continuing Anglican Churches, Anglican Mission in America, Reformed Episcopal Church and so on) need to form what can become the new Anglican Province for the USA [to replace the present one which has backslidden] so that they are true to Anglican Polity and begin to fulfill the desire of Jesus for unity without uniformity.

Easier said than done! I bring attention here to the seemingly insuperable obstacles in the way of bringing together even into real dialogue the varied groupings who claim to be and aspire to be genuine members of the Anglican Way of biblical & historical Christianity.

1.The context of America is one which encourages individualism, personal autonomy and the exercise of rights and so the cultural forces are always centrifugal, forcing people away from each other and making unity most difficult. Since 1976 the steady stream of people exiting from the ECUSA has led to between 30 & 40 independent groups using the name Anglican/Episcopal[ian]. The centripetal inspiration of the Holy Ghost competes with the centrifugal power of the Zeitgeist and on the surface the latter is winning daily.

2.There is a major division over the ordination of women - some do not allow it; some allow women deacons only; some allow both deacons and presbyters. And there is little knowledge of and appreciation for the Anglican doctrine of reception (publicized by the Eames Commission).

3.There is a major division over Formularies - the remnant from within ECUSA hold to the 1979 prayer book as a formulary whereas to many who have left the ECUSA that book is not a Book of Common Prayer at all; rather it is a book of alternative services and thus not a genuine BCP and so not a genuine Formulary. On the other side, some Continuing Anglicans have added to the traditional Anglican Formularies (classic BCP, Ordinal & Articles) that which was always seen as an option (e.g., mandating belief in the teaching of the Seventh Council in Nicaea which deals with icons).

4.There is a division over sexuality, in particular over marriage discipline and whether or not annulments should be given at all by bishops and whether or not second marriages involving divorcees be allowed in church. Within the "orthodox" constituency of Anglicanism there is a high proportion of divorced and remarried clergy & laity.

5.There is (to develop 1 above) a built-in desire by many of the leaders and supporters of the 30 - 40 groupings to preserve what they have created wherein their have authority, power and personal identity. There are over 100 bishops, with many other clergy claiming special titles and ecclesiastical privileges, and the desire to preserve these and thus the structure ( jurisdiction/denomination) in which they have meaning is very strong indeed.

6.Also there is within the "remnant" inside ECUSA a kind of superior feeling that IT is the real Anglican presence for it is in touch with the Archbishop of Canterbury and other Primates, that the Extra Mural Anglicans need to get on board and that all arrangements for unity should be around IT; and there is within the Extra-Mural Anglicans a sense of not trusting those who have remained within ECUSA and accepted most of its innovations since he 1970s.

7.One could continue to list areas of division such as the level of clergy education, the pedigree of the succession claimed by bishops, the overlapping of parishes at the local level, personal rivalries and personality clashes and so on.

8.Surely the CALL and PRAYER of the Lord and of his apostles and surely the reality of the known POLITY of the Anglican Way - the centripetal forces - ought to be of greater concern to biblically-minded Anglicans than the preservation of the status quo of division, confusion and the majoring on minors - the centrifugal forces.

At least there ought to be have begun already sustained and continuing DIALOGUE wherein those of One Name can explore what belonging to One Family is all about and involves in the multicultural and multiethnic reality of modern America.

The Revd Dr Peter Toon November 18, 2003

An anonymous response to the above:

Enough. For Peter+ to make the statement that continuing Anglicans, inter alia, do not “adorn the Gospel of Christ” is presumptuous drivel. From a man remaining in a church with transgendered priestesses comforting himself with the absurd notion of “impaired communion” it is even more outrageous.

On the “unity” theory Peter+ proposes, why are we not in the Roman Church? Indeed, even with its woes, it is far preferable to the Church of England.

Admit it. We appear to be growing and changing. While we have Anglican roots, why do we need a faked-up unity that posits that “the Anglican Way” (whatever that now means) is synonymous with “historical Christianity”.

We continuers have been here for 25 years. We have our divisions, yet we seem to be serving our people in ways Scriptural and Sacramental without need of the Archbishop of Canterbury and his druidical fantasies. It all won’t fit under one umbrella, and we are trusting in the Holy Spirit, and not the dying CofE to show us the direction to take. At least we are beyond questions of homosexual bishops, votes on the Nicene Creed and a claimed membership that never attends church.

