Tuesday, March 23, 2004

One Nation, Enriched by Biblical Wisdom

(If you look at the Catechism in the ECUSA Prayer Book of 1979, you will see the same basic view of human nature as Brooks says was held by one side of the Civil Rights movement, that of Northern Liberals. The African-American leaders, reading the Prophets and the Gospels, have a better understanding, that of orthodox Christianity and biblical Judaism.)

March 23, 2004
One Nation, Enriched by Biblical Wisdom

Tomorrow the Supreme Court will hear arguments about whether it is constitutional for public school teachers to lead the Pledge of Allegiance, including the phrase "one nation under God," in their classrooms. So tonight's reading assignment is "A Stone of Hope" by David L. Chappell.

"A Stone of Hope" is actually a history of the civil rights movement, but it's impossible to read the book without doing some fundamental rethinking about the role religion can play in schools and public life.

According to Chappell, there were actually two camps within the civil rights movement. First, there were the mainstream liberals, often white and Northern. These writers and activists tended to have an optimistic view of human nature. Because racism so fundamentally contradicted the American creed, they felt, it would merely take a combination of education, economic development and consciousness-raising to bring out the better angels in people's nature.

The second group, which we might today call the religious left, was mostly black and Southern. Its leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr., drew sustenance from a prophetic religious tradition, and took a much darker view of human nature.

King wrote an important essay on Jeremiah, the "rebel prophet" who saw that his nation was in moral decline. King later reminded readers that human beings are capable of "calculated cruelty as no other animal can practice." He and the other leaders in the movement did not believe that education and economic development would fully bring justice, but believed it would take something as strong as a religious upsurge. Because the experiences of the Hebrew prophets had taught them to be pessimistic about humanity, the civil rights leaders knew they had to be spiritually aggressive if they wanted to get anything done.

Chappell argues that the civil rights movement was not a political movement with a religious element. It was a religious movement with a political element.

If you believe that the separation of church and state means that people should not bring their religious values into politics, then, if Chappell is right, you have to say goodbye to the civil rights movement. It would not have succeeded as a secular force.

But the more interesting phenomenon limned in Chappell's book is this: King had a more accurate view of political realities than his more secular liberal allies because he could draw on biblical wisdom about human nature. Religion didn't just make civil rights leaders stronger — it made them smarter.

Whether you believe in God or not, the Bible and commentaries on the Bible can be read as instructions about what human beings are like and how they are likely to behave. Moreover, this biblical wisdom is deeper and more accurate than the wisdom offered by the secular social sciences, which often treat human beings as soulless utility-maximizers, or as members of this or that demographic group or class.

Whether the topic is welfare, education, the regulation of biotechnology or even the war on terrorism, biblical wisdom may offer something that secular thinking does not — not pat answers, but a way to think about things.

For example, it's been painful to watch thoroughly secularized Europeans try to grapple with Al Qaeda. The bombers declare, "You want life, and we want death"— a (fanatical) religious statement par excellence. But thoroughly secularized listeners lack the mental equipment to even begin to understand that statement. They struggle desperately to convert Al Qaeda into a political phenomenon: the bombers must be expressing some grievance. This is the path to permanent bewilderment.

The lesson I draw from all this is that prayer should not be permitted in public schools, but maybe theology should be mandatory. Students should be introduced to the prophets, to the Old and New Testaments, to the Koran, to a few of the commentators who argue about these texts.

From this perspective, what gets recited in the pledge is the least important issue before us. Understanding what the phrase "one nation under God" might mean — that's the important thing. That's not proselytizing; it's citizenship.

--From the New York Times

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

Monday, March 22, 2004


March 12, 2004, NEW YORK CITY – A fourth Pentecostal denomination has joined the U.S. "top 25" largest churches list, reflecting the continuing increase in numbers of adherents to Pentecostal traditions, reports the National Council of Churches' 2004 "Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches," just off press.

The Church of God (Cleveland, Tenn.), with 944,857 members, newly ranked 25th, joins The Church of God in Christ (5,499,875 – ranked 4th); the Assemblies of God (2,687,366 – ranked 10th), and the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, Inc. (1,500,000 – tied for 16th along with two other church bodies).

