Monday, September 29, 2003


Thought to provoke better thoughts

The expression "the prioritization of the homosexual issue" has been used by a few conservative Episcopalians, including myself. It assumes that there are other very important issues and that a choice is being made by the majority (or by the leadership of the American Anglican Council and Bishops in a few dioceses heading this majority) to place blessing "gay" partnerships either first on the list, or even as the only item on the list, of concerns about the Episcopal Church of the USA.

To open up this discussion leads us to the heart of a major disagreement within conservative Episcopalians, and thus amongst those who will gather at Plano/Dallas on the 7th October. The disagreement is whether the homosexual issue is THE real and true problem in the ECUSA or rather a most serious PRESENTING problem behind which are other, even more important, problems.

But let us be honest. In terms of communication, political strategy and simplicity, to focus on one clear message - e.g., it is wrong that the Church consecrate a man who is living in an openly "gay" union - is a winner amongst many social conservatives be they churchmen or not. Here the ECUSA leadership is the "bad guy" and those who oppose this wrong are the "good guy". (A danger here, of course, is of self-righteousness by those who do the condemning.)

Let us agree that those who claim that the homosexual issue is THE primary issue (and not merely a very serious presenting issue) have to go on to affirm that if this is put right then the ECUSA will be generally OK. That is, the major decisions to innovate taken by the General Convention since the 1960s are within the acceptable standards of the kingdom of God and within the principles of historic Anglicanism. Thus, for example, ECUSA's rejection of the classic formularies and its adoption of new ones in 1976/79; the approval of the ordination of women in 1976 and the making of this doctrine part of the received Creed in 2000 for church officers; the acceptance of serial monogamy and the allowing of divorced and remarried persons to continue in and be promoted in ordained ministry and lay leadership since the 1960s -- all these are generally acceptable and cannot be either the real problem or a major problem at all. They can be safely discarded and we can all carry on much as before as long as we get rid of the "Lesbigay" presence.

Let us now look at this whole thing in a different light.

Let us suppose that the homosexual issue is only there prominently in the ECUSA in 2003 because of what already exists in ECUSA as well as what has been going on within ECUSA for fifty years or more - i.e., a way of worship, doctrine and discipline that owes more to modern views of human rights, personal fulfillment and autonomy and secular values than to the principles of holy Scripture & historic Anglicanism. This issue, as it were, sits on the back of other issues/facts and, to change the metaphor, is only the tip of the iceberg. And when something is a presenting problem it will remain there expressing itself in one or another forms for as long as the underlying causes and problems are left alone. (We know this from experience in many areas and walks of life.)

Thus those (at present the minority - even a small minority) who claim that the homosexual issue is an offence unto Almighty God, but only is occurring in intensity because the ECUSA has prepared for it by a series of acts of apostasy since the 1960s, have to say that in the present crisis, and in sending messages to the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Primates, conservative Episcopalians have to be honest before God, man and their own history.

That is, they accept that the homosexual issue can be prioritized IF AND ONLY IF it is clearly indicated (in the accompanying "annotations") that the "gay" issue is inextricably related to other foundational issues and that these must be dealt with as soon as possible so that a proper and right Anglican foundation is laid for any future reformed Anglican presence in the USA as part of the Anglican Communion. In other words, they say that unless the matter of the rejection of (a) the authentic formularies, (b) the doctrine and discipline of Holy Matrimony, and (c) proper ecclesiastical discipline by ECUSA is stated as needing urgent attention so that error, heresy, apostasy, and antinomianism can be dispelled. If this is not made clear, then to lead off on the homosexual issue (and stay with it alone) is a grave & fateful mistake, and the last state will be worse that the first.

Certainly this is all about recovering Biblical doctrine, but that means in practice recovering it wearing the right spectacles and using the right lens. ECUSA has been using the wrong spectacles and lens for thirty or more years. There needs to be recovered an orthodox way of reading and interpreting Scripture that is within the ongoing central Tradition of the Church of God.

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

Sunday, September 28, 2003

Diocesan Resolutions & Anglican Crisis

It is worthwhile in a calm and reflective mood to study the Resolutions produced in Special Conventions recently in conservative dioceses such as Pittsburgh & Fort Worth.

I offer the following observations as a call to self-examination and prayer as well as serious reflection & discussion.

While these Resolutions are very clear in their opposition to the innovation of the blessing of "gay" unions and of the consecration of "gay" bishops, and while they say they stand for the orthodox faith, there are some very important false assumptions & omissions (which the Church of yesterday, it if were consulted and had a vote, would certainly point out to these dioceses both very clearly and very firmly).

First of all, there is no sense in the Resolutions that being a part of the ECUSA and having shared in its common life for decades, even centuries, that these dioceses share the guilt, stain and cancer of the apostasy of the "national church". There is little or no sense of being causes of, and participants in, the growing apostasy, error and immorality, since all are part of the same ecclesial body and household (however dysfunctional it be). Where is the weeping for this long participation?

If the ECUSA as "national church" can be said to have no corporate memory beyond 1976, so likewise it appears can these dioceses. They appear to accept as good the major act of apostasy of 1976/79 when the classic Formularies of the Anglican Way were set aside and novel Formularies (the 1979 book of alternative services and it catechism) were put in their place. Only by the false decree of the General Convention is the 1979 prayer book "the book of common prayer" - for by literary and historical analysis it is a book of alternative services, which should stand alongside and under the authority of the classic Book of Common Prayer, Ordinal and Articles of Religion.

By agreeing to this massive change, by confirming its supposed correctness over the years since 1979 (and without reference to the Constitution of the PECUSA where the Prayer Book must be the classic BCP) and in words of these recent Resolutions -- as well as, apparently, by showing little or no remorse for their own share in the cancer within ECUSA -- the dioceses have simply, it would appear, prioritized the homosexual issue and not gone to the root and cause of the malady of ECUSA.

Why cannot both be dealt with for they hang together and are inextricably united! Why is their such attachment to the 1979 prayer book and such a widespread and open rejection of the classic Formularies in the evangelical/charismatic circles of the ECUSA? All the Continuing Anglican Churches and virtually all the newer non-ECUSA Anglican bodies accept the classic Formularies, even if they use modern liturgies. And of course such is the legal position of the Church of England & the Anglican Church of Canada.

If there is a public health emergency (with cases of a deadly disease here and there) we do not merely seek to help those afflicted; we also seek to get to the originating cause of the outbreak and emergency. What seems to be happening now is that evangelicals are seeking to deal enthusiastically with the local manifestations of the deadly disease but yet they are not keen on going to the source and not recognizing that their own (as it were) rejection of good health regulations is a major part of the emergency.

To say "we go back to the Bible" when we hold to false formularies (which help to fix how we read and receive the Bible's teaching) is not an answer or solution. It is an avoidance of the major crisis by denying its existence.

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

Sisk, Receptionism, Gay Unions.


Did you see this recent Statement ( below Sisk of NYC)? Look at it not only as a capitulation to error and immorality via the adoption of human rights and doctrines of personal self-fulfillment & autonomy, but also in another way, which has all kinds of implications for the Anglican Way.

Bishop Sisk uses the language of "discernment" in what amounts to the application of the Anglican doctrine of reception [adapted/invented in 1988 by the Lambeth Conference for the sole purpose of dealing with wide disagreement over women’s ordination] to homosexual acts.

The "conservative liberals" keep claiming that there is no connection between the ordination of women and the blessing of gay unions/sodomy, even as those pushing gay unions/sodomy increasingly invoke the language and methodology of the innovation of ordaining women. There is likely much trouble ahead on this score & connection! The ordination of women will come back as it were to haunt those who resolutely oppose the blessing of gay unions but favor women as bishops/presbyters.


Bishop Sisk's Statement on the Blessing of Same-Sex Unions

The Rt. Rev. Mark S. Sisk
Bishop of New York

I first grappled with the question of blessing same-sex unions more than 30 years ago when I came to know a deeply committed lesbian couple in the congregation I then served. I found myself wondering what I would do if they asked me to bless their union. Although they never asked, I concluded that I would be willing to offer such prayers, although I knew such a blessing would lack the assent of the larger church. I came to that decision based upon my observation that this couple’s commitment to each other appeared to me to be integral to their lives as faithful followers of Christ.

If the question had been presented to me in the abstract, I doubt very much that I would have ever reached that conclusion. However, I found myself confronted not by a hypothetical question but by two people, alive in themselves and alive in the faith that so clearly nourished them and strengthened their witness. It was through their fidelity, and the obvious fruitfulness of their lives in Christ, that I was moved to a new place of understanding. I believe that it is through the lived experience of the presence of God’s Holy Spirit animating the lives of committed same-sex couples that the larger Church will eventually come to a new understanding of those relationships. I know that this process of thoughtful pastoral discernment, and the prayerful exploration of different modes of affirmation, is underway in many churches in the Episcopal Diocese of New York, and I am sympathetic to it.

However, it takes time for the Church as a whole to reach a common mind about any such new understanding. I do not believe that this process of discernment can or should be determined simply by an up or down vote of a legislative body. Parliamentary and legislative actions rarely resolve such fundamentally pastoral issues; any truly new understanding within the Church needs to grow out of the lived experience of the People of God.

I believe that we are in a transitional moment. We are at a time between times when numbers among us believe that God’s will in this matter clearly favors, even demands, such blessings, while others, perhaps the majority among us, most emphatically do not agree. As a bishop, I bear responsibility to both groups in my diocese, as well as all whose views are less strongly held. I am a pastor to all, and in that work I must be honest and forthcoming about my own views. However, it is not my vocation to substitute my own experience and convictions for those of the larger community of faith, or to deny to them the opportunity to clarify their understanding as they grapple with this question themselves. That opportunity is their right.

