Wednesday, January 22, 2003

Archbishop says homosexuality must be addressed


The Archbishop of Southern Africa, the Most Revd Njongonkulu Ndungane, has called on Southern Africa's 10 million baptized Anglicans at all levels to urgently address the issue of homosexuality and to do so in a manner that will generate mutual understanding and bring people out of their "corners of conviction."

This follows a resolution adopted at the recent Anglican synod, which noted the pastoral needs of the homosexually orientated. The synod gave thanks for the role played by gay and lesbian members within the church and urged that they be affirmed and welcomed. The bishops were asked to designate task groups to address relevant practical pastoral issues, including same sex unions. Gay and lesbian members were urged to participate in the proceedings.

It is against this backdrop that Archbishop Ndungane has circulated an eight-page discussion document on human sexuality. This is being sent to bishops, clergy, parishes, theological colleges and Anglican organisations in South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Mozambique, Angola, Namibia and St Helena.

The document warns that, besides threatening the unity of the Anglican Communion, the matter of homosexuality is causing deep pain on both sides of the debate.

"People are hurting as they continue to feel rejected, despised, misunderstood, demonised and 'unchurched' because of their orientation and their convictions. For reasons of compassion and care for each other in the Body of Christ, we have no option but to engage and to seek better understanding."

Furthermore, the document states that others are hurting because they believe that central Gospel demands are being compromised and need to be protected, defended and witnessed to. "They believe that somehow the Faith is at stake. Our zeal for the truth of the Gospel and the leading of the Spirit constrains us."

The first step is to first find common foundations. "We are all committed to seeking God's truth and respect the authority of the Scriptures, the disagreement only emerges when we try to understand and articulate the nature of this authority. There is also common ground in our belief that human sexuality is a gift from God but that promiscuity, predatory sexual behaviour, paedophilia and pornography are sinful. We all believe in moral standards and that all humans are loved by God and that we are called to love our neighbour."

Addressing the evolving interpretation of the Scriptures the discussion document lists several examples such as slavery, the status of women, remarriage after divorce and the lending of money at interest, where the Church has come to understand God's teaching in a different way.

"This," says the Archbishop, "Is not an issue that will go away, we must not only talk to each other but be prepared to listen as well."

Ordination of women in Melanesia


[Church of Melanesia Newsletter] The 10th General Synod of the Church of
Melanesia, which met 20-31 October 2002, has agreed to the amendment of the
Church's Constitution in order to allow women to enter into any of the
ordained ministry of the Church, be it as deacons, priests or bishops.

The decision was passed without dissent by the General Synod when it met in
Honiara. The amendment, however, must first be approved by the eight
diocesan synods of the church before the constitution can be changed.

Currently in the Church of Melanesia, a woman who has been episcopally
ordained in another province of the Anglican Communion may preside at the
sacraments of the Church provided she is licensed to do so by the diocesan

Speaking at the opening of the General Synod in his presidential address,
the Archbishop of Melanesia, the Most Revd Ellison L Pogo, said that when
God created the human species he created both men and women to be
complementary to one another. He also said that not only do we have two
distinct genders but in every man there is a female side and in every woman
there is a male side. Neither gender is complete in any way without the

Archbishop Pogo continued by saying that ministry is enhanced when it is
provided by both men and women.

Tuesday, January 21, 2003


Hear Thomas Cranmer live!

The first official Homily of the Church of England, written by Archbishop Cranmer, is on Holy Scripture.

You can hear this live in two parts (each about 10 mins) on the web site of Christ Church, Biddulph.

To test your concentration I made one error in the 2nd half when I changed the pronunciation of one word by leaving out of the original noun one letter, a. In so doing I created another perfectly good word, but not the original. Can you spot it?

Please go and listen. It is a sermon with some moving and eloquent parts. Further, it gives a very good insight into how the English Reformers viewed the relation of ordinary people to sacred Scripture in the 1540s.

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon


( Adelphoi,
As part of the early 19th century missionary outreach, evangelical churchmen desired to make available not only the Bible but the BCP and the Book of Homilies, read on please... [I am due to record today the First of the Homilies, that on Reading Scripture!])

On May 20 1812 a group of Church of England evangelical clergy & laity met in The Freemasons' Tavern in Great Queen Street, London, to form "The Prayer Book and Homily Society." The founders and early supporters were also members of the Church Missionary Society (founded 1799) and the British and Foreign Bible Society(founded 1804). The latter society could not by its charter distribute specifically Anglican things and so the new society arose to complement the work of evangelical churchmen in that society.

The purpose of this Society was to print and distribute the Book of Common Prayer (1662) in English and in other languages, as needed by missionaries; and also to publish "The Book of Homilies" which is referred to in "The Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion" (printed at the back of the Prayer Book) as a source of the foundational doctrine of the Church of England by law established.

The Society published the Prayer Book in at least 12 languages and seems to have been at the peak of its activity in 1828-1833. The Homilies were only published in English and in editions without the critical apparatus.

Most of the annual reports from 1813 to 1874 can be found in the British Library, London, and the Bodleian Library, Oxford.

Apparently no archives of the Society have been preserved and the Society has not yet attracted a historian to write its history -- which can only be understood in relation to the 19th century evangelical concern to have people read the Bible in the context of worshipping God with "that most perfect liturgy" (as they called it) of the BCP and with a mind informed by the reformed catholic (= protestant) teaching of the official homilies.

The Revd Dr Peter Toon January 21, 2003

The Third Sunday after the Epiphany

Almighty and everlasting God, mercifully look upon our infirmities, and in all our dangers and necessities stretch forth thy right hand to help and defend us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. [The BCP, 1662/1928]

The Epistle: Romans 12:16-21 The Gospel : St Matthew 8:1-13

This Prayer, like all the Collects, is only one sentence! But let us notice how much is confessed and asked for in this one sentence of supplication. We also need to hold in mind that we are in Epiphany when the Church ponders and adores the Manifestation of God to man, in particular the Incarnate God to man.