Seven of the largest 25 denominations remain predominantly African American churches, reflective of the historic strength of the church within the U.S. African American community.

. . . The 2004 Yearbook reports on 215 U.S. church bodies with a record high total membership exceeding 161 million. The U.S. retains a higher level of church affiliation than most western industrial societies.

Leading any other single U.S. church is the Catholic Church, reporting 66,407,105 adherents, followed by the Southern Baptist Convention (16,247,736) and the United Methodist Church (8,251,042). The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ranks 5th (5,410,544).

In most cases, data published in the 2004 "Yearbook" reflect denominations' 2002 membership. From 2001-2002, major U.S. churches that grew included: the Catholic Church, Southern Baptist Convention, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Assemblies of God, American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A., Jehovah's Witnesses and Church of God (Cleveland, Tenn.).

Recording membership losses were: The United Methodist Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod), African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and United Church of Christ.

Here are details on some of the U.S. membership "ups and downs" reported in the 2004 "Yearbook":

— The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), an American-born church, continues to grow remarkably, remaining the fifth largest church in the nation. Among the 15 largest churches, the LDS also reports the highest rate of growth at 1.88 percent in the last year, virtually the same as its previous growth rate.

— American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A. (19th, up from 20th last year, reporting a substantial 2.87 percent increase). This growth rate of nearly 3 percent exceeds that of any other Protestant church reporting. It follows reported declines in 1999 and 2000. A change in direction from loss to gain (0.41 percent) followed in 2001.

— African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church (20th, down from 19th, reflecting a decline in estimated membership of 1.18 percent, a substantial contrast to its previous estimated gain of 11 percent reported in the 2003 Yearbook. "Such a decline in membership following a year of rapid increase may be explained by a small portion of those new members failing to continue their membership a second year," says Dr. Lindner, the Yearbook's editor, in "Trends and Developments 2004," one of several articles in the book.

— The Orthodox Church in America, previously ranked 25th, reported a membership decline of 100,000 (10 percent), reflecting a multi-year adjustment in estimated membership data.

— A look at patterns of growth/decline over a five-year period (1999-2002), the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Catholic Church and the Assemblies of God have reported consistency in both direction and rate of change. This pattern continues with a modest increase in the rate of growth for the Assemblies of God. The Southern Baptist Convention, which had been reporting a slowing rate of membership gain, in the current data reports a significant increase in the rate of gain from 0.585 percent to 1.21 percent

— The 2003 Yearbook reports a similar pattern of membership losses (1999-2002) among the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, United Methodist Church, Presbyterian Church (USA) and Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, between 0.5 percent and 1.5 percent for each church. The 2004 Yearbook reports continued decline at a slightly accelerated rate for all except for the United Methodist Church, the largest church in this sample, (1.21 percent. 0.57 percent, 1.41 percent and 1.08 percent, respectively).

Other highlights in the 2004 "Yearbook" include:

— Despite a well-documented clergy shortage, notably in the Catholic Church and for small and/or rural parishes, the total number of students enrolled in theological education continues to grow and is now at a high of more than 75,000 students in member schools of the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada.

— The nearly 30-year trend in increasing numbers of women enrolled in theological education remains stable and an be considered a permanent feature of the demography of theological students.

— The 59 U.S. churches that provided full financial data for the 2004 edition account for more than $31 billion, contributed by nearly 48 million inclusive members, in their reports – and this is but a portion of the whole of church giving. For example, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not provide financial data but is a church in which financial giving is a prominent feature of membership.

— In those 59 churches, per capita giving increased on average by $35 (5.6 percent) per person from the previous year, to $658.63. This exceeds the official inflation figure of 2.4 percent for 2002.

— This year's 14 percent U.S. benevolence giving (funds congregations use for the well-being of others) is a new low in Yearbook reporting in at least a decade. While based on the experience of 59 specific denominations, it indicates a continuing downward trend in benevolence giving.

"The overall increase in giving to the churches, at this reporting, is occurring simultaneously with a declining posture in benevolence as a percentage," says Dr. Lindner. "The churches that seek generosity from their supporters have not, at least in this sample, matched that generosity, or even held constant, in their own patterns of giving. The practical consequences of such a decline translates in local settings to less support for church-sponsored day care, fewer soup kitchen meals, less emergency help to persons with medical problems, or reduced transportation for the elderly. Such a decline is occurring even as reports of requests for aid at shelters and soup kitchens are rising."