I have come to the conclusion that the best way for the Church to reach a common mind, the most promising way forward, is to recognize and accept the fact that we live in a time of deep disagreement. As we disagree, we must work hard to be respectful to opposing views. I am further convinced that we do not serve our Church well by attempting to force a resolution one way or the other. Instead, we must live within the tension of that disagreement, and allow time for the Spirit to work among us. We will best experience that working not in legislative action but in the halting, tentative, and yet ultimately decisive way we have experienced the Spirit working among us through the ages.

(note my booklet/essay THE DOCTRINE OF RECEPTION AND THE CONSECRATION OF WOMEN AS BISHOPS will be available soon from the Latimer House Trust in Great Britain)
The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon M.A., D.Phil. (Oxon.)

Marriage in the Ancient Eastern Church, Orthodoxy & ECUSA

When a Jurisdiction of the Church has in place a solid doctrine & discipline of marriage, then its Ministers can, when and where necessary, make specific dispensations to cover particular needs. However, when a Church (such as the Episcopal Church of the USA) has no solid doctrine or discipline in place then the general state of affairs is more like antinomianism than order.

Some people suggest that what goes on in the ECUSA is not too different from the basic law and tradition of Orthodoxy. This opinion in unfounded, I think.

The Orthodox doctrine of marriage as a sacrament is as high a statement as is possible on earth of the relation of man and wife as one flesh for life – and even for the life of the age to come! And, of course, such a marriage always begins in church in the context of the Eucharist.

In fact so high is this doctrine that the Rite is unrepeatable even for the widow(er) and certainly not for the divorced. Any second marriages of any kind cannot & do not have the sacramental meaning or context as does a genuine first marriage.

In the traditional canon law of the Orthodox Churches, where there is a second marriage of a divorced person that person is under discipline and is treated as if he were a catechumen or under penance for a year or more – that is, not allowed even to attend the Eucharist proper. This is because of the Lord’s teaching about the sin of adultery contracted in second marriages. Here the sin is forgiven but penance is necessary.

Also – and this still applies – a deacon or priest is only allowed to marry once and even if he is made a widower he is still not allowed to marry again. If he does then he is no longer able to function in the Ministry.

So, if the ECUSA (or any new federation of conservative episcopal dioceses & parishes) were to follow Orthodox practice rather than the strict, more legal, way of the Roman Church and the traditional Church of England, what would occur would be something like this:

--That all first marriages would be in the context of the Eucharist

--That there would be no divorced and remarried clergy at all

That where second marriages were performed in church they would not use the same service as that used for first marriages and that those in such marriages would be under discipline (restricted in holding church office and from the Lord’s table) for a stated period, say a year. Penance after forgiveness being in place.

That where a couple has been married according to the minimum laws of the State and in a ceremony that is entirely secular, that where there is a divorce and afterwards one of the parties is converted, baptized and made a church member then she or he may perhaps be allowed to marry in church as if there had been no previous marriage (in this case there would have to be most careful counseling and care for any children etc etc). And that also in extreme circumstances such a person could also become a candidate for the diaconate.

[See further John Meyendorff, Marriage an Orthodox Perspective, St Vladimir’s Seminary Press]

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

Friday, September 26, 2003

Primates & Saints, October 15,16 & 17

According to the Calendar of the Church of England, the commemorations on the days of the Primates’ Conference in London are as follows:

October 15 Teresa of Avila

October 16 Nicolas Ridley and Hugh Latimer

October 17 Ignatius of Antioch

The classic Anglican style of Collect does not ask for the intercession of the saint/martyr but rather looks to virtues of the saint as examples to follow.

Teresa of Avila (1515-1582), Spanish Carmelite Nun and mystic is the teacher of the Path of Contemplative Prayer, the Way of Holiness, Sanctification and Perfection. By her example and teaching, the Primates are taught that “those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength”, that true ecstasy is in union with the Holy Trinity, that “without holiness no one shall see the Lord” and that “the will of God is your sanctification.”

Unless the Primates, led by Archbishop Rowan, are deep in meditative prayer & consecrated and sanctified to the service of the Gospel and to the Way of the Lord Jesus, their deliberations and decisions will be worth nothing in terms of the kingdom of God – however much interest Episcopalians show in them.

Ridley (1500-1555) and Latimer (1485-1555), burnt at the sake in Oxford on October 16, are examples of pastors and preachers who fearlessly proclaimed that salvation is wholly by the grace of God and is received by faith – a faith that is faithful and is expressed in love. Their reformed Catholic zeal and devotion and opposition to medieval errors present to the Primates the example of total dedication to the will of the Lord, whatever the cost, including being burnt at the sake.

Unless the Primates, led by Archbishop Rowan, are wholly dedicated to the Gospel and to the purity of life for which the Gospel calls, then their deliberations and decisions will be worth nothing in terms of the kingdom of God – however much interest the media shows in them.

Ignatius of Antioch (d.107) as the Bishop of Antioch presents to us an example of total dedication to his Lord, to the young Church of the Lord in Turkey & Rome, and to the privilege of martyrdom for the Lord in the Coliseum. Here is a saint of God whose passionate desire is to be with his Lord, even if by the powerful teeth and hunger of ravenous animals in Rome, and yet who cares for the flock of God at the same time.

Unless the Primates, led by Archbishop Rowan, are more concerned about the honor and name of the Lord Jesus, and of heaven as the true home of the faithful baptized, than they are about earth and human reputation, then their evaluation of the ECUSA & human sexuality on earth for disciples of Jesus will not be that which is held & approved in heaven!

“O Gracious Father, we humbly beseech thee for thy holy Catholic Church and particular for that jurisdiction of the same known as the Anglican Communion; that thou wouldest be pleased to fill it with all truth, in all peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in any thing it is amiss, reform it. Where it is right, establish it; where it is in want, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it. When its Primates meet on October 15-17 in London bless, direct and unite them in thy love, for the sake of him who died and rose again, and ever liveth to make intercession for us, Jesus Christ, thy Son our Lord. Amen.”

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

Thursday, September 25, 2003

1976 - a watershed

In the September/October issue of the Mandate (on line at or obtain a copy from 1-800-PBS-1928) my editorial is on 1976 -- and the fact that the corporate memory of the ECUSA in Convention only seems to go back effectively to that date, and thus the vote & wisdom of the saints of God over the centuries is not counted when changes/innovations are introduced. A reader sent this Letter below, which contains something that he sees, and I see, as giving general support & larger context to what I argue in this Editorial. Further it makes us hesitant to receive anything that the ECUSA has given us since the 1970s - including of course not only gay blessings but also the Prayer Book and the Liturgies that have followed it.

Your reflections on 1976 were fascinating in the latest issue of Mandate.

Thank you! I humbly submit one more from "Against the World for the World, the Hartford Appeal and the Future of American Religion", by Peter Berger and Richard John Neuhaus, editors, Seabury Press 1976, ISBN: 0-8164-2121-8:

In 1975, eighteen prominent Christian thinkers issued "The Hartford Appeal for Theological Affirmation", a document which identified 13 "pervasive, false, and debilitating" themes in contemporary Christian thought...and called for a religious renewal in America.

The 8 writers are: Peter Berger, George Lindbeck, Avery Dulles, George Forell, Carl Peter, Richard Mouw, Alexander Schmemann, and Richard John Neuhaus.

Their 13 themes representing the final capitulation by the Church to modern thought are:

1. Modern thought is superior to all past forms of understanding reality, and is therefore normative for Christian faith and life
2. Religious statements are totally independent of reasonable discourse
3. Religious language refers to human experience and nothing else, God being humanity's noblest creation.
4. Jesus can only be understood in terms of contemporary models of humanity.
5. All religions are equally valid; the choice among them is not a matter of conviction about truth but only of personal preference or life style.
6. To realize one's potential and to be true to oneself is the whole meaning of life.
7. Since what is human is good, evil can adequately be understood as failure to realize potential.
8. The sole purpose of worship is to promote individual self-realization and human community.
9. Institutions and historical traditions are oppressive and inimical to our being truly human; liberation from them is required for authentic existence and authentic religion.
10. The world must set the agenda for the Church. Social, political, and economic programs to improve the quality of life are ultimately normative for the Church's mission in the world.
11. An emphasis on God's transcendence is at least a hindrance to, and perhaps incompatible with, Christian social concern and action.
12. The struggle for a better humanity will bring about the Kingdom of God.
13. The question of hope beyond death is irrelevant or at best marginal to the Christian understanding of human fulfillment.

The 18 signers of that Appeal were: Peter L. Berger, Elizabeth Ann Bettenhausen, William Sloan Coffin, Avery Dulles, Neal Fisher, George Forell, James N. Gettemy, Stanley Hauerwas, Thomas Hopko, George Lindbeck, Illeana Marculescu, Ralph McInerny, E. Kilmer Myers, Richard J. Mouw, Richard John Neuhaus, Randolph W. Nugent, Carl J. Peter, Alexander Schmemann, Gerard Sloyan, Lewis B. Smedes, George H. Tavard, Bruce Vawter, John D. Weaver, and Robert Wilken.

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

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Archbishop Akinola attacks Archbishop Ndungane over "Gay Remarks"


[ACNS source: All Africa News Agency] The Archbishop of the Church of Nigeria, the Most Revd Peter J. Akinola, has written a strong-worded letter to his southern Africa counterpart, Archbishop Winston Njongonkulu Ndungane of Cape Town, expressing deep criticism over the stand taken by Archbishop Ndungane on the controversial issue of gay ordination within the Anglican Church.