The Creator, Redeemer and Judge of the world is addressed as "Almighty" (having sovereign rule) and "everlasting" (being eternal and not conditioned by time and place), who is the changeless One. He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, his only-begotten Son, who is the Mediator, between God and man and the One through whom and in whose Name the supplication is offered. Thus the Church of God is his Household and Family - his adopted children.

In and of ourselves and by our own strength, even with the angels assisting us, we cannot cause our prayers to pass from time into eternity and from finitude into infinity, and thus to this Lord God. We are cut off from God by reason of our sinfulness and thus we approach him through his only Son, who having become man, is able to take what is ours and make them his and thus present them to his Father for us.

We ask God to hear us and look upon us in his mercy for we recognize that we only deserve his judgment and wrath. The reference to "our infirmities" is suggested by the Gospel which as an Epiphany [Manifestation] Gospel shows the Son of God manifesting his miraculous power over disease, leprosy and palsy .Further Isaiah is quoted as saying, "He himself took our infirmities" (Matthew 8). Today we read into the word "infirmities" such maladies of body and soul that impair our relation with God and one another.

Further, we ask God to exercise his eternal and infinite power, wisdom and judgment ("stretch forth thy right hand" - notice in the Gospel Jesus puts forth his hand, Matthew 8:3) in order to help us in all necessities (weaknesses of body and soul) and to defend us in all our dangers (from the world and the devil). Here each of us needs to insert what we know as the weaknesses of our position in this world and evil age so that the prayer is individualized. And if we are not sure what these weaknesses are, and how we ought to pray, then we can take comfort in the promise: "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself make intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered" (Romans 8:26).

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon

Thursday, January 16, 2003

Book Request


I am trying to track down in order to know the precise contents of the following book


New York, Standing Liturgical Commission of the PECUSA, 1970, Church Hymnal Corporation, publishers.

If you have it please look at its actual contents, and the way it speaks of and addresses God and humankind and let me know.


The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon (

Tuesday, January 14, 2003


(Leaders of the Prayer Book Society et al have been saying what my distinguished friend Philip Turner is reported as saying below, since the 1970s. At the Order for H C in my parish we still read the whole of the Ten Commandments at the beginning of the service and of course the 1662 BCP makes no provision for leaving them out.)


By David W. Virtue

CHARLESTON, SC--Mainline Protestantism has displaced the Ten Commandments by more personal and subjective standards for measuring the health of society and the state of the soul, says a noted ethicist, scholar, author and retired Dean of Berkeley Divinity School at Yale University.

Dr. Philip Turner said the notion of commandments of any sort, in the minds of many, suggest unpleasant, even destructive limitations on the lives of individuals that diminish the diversity of societies, constrain the freedom of persons and inhibit the development of selves. "The notion of commandments cuts across the very way in which we now describe ourselves as moral agents - as individuals, persons and selves who are free agents with rights rather than as embodied beings with intellect, conscience and will, placed by God in a morally ordered universe in which we are to live in obedience to a moral law."

Addressing an audience at SEAD - the Society for Ecumenical Anglican Doctrine, Turner scored the 1979 Book of Common Prayer that moved with the "cultural shift" desiring to emphasize a theology of glory rather than one of penitence that led the framers of the BCP to relegate the reading of the Decalogue to a more marginal place in its public worship and private devotion.

"If we were to get rid of a prayer that 'our sinful bodies might be made clean by his body and our souls washed through his most precious blood,' we also have to down play the words that might remind us rather frequently of the fact that we might need to be washed and made clean," he said.

Turner noted the irony that it is Christians with Baptist roots, who stand for disestablishment, that are seeking to re-establish the Ten Commandments as a public standard not establishment. "One would have thoughts it would be the old established churches that would cry out, but it has not proved to be the case. They have tended to follow the culture away from the notion of a public and common moral law, and toward a more individually centered ethic ties to social diversity and the flourishing of individuals. In this movement, they join more enlightened folk in seeking to "de-publicize" anything like a common morality."

Turner said that society had reached the point where matters of morals, as long as no unjustifiable harm is done to others, are said to be matters for individual conscience or matter for determination within interpretive communities, each of which may have their own take on things.

"The Ten Commandments do not fare well under the post-modern banners of personal flourishing and pluralism."

Turner said that modernity sought to root a common morality in some aspect of human nature rather than in either divine intellect or will, but they nonetheless held out for a universal moral law. "It is precisely this universality that post-modernity rejects. We no longer look to an objective moral order that can be discerned by educated reasons. Rather we look to communities of discourse, each with their own take on the world. It is a world where moral judgement is replaced by emphatic understanding."

Turner said that Christians need to hold to the view that the Decalogue inscribes a universal law laid down by God in creation; and that, at the same time, it has special significance for Christian people.

"We cannot think about the Ten Commandments apart from a tradition of interpretation."


The reformers took the Decalogue to be a written expression from the hand of God of the law of nature written also by the hand of God upon the human heart. "The Decalogue served as divinely mandated means to order social life."

The reformers believed that human reason had access to the basic laws laid down by God in creation; and that these laws make social life possible. They believed also that these laws are inscribed in the Decalogue and "republishes" the natural law written originally in the human heart.

"In its first use, the political use. The natural law, and so the Decalogue served as divinely mandated means to order social life.

"In its second use, the pedagogical use, the natural law and the Decalogue serves to remind people of their defection from the law inscribed upon their hearts. The law serves to prepare the way for the Gospel.