In contrast, the percentage of benevolence giving for Canadian churches consistently is in the 19 to 20 percent range, according to the 2004 "Yearbook."

The 2004 "Yearbook" is the 72nd published by the National Council of Churches and its predecessor Federal Council of Churches since 1916. The "Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches" is widely recognized as the most accurate and complete compilation of facts and figures on U.S. and Canadian churches and organizations.

This "chronicler of record" includes the latest data on giving, membership, personnel and congregations for hundreds of church groups. The directory of religious bodies provides concise church descriptions, ecclesiology, history, leadership and contact information. Chapters list information about cooperative organizations, Web-based resources, research institutions, ecumenical bodies, seminaries and Bible colleges, periodicals and collections of church archives.

A directory of U.S. regional and local ecumenical bodies includes an index to their work in 25 program areas. Holy days of several faiths are listed for 2004-2007.

In its 2004 theme article, "Reception: Learning the Lessons of Research on Theological Education," the Yearbook's editor, the Rev. Dr. Eileen W. Lindner, provides an overview of a century's research in theological education and argues that a broad stakeholder group, including those concerned about faith-based participation in the civil society debates, might give greater attention to recent findings.

"As critical components of the civil society, churches exercise moral authority and influence that is often derived from and expressed by the theologically trained within the various churches," Dr. Lindner explained. "The nature of the preparations of such persons ultimately has meaning for society as a whole.

"In recent years, the broader society's expressed enthusiasm for faith-based initiatives (especially in social service), whatever the motivation may be, might be better informed about the capacity and competence of church institutions by engagement with this literature." Dr. Lindner's theme piece includes "A Selected Bibliography on Theological Education."

The seven decades of record keeping represented by the Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches is contained on a comprehensive Historic Archive on CD-ROM (which contains membership and financial data from 1919-1999). This CD provides a longitudinal backdrop for the analysis that follows. The Yearbook's annual trends analysis is a "snapshot" taken at a discrete moment in history, best given definition by the larger and longer context of which they are a part. To obtain the Historic Archive on CD-ROM call 888-870-3325 or visit www.electronicchurch.org

U.S. Membership Denominational Ranking: Largest 25 Denominations/Communions
2004 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches

1. The Catholic Church – 66,407,105
2. Southern Baptist Convention – 16,247,736
3. The United Methodist Church – 8,251,042
4. The Church of God in Christ – 5,499,875
5. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints – 5,410,544
6. Evangelical Lutheran Church in America – 5,038,006
7. National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., Inc. – 5,000,000
8. National Baptist Convention of America, Inc. – 3,500,000
9. Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) – 3,407,329
10. Assemblies of God – 2,687,366
11. The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod – 2,512,714
12. African Methodist Episcopal Church – 2,500,000
13. National Missionary Baptist Convention of America – 2,500,000
14. Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc. – 2,500,000
15. The Episcopal Church – 2,333,628
16. Churches of Christ, Corsicana, Texas – 1,500,000
17. Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America – 1,500,000
18. Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, Inc. – 1,500,000
19. American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A. – 1,484,291
20. African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church – 1,430,795
21. United Church of Christ – 1,330,985
22. Baptist Bible Fellowship International – 1,200,000
23. Christian Churches and Churches of Christ, Joplin, Mo. – 1,071,616
24. Jehovah's Witnesses – 1,022,397
25. Church of God, Cleveland, Tenn., – 944,857
To order a copy (it costs $50), the release says, go to www.electronicchurch.org” for more information or call 1-800-672-1789.
The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon M.A., D.Phil. (Oxon.),
Christ Church, Biddulph Moor & St Anne's, Brown Edge


Conceived by the Holy Ghost – Personally!

March 25th is nine months before Christmas Day and is thus the day the Church commemorates the conception of Jesus by Mary. However, since Mary was a pure Virgin, the conception was miraculous and outside the laws of nature for no male semen was involved.