Responding to Archbishop Ndungane's recent sentiments published in a leading British newspaper, Archbishop Akinola has launched a scathing attack on his fellow churchman, telling him, "you got it all wrong".

Archbishop Ndungane had indicated in an interview that African clergymen, including Archbishop Akinola, who were expressing opposition to gay ordination were arrogant, intolerant and hypocritical.

Below is the full text of Archbishop Akinola's letter, released yesterday:


"My attention has just been drawn to a publication by a religious affairs correspondent in a British daily criticising the stand of a majority of Global South Primates and several other bishops around the world over the current departures arising from the ongoing controversies surrounding unscriptural revisionist innovations on human sexuality.

Your criticism is based on some unfortunate presuppositions. And coming at this time, it appears like an attempt to cause a possible diversion of focus amongst African and Global South Church leaders. But thank God these leaders have come of age, they are no longer to be pulled by the nose nor taken for granted. We are poised, using every gift of God available to us to defend orthodoxy, the integrity of the Church, and banish the erroneous teachings you plan to impose on us.

The criticism

1. How correct are you dear brother Archbishop Ndungane in judging the cloud of witnesses to biblical truth through the ages whose stand on biblical ethics is only being upheld by those of us who are now branded as arrogant and intolerant? Is there anything in our pronouncements that constitutes a departure from the standard of morality held out in the Bible?

Isn't it a paradox that the Archbishop of Southern Africa sees no arrogance in those whose flagrant disregard of the stand of the entire Anglican Communion has plunged us into this sad and avoidable controversy. They have refused to ensure strict compliance with resolutions duly passed at the Bishops' Lambeth Conference and the Primates' Meetings. To you that is alright. Should there not be a protest against such disrespect? When has the poor (as we in the Global South are often called) begun to be proud over and against the rich (the affluent West)?

2. How can you forget so soon the alert we sounded at the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) in Hong Kong barely a year ago? It is worth repeating here:

"While I appreciate that the New Westminster diocese and the Church of Canada may not be, in numerical terms, especially large ecclesia bodies, we value them as dearly as we value all our partner Provinces. We have a growing fear for the sense of loss which sustained departure by them from our common path and mind must risk. We urge and pray that reflection will lead to reconsideration. It is hard indeed to see any action, which threatens our Communion to be justified as a 'local mission priority'"

3. Brother Ndungane, you got it all wrong. What you cited as top priorities are in this context clearly misplaced. I ask, are the issues of peace, hunger, sharia, and HIV/AIDS, serious and prevalent, as they are, more important to the Church than faithfulness to the plain truth of Scripture? We remind you dear brother of our Lord's response to a similar situation two thousand years ago as recorded in Luke 13:1-5.(Please take time to read it over and over again). His response was that, tragic as those situations were, the more important priority was repentance. He actually said, "Unless you repent, you too will all perish" It didn't mean that Christ was not compassionate. If anything He demonstrated compassion daily in His miracles and teachings. We are following His footsteps by doing all we can for those caught in these painful conditions as part of our holistic approach to ministry.

We place a high priority on caring. For sure, the Archbishop has not forgotten that 'man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from God' (Dt. 8:3; Matt. 4:4; Lk. 4:4). Peace, hunger, sharia and HIV/AIDS are indeed major life and death issues, albeit, they are at the physical level. Unfaithfulness to Scripture is a more major life and death issue because it is spiritual. What shall it profit a man to feed well and live long here on earth only to lose his soul in hell? What then is the Church here for ?

4. On the question of integrity of ECUSA's decision, again we ask, can one eat his cake and still have it in his hands? And can two walk together unless they be agreed? (Amos 3:3). If the integrity of a part is so important, what will be said of the whole? And it must be said that this is not a matter of 'unity in diversity' for according to the rule: in the essentials, unity; in the non-essentials, freedom; in all things charity, the issue at stake falls within the orbit of the essentials and thus any deviation means alienation.

One suspects in your unguarded and scathing criticism a resurgence of a hitherto latent feeling of hurt since the Lambeth Conference Committee on human sexuality you chaired was overwhelmingly overruled by the so-called hard-liners who are not willing to compromise the precious heritage of scriptural truth.

5. The accusation of hypocrisy does not recognise the inherent difference between what the Church openly and officially sanctions and what it does not but exists. In the former, the Church stands responsible while in the latter, the burden of blame and guilt remains the private responsibility of those concerned with the accompanying room for repentance and forgiveness. This accusation carries with it an uncomfortable insinuation of double standards on the part of those opposed to homosexuality in the Church. However, it still does not square up as two wrongs do not add up to a right.

6. The unwarranted accusation that Africans do not know much about their sexuality portends a talking-down of Africans-a gnostic tendency that is capable of weakening the resolve of the African church leaders to be God's prophets in times like this. The biblical prophets resisted it and so must their contemporary counterparts.

I ask you dear brother to face issues and not fall into the temptation of "casting stones". Apparently you do not know everything I have said and done on every issue concerning Nigeria. That you have not heard any fuss from me in the foreign media about certain issues does not mean the Church which by the grace of God I lead is doing nothing. For instance, I deliberately included Zamfara State in the itinerary of the immediate past Archbishop of Canterbury to Nigeria and called the world's attention to the infringement on fundamental human rights that the imposition of the Islamic penal code portended for freedom-loving peoples. The Church in Nigeria has borne the most brunt of this unwarranted imposition. If you care to know, I urge you to refer to the volumes of published findings by Christian Solidarity Worldwide following their repeated visits to Nigeria, including my Office.


May I say as I conclude that your comments reveal a palpable failure to grasp the nature of the issues at stake. Your criticism is so burdened with such sad and most unfortunate presuppositions that see our stand from the point of arrogance and intolerance rather than a strong will to defend the 'faith that was once delivered to the saints.' When you accuse us of arrogance and intolerance, be courageous enough to direct the searchlight at yourself and those for whom you spoke.

What is at stake has to do not just with the identity of the Church universal and our historic faith but also how we treat God and his incarnate and written Word. Yes, we are a worldwide communion, but our church is only a part of the holy, catholic and apostolic Church. Where the autonomy of any part of our communion becomes a scandal in the entire Christian world, then we must be humble enough to accept rebuke and correction. There is still room for repentance. Amen."

The Most Revd Peter J Akinola
Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate
The Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion.

Strict Canon Law ON MARRIAGE does not mean JUSTICE WITHOUT MERCY

(a discussion paper, following on from others on the relation of the divorce culture to the demands by "gay" persons for full recognition of their rights)

If the "antinomianism" of the present ECUSA marriage and "gay" policies is abandoned, there is no need to go into a form of legalism. However, there will need to be a major change in ECUSA canon law in order for there to be any real change in practice at the parish level. Caring and enlightened Bishops can do much by teaching and leadership to bring in the necessary changes that justice requires and that mercy should accompany.


Canon Law of a Church which is written in the light of the teaching of Jesus and his apostles will be "strict" in regard to ministers of the Church officiating at second marriages when a previous spouse is still alive.

Such Canon Law must regard divorce - for whatever reasons - as a breaking of that which is intended & commanded to be for life ("That which God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.")

Such Canon Law must regard the remarriage of a divorcee (except in rare circumstances) as contrary to the will of the Lord Jesus and thus not to be undertaken in church as if it were, or could be, wholly in accord with divine Order for Creation and the Church.

Canon Law has always made provision for separation of a man and wife where there is just cause for this separation - e.g., constant cruelty being shown, adultery etc.

Canon Law stands always for chastity in sexual relations.

Canon Law cannot prevent a baptized person (or anyone else) seeking divorce in the secular courts; but will itself continue to regard the first marriage as the one made in the Name and with the blessing of God, the Holy Trinity.

Canon Law (Anglican style) has always recognized the where a couple (a bachelor & a spinster) has been married according to the law of the state where they live then that is in God's sight a real marriage. Thus, if there is a divorce, and then one of the divorcees is converted to Jesus Christ, this conversion does not change the fact that this person is still a divorced person -- in this case a Christian who has been divorced. Thus this person has no automatic right to being re-married in church to another person as if he were marrying for the first time. (Open the door here and it will be soon opened very wide by all kinds of appeals for special cases!)

Any new expression of the ECUSA (e.g., dioceses supported by Primates abroad?) ought to revert to the Canon Law on marriage as it was previous to the 1960s and at the same time generously declare that all previous marriages conducted in the ECUSA in recent decades using the official service in the 79 prayer book shall stand as valid (even if by the new standards for post 2003 they ought not have taken place in church).

Giving of an Annulment by a Bishop should be avoided for it is open to grave scandal and to misuse (as in the Continuing Church movement now). Annulments should come if at all from the secular courts.


The Church ought to be deeply involved in the care of persons affected by modern marital breakdown and separation, showing pity and mercy and offering help. But this help does not mean counseling that is based on modern ideas of rights, autonomy and self-realization/ self-fulfillment; rather, it means counseling to help to bring one's life under the sovereign grace of God and in receipt of that grace and mercy.

If a divorced person decides to remarry, that should take place at an office of the State and according to the laws of the State. It will then be open for the local church to offer, if asked, a service of prayer and dedication in which God will be asked to forgive what is past and graciously to help in the present and for the future. The admittance of such persons to the Lord's Table or to lay offices in the church should not be automatic but dependent upon pastoral judgment by the bishop.