"In its third use the law's meaning and new ability to keep it are given to those in Christ."

Turner said that Luther noted that even Heathen, Turks and Jews must follow the natural law for the sake of peace. They must all practice some form of reciprocity in human relations. "Christians do it out of love which allows obedience even in the midst of suffering."

"Even in the fallen state, both the natural law and its written version (the Decalogue) serve to order the unruly wills of people and convict them of sin in a manner that prepares the way for the gospel. The first two uses of the law are operative among unbelievers and believers alike."

Turner said that Christians come to see that the law has at its apex the law of love, and at its base the purpose of God to gather the elect and order their lives within his kingdom."

For the reformers, the Decalogue, on the one hand, inscribes a universal law written originally in the hearts of all people by God in creation. On the other hand, the Decalogue has particular significance for Christians because they have been given knowledge of its deepest meaning and purpose. The commandments are thus universal in that they inscribe what God wills for the life of all people."

Turner said there was a universal and particular significance of the Decalogue to the Sermon on the Mount in St. Matthew's Gospel. "It is here that Christ is said to give the law (and the Decalogue in particular) an authoritative interpretation. In this sermon Jesus speaks not as a new Moses; but as the Son of the Father to whom the Father delivers all things and who alone knows the Father (Matt. 11: 25-27).

"Jesus is speaking before a double audience - Jews and the cords that include Gentiles, and the gospel is intended for the Gentiles. The Sermon on the Mount (and so also Jesus' interpretation of the law) is meant for everyone. Jesus' last words instruct his disciples not only to go into all the world "and make disciples of all nations," but also to teach these disciples "to observe all that I have commanded you." (Mt. 28: 19-20). The law, even the law taught by Jesus, is the law of life and so the law of all people."

In a slap at ECUSA, Turner said the liturgical demotion of the Decalogue has been accompanied by a presentation of the Gospel that is, in word and deed, Antinomian.

"Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom" (Mt. 5:19). The tradition of the church is not wrong to have seen these matters in the Decalogue."


The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon

Friday, January 10, 2003

Homily on Justification

Brethren (as Cranmer would say)

The most important sermon in the Anglican Way & Tradition, the one referred to in the Articles of Religion as the Homily on Justification, and found in Book One of the BOOK of Homilies of the C of E, can be heard via your computer if you go to the church web site of my little parish. It has been placed there by my kind assistant, Barbara Rabett. I have read it naturally and straight onto the hardrive of the computer and thence to the web site, without any special technical help. Thus it may not be up to full commercial recording standards! But it is easily heard! Go to HOMILETTE, HOMILY

It was divided into three parts by the Elizabethan editors and thus we followed their plan so that you can hear it in 3 x 10 min sections. At the beginning of the 2nd and 3rd there is a short summary of what already has been said. Originally I guess it was read after Morning Prayer, during H C and after Evensong, or on three consecutive Sundays.

Please also note that the latest edition of Mandate, devoted to Cranmer the writer of prayers, especially Collects, is available at the PBS website

Thank you.

Please enjoy Cranmer through my imperfect reading of his classic text.

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon

Canon Law & Homily at odds


I recently sent out an extract from an official C of E Homily. Several of you noticed the reference to divorce in it and questioned me. Here is an

Canon Law & Official Homily at odds with each other!

The official Church of England Homily "Against Whoredom & Fornication" sets out a doctrine of divorce invented by Erasmus and taken up by the Protestant Reformers and eventually put into doctrinal form in the Westminster Confession of Faith of the 1640s (and thence into Protestantism generally).

Here, first of all, is the extract from the Homily, and then the section from the Westminster Confession.

"Christ our Saviour, very God and man, coming to restore the law of his heavenly Father unto the right sense, understanding, and meaning, among other things reformed the abuse of this law of God. For, whereas the Jews used, of a long sufferance, by custom, to put away their wives at their pleasure for every cause, Christ, correcting that evil custom, did teach that, if any man put away his wife, and marrieth another, for any cause except only for adultery (which then was death by the law), he was an adulterer; and forced also his wife, so divorced, to commit adultery, if she were joined to any other man; and the man also, so joined with her, to commit adultery."

Chap XXIV sec.5 "Adultery or fornication committed after a contract, being detected before marriage, giveth occasion to the innocent party to dissolve that contract [Matt.1:18-20]. In the case of adultery after marriage, it is lawful for the innocent party to sue out a divorce [Matt.5:32], and after the divorce to marry another, AS IF THE OFFENDING PARTY WERE DEAD [Matt 19:9; Rom.7:2-3]."

Both texts agree that divorce, followed by a second marriage, is possible for one and one only cause, and that cause is adultery. Further, and this is the revolutionary imput of Erasmus [as taken up by the Reformers, including the English Tyndale, Cranmer, Hooper etc., and including especially Beza in Europe], that this is possible because under the law of Moses the adulterer was stoned to death and thus was no longer alive. There the widower left behind after the death of the adulterous former spouse was free to marry for his wife was no longer alive. Now what had been the case in ancient times is treated by Erasmus as if it were the case in modern times and thus the innocent party is deemed to be single again and free to remarry.

Now it was intended to incorporate this Protestant innovation as a provision into English Canon Law in the reign of Elizabeth (and the homilist thought it was a done deal!) but the Queen did not agree to this revision of Canon Law. As it stood in the reign of Elizabeth 1, and as it was confirmed in 1604, the Canon Law of the Church of England did not include any form of divorce that gave a right to remarry afterwards. The Erasmian innovation taken up by the Protestant Reformers never got into Canon Law of the Church of England until 2002/3 when, by the voting of General Synod, it entered with a vengeance, in a way to please John Milton (d.1678) who favoured liberalisation of the divorce laws in his day.