St Luke provides us with the account of the conception in his Gospel at 1:26-38. The angel Gabriel descended from heaven to earth as the messenger of YHWH, the LORD God, to the young, unmarried maiden and told her that she had found favour with God. This meant that she would conceive and bear to termination a son, to be called Jesus, and he would be called “the Son of the Most High”.

When amazed and frightened, Mary asked how this could be, she was told that it would occur by direct, divine intervention. The Holy Ghost, not a man, would [as it were] come upon her, and (expressed in a parallel way) God whose Name is “the Power of the most High” will hover over her so that she shall conceive solely and miraculously by divine intervention. Her SON will thus be unique and holy, the Son of God incarnate.

Mary accepted her calling and submitted to the will of Heaven: “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to thy word.” Then she conceived and the Incarnation occurred.

SO IMPORTANT did Christendom regard this day that in England, for example, the secular year (as we call it) began on this day and this practice was not changed until the eighteenth century (when the Enlightenment was having its influence) to January 1st. Christendom truly could be said to have its immediate origins in the conception by Mary of the Lord Jesus Christ. (Even to this day the tax year for persons and business is based on the former year!)

One of the great tragedies of modern church life and of the translating of ancient Creeds has been the rendering in both the Apostles & Nicene Creeds “conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit” (a translation now rejected but widely in use in prayer books produced in the 1970s and 1980s – e.g. the ECUSA Prayer Book). Jesus was not conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost but by the Holy Ghost himself, in Person. You and I, and all the creation, are procreated by the power of the Holy Spirit, working through and in the laws of nature. Jesus was not so conceived. The Holy Ghost, the Holy Spirit, was personally present in heavenly grace and power to effect the conception. Further, the conception by Mary was also the Incarnation, the assuming of human flesh and nature by the eternal Word and only-begotten Son of the Father.

To say “conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit” is thus, strictly speaking, to reject the Incarnation of the Son of God!

The Collect for this Day in the classic Book of Common Prayer (1549 etc) is not the Collect in the old Latin Missals but is rather the Post-Communion Prayer for this Day. Archbishop Crammer and his colleagues judged the Latin Collect to be not satisfactory for it requested the intercession of Mary and thus used instead the Post-Communion Prayer. This Collect connects the Incarnation with the vocation of the Suffering Servant of God (Isaiah 52-53) who redeems his people through death and resurrection.

“We beseech thee, O Lord, pour thy grace into our hearts; that as we have known the Incarnation of thy Son Jesus Christ by the message of an angel, so by his cross and passion we may be brought unto the glory of his resurrection, through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

The medieval Latin Collect rejected may be translated as follows: “O God, who didst will thy Word to take flesh from the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, at the announcement of the angel; grant unto us thy suppliants that as we believe her truly to be the mother of God, so we may be assisted by her intercessions with thee, through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

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

Mother’s Day intrudes itself into Mothering Sunday

A discussion starter for those who minister and are ministered to in the C of E

The Church of England has been calling the Fourth Sunday in Lent “Mothering Sunday” at least since the mid-Victorian era. However, apparently no special provision was made for it (by extra collect and readings) in the Christian Year until the arrival of Common Worship, where it is offered as an alternative to Lent IV.

The fact that it is offered as an alternative to Lent IV reveals that the Collect and Bible Readings in Common Worship (& the Common Ecumenical Lectionary) do not lend themselves to the idea of “mothering”, that is, of showing motherly care and supervision. In contrast, the ancient eucharistic Lectionary in The Book of Common Prayer (1662) does contain the idea of “Mothering Sunday” in that the Epistle (Galatians 4:21ff.) speaks eloquently of the Jerusalem above which is our mother. The Church perfected by the grace of the Father, the mediation of the Son and the sanctification of the Holy Ghost is motherly towards all sinners seeking salvation and the baptized being deified & made holy. This theme arising from the Epistle on Lent IV is a great encouragement to the keeping of Lent faithfully, as the faithful look to the redemption of the Church in the Atonement of Calvary.