BUT no clergyperson (deacon, presbyter or bishop) who is divorced ought in the new Order to remain in official ordained ministry if he/she remarries and has a previous spouse alive.

AND no person actively engaged in a homosexual partnership, long term or short term, ought to be ordained or remain in ministry if ordained in the new Order, unless there is a full repentance and change of life.


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

TRINITY XV, fervent prayer for ECUSA


The set prayer within the classic Book of Common Prayer(1662/1928) for the week of 28th September surely is a prayer for all who care for the ECUSA to use.

The Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity

"Keep, we beseech thee, O Lord, thy Church with thy perpetual mercy; and, because the frailty of man without thee cannot but fall, keep us every by thy help from all things hurtful, and lead us to all things profitable to our salvation; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

The Epistle: Galatians 6:11-18 The Gospel: St Matthew 6:24-34

This is a perfect Prayer to pray daily not only in the week of Trinity XV but right through to - and beyond - the Primates' Meeting in London, October 15-17.

Let us notice here in the first petition a strange, interesting and relevant fact. God the Father is implored to keep his Church (for which his Son shed his precious blood) not with his Fatherly Care, not with his Watchful Providence and not with the guardianship of his holy Archangels and angels [all of which he actually does], but with his Perpetual Mercy.

Perpetual Mercy -- If man (we, all of us) is to be saved and secured from major spiritual and moral injuries with which Satan, the world (zeitgeist) and the flesh threaten him, it can only be by the continual & perpetual exercise of the Father's mercy in the name, for the sake of his Beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, in and by the Holy Ghost, the Counselor & Comforter. From that heavenly mercy proceed abundant blessings of many and varied kinds, descending upon those who seek the Lord and find him.

Certainly, being a member of the ECUSA at this time seems to bring an extra deluge of temptations, testings, problems and heart-aches for pilgrims who would walk on the narrow way that leads to life. We need mercy not only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, but each and every day - and night! Perpetual and nothing less than continuing and continual! "Every hour I need thee!" The Bishops who call themselves orthodox especially need this Mercy so that they can be truly orthodox in worship, doctrine, and discipline and be true Shepherds.

Let us also recognize, as does the Collect, that considered as moral and spiritual beings who stand before God, the all-holy, the all- seeing and the all- knowing One, we are not only mortal but also frail, weak and sinful. We possess the ancient disease of inbred, original sin and because of it we cannot, in and of ourselves, truly help ourselves into the way and enjoyment of God's salvation. We have to be lifted by grace-filled hands into the Ark of Salvation. (This Collect stands as a defiant statement against Pelagianism, a doctrine loved and favored within the present ECUSA.)

To state this truth of original sin - so clear in the Bible and in the content of the classic editions of The Book of Common Prayer - and to confess it and its implications before God is wholly to depart from the mindset and spirituality of the present ECUSA, where man is hardly the guilty sinner upon whom the wrath of God falls. Rather he/she is usually the autonomous being engaged in self-fulfillment and asking God to accompany her/him on this journey!

Thus we pray again in this Prayer for help, the presence of the Holy Ghost indwelling our souls so that he elevates our affections, inspires our thinking and energizes our wills in order to guide us away from that which will harm us and towards that which will protect and bless us. Many things that exist will harm us, even things which in and of themselves may be good, but for you or for me they are the frequent cause of temptation and sin. Happily, there are many things in God's creation, and especially in the provisions of the new covenant/creation, that are for the cleansing, renewing, inspiring and saving of our souls and bodies.

Within the present life of the ECUSA in its "National Church" organization, its dioceses and parishes, there are many things that are hurtful in the sense that they have the potential to be the means of causing persons/souls to abandon the Faith and their Lord and to become apostate. Also, thanks be to God, there are - though in short supply - means of grace available (in persons and sacraments) to those who seek, knock and look for the healing and salvation of their souls.

This Prayer and all such fervent, effectual prayer is offered to the Father through the One Mediator, the Son, and with the Holy Ghost by the people of God, who know that the only merits that heaven knows are those of the Lord Jesus Christ.

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

Monday, September 22, 2003

Jensen & Toon, Travers & Hooker

The Dean of the Cathedral in Sydney, Phillip Jensen, has succinctly, passionately and carefully responded to my little tract on “Primates & Guarding the Faith” which was circulated by the Rev’d Fr. Dick Kim. He and his brother, the Archbishop of Sydney, are most capable and earnest men and I admire both of them. We disagree over the relation of the Scriptures to holy tradition and over the place and use of the Scriptures in the Anglican Way as a jurisdiction within the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church of God.

In his response he takes up a position which may be described as the twenty-first century equivalent of that of the “puritans” in the Church of England in the sixteenth and seventeenth century. In fact, if he and I were to debate it would be (yet without the great learning) in content like the famous debates between the Puritan/Presbyterian W. Travers and the Anglican divine, Richard Hooker.

Hooker’s Law of Ecclesiastical Polity is as it were my answer to the position taken by Dr Jensen, his brother (the Archbishop of Sydney), and others in the archdiocese of Sydney concerning the authority and use of Scripture in the Church.

Jensen wishes to set aside the position of the Church of England as it is defended by Bishop Jewel in his Apology and then by Hooker in his Polity and given clear expression in the Formularies of 1662 (BCP, Ordinal & Articles) and to seek to stand solely on what may be most clearly proved from the Scriptures by modern conservative exegesis, as well as by the exegesis of certain reformers of the 16th century.

Lay Celebrancy, favored and defended in Sydney, is wholly against the Order that the Church, which collected and approved the Canon of Scripture in the early centuries, actually believed was the will of God and required by Scripture. And the traditional Church of England position stated in the Elizabethan period with great clarity is – ONE Canon of Scripture, with TWO Testaments, whose content is summarized in THREE Creeds, and whose doctrine as dogma is set forth in FOUR Ecumenical Councils, and whose intent and provisions are seen in FIVE Centuries of developing evangelization, worship, doctrine, discipline and order. On this basis one accepts the Threefold Ministry as God’s Order in the church and as consonant with Scripture, but one does not have to believe in it to be saved by grace.

(The lecture that I gave in the University of Sydney against Lay Presidency I still have as a file and may be able it to send to any who wish to read it.)

Following response is from the Dean of Sydney, Phillip Jensen – to Dr Toon’s paper on the Primates as Guardians of the Faith as that is received in the Anglican Way

Dear Dick

I am happy that this be known to be written by me as the Dean of Sydney seeing that Peter has specified the diocese of Sydney as one that needs to be disciplined.

Peter's requirement that the Primates make statements consonant with scripture is a minimalist position. Rather we should require that they make statements which are the teaching of Scripture. However like all minimalist positions Peter's position is used to legalistically add to scripture – for it will be said that though scripture does not speak on an issue if it did it would say and therefore people should be excluded who do not agree.

Take the three issues that Peter wants clear immediate statements from the Primates on. The first sexual purity is clearly taught in scripture. The second lay administration of the Lord's supper is nowhere discussed in Scripture. The third the ordination of Women is not itself in scripture, as ordination is not explicitly in scripture, though the issue of women in authority is explicitly in scripture.

By introducing the two issues that are not explicitly addressed in scripture into the same category of discussion as the immorality that would exclude someone from the kingdom of God, Peter is confusing the issues, dividing the mainstream, and giving opportunity to the Primates to throw dust and confusion into the air.

Worse still than the bad politics and pragmatic considerations of his call, he is in error for he wishes to exclude God's people from fellowship because of a view of ordination that cannot be sustained from Scripture. Unless our fellowship is something more precious than salvation in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, Peter's call is contrary to Article 6 and is in danger of following the example of Diotrephes.

Because of scriptures' teaching I am opposed to sexual immorality in the laity let alone in the clergy. Because of Scriptures' teaching I am opposed to women exercising the same authority and teaching roles as men in the church and therefore in our heritage of ordaining them to the priesthood as the chief teaching ministry of the church. Please notice the difference in logic between these two positions.

But then try to think where the Bible teaches the ordination to a priesthood that has the sole authority to administer the Lord's Supper. It is not only totally absent from the teaching of Scripture but is against the tenor of the unique mediatorial work of the Lord Jesus Christ and the consequential priesthood of all believers.

Please understand the importance of Peter's call - for to exclude the archdiocese of Sydney will end my participation in a circle of friends such as this - is that what you want? You cannot call for our exclusion and remain in fellowship with us. That you wish to exclude unrepentant adulterers and the sexually immoral is one thing (they are excluded from the kingdom of God), but do you want to place those of us who are earnestly seeking to apply God's word to our church life in the same category of sinfulness? How quickly will godly discipline turn into human tyranny.


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

Sexuality, God and Church


In response to requests for clarity... and in your kindness... Issues of God and sexuality are often very emotive and we think via our emotions...

I wish to make it clear that I have NEVER attacked divorced & remarried persons as such, only the church's allowance of second & third marriages (when first spouse is alive). And I have not attacked homosexual persons or called them by rude names. I have some relatives who are divorced and remarried and not a few friends who are such and as far as I know I treat them all the same way. What I write against is an apostate Church/bishops and their leading the sheep astray both in sexual matters and in others things and thus they lead them not into the kingdom of heaven but into the kingdom of darkness.

Here is what I have said in summary:

1.There is a large divorce culture both within American society and within the membership of the ECUSA. A large proportion of members and also priests/bishops is divorced and remarried.

2.The presence of this culture - with its dominant justification in terms of personal rights and individual autonomy & happiness - paved the way and set the scene for the carefully planned and executed call of the LesBiGay Lobby to gain a major hearing within the ECUSA. "If you have granted rights to the divorced against Scripture then you must also grant us rights even if you think they are against Scripture."