Thus what the C of E (contrary to the Homily) actually allowed was (a) divorce in the sense of separation from bed and board, with no right to remarry (separatio a mensa et toro) in certain cases, e.g. of adultery; and (b) annulment, with a right to enter into a legal first marriage, where it was judged that no marriage had actually taken place.

(See further V.N.Olson, The New Testament Logia on Divorce: A Study of their Interpretation from Erasmus to Milton, J C B Mohr, Tubingen, Germany, 1971)

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon

Wednesday, January 08, 2003

Homily against Whoredom & Adultery


To continue the discussion on illicit sexual indulgence, whether homosexual or heteresexual, here is the last section of Part Two of the official C of E Homily entitled, " A Sermon Against Whoredom & Uncleanness."

[Whoredom (illicit sexual indulgence) & Adultery are here presented as sins abhored by God]. It is in three parts and was thus read/preached on three successive occasions.

If this kind of sermon were preached today in most churches, liberal or evangelical, I suspect that many people would walk out and much of the rest would give notice of leaving if it were to happen again. It gets too near to where we are sexually in the 21st century in the West.

"Moreover, in his Epistle to the Ephesians the blessed Apostle willeth us to be so pure and free from adultery, fornication, and all uncleanness, that we not once name them among us, as it becommeth saints; nor filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not comely; but rather giving of thanks. For this ye know, saith he, that no whoremonger, either unclean person, or covetous person, which is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. And, that we should remember to be holy, pure, and free from all uncleanness, the holy Apostle calleth us saints, because we are sanctified and made holy in the blood of Christ through the Holy Ghost. Now, if we be saints, what have we to do with the manners of the heathen? St. Peter saith, As he which called you is holy, even so be ye holy also in all your conversation; because it is written, Be ye holy, for I am holy.

Hitherto have we heard how grievous a sin fornication and whoredom is, and how greatly God doth abhor it throughout the whole Scripture. How can it any otherwise be than a sin of most abomination, seeing it once may not be named among the Christians, much less it may in any point be committed? And surely, if we would weigh the greatness of this sin, and consider it in the right kind, we should find the sin of whoredom to be that most filthy lake, foul puddle, and stinking sink, whereinto all kinds of sins and evils flow, where also they have their resting place and abiding. For hath not the adulterer a pride in his whoredom? As the Wise Man saith: They are glad when they have done evil, and rejoice in things that are stark naught. Is not the adulterer also idle, and delighteth in no godly exercise, but only in that his most filthy and beastly pleasure? Is not his mind plucked and utterly drawn away from all virtuous studies and fruitful labours, and only given to carnal and fleshly imaginations? Doth not the whoremonger give his mind to gluttony, that he may be the more apt to serve his lusts and carnal pleasures? Doth not the adulterer give his mind to covetousness and to polling and pilling of other, that he may be the more able to maintain his harlots and whores, and to continue in his filthy and unlawful love? Swelleth he not also with envy against other, fearing that his prey should be allured and taken away from him? Again, is he not ireful, and replenished with wrath and displeasure, even against his best beloved, if at any time his beastly and devilish request be letted? What sin or kind of sin is it that is not joined with fornication and whoredom? It is a monster of many heads. It receiveth all kinds of vices, and refuseth all kinds of virtues. If one several sin bringeth damnation, what is to be thought of that sin which is accompanied with all evils, and hath waiting on it whatsoever is hateful to God, damnable to man, and pleasant to Satan?

Great is the damnation that hangeth over the heads of fornicators and adulterers. What shall I speak of other incommodities which issue and flow out of this stinking puddle of whoredom? Is not that treasure which before all other is most regarded of honest persons, the good fame and name of man and women, lost through whoredom? What patrimony (or livelihood), what substance, what goods, what riches doth whoredom shortly consume and bring to naught! What valiantness and strength is many times made weak and destroyed with whoredom! What wit is so fine, that it is not doted and defaced through whoredom! What beauty, although it were never so excellent, is not disfigured through whoredom! Is not whoredom an enemy to the pleasant flower of youth? and bringeth it not grey hairs and old age before the time? What gift of nature, although it were never so precious, is not corrupted with whoredom? Come not the French pocks, with other diverse diseases, of whoredom? Form whence come so many bastards and misbegotten children, to the high displeasure of God and dishonour of holy wedlock, but of whoredom? How many consume all their substance and goods, and at the last fall into such extreme poverty, that afterward they steal, and so are hanged, through whoredom! What contention and manslaughter cometh of whoredom! How many maidens be deflowered, how many wives corrupted, how many widows defiled, through whoredom! How much is the public and common weal impoverished and troubled through whoredom! How much is God's word contemned and depraved by whoredom and whoremongers!

Of this vice cometh a great part of the divorces which now a days be so commonly accustomed and used by men's private authority, to the great displeasure of God, and the breach of the most holy knot and bond of matrimony. For, when this most detestable sin is once crept into the breast of the adulterer, so that he is entangled with unlawful and unchaste love, straightways his true and lawful wife is despised; her presence is abhorred; her company stinketh and is loathsome; whatsoever she doeth is dispraised; there is no quietness in the house so long as she is in sight: therefore, to make short tale, must she away, for her husband can brook her no longer. Thus through whoredom is the honest and harmless wife put away, and an harlot received in her stead: and in like sort it happeneth many times in the wife towards her husband. O abomination! Christ our Saviour, very God and man, coming to restore the law of his heavenly Father unto the right sense, understanding, and meaning, among other things reformed the abuse of this law of God. For, whereas the Jews used, of a long sufferance, by custom, to put away their wives at their pleasure for every cause, Christ, correcting that evil custom, did teach that, if any man put away his wife, and marrieth another, for any cause except only for adultery (which then was death by the law), he was an adulterer; and forced also his wife, so divorced, to commit adultery, if she were joined to any other man; and the man also, so joined with her, to commit adultery. In what case then are those adulterers which for the love of an whore put away their true and lawful wife against all law, right, reason, and conscience? O damnable is the state wherein they stand! Swift destruction shall fall on them, if they repent not and amend not. For God will not ever suffer holy wedlock thus to be dishonoured, hated, and despised. He will once punish this fleshly and licentious manner of living, and cause that his holy ordinance shall be had in reverence and honour. For surely wedlock, as the Apostle saith, is honourable among all men, and the bed undefiled; but whoremongers and fornicators God will judge, that is to say, punish and condemn.