There is a beautiful Collect in the ancient Mozarabic Sacramentary on this theme:

“Grant us, O Lord, to rejoice in beholding the bliss of the heavenly Jerusalem; that as she is the home and mother of the multitude of the saints, we also may be counted worthy to have our portion within her; through thine only-begotten Son, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”

Apparently the real or practical reason why “Mothering Sunday” is introduced into the new Christian Year of Common Worship at Lent IV is in order to cater for the demand for celebrating “Mother’s Day”, as business and commerce in the U.K. (in contrast to the Church as Church) have decided to call this day. (Note that in the U.S.A. “Mother’s Day” is the second Sunday in May and is thus totally distinct from Lent and also not in the Christian Year as such. Even so churches take note of it for it is so prominent in the culture). The readings selected for the “Mothering Sunday” of the C of E in CW are all to do with human mothers; the Collect is to do with families; and the Post- Communion is to do with the motherly care of God.

What appears to happen on “Mothering Sunday” in much of the C. of E. is that there is a celebration of mothers (& grandmothers) in a well-attended service and they are given presents of flowers and the like. Prayers (taken from Collections of Prayers used by clergy) tend to thank God for mothers and ask for him to bless them. In all it is a happy kind of experience.

Let us be clear! While it is good to honour parents, to love our mothers, to thank God for what they do rightly for their children and to pray regularly for mothers and fathers, it is quite another thing to celebrate mothers (or fathers) in divine worship.

The Mother that is celebrated in Sacred Scripture is the perfected Church of God considered as the One who gives new birth to sinners in baptism and who nourishes the newly born by Word and Sacrament. In Liturgy and Tradition there is a certain celebration also of the Blessed Virgin Mary in her perfected state in heaven as the mother of the faithful. Likewise of the apostles, saints & martyrs.

But the Church of God in her worship does not celebrate the imperfect. She prays for sinners; she prays for mothers and fathers, and she prays for all disciples and pilgrims. She does not celebrate human motherhood (except as perfected in the BVM) and she does not celebrate human fatherhood, not even in Joseph, adoptive father of Jesus.

The great danger of the [practical and unthinking] conversion of Mothering Sunday into Mother’s Day, which the Readings of Common Worship and the offering of this theme as an alternative to Lent encourage, is that the Church ends up celebrating the imperfect and sinful. Whatever excellencies and virtues we see in mothers, the godly amongst them are very conscious that they are sinners and have yet to be sanctified and perfected by grace. No godly mother wishes to be celebrated in a service of worship as if she were a perfected saint. Worship is only of God, the Creator, Redeemer and Judge, and celebration of the creaturely is only of the perfection of the creature.

Further, to have this false celebration in the middle of Lent does much to distort this special time of ascetic discipline and to discourage the right keeping of Lent as preparation for the joyous celebration of Easter.

If the Church cannot keep “Mothering Sunday” in a way that is in harmony with Scripture and holy tradition, it is best that she keeps clear of all compromises of it in terms of “Mother’s Day”! At the same time she must ever encourage mothers and fathers to seek to be the best they can possibly be for their children’s sake and for the praise of God, the compassionate Father.

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

Friday, March 19, 2004

Mothering Sunday or Lent IV

In Common Worship (2000), the alternative to The Book of Common Prayer (1662) in the C of E., there is provision on Lent 4 to forget about Lent and to celebrate instead what is called “Mothering Sunday”.

I suspect that the reason for this provision is the great gain that what is called “Mother’s Day” or “Mothers Day” has made in British Society and business. Everywhere there are adverts to send flowers, to send cards, to buy presents and to go out for a special meal. And this has been going on for three decades or more.

In the Western Church, Lent 4 has been given a variety of names over the centuries --- the mid-Sunday of Lent, Laetare Sunday (after the Latin Introit to the Mass), Refreshment Sunday (after the Gospel for the Day in the BCP which is the feeding of the 5,000) and Mothering Sunday (after the Epistle for the Day in the BCP which includes the words, “Jerusalem above which is our mother”).

Somehow, somewhere, someone saw the word “Mothering” and took the opportunity to change it to “Mother’s” and then business took over. In the USA the Second Sunday in May was chosen for Mother’s Day because of the separation of Church and State there. In Great Britain a variable day has been chosen because this allows the extra dimension for commerce and industry of using an ancient Christian tradition for financial ends. It would have been far better for the Church if the American pattern had been followed in Britain. If there is to be a Mother’s Day ( and a Father’s Day and a Grandparent’s Day etc) let them not be in Lent or on any special holy day.