3.If one is to follow biblical ethics and plain common sense it is obvious that to oppose the "Gay" successes without also dealing with the root cause of them (and other things) - which is the abandonment of good Order - is neither to be just nor realistic.

4.To oppose the right of heterosexual persons to be married more than once in the church as well as to oppose the right of "gay" persons to be blessed in their partnerships is NOT to attack individual persons or couples it is to attack the false authority taken by the ECUSA to allow such things.

5.The real problem is not, therefore, the desires of people to seek their happiness in whatever ways the media and their friends and their (sinful) hearts suggest; but it is the Episcopate (and the General Convention) of the ECUSA, which has since the 1950s and especially since the 1970s forsaken the Lord and his righteous paths.

6.Thus the gay issue must not be prioritized in such a way that the impression is given that if the (reformed parts of) ECUSA gets rid of Gene Robinson as a bishop and gets some resolutions against gay blessings in the books then all shall be well.

7.The disease, the problem, the error & the apostasy would very much remain at the center and with each Bishop; THUS there must be a major U-turn back to the Bible, the Creeds, the Formularies, the Canon Law as it was before the 1970s, and to right Order. Only in this context can "gay" and divorce issues be addressed rightly with a sound mind.

8.What do to about all those in second and third marriages who have been blessed by the ECUSA? Make a clear statement and write in clearly into church law that ALL marriages solemnized and blessed until a specific date shall be treated as true marriages (because any error was primarily & basically on the part of the Church not on the part of those being married); and that from this date certain new rules shall apply to marriage in church and these shall be graciously, pastorally and yet firmly adhered to. The BCP (1662/1928) service of matrimony shall serve as the basic formulary for marriage and appropriate counseling should be put in place immediately.

9.The Primates' Meeting in October 2003 will fall very far short of its duty if it merely and only addresses "gay" issues for the reason that this would be like dealing with one child with food poisoning and not working out where the poison came into the food chain - at factory, distributor, supermarket or kitchen! The "gay" issue & the divorce/remarriage issue and the cohabitation issue are all parts of a manifestation of rebellion against God 's good Order for creation and the Church, and we need a call back to & a return unto that good Order.

10. The Church of England & its Episcopate are heading on the same direction (down into the valley of darkness) as the ECUSA has headed, but with a different kind of routing down the slope! In Britain a lot goes on behind closed doors [under trees in a thick wood as it were) and so one only finds out when it is out in the open!

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

The Prioritization of the homosexual issue

It is well known in conservative ECUSA circles that I have tried in the last month to make the homosexual issue surrounding Gene Robinson into a much larger issue of sexual ethics, and then to set this in the context of the major changes - of worship, doctrine, discipline & Order -- that have occurred in the ECUSA since the 1960s.

I have suggested that when the matter of gay sex is treated in and of itself then it runs the danger of being basically a cultural matter - whether in the USA or Africa.

Someone who has been reading my tracts and considerations wrote:

'The prioritization of the homosexual issue is not primarily doctrinal. The issue is most certainly very serious and must be addressed. Nevertheless, addressing homosexuality without first addressing the matters of authority and order is a waste of time, a mere Band-Aid on a system that will devour itself in the end. The real power driving the prioritization of dealing with the homosexualists is a middle-class sensibility, draped in religious trappings. The frequent surfacing of the terms "pervert" and "unnatural," while justified in some regards, still does not get to the heart of the matter--poor souls dying because of their disobedience to God's Word Written. But if the matter were put in these terms, then the liar, the thief, the multiply married, the ordainers and imposers of women ministers would have to look to their own souls, and being middle-class they do not wish to do so. The first and greatest middle-class doctrine is this: "We are, all in all, pretty good fellows".'

There is much worth taking to heart in this straight talk, which will be offensive, I know, to some.

Consider that in the USA -- where in living memory it once was embarrassing in public to be known as divorced - that being divorced and remarried once or twice is perfectly respectable in 90 per cent of the country and churches. Consider also that couples living together without being married is also respectable whereas 50 years ago it was deeply frowned upon and actively opposed. (Much the same of course in Great Britain and the western world.)

But there is a proportion especially of the middle classes that focuses upon homosexual practices as being special if not unique aberrations and offences against good taste. And they do so while regarding divorce and remarriage and co-habitation as normal.

Now in the Bible there is no doubt but that homosexual practice is a sin, but when it is stated as a sin, it does not appear as one sin set apart from other sins. Take a look at 1 Corinthians 6:9 (RSV):

"Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers, will inherit the kingdom of God."

How many candidates for bishop does this word from heaven exclude and ought to have excluded in the recent past? How many ordinands? How many S.S teachers? How many of us?

When we point at homosexual sin (ners) alone and do not see its presence (them) as part of a much larger and sinister reality of evil in practice then we are unlikely to be repentant and to look into our own souls in self-examination by the light of the Word of God. We are being religiously middle-class and self-sufficient.

I am NOT saying that the election of Canon Robinson was right or good. It was right to oppose it! What I am saying is that by the rule of the Word of God, read & understood in its common sense meaning all of us need to be careful in pointing the finger towards Gene R and the Lesbigay Lobby when the rest of the hand points back to ourselves and to our sins of equal seriousness to that of homosexual acts.

If the Primates on October 15-17 focus ONLY on this matter of homosexual sin and do not set it in a much larger context of severe failures by all of us in biblical family order/ethics and ecclesial order/ ethics then they willbe letting down the Anglican Communion in a disastrous way.

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

The Inter-Anglican Theological and Doctrinal Commission


The Commission, now two-years into its study of the meaning and maintenance of 'Communion', met under the Chairmanship of the Rt Revd Professor S W Sykes from 4 - 9 September as guests of Virginia Theological Seminary. The work of the Commission is being pursued as an active conversation with member churches of the Anglican Communion, a process which was approved at the Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Hong Kong in 2002. Several hundred dioceses and theological centres, a number of parishes and individuals have participated in this dialogue by responding to the Four Key Questions and Six Propositions on ways in which Anglicans understand and experience koinonia.

Whenever the Commission has gathered it has been vividly aware of the need for the sort of trust and solidarity which Communion anticipates. The initial meeting of the Commission was disrupted by terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, and the next overshadowed by the mounting rhetoric which preceded the invasion of Iraq. On this occasion members were acutely conscious of the controversy surrounding the election of a non-abstinent homosexual priest as the next Bishop of New Hampshire. The circumstances of our meetings have demonstrated how urgent it is, within the church as much as throughout the wider human community, to encourage good argument on disputed matters so as to nurture the unity promised by the gospel in an increasingly polarised global context.

We have been made aware by our correspondents of the variety of threats to koinonia which they face, and also the high value which is placed on membership of a worldwide Communion of Anglican Churches, especially in situations where Christian discipleship can be a lonely, challenging and dangerous calling. The response which the Commission is making seeks to learn from that evidence. It is developing an argument which tries to discern how God addresses his creation and how his people receive and respond to his word; it is taking seriously the way the Gospel addresses theological and ethical disputes; and, in a world so challenged by global and local tensions, it is asking how recent developments in Anglican polity may impact on its developing understanding of Communion.

During its meeting the Commission also gave the document To Mend the Net further consideration, it discussed the papal encyclical, On the Eucharist and the Church, and began to explore ways in which theological education resources might be shared throughout the Communion, perhaps in concert with the Theological Education Initiative being commissioned by the Primates Meeting. The next phase of the Commission's work will be to integrate the three lines of its discussion - continuing reflection on the responses to the Six Propositions which have been received, developing a response to the document To Mend the Net, and working on the processes by which the Communion can sustain its life. Together it is hoped these will lead into the development of a dynamic description of how our life as a Communion can be carried forward.

The generous hospitality and resources of the Virginia Theological Seminary were again greatly appreciated by the Commission, which next year expects to meet in Kenya.

The Commission will report its proceedings as usual to the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Primates, and the Anglican Consultative Council. Compilations of replies received to the Six Propositions and other information about the study process will be posted to in the next few

Stephen Sykes

Enquiries on the work of the Commission may be addressed to:

Gregory Cameron
Anglican Communion Office
Partnership House
157 Waterloo Road
London SE1 8UT

Philip Thomas
Assistant to the Chair
The Vicarage
Co Durham

The members of the Commission are:

The Rt Revd Professor Stephen W Sykes (Chair)
The Revd Dr Philip H E Thomas (Assistant to the Chair)
The Revd Canon Gregory Cameron (Secretary)
The Revd Professor Kortright Davis
The Rt Revd J Mark Dyer
The Rt Revd Tan Sri Dr Lim Cheng Ean
The Revd Dr Katherine Grieb (Observer)
Dr Esther M Mombo
The Revd Canon Luke Pato
The Revd Dr Stephen Pickard
Dr Jenny Te Paa
The Rt Revd Paul Richardson
The Revd Dr Nicholas Sagovsky
Dr Eileen Scully
The Rt Revd Dr N Thomas Wright
The Very Revd Paul F M Zahl
The Rt Revd Tito Zavala

Not present on this occasion were:

The Revd Victor R Atta-Baffoe
The Rt Revd Dr Samuel R Cutting
The Revd Dr Bruce N Kaye
The Rt Revd Dr Matthew Oluremi Owadayo

Administrative staff:

Mrs Christine Codner
The Revd Terrie Robinson

Thursday, September 18, 2003


a meditation to assist other meditations

It has become commonplace, since the close of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church of the USA in August 2003, to refer to the ECUSA and the Anglican Communion as being in crisis. However, the truth of the matter is that an already existing crisis in the Anglican Family has now been extended and deepened, with intense emotions being released at the present time.