But to what purpose is this labour taken to describe and set forth the greatness of the sin of whoredom, and the incommodities that issue and flow out of it, seeing that breath and tongue shall sooner fail any man, than he shall or may be able to set it out according to the abomination and heinousness thereof? Notwithstanding, this is spoken to the intent that all men should flee whoredom, and live in the fear of God. God grant that it may not be spoken in vain!"

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon

ENGLISH, who speaks it?

(There is great potential for spreading Christianity through good books and CD's in English when one recognizes the size of the English speaking population in the world.)

In the world there are 193 independent nations and of these 56 use English as their official language.

English is the sole official language of 30 nations - Antigua & Barbuda; Australia; Bahamas; Barbados; Belize; Dominica; Fiji; The Gambia; Ghana; Grenada; Guyana; Jamaica; Kiribati; Liberia; Mauritius; Micronesia; Namibia; Nigeria; Papua New Guinea; St Kitts & Nevis; St Lucia; St Vincent & the Grenadines; Sierra Leone; Solomon Islands; Trinidad & Tobago; Uganda; United Kingdom; United States of America; Zambia; Zimbabwe.

English is one official language alongside one or more other languages in 26 nations - Botswana; Cameroon; Canada; Cyprus; India; Ireland; Kenya; Lesotho; Malawi; Malta; Marshall Islands; New Zealand; Pakistan; Palau; Philippines; Seychelles; Singapore; South Africa; Sri Lanka; Surinam; Swaziland; Tanzania; Tonga; Tuvalu; Vanuatu; Western Samoa.

Of course, some countries that have English as an official language may have many citizens who do not speak English, as in India, for example. On the other hand many countries where English is not an official language have many English speakers, as in the Netherlands, Scandinavia and Malaysia. The number of people speaking English as the mother tongue or as a first language is about 330 million. Many more are able to understand it for conversational purposes.

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon

The First Sunday after the EPIPHANY

"O Lord, we beseech thee mercifully to receive the prayers of thy people which call upon thee: and grant that they may both perceive and know what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to fulfil the same; through Jesus Christ our Lord."

The Epistle: Romans 12:1-5 The Gospel: St Luke 2:41-52

Here the Church makes two related petitions of her heavenly Father, the Lord our God, in the name of her Saviour and Mediator, Jesus Christ our Lord.

The first is that God will receive in mercy and compassion the desires, vows and prayers of his people who supplicate, with bended knee, before him. The Church does not ask God to answer them as asked but to receive them and then in his perfect wisdom and mercy to respond to them.

If God gave to his people merely what they desired and asked for, he would not be a merciful God for we often desire and ask for that which is not for our short-term or long-term good!

The force of the verb "grant" in prayer is that of "give and supply for no other is able to do so." Of God the Church asks that she will be inspired by the Holy Ghost to recognize and see what is her duty according to the divine will, and that, further, she will have the will and strength to perform that duty in its totality.

In relating to God, we need to know him, to perceive by his inspiration what is his will and then knowing the will, to perform and do the same. It is so easy for us to assume that our own best human wisdom and insights are in fact God's will for us and his Church. Such assumption is best avoided and in its place there be a humble recognition that we need to know from God what is his purpose and plan and then we need his help to fulfil the same!

A final comment. If the original Latin prayer in the Gregorian Sacramentary had been translated literally it would have been something like this:

"O Lord, we beseech thee, regard with the compassion of a heavenly Father the fervent desires of thy people, who make their supplications unto thee, that they may both see what things ought to be done, and may have strength to fulfil what they see. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

It will be observed that each prayer seeks the same blessings from the one and the same Lord God.

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon

Tuesday, January 07, 2003

Fornication --which form of it is the worst?


For your perusal and consideration...

Which form of fornication is the worst sexual sin?

I raise this question because it has been put to me (in various ways and by various persons) that the offence to God of two men (or two women) living together in a sexually faithful partnership is the greater (and thus a worse sin) than two persons, a male and female, also living together (co-habiting) in a sexually faithful partnership.

The basis of the differentiation into bad and worse or lesser and great offence seems to be that while the uniting of two men in sexual activity is abnormal (thus "an abomination") the uniting of a male and female in sexual activity is normal in terms of natural law, even if contrary to specific divine law of chastity before marriage.

It is clear from empirical observation that (a) that two persons of the same sex may live together, co-habit, and be a great help to each other in all kinds of ways - true companions & friends; and (b) that sexual activity between these two consenting persons of the same sex can bring them a sense of physical satisfaction and delight. What is also clear is that their sexual union cannot be on any occasion and in any circumstance a means of procreation.

It is also clear that (a) a male and female may live together, co-habit, and be a great help to each other in all kinds of ways - true companions and friends; and (b) that sexual activity between two such persons can bring them a sense of physical satisfaction and delight. What is also clear is that their sexual union can be under normal circumstances a possible means of procreation.