Having been invaded by the commercial Mother’s Day, the Church of England has done its best to re-capture something of a Christian idea in it. So officially it still uses the archaic word, “Mothering” in order to seem ancient and traditional, and clergy tell people who ask that really the C of E has been keeping “Mother’s Day” for a long time, for did not Victorian servant girls get this Sunday off to go home to see mother? (They do not usually mention the older tradition of visiting the mother church of the diocese by men and women on this Sunday, Lent 4.)

The Liturgical Commission via the General Synod has sought to christianize Mother’s Day by providing a Collect and a Post Communion Prayer for this Day, as alternatives to the Collect and Post-Communion for Lent 4. Both of these Prayers have a certain artificiality to them and reflect the effort to find something relevant to pray about on Mother’s Day in church, when as we all know the celebration is of human motherhood (to the embarrassment of spinsters and the childless).

The Collect describes Jesus as “the child of Mary who shared the life of a home in Nazareth and on the cross drew the whole human family to himself”. Here there is a big effort to get in the themes of child, home and family, although it is to be fervently desired that Jesus did more on his Cross than merely draw the human family to himself. (For us and for our salvation he suffered and died and offered himself a sacrifice for the sins of the world!)

The Post-Communion Prayer addresses the God of love, who in this sacrament feeds us with the food and drink of eternal life, and then adds “even as a mother feeds her children at the breast”. Here it is God who is presented as like a or even as a mother; but, it is the Church as our Mother who feeds us and nourishes us with the body and blood of the Son of God. God is our Father and the Church is our Mother and (as a simile) Scripture allows us to compare God to a compassionate mother who takes us into her care. For Mothering Sunday it seems that the idea is being sown that God is our Mother (and as we also say the Lord’s Prayer) as our Father also! If so this is heresy! There is a world of difference between a proper name and a simile.

So I conclude that these two Prayers merely help to add to the confusion that has occurred by the Church refusing to stay wholly and truly with Lent 4 and seeking to outdo the world by taking on board Mother’s Day via the old word, “Mothering” whose religious connection was clearly with the Church as our mother and thus with the B.V.M. and her unique motherhood The filling of Lent 4 with the secular theme of Mother’s Day is a perfect example of the Church being in the world and being OF the world! Here a good thing – motherhood – is wrongly used to the loss of the great theme and discipline of Lent. It is surely best for churches to leave Mother’s Day aside and stay with Lent 4. but where most Anglicans are nominal Christians it is likely that Mother’s Day will over-ride Lent!

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

Saturday, March 13, 2004

THE EPISCOPALIAN PREFERENCE by Dr. Philip Turner – some further thoughts.

Some weeks ago I commended the Essay by Dr Philip Turner entitled “The Episcopalian Preference” [First Things, Nov 2003] as a most insightful account of the Episcopal Church over the last fifty years or so. What I wrote was printed in various publications including the FinFNA newsletter for January 2004.

In “Correspondence” in the March 2004 issue of First Things there are two letters about this essay with a response by Dr Turner. One letter deals with the question of authority in the Anglican Way and the other with women’s ordination. I take up only the second topic, for in Turner’s response we find out why he can identify a variety of innovations in the life of the Episcopal Church which led to its moral and spiritual demise (even to its idolatry and apostasy) and not include within them the major innovation of the ordination of women.

Since he is the most senior and the most articulate of the theologians of The Communion Institute and of The Network, it is rather important that Episcopalians who desire to be orthodox know how and why he defends the innovation of women in all three orders of the Ministry of the Church.

The question he addresses is: Is it not the case that both the ordination of women and the approval of homosexual relations spring from the same faulty view of human moral agency? That view, we recall, is common in our culture and removes persons as agents from a moral order to which they are obligated to conform, and locates them as individuals, selves and persons in a social economy where they are free to pursue their own particular preferences & orientations, just as long as they do not knowingly harm others.

Turner, who is married to an ordained woman, both defends the moral order of obligation (as it is has been understood through Christendom for centuries and wherein women were not considered on biblical and philosophical grounds as appropriate candidates for ordination) and the modern practice of the ordination of women. He recognizes that they are problems in holding these two positions but he has an argument for seeing the opposition between them as only apparent and not substantial.