In words written in 1990, Gillian Evans, a well-known Cambridge scholar & writer, offered this [correct] judgment: "But above all, it [the ordination of women as bishops] makes the Anglican Church not a single Communion seeking unity with others [e.g., Lutherans & Orthodox], but itself a crisis zone, in which the desire for unity struggles to hold together what structural anomalies pull apart. That must be frankly confessed." (Authority in the Church, p.80)

Let us frankly confess this truth with Ms Evans.

But what are the "structural anomalies"? They are two aspects of order in conflict - that which places the emphasis upon the local diocese/province as calling and appointing Ministers & that which sees Ministry as belonging to the universal Church and thus only authentic if acceptable to the whole Church. The Anglican Family of Churches has been experiencing for over a decade what is called "impaired communion" because what has been decided upon and done locally when a woman has been ordained has neither been accepted by the whole Anglican Family nor by major ecumenical partners.

The Anglican Communion [Family] of Churches became a crisis zone when local wishes were preferred to universal order, especially and directly so when the first women were consecrated. And that crisis zone becomes larger year by year as more women are ordained, and especially as more women are consecrated.

The crisis began because what had been previously been believed, taught and confessed as belonging to ordination was brought into question, doubted, and set aside. Ordination to the presbyterate [priesthood] or to the episcopate may be said to contain three elements - the gift of the Holy Spirit to the candidate from the Lord Christ for the office; the acceptance by the parish/diocese of the candidate; and the being placed in the universal order of the Church by the act of the laying on of hands by the bishop (s). In the case of women candidates none of these elements is either clear or sure for there are large parts of the visible Church that do not accept that the Spirit is given to women for priestly ministry, that oppose the ordination of women and that state that they are not placed in the universal order. (It may be recalled that the Anglican doctrine of reception was invented in 1988 in order to seek to deal with this real problem on the basis of charitable assumptions, testing and discernment and to maintain as high a level of impaired communion as is possible in the Anglican Family of Churches.)

It is generally accepted that at the very least UNITY, and the Episcopate as the sign of that unity, belong to the bene esse (and more likely the plene esse or even the esse) of the Church. In the Anglican Family the unity of the dioceses and of the Church has been seen as centered upon and in the Bishop on what may be described as three planes. In the diocese he is the chief Pastor, Teacher and Celebrant, and he shares these offices with his presbyters; he unites his diocese with other dioceses in province and worldwide by his sharing in the universal Episcopate; and he unites the church of today with the church of yesterday through his belonging to a historical line of Bishops, through time and across space. Now it is clear that a woman cannot fulfill these three relational aspects of the Episcopate simply because she is not accepted by all in her diocese, all in her province and all in the universal Church. The esse of the Church is shattered by the innovation of the ordination of women and especially by the consecration of women and so we talk of "impaired communion" as a nice way of handling it.

One major reason (not often realized) why the innovation of "gay" unions and ordinations is felt so intensely now is because within the Anglican Family of Churches it entered into an already existing crisis-zone, a zone which the leadership has attempted to avoid, play down and minimize. Whether the latest addition to the crisis can be permanently solved without solving the former is a major question.

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

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

RESTORE US, O God, Let thy FACE shine

In the appointed Psalms for Sept 16 in the classic editions of the BCP (1549-1662 -1928) is Psalm 80. Scholars tell us that it was probably composed in the last days of the northern kingdom, just before 721 BC. Today the Church prays this psalm with, in and through the Lord Jesus Christ and thus it becomes a prayer for restoration, renewal and revival of Christ’s cause.

Notice the repeated petition, “RESTORE US, O GOD; LET THY FACE SHINE, THAT WE MAY BE SAVED” (verses 4, 8, 15, 20).

Notice also that the intensity of the petition increases as the Name of God is developed and strengthened – “O God” (v.4); “O God of hosts” (vv.8 & 15) and “LORD God of hosts” (v.20).

We move from the general name of the God of Israel, to the heightened Name (The God of all the heavenly armies) to the unique, revealed Name ( LORD -- YHWH, HE WHO IS, HE WHO WAS & HE WHO SHALL BE).

And with the heightening and intensifying of the NAME of God so the petition becomes the more explicit and real. “Let thy face shine” is prayer for not only the divine light and divine favor to be known and felt amongst the Jews but also for there to be a vital sense of God’s presence with his covenant people. It is fervent request for YHWH (the LORD) to be unto them now and always their covenant God.

For the Church YHWH is the Blessed Holy and Undivided Trinity (“in the NAME of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost”) and only HE is able to revive his people and only HE can of his choosing cause his Spirit to fall upon them and his blessings to be as showers to cleanse and refresh them.

At the stage of composing this Psalm the northern kingdom knew that political alliances and human effort could not save it. Only intervention by the LORD could restore and save, only restorative rain could cause this vine to grow and bear fruit (vv.14-15).

Similarly, for American Episcopalians, who see the Judgment of God upon their province and who realize that political machination and ecclesiastical alliances do not have the power to save them from moral & spiritual disaster, this is a Prayer to address fervently and humbly to the Almighty Father, through the Incarnate Son and with the Holy Ghost: RESTORE US, O LORD GOD OF HOSTS, BLESSED TRINITY! LET THY FACE SHINE UPON US THAT WE MAY BE SAVED.

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

The Anglican Communion & Moral Authority

"The positive nature of the authority which binds the Anglican Communion together is .seen to be moral and spiritual, resting on the truth of the Gospel, and on charity which is patient and willing to defer to the common mind" [Lambeth Conference, 1948, Report, p. 84]

The general style and tone of authorizing or exercising authority in the Anglican Communion is not in terms of "to forbid, to command or to require" but rather "to suggest, to commend and to urge". This approach can be seen throughout the Reports of the Lambeth Conferences from 1867 to the present day. It is an appropriate form of authority for what is, after all, a fellowship of Churches which are indeed "independent, but independent with the Christian freedom which recognizes the restraints of truth and of love" and thus the Churches are neither free to deny the truth nor free to ignore the fellowship.

Of course, we have learned in recent times that fellowship or communion can be a different levels - the basic fellowship due to a common baptism and common roots and relations (which is the sole tie that binds many now) and the deeper or higher communion that is also Eucharistic and which recognizes the Ministry of each and all (to which all aspire).

The moral authority that belongs to the Lambeth Conference is identical in nature to that which belongs to the Primates' Meeting. The latter is set up to exercise authority through moral persuasion, example and reason and so its words, even to an erring brother, can only be "we suggest, urge, beg & commend". However, such language can be persuasive where there is a readiness of the erring one to hear and where the Spirit of truth is present and active.

In contrast to the moral authority of the Lambeth Conference and the Primates' Meeting, the See of Canterbury has an authority that actually has in certain respects a judicial power. The occupant of this ancient See has the duty and the power to invite the bishops of provinces to attend the Lambeth Conference and he also has the power to withhold invitations to such bishops as he deems ought not to be present for their attendance would be to dishonor the Gospel or would not be for the common good.

Of all the "instruments of unity" of the Anglican Communion, the See of Canterbury is the first, and being first, it is both like and unlike the others in its possession and exercise of authority. For most of the time and for most occasions, the authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury is that of moral suasion, but in a very limited sphere it is judicial. A combination of both forms of authority is required to begin to address the current crisis in the Anglican Family of Churches.

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

ACNS 3582: Preparations for CAPA Council in top gear

ACNS 3582 | KENYA | 17 SEPTEMBER 2003

[ACNS source: CAPA] The ninth session of the Council of the Anglican Provinces of Africa (CAPA) council meeting will be held in Nairobi from 24 - 26 September.

Over 50 representatives from all the Anglican Provinces in Africa, as well as partners, friends and observers, are expected to attend the meeting, which is the highest governing body for the Council. There are close to 40 million Anglican members in Africa.

The council meeting is held once every four years and charts the general direction for the Anglican coordinating body in the coming years.

Among the highlights of this year's meeting will be the official opening and dedication of CAPA House which was purchased last year with generous support from the United Thanks Offering and CAPA Provinces. CAPA House is now accommodating all the secretariat activities.

Since the last meeting in 1999, CAPA has expanded in order to respond effectively to the challenges facing Anglicans and communities in Africa. Communications and HIV/AIDS programmes have been set up to work with the national churches in Africa in addressing these key areas.

Other outstanding proceedings at the meeting will be the election of a new management team as the current chairman, the Most Revd Robert G A Okine of West Africa, retires.

ACNS 3579: Anglican Communion / Al Azhar meeting postponed


[ACNS source: NIFCON] The 3rd meeting of the Anglican Communion / Al Azhar Joint Dialogue Commission was scheduled to be held in New York on 10-11 September 2003, the second anniversary of 9/11. Al Azhar is the ancient mosque/university in Cairo, which has a critical and authoritative position throughout the Sunni Muslim world. This year the dialogue was being administered by NIFCON, the Anglican Communion Network for Inter Faith Concerns. The Episcopal Diocese of New York was hosting the event.

Unfortunately at the last minute the Dialogue was postponed. The Muslim representatives cited unease in Egypt about the election of Canon Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire. The Diocese of New York has expressed regret at not being able to assist in an important venture in Christian-Muslim understanding.