Spare us the neo-colonialism and understand that many of us aren’t led to be in the big tent of a re-invented Episcopal Church in the “necessity” of a polity that is defined by Canterbury. Why not the East or Rome? They have a better historical claim.

Finally, statements such as “The context of America is one which encourages individualism, personal autonomy and the exercise of rights and so the cultural forces are always centrifugal, forcing people away from each other and making unity most difficult” really are tiresome Eurospeak. This smacks of a haughtiness that is ludicrous when one considers what is left of any consensus in Europe or England, in particular. It is true that there is denominationalism here, but (for the time being) at least we remain a Christian nation.

Ask the question, “What is unity?” That’s fair. But to define it as “the Anglican Way”, particularly under the notion that all strains of theology can dwell inside it, is nonsensical—that is unless you have an established Church to enforce it. Then, you just have empty churches.

Dr Toon responds:

I do not know who [this] anonymous correspondent is but I do not think it is good for him/her to hide behind anonymity ... This said, let me address a few of the points raised (his or her text is [above]).

I stand by my assertion that the presence of so many small Anglican groups or jurisdictions or denominations in the American supermarket of religions is a scandal and does not adorn the Gospel of redemption & reconciliation. We all know that in the reasons for so many being there in the USA is a lot of majoring on minors and of exalting this or that person(ality). Pragmatism & utilitarianism & capitalism & competition may be able to justify the existence and set up of each group and also of so many competing groups in the one territory, but the Lord of the Church prays that we be one - and Anglican unity is surely a starter towards a greater unity of the Body of Christ, to which we are all committed as believers in the one Lord, One Church, One Faith, One Baptism etc.

I can see NO justification for the existence of any small Anglican denomination/jurisdiction in the USA unless it sees itself as in a holding position and its goal for the immediate future is to unite with others of like mind & practice. To set up shop as though the group/denomination is in this until the Parousia is wholly wrong to my mind and is a denial of the very content of the Prayer Book that is used (the 1928 BCP).

If one or other of these Anglican bodies does not want to be united to the international Anglican family of circa 75 millions then let it/them immediately seek to be taken in by the Church of Rome or the Orthodox Church or whoever. To stand alone as on a desert island and not to want to be in fellowship with the greater part of the Body is unnatural and unacceptable in the realm of grace.

To claim to be Anglican and not to desire the reform of the Anglican Way and its unity is to my mind a strange position which before God & right reason is wholly untenable.

Let the Anglicans in Exile, the Extra Mural Anglicans, come together and let them form a Province and let them then by the grace of God be as the salt of the earth and even the light of the world in the Anglican Communion of Churches, and let this Communion be a means to the greater unity of the Church of God militant here on earth. Let the genuine Anglicans, who have suffered because of the apostasy of the ECUSA, now shine as the stars of heaven in their magnanimity and centripetal activity!

Thank you.


Reforming Forwards

Much of the activity of the liberal denominations since the 1960s has been that of attempting to "Reform Forwards;" that is, of introducing innovations in the hope that they will work out well in the near and distant future!

Innovation is often the means by which the human race improves its physical
well- being. New forms of housing, clothing, medical care, transport, machinery, tools and educational apparatus contribute to the making of people secure and well cared for.

However, innovation is not always for the improvement and well-being of human beings. For example, what may be an innovation in design (say of an apartment complex or of a senior citizens' residence) may have disastrous effects socially on the residents and on their common life together. What may be an innovation in the design of a major traffic junction may turn out to be much more dangerous for most vehicles than the junction it replaced. Innovations in the technology of war can both ensure that only specific targets are hit but also that greater destruction occurs. And so on.

And when we turn to religion, its worship (both rites and ceremonial), its doctrine and discipline, its rules and its ethos, its symbolism and its language, the great danger faced at any point in history, and anywhere in the world, is that any innovation may destroy something that has always been regarded as precious & important within the tradition. So whenever an attempt is being made to make a religion relevant to a changed social and cultural setting great care has to be taken in making sure that any changes or innovations do not have the effect of destroying or perverting a part of the received religion.