HOWEVER, if the male/female couple have decided and taken action to make sure that their sexual intercourse is never directed towards procreation, but is simply and only as a means of sensual delight and satisfaction, then they cannot be said to be obeying natural law. Sexual intercourse surely exists primarily (but not only in human beings) as the means for the continuation of the race (see the Preface to the BCP of 1662).

Thus it would seem that morally there is little or no distinction between the two couples since both are using their sexual drives merely and only for personal pleasure and not within the purpose of the Creator to join him as a co-creator of a new person.

Thus it would seem that modern forms of both fornication (co-habiting where it is not intended as a common law marriage with children as a possibility) and sodomy (co-habiting with one partner) are both offences to the Almighty Lord, who is our Judge.

We do not serve any good end by claiming that the latter is more serious an offence to heaven that is the former. Both activities are sins to be repented of, penance done and forgiveness received.

For those who want to know how seriously fornication and adultery was viewed by the English reformers, I commend the reading of the powerful Homily, "Against Whoredom and Adultery," in the Book of Homilies of the C of E from the 16th century [this Book is referred to in the Articles of Religion, a formulary of the Anglican Way).

There is no doubt that the Christian Way is abstinence before marriage and faithfulness within marriage, with chastity before and during marriage, which is open to the possibility of the procreation of children. It is becoming increasingly difficult to teach this and expect this state of affairs in the modern Church of the West, where co-habitation of same-sex and heterosexual couples is accepted in most parishes as normal, or at least their right.

[P.S. In the now common case of the over 60s, usually over 70s, where a widow and widower live together for companionship and do not marry because they are told by their accountants that they are much better off as not married, I think that the situation is not the same as with young people! Different considerations may apply.]

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon

Saturday, January 04, 2003

Clandestine Marriages & Co-habiting -- a connection?

In Great Britain the suppression of Clandestine Marriage occurred in 1753 with the passing of The Marriage Act. Henceforth, marriage could not be rushed into by anyone but followed the reading of banns and required witnesses.

Before the passing of this Act, it had long been the case that if a man and a woman, being unmarried, made promises one to another and then engaged in sexual intercourse they were regarded as married in the sight of God by the Church. The Council of Trent accepted this situation but required the presence of a priest to witness their promises or vows.

The reason why Clandestine Marriage was accepted by the Catholic Church and her courts for long centuries was that the Church doctrine was that an exchange of binding promises [preferably with 2 witnesses] and physical union were the essential elements of the making of a marriage. The involvement of parental consent was not seen as essential if the parties were of age. This old medieval Catholic approach was accepted in terms of canon law in Protestant England, until 1753.

Of course, what the Christian State and the Church wished to see in Britain was the state of affairs required in The Book of Common Prayer - banns followed by a public service of holy matrimony. And this state of affairs was achieved (yet not wholly for Christian reasons) by Parliament in 1753.

Of course, the Act did not stop fornication and adultery in practice or in suggestion in the theatre plays of the period. But from henceforth a couple who lived together could not claim to be married unless they had gone through the hoops erected by the State.

In the post 1960s western world of Europe and America, there are a few couples who run off to Reno or Las Vegas or Gretna Green (Scotland) for a quick marriage and in so doing surprise family & friends. But the dynamic [certainly not the strict] equivalent today of Clandestine Marriage is perhaps Co-Habitation. It seems that a larger proportion of young male/female couples live together, sharing bed and board, than actually marry each other - although some who co-habit then later marry.

In fact, Co-Habitation has become so common that society accepts it without negative comment and the Church merely tells the parties that they ought to get married, or live separately.

The situation is that these heterosexual couples are living in what they term temporary, faithful partnerships, and in some cases, these faithful partnerships may become more permanent through a marriage.

So one of the various questions that arise when we reflect upon this situation is this: Does the use of the adjective "faithful" make co-habitation to be moral?

Before offering a brief answer, we have to recognize that there are now many "gay" or same-sex couples who also tell us that they are living in "faithful" partnerships. They say that if the heterosexuals can do it, why can't they do so!

Morality in the West is more and more being based upon and found within the emerging doctrine of human rights? So, it is commonly argued, that if I have a right to personal fulfilment and happiness (which I do), and if I find this with a partner (of either sex), and if the partner feels the same way, and if we are doing no observable harm to anyone else, then our "relationship" is moral and remains so as long as each of us maintains loyalty and faithfulness.

However, on a strict interpretation of the commandments within the Law of God in the Bible and within the Canon Law of the Church from the early centuries to the present, co-habiting without the vows of holy matrimony is fornication, is sin, is wickedness and is immoral. It is a sin to be repented of, which means in practice that the parties are to separate with due penitence or to be joined (where this is permissible and desired) in holy matrimony.

One thing is clear in a time when human rights are so prominent in culture and church - the church should not treat heterosexual cohabitation favourably (or turning a blind eye) and homosexual cohabitation negatively! Either both are allowed by human rights or both are condemned by divine law! And if the latter then great pastoral sensitivity is needed when uttering the divine condemnation.

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon

Letter to the Editor of The Church Times

Dear Editor,

My immediate neighbour in Biddulph, the Revd Andrew Dawswell, presents your readers with the standard, modern evangelical argument (3rd Jan) concerning the marriage of divorcees and the blessing of homosexual couples in church. This is that the Scriptures have some ambiguity about divorce and remarriage; but, they are wholly clear on the sinfulness of homosexual genital activity. Thus the allowing of the marriage of (some) divorcees and the forbidding of blessings of homosexual couples in church makes logical and biblical sense.