ACNS 3577: Bishop Griswold meets with bishops about General Convention reactions

ACNS 3577 | USA | 16 SEPTEMBER 2003

by Jan Nunley

[ACNS source: Episcopal News Service] A group of 10 Episcopal bishops from across the spectrum of views on human sexuality met with Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold in New York, September 10-11, to discuss local reaction to General Convention's decisions about the election of an openly gay bishop and the blessing of same-gender relationships.

The meeting was an attempt to explore what Bishop Griswold called "the very deep question of how we can live with disagreement, given our very divergent points of view around the issues of sexuality." In his letter of invitation, sent August 25, Bishop Griswold asked the bishops to "address together how we might find, in our current circumstances, a deeper invitation to reconciliation."

The bishops issued a brief statement following the meeting:

"The Presiding Bishop called together ten of your fellow bishops to be in a conversation about General Convention and, more particularly, about issues resulting from the consent to the election of the Bishop Coadjutor of New Hampshire and resolution C-051 [concerning a rite for blessing same-gender unions]. Our dialogue was candid, honest and respectful as we considered the seriousness of those decisions that were reached and the possible consequences of them for the continued faithful unity of the Church. We found the discussion to be helpful to each of us personally, and we hope it is helpful to the Presiding Bishop in his continuing leadership and ministry."

The statement was signed by Bishops Keith Ackerman of Quincy, Edwin Gulick of Kentucky, John Howe of Central Florida, Robert Ihloff of Maryland, Don Johnson of West Tennessee, John Lipscomb of Southwest Florida, Edward Little of Northern Indiana, Stacy Sauls of Lexington, Mark Sisk of New York, and Geralyn Wolf of Rhode Island.

In a September 12 letter to members of the House of Bishops, Bishop Griswold indicated, as he has in the past, the discomfort he and other bishops have felt at submitting decisions about matters related to human sexuality to a legislative process. "Regardless of our points of view, all of us recognized the polarization that was caused by our having to make an either/or decision with no possibility of any other mode of response," he wrote. "This has clearly caused pain, confusion and disbelief in many parts of the church, and a sense of rightness in other parts."

Bishop Griswold continued, "Our meeting was very helpful to me in thinking about how we can assist our church in living through this time in faithfulness.... I left the meeting extremely grateful for the candor and grace of the participants, their deep care and affection for one another, and their commitment to the wellbeing of their dioceses, and our church. It is my sense that their spirit is representative of us all."

The bishops also decided more such gatherings are needed in anticipation of the spring meeting of the full House of Bishops.

[The Revd Jan Nunley is deputy director of Episcopal News Service]

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Sexuality and Renewal of the Anglican Way in the Fall of 2003 in the ECUSA

Before responding below to a variety of letters, comments and questions on the relation of modern expressions of sexuality to the desired spiritual and moral reformation & renewal in the ECUSA in late 2003, I wish to make the following two statements concerning the general approach to divorce & remarriage amongst American Anglican evangelicals and charismatics.

(a) I think that many biblically-minded evangelicals and charismatics make wrong or imbalanced judgments in this area because they tend to take & make the very limited possibility of divorce with a second marriage in the tradition (as set out by Erasmus and followed by Beza & the Reformed tradition and seen in the Westminster Confession 1648) into a kind of general permission so that, as it were, the one case in a hundred envisaged in the 16th & 17th century by the Protestant divines has now become, as it were, 90 cases out of a hundred in the ECUSA, even amongst conservatives.

(b) I note that lifelong, one-flesh marriage is often and generally described in evangelical and charismatic circles as an ideal rather than as a privilege, command and duty required by God. The logic of this word “ideal” in practical terms means that life-long wedlock is something to aim for; but, if it is not attained, a second or third try is acceptable if one is sincere. So the use of this word can be and often is most supportive of the divorce culture and serial monogamy. There is a big difference between an ideal to aim for and a command to obey.

Now I wish to state what I see as the general mindset & state of affairs in virtually all ECUSA dioceses and parishes with respect to divorce & remarriage.

1. In general, no bishops place any obstacles before a person, whose original spouse is alive, being married a second time in church.

2. In general, few bishops object to a third marriage if a suitable explanation for it is offered.

3. Around 40 percent of Episcopalians are divorced, or divorced and remarried (at least once). This deeply affects the mindset of a parish and congregation, making it difficult therein to preach the whole counsel of God.

4. At least 20 per cent of clergy (female and male) are divorced, or divorced and remarried and this fact does not seem to affect their continuance and promotion in ordained Ministry or stand in the way of job prospects, including being made bishop.

5.Virtually all Episcopalians give general support to the marriage of divorcees in church whether they themselves are divorced or not. The divorce culture, so called, is part of the Episcopal mindset and this is so whether we speak of conservatives or liberals.

6. Much energy, money, skill & time is spent on counseling in order to make the divorce culture work and cause minimal casualties in the congregations.

7. To find a clergyman and/or a parish which seeks to uphold the traditional, biblical and western canon law standards for holy matrimony is very difficult. Those who wish to do so find themselves overwhelmed by the culture. (Even in the Continuing Churches, where one would expect to find this standard upheld, it is often negated through the use of the bishop’s supposed power to annul a marriage and therefore treat it as if it never existed.)

If we take all these statements together and then place alongside them the further fact that many dioceses are now authorizing the blessing of same-sex couples, we can so easily see that we are dealing with a general failure in the ECUSA to stand on the biblical rock of the Word which is the Lord Jesus Christ who said, “those whom God hath joined let no man put asunder”. In fact, the ECUSA is allowing all kinds of other sexual relations/deviations to exist on the shifting sands of modern doctrines of freedom, personal autonomy, personal fulfillment, and human rights. These modern doctrines have all been absorbed to some degree or another in the Church by liberals and conservatives alike and thus the mindset is created which is favorable to these innovations in sexuality.

So a new beginning, a reformation, a revival, a renewal of the Anglican Way in 2003 MUST surely include [how can it exclude?] a getting to grips with the terrifying phenomenon of the demise of biblically-based marriage along with the triumph of the ecclesiastical expressions of the divorce and lesbigay cultures.

We have to take up our cross in order to follow the Lord Jesus. Here without pain there can be no gain for the kingdom of God. And all of us are affected whether in a primary or secondary way.

Again I commend the study of the Preface to the Service of Holy Matrimony in The Book of Common Prayer of 1662 as a pointer to the biblical teaching.

Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of this congregation, to join together this man and this woman in holy Matrimony; which is an honorable estate, instituted of God in the time of man’s innocency, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church; which holy estate Christ adorned and beautified with his presence, and first miracle that he wrought, in Cana of Galilee: and is commended of Saint Paul to be honorable among all men: and therefore is not by any to be enterprized, nor take in hand, inadvisedly, lightly or wantonly, to satisfy man’s carnal lusts and appetites, like brute beasts that have no understanding; but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God; duly considering the causes for which Matrimony was ordained.

First, it was ordained for the procreation of children, to be brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord, and to the praise of his holy Name.

Secondly, it was ordained for a remedy against sin, and to avoid fornication; that such persons as have not the gift of continency might marry, and keep themselves undefiled members of Christ’s body.

Thirdly, it was ordained for the mutual society, help, and comfort, that the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity. Into which holy estate these two persons present come now to be joined.

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

Monday, September 15, 2003

Step by step or all together?

In response to my several little pieces/tracts on the present Crisis in ECUSA as a God-given opportunity to engage in a full reform and renewal of the Anglican Way, several thinking persons have written to tell me that a jurisdiction of the Church of God can only be cleansed step by step, one thing at a time. Thus they say: "Let us, as biblically-minded Episcopalians, get rid of the gay bishop elect and dispel from our midst all talk and practice of blessing same-sex unions as a starter and be concerned about other things later."

There appears to be sense in such a plan of action. It is practical; It can be done with pressure from overseas and internal campaigning; and from a propaganda and communications angle; It is easy to sell and easy to grasp.

But God's truth and God's ways are not simplistic.

The problem with this approach is that the matter of "gay unions" is not an isolated subject that has no relation to the religious context of the present ECUSA and of the social, cultural context of the western world in which we all live. Gay sex cannot be prized apart from other forms of modern, sexual relations for they All belong together within the modern revolution in sexual ethics, the revolution that entered the western world with the general availability of contraception and has been sustained by the emphasis on human autonomy, human fulfillment, human rights, and abortion.

So in context the "rights" of "lesbians" and "gays" to equal treatment and in dignity are all part of the general "rights" claimed by heterosexual persons engaged in temporary or long term partnerships, by married persons to get a quick divorce, and of divorced persons to get married again and be socially acceptable as such.

Now the Episcopal Church at the local level in many parishes has for several decades tolerated and treated as normal the partnerships of heterosexuals, the marriage of divorced persons, and also but quietly same-sex partnerships. What has been declared by government departments, big business and prestigious universities to be acceptable sexual ethics has become the norm for many Episcopalians, even if they do not like all of this agenda and everything that is happening. (And there has been a tremendous effort in terms of counseling and therapy in parishes to keep all this under control and outwardly healthy.)

Over and over again it has been said within the parishes and at diocesan meetings:

"We Episcopalians no longer keep to the biblical rules about divorce and remarriage; we reject the idea that a faithful sexual partnership of a man and woman is fornication; and we reject the teaching that by remarrying while the first spouse is alive a person commits adultery. It is not that we have abandoned the Bible; rather it is that we have learned to read the Bible in a sophisticated way and not be tied down to old ideas by recognizing the presence in the Bible of patriarchalism, androcentricism and sexism. We have freed the Word of God from its cultural and social context and so can hear It afresh and know what It really is all about. Did we not also apply this most successfully over the innovation of the ordination of women, as we interpreted the Bible in a new way so that we found that it actually agreed with what we had learned from the world around us about the development of civil and human rights and the emphasis upon human dignity & worth?"