His reasoning is something like this:

Though the modern view of persons as agents free to pursue their preferences as individual selves is generally a bad one, nevertheless it has highlighted and brought into our common life some good things. For example, it has called attention to the moral significance, dignity and worth of individual persons, and this has had beneficial aspects in various areas of society, in race relations, for example.

Bearing this beneficial dimension clearly in mind, the questions to be addressed with regard to women and ordination are such as these: Is that which leads women to seek ordination been at a deeper moral level than that of mere personal preference? Do the aspirations of women to be ordained cohere with the known will of God for the Ministry of his Church? The answer to both questions he claims is in the affirmative. But he does not supply the arguments for the second affirmative, for there is not space to do so.

Thus he is able to believe, teach and confess that while there are superficial similarities between the ordination of women on the one hand and the blessing of homosexual couples and the ordaining of active homosexual person on the other, there are important and substantial differences between them as innovations. While the ordination of women as a movement is initially raised and propelled publicly by the new western view of the human agent’s freedom and preferences, it is not based on this view, he holds. This innovation reaches down through the modern view to the traditional understanding of divine order, where women and men are equal before God and gifted by him for different vocations, which include, in his judgment, for both sexes the possible call to the ordained Ministry.

I must confess that, of the ordained women I know, I can honestly say it appears to me that some of them do conduct themselves in such a way as to suggest that they believe the real basis for their call is in that divine order to which Scripture witnesses and is not in the feminist movement of the middle and late 20th century, although they do acknowledge that the changed moral climate made it possible for the door to open to them. And of these a minority seem to take seriously the Anglican doctrine of reception [Eames Commission], that the Communion of Churches is actually seeking to discern whether or not this innovative ministry is led by the Holy Spirit or is only the best intentions of human beings as they are unknowingly influenced by the Zeitgeist.

The questions I am left with and for which I am sure Dr. Turner has answers are such as these:

  1. Why did not the Church before the modern era, and especially before the 1960s in the West, perceive that the traditional moral order allowed, even required, the ordaining of women?

  2. Why do the Orthodox Churches and the Roman Catholic Churches, many biblically-based Protestants and some Anglican provinces, all state with such clarity that ordaining women remains contrary to the revealed will of the Lord?

  3. Is it not the case the whatever be the merits of the ordaining of women, in a culture dominated by human rights and personal preference, this innovation has made it much easier for other innovations, also based on human rights and preference, to be accepted in the ECUSA? Has this innovation not opened the door for others (perhaps less authentic) to enter in?

  4. Has the development of inclusive language not only for human beings but for God – and the profound effect this had had upon liturgical texts and Bible translation – come as a result of the felt need of women clergy to use a discourse that seemed appropriate to their gender/sex?

  5. Is it possible that if the Anglican Communion takes seriously the Doctrine of Reception there will be eventually a general recognition that this innovation was just such, merely an innovation?

  6. Why does Dr Turner not place any authority in his writings on the received, classic Formularies of the Anglican Way -- BCP, Ordinal and Articles? If we take these seriously then the burden is on the innovator to show that the innovation of women’s ministry is in accord with the binding formulae of doctrine of the Reformed Catholic Faith as professed in the historic Anglican Way.

Those of us who believe that the basic roots of the innovation of women’s ordination and that of “gay” blessings/ordinations are the same do not of course mean to imply that women who are ordained are motivated by evil. We believe that they are rather sincerely mistaken and that by the providence, forgiveness & grace of God they are able to achieve much good in the kingdom of God and church of Christ. After all, it is not the case that many of us walk into the wrong path of life and God in his goodness blesses us there and makes use of us as his servants in that path?

The Rev’d Dr. Peter Toon March 13 2004.

The Doctrine(s) contained within The Book of Common Prayer (1662)

(written as a discussion paper for the Prayer Book Society of England)

I suggest that as a minimum the following is explicitly taught, or is implicitly required by the analogy of Faith/Formularies:

  • Commitment to keeping in heart and mind The Christian Year including the Lord’s Day, Advent, Lent and