However, what is beginning to surface in the Church of England (indicated by Bishop Montefiore's article), after having proceeded apace for at least a decade in the Episcopal Church of the USA, is that a cultural connection between blessing the marriages of divorcees and blessing the partnerships of homosexual persons is clearly to be felt if not seen. This has nothing to do with logic or biblical hermeneutics in terms of its driving power and attractiveness. The use of biblical texts is merely the outward, religious form of the connection.

The driving power is the powerful force within western culture of belief in human rights, in the need for personal fulfilment and happiness, in fair play (if they have it why can't I), in the gains of the sexual revolution, and so on.

In the Episcopal Church, a very large percentage of clergy not to mention laity, are divorced and remarried. To get permission from bishops for a first marriage after divorce in church is virtually automatic and in some dioceses this is so for second ones as well. The only attempt at any kind of real discipline starts with either second or third marriages. Serial monogamy is a practical doctrine of the ECUSA. Further, within this Church, as within the country, many heterosexual couples are living together without being married or even intending to marry. There is no church discipline to address co-habitation.

In this situation it is not surprising that sixty or so bishops allow (or do not seek to prevent) the blessing of homosexual partnerships and that the General Convention has come very near to stating that such blessings are acceptable. This year the Convention is expected to approve the blessing of "faithful partnerships."

This ECUSA situation looks like becoming the C of E situation by 2010!

I regret to say that evangelicals in the ECUSA have been and remain "soft" on both the prevalent divorce culture and the co-habiting of young people while they have vehemently opposed all forms of homosexuality, as if this were the sin above all sins. I hope that English evangelicals will be wiser and will recognize where the sexual revolution is coming from and thus seek to address all its manifestations. This will not be easy for them because within the "successful" evangelical, charismatic churches there is a growing number of divorced and remarried members, who will need special pastoral care, if the divorce culture along with the cohabiting and homosexual cultures are to be addressed with prophetic zeal and shepherdly compassion.

The Revd Dr Peter Toon

Friday, January 03, 2003

An Open Opinion on the Authority of General Convention

Comment on An Open Opinion on the Authority of General Convention (please use the link to read the Opinion; it is quite lengthy):

The argument would be sounder if the Church in question were truly a National Church such as the C of E and could claim to be the historic catholic Church of the land.

In the USA, the fact of the matter is that the ECUSA is in the same supermarket of religions and on equal competitive basis with major Lutheran, Presbyterian Methodist and Baptist Churches, not to mention the Orthodox Churches and the Roman Church. Further, and importantly there have been major schisms from the ECUSA due to its perceived aspostasy since the 1960s. Thus if the ECUSA disappeared the Church of God and the anglican witness would remain intact in the USA!

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon

Feeling and Knowing


In a culture obsessed by feelings, I offer the following for meditation.

Feeling and Knowing

Occurrences of the verb "to feel" in the KJV of the Bible are rare (not more than 10 examples!). Likewise in the classic Book of Common Prayer (1549, 1662, 1928) the verb is not common.

In contrast, beginning in 18thh century hymnody and private prayers and continuing & increasing through the 19th & 20th century into the 21st, many Christian people have been very ready to speak of and to sing of how they feel and of the variety of their feelings.

Thus the verbal and written expressions of English Christianity in prose and poetry are much different today from what they were in earlier centuries, e.g., the 16th & 17th.

In the Book of Common Prayer there is an important (partly because rare and partly because theological) use of the verb "to feel." It is in a Service that is only occasionally used these days, the "Visitation of the Sick." In one of the final blessings upon the sick person the Minister says:

"The Almighty now and evermore thy defence; and make thee know and feel, that there is none other Name under heaven, given to man, in whom and through whom, thou mayest receive health and salvation, but only the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen."

I make 2 comments.

First, the order of the verbs in the blessing is important - to know and then to feel. The affections of the soul are to be directed by sound knowledge, in this case revealed knowledge. (Today we often seem to go in the opposite direction -- to try to impart knowledge through appealing first and foremost to the feelings of people whether they be in good health or in sickness.)

In the second place, if there is one time when a person needs not only to know but also to feel confidence in trusting in the Name of the Lord Jesus it is when that person is sick and dying. To give calm to the reasoning mind and imagination as well as to the affections of the soul is a great gift to a sick/dying believer. Then he or she can rest in the peace that passeth all understanding.

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon

Thursday, January 02, 2003

The 12th Day or The EPIPHANY


We move towards the climax... the 12th Day is near.

If we think that the Feast of the Epiphany is only about the visit of the (three) kings or magi or wise men "from the east" then we only partially appreciate it!

Obviously the word EPIPHANY is Greek and means MANIFESTATION. It is a Greek name because the Festival was in origin and for its first period of celebration an Eastern Mediterranean feast, not a Roman one. Originally the Greek-speaking Church celebrated both the Birth of Christ and the Manifestation on one and the same day, January 6th while the Latin-speaking Church celebrated Christmas on December 25.

From the early fifth century, the West celebrated the Nativity on December 25th and the Manifestation to the Gentiles on January 6. Probably the focusing of the feast of the Manifestation particularly on the visit of the magi/kings is related to the moving of their supposed relics from Constantinople to Milan in the fourth century, when Milan was capital of the western half of the Roman Empire.

Related to the Manifestation of the Son of God incarnate to the Gentiles are two other central Manifestations observed at this time (and very particularly so in the East) in the Christian Year (and found in the Readings for Morning & Evening Prayer or for the Eucharist on the feast or the Sunday after the feast in the West).

These other two are (a) the Manifestation of the Holy Trinity at the Baptism of Jesus when the Father speaks to the Son and the Spirit from the Father descends upon the Son ,and (b) the Manifestation of Jesus as the One Person made known in two Natures when he performed the "sign" at Cana of Galilee - the miracle of water into wine.

If we put these three Manifestations together we have in biblical, narrative form what was achieved dogmatically by the first four Ecumenical Councils of the Church in the setting forth by Gentile Christian bishops the dogma of the One, Blessed, Holy and Undivided Trinity and of the One Person of Christ Jesus made know in two natures, divine and human.

Returning to the Western celebration of the Epiphany feast proper on January 6, it is an old tradition that states that there were three visitors (because three gifts) and that they were kings. In fact prophecy encouraged the idea that they were kings, "The Gentiles shall come to thy light and kings to the brightness of thy rising" ( Psalm 72:10 & Isaiah 60:3). That the new king should be born in Canaan was seen in the prophecy of Balaam (Num. 24:17) and so they took the main road from Persia to Jerusalem, and from there to Bethlehem in particular because of the clear prophecy in Micah 5:2 that the Messiah would be born in the city of David.

The Manifestation to mankind by the Holy Trinity has for its ultimate purpose the deification of man through salvation and sanctification and glorification. Thus the Collect for the feast prays that "we may have the fruition (= enjoyment) of thy glorious Godhead" - the beatific vision, the seeing of the glory of the Father in the face of the Incarnate Son.

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon

Wednesday, January 01, 2003

Idolatry and Modern Life


I offer the following as a meditation for your consideration in the midst of the powerful presence of consumerism and the like in the post-Christmas and January sales.

Modern Idolatry

(The official Elizabethan Anglican Homily - Against the Peril of Idolatry - is based on the first two of the Ten Commandments of Exodus 20 and sees idolatry only in terms of the medieval cult of the saints & the BVM with the associated statues, icons, processions and prayers. It does not consider other possible idols of the Elizabethan age or previous times.)

Idolatry -New Testament

1.The New Testament assumes the fact and truth of the profound OT teaching on idols and idolatry and applies it to the Mediterranean world - see e.g., Acts 17:16; Romans 1:18-32; 1 John 5:21.
2. The N.T. links idolatry with sexual perversion/sexual immorality (see Galatians 5:19-20; Acts 15:20; 1 Cor. 6:9) . The connection is simple - various forms of ritual prostitution took place at temples in order to represent the copulation of the gods & goddesses by which the fruitfulness of the earth, the crops, the animals and the human family was assured. Thus in the context of the Roman world most fornication and sodomy and pediastry took place at heathen temples or other public places.

3.The N.T. links idolatry with covetousness --- 1 Cor. 5:11; Eph 5:5; Col. 3:5; 1 Peter 4:3. Here the reasoning seems to be: Since an idol (or the spirit associated with it) is an object of adoration/desire, covetousness is a form of idolatry in the sense that the one who is covetous (desperately desiring a person or object not his own) becomes an idolater by giving to that desired person or object an excessive and uncontrolled attention and adoration, and this leads on to immorality and wickedness.

Now let us apply the above to our present situation in the West, where we live in a secularised society, throbbing with the claims human rights and marked by intense subjectivism.

A. In the case of 1 above, it would seem that since many people do not openly worship and obey the One Living God, they must worship other "gods". I take it that these "gods" are potentially many and include both persons who are deified (such as "stars" from sport, entertainment, the media and so on) and "forces" that are deified and which are dominant in the world of capitalism, commerce, technology & science (and can include such things as "the spirit of capitalism" and "the supremacy of science" and "the military might of the USA" and so on). The "gods" also include the divinisation of the human ego in its subjectivity and desires and the "world spirit/mind" (practical pantheism or panentheism) that is searched for by this ego in western forms of eastern meditation.

B. In the case of 2 above and modern sexual perversion in 2003 - be it sexual acts between persons of the same sex, or different sexes, or an adult with a child, or the use of pornographic films & book or group sex - may it be said that idolatry is involved? If there is idolatry there must be an idol.

Now what can be clearly said is that there is in sexual perversion the denial of the presence and authority of the living God, not only through the rejection of his law but also through the mis-use of his creation. If there is the denial of God, it may also be claimed that there is therefore subjection to and obedience of another "god" (cf. Romans 1:18ff.). Is this idolatry subjection to the personification of (misdirected and corrupted) human desire? Is it the personification of (misdirected and corrupted) pleasure and gratification? Is it the worship of the invisible, but spiritually potent, Satan/Devil (Rev.9:20; 1 Cor.10:20; Phil.2:10)?

And is it necessary for the worshipper of this other "god" precisely to know the identity of this "god" for him to worship it? I think not.

C. In relation to 3 above, one could say that in the days of credit cards and easy access to borrowing money, that covetousness has become normal, for much of what we desire [and which is not ours by right (for we cannot afford it)] we nevertheless obtain by the use of credit. Here it would seem that there is idolatry and the idol is the media portrait of the fulfilled person who has all that he/she needs for happiness and who is worshipped by us. In our being taken over by consumerism we are aspiring to be like this person who is the creation of the advertising and communication industries. It is a secular deification!

In summary it would seem that any deviation from utter loyalty to Christ Jesus is a form of idolatry ( 1 John 5:19-21, cf. Isaiah 42:8).

The danger that most of us face in starting 2003 is in not taking the presence and the sin of idolatry seriously. Whether we be old-line liberals or new-line charismatic evangelicals, we tend to think that idolatry belongs to ancient times and primitive peoples and we live in modern times and are sophisticated people!

A danger faced by the extreme Protestant spirits amongst us is that of (like the writer of the Homily) restricting the peril of idolatry to the use of cribs and candles, crosses and statues, and missing out on the very major peril of idolatry that our secularised, consumerist and technological society, as well as our own selfish and subjectivised egos, place before us and thrust into our hearts!

The Revd Dr Peter Toon, on the 8th Day of Christmas, 2003