It would appear that in terms of sexual ethics the real difference between the average conservative Episcopalian (e.g. who is heading for the Plano/Dallas Congress on October 7) and the average liberal Episcopalian (who voted for Gene Robinson's confirmation as bishop) is that, for the former, the sexual revolution does not include the blessing of faithful homosexual unions from the churches but pretty much tolerates the rest. Thus what separates conservative & liberal is a difference of degree of commitment to the new sexual order rather than a difference over the acceptance of the new sexual ethics. Even so this difference has the power to unlock powerful emotions and to empty deep pockets and fat wallets on both sides!

So I conclude that if there is to be reform & renewal, it has to be of the whole of sexual relations and sexual ethics and this includes doctrine, discipline and pastoral practice. Simply chasing away the homosexual problem will only be a temporary expedient for it will be back quickly unless there is no base left upon which it can set up its tent and make its claims to "we have the same rights as the heterosexuals".

In fact, what a sober examination of this whole topic reveals is that we conservatives need to look again at their Bible - the translation we use, our dependence on modern exegesis for acceptance of such topics as the ordaining of women, our apparent lack of acquaintance with classical exegesis and interpretation as it is found in standard historical sources like Liturgy, Confessions of Faith, Canon Law, Formularies and Commentaries by the Fathers.

This Crisis is surely God-sent to call us back to a whole-hearted and whole-minded commitment to the Holy Trinity and His will and purposes as these have been known and can be known in the Anglican Way as a jurisdiction of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.

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

On Reformation, Renewal & Reaction in late 2003 in the ECUSA

Ladies & Gentlemen,

I offer these five statements for serious consideration. They reflect what I see and thus are limited by my creaturelines and weaknesses.

1. If the present Dallas-headed (October 7) movement of 5000 plus has basically the same mindset as pre-August 2003 conservative Episcopalianism together with an added, committed opposition to the innovation of the blessing of "gay" partnerships, then it is NOT likely to see or experience any reform or renewal that are worth the names or is especially blessed by heaven, and this will be so even if a viable, working federation of dioceses separate from the "national church" is formed with the approval of some primates on or after October 7.

2. Genuine Reform & Renewal of the Church have both inward and outwards aspects (two sides of the divine coin, as it were). (a) The reformers are those who earnestly seek God until they find him, constantly knock at the door of heaven until it is opened, and continually ask/petition until their requests are granted. They open their hearts and lives to the searching light of the Word of the Lord and the Spirit of the Lord. They are penitent, repentant and yet filled with faith, hope and love. They are prepared to give up anything and everything for the Lord Jesus whose love and grace they experience. (b) The reformers know that the Word of God written must be central to their whole activity and commitment. They realize that they must use English translations that are true to its literal rather than supposed dynamic sense; further, to interpret that Word they need the best help of the long tradition of the Church in reading and meditating upon the Bible - thus the importance of Creeds, Formularies, classic Commentaries, the underlying doctrines of ancient canon law and so on. What they have to avoid at all costs is insulated private judgment, following only modern exegetes and allowing dominant themes of modern life (human rights for example) to guide their interpreting of the Bible. Thus they need in place the classic Creeds (three) and the Anglican Formularies from the 16th Century - the latter as a signpost to where reformed catholic doctrine is to be found & what it is, and the former as a guide to the central verities of the Bible.

3. A time of Crisis (which seems to be the case now for many Anglicans) is a unique opportunity not to fire darts at the enemy (lesbigay movement and supporting bishops) but rather to examine ourselves, our tradition and our position and to seek under God's guidance to plot a way forward that is true to HIM, to HIS WORD and to the best Anglican Forms of Worship, Doctrine & Discipline.

4. This time is most certainly a time (as the Psalms often tell us) not to put our trust in princes or the sons of men - i.e., in Primates or in local bishops or in organizations. It is pre-eminently a time truly and really, fully and clearly, to trust in the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. If He uses Primates to help the ECUSA or its remnant then that it is His choice.

5. There is much to learn by studying the origins of the Continuing Anglican Church movement from the late 1970s and its history to the present - its aims and hopes, it successes and failures, its attempts to shake off its back and out of its bloodstream the ECUSA it left behind, its internal divisions and the cause of them, and so on.

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

Primate Griswold - post General Convention

(from Episcopal Life, ECUSA national newspaper. I print the article and then
comment on it)

UPON REFLECTION / Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold

Claiming our Anglican charism
A both/and consciousness in an either/or world

DURING OUR GENERAL Convention in Minneapolis, media observers frequently noted that the Episcopal Church set an example in dealing with highly contentious issues. One newspaper editorial noted our "thoughtfulness and mutual respect for one another." Our "civility" was frequently remarked on, and our ability to articulate and hold very different points of view in a way that respected one another was applauded.

Though it was named "civility," I believe what they actually saw was our Anglican charism at work. They were witnessing our reluctance, because of our deep sense of belonging together as limbs and members of Christ's body, to say to those of a differing point of view: "I have no need of you."

Since then, I have found myself reflecting upon our Anglican charism and how we have come to be the way we are. How has our history as Anglican Christians formed our consciousness and provided us with a way of coming at things that we might be able to see as God's gift to us?

To an extent that sets us apart from many other Christian bodies, our liturgy is the ground of our being. Liturgy, through which we confess our faith and encounter Christ in word and sacrament, is the source of our identity. By examining our liturgy and observing its development, we learn about ourselves as Anglicans.

Not long ago, I opened a volume containing the first two books of Common Prayer. The first, published in 1549, sought to offer worshippers a sense of continuity with their Catholic past while incorporating a number of Reformation emphases. For example, when the priest administered Communion to the people, he was directed to say words that were a translation of the traditional sentence of administration in the pre-Reformation liturgy: "The body of our Lord Jesus Christ which was given for thee, preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life."

In the next prayer book, published in 1552, the Reformation themes are much more pronounced. The priest administering Communion was directed to say: "Take and eat this, in remembrance that Christ died for thee, and feed on him in thy heart by faith, with thanksgiving."

In the first prayer book, one can see the continuation of the Catholic understanding of Christ's real presence in the Eucharist, whereas in the second prayer book the emphasis is placed on the Protestant notion of commemorating what Christ did. In the third prayer book, issued in 1559 under Queen Elizabeth I, the two sentences of administration have been joined together with a colon. One is not preferred over the other. Each supports a particular theological perspective and amplifies the other. The solution was to set them side by side, avoiding an either/or solution in favor of a more expansive both/and.

In the tumultuous theological climate of the 16th century, reforming zeal frequently clashed with Catholic continuity, and a person's theology could be considered grounds for treason. The both/and way that characterized the Church of England made it possible for those of various perspectives to recognize one another as true members of Christ's risen body and to make common cause in the service of the gospel.

In our own country, in the wake of the Civil War, the ability of the Episcopal Church to remain united while many other denominations split in two is another example of our graced capacity to contain difference within the context of common prayer.

Over the years, issues have changed and other matters have presented their own challenges and excited people's emotions. During the churchmanship battles, which have now largely passed from our consciousness, the vastly different ways in which the liturgy was celebrated made some wonder if we were all members of the same church. However, once again a both/and consciousness carried the day. The understatement of Protestant simplicity and the fulsomeness of Catholic ritual both were embraced as part of our common life, which expanded our ability to meet Christ in word and sacrament.

I believe that in these examples of both/and consciousness we see the essential character of Anglicanism and that this gift will serve us very well in our own day. Issues change, and divergent points of view continue to address one another, often with a great deal of passion. Certainly this was true at our General Convention. It will continue to be true in the months ahead, as we sort and sift decisions we have made and consider their consequences for our common life and mission.

Over these past days, I have wondered if the media fascination with our way of coming at things doesn't reveal a deep hunger for this Anglican charism. As your presiding bishop, it is my firm belief that what has shaped and formed us in the past is very much needed now. Our gift is needed not only in our church but also in the world around us, where points of view seem so often to be polarized and no common ground can be found.

More than ever, we must now claim our Anglican way of coming at things from a both/and perspective rooted in common prayer. As we are able so to do, we will be witnesses to the world of Christ's power to reconcile all things, including divergent points of view, and we will be able -- evermore -- to see difference as a gift.

Here is an attempt to create something positive out of what was basically negative publicity for the ECUSA in the USA and around the world. I was in the press room and did not get the impression that there was a great fascination with the civility shown. To lift the civility out of a secular value into a spiritual virtue and make it a charism is an effort to make a bad story into a good one! It will convince only the few that the path taken by the General Convention in August 2003 was the right one.

It is true that the C of E in the 16th century took the path of Reformed Catholicism and that since that time has sought to be comprehensive -- a common center with variety in the spokes and especially at the circumference. But this does not mean that the Anglican Way in Britain or elsewhere has never said no to innovations & to sin. There has always been a recognition that the Anglican Via Media has internal limits in terms of worship, doctrine and discipline. For example, consenting homosexual behavior has never been seen as within the morality of Christian sexuality.

Without mentioning the innovations [read blessing of disorder or sin] introduced by the ECUSA in recent times the Presiding Bishop writes as though the ECUSA is a pioneering Body that is setting an example to the world and to the Anglican Communion. It is certainly setting an example but a bad one! Yet in terms of the values of the world and the present western understanding of individual autonomy, human rights and self-expression & self-realization the ECUSA is a pioneering and innovative religious body with its own unique offerings in the massive American supermarket of religions (yet not all its "shops" sell the new products!).

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