In terms of Christianity and the Church of God there have been major innovations from time to time but the ones which have gained universal acceptance have been those that were truly part of the essence of the Faith and were waiting as it were to come to full expression. For example, the admittance of the Gentiles into the Church had been prophesied not only in the Old Testament but also by the Lord Jesus who sent his apostles into all the world to preach the Gospel. Nevertheless, for what was at first a wholly Jewish Christian Church the admittance of Gentiles without circumcision was revolutionary when it occurred!

In comparison with what was the religion in the late Medieval Church, the Protestant Reformers can be seen both as iconoclasts and innovators for they brushed away much of what had been and they introduced what seemed to be novelties. Yet, what characterized their mindset and their approach was a diligent study of the Bible and especially of the New Testament to ascertain what was taught therein, what was commended and allowed therein and what was forbidden therein. They had no desire at all to add anything to Christianity or to the Church. They simply wanted to restore the Church to its pristine condition and they sought blueprints in the Bible. Whether they got it right is another matter; but the point is that they did not see themselves as innovating but rather as reforming the Church, according to what it had been in earlier times and what it is called to be by God in sacred Scripture.

So there are different forms of innovation - there is the accepting and making real in the present that which is truly part of the real Faith & there is the attempt to recover a state or condition which has been lost.

Yet there is more to tell - there is another form of innovation and this has become increasingly part of contemporary Christianity in the modern world. Here something which has never been before, and which may have been excluded previously, is introduced into the Church as a way of making the Faith relevant. It is introduced as something that general culture has deemed to be good and right and something which can be justified by appealing to certain principles lifted out of the Bible. It differs from the other forms of innovation in that those who propagate it do not do so because of what they have discovered through intense biblical study. Rather, it is received as a good thing from outside the Bible and then the Bible is studied to find support for it there.

1.In the churches of the West in the last fifty or so years all the major and obvious innovations have had the character of coming into the church from the world and then being sanctified as it were by the church by attaching the name of God to them and of finding justification for them in the Bible and/or tradition.

2.The acceptance of remarriage after divorce, and then the granting of a church ceremony for the same, was a major innovation beginning in the 1950s and gaining much ground in the next two decades, especially in the USA.

3.The ordaining of women to the Three Orders was the result of the pressure of the feminist movement in society being felt in the church and given practical embodiment there.

4.The publication of an ever increasing number of Bible translations and paraphrases designed for different types of people, giving the impression that the Bible can be made to say whatever any group needs to hear and that anyone's opinion about its meaning is as good as anyone else's. Instead of "the Bible" we now have "my Bible" and "our Bible."

5.The changing of the language of the Bible and of divine worship/liturgy to create the "You-God" was the result of pressures generated in the 1960s to be relevant, up-to-date, and to make God-talk like humanity-talk, so that worship was not removed from social reality.

6.The adoption of inclusive language as demanded by the feminists and by female clergy was an attempt to make religious language follow the rules of the new secular language of educational and government establishments and politically-correct culture.

7.The acceptance of the view that some persons are born homosexually inclined led to the doctrine that God makes some persons heterosexual and others homosexual and thus the ordaining of such persons and of the blessing of same sex couples is wholly reasonable and fair, approved by God.

Modern innovations (and we could add more from Liturgy, Polity, role of Bishops etc.) have the effect of bringing the ethos & morality of the Church nearer to that of the "enlightened educated liberal middle classes" of western society - except that God-language is used in the church. And the knock- on- effect of the adoption of these innovations is great - major adjustments in the doctrine of God, of Christ, of the Holy Spirit, of the Bible, of the Commandments, of sin & wickedness, of holiness, of sanctification and so on. In fact the innovations since the 1960s have had the effect of creating slowly and surely a form of Christianity which is unlike anything that has existed before. ALL who have lived through it have been affected by it in one way or another!

Having said this, it must be added that the LORD God often turns that which is evil in his sight into means of helping and blessing to his faithful people. Thus within the implementation of these innovations, God has been gracious and kind to his baptized people and so he has withheld from the churches the full effects of their follies and he has used imperfect means to heal the broken-hearted and to propagate his message.

The Revd Dr Peter Toon Nov 18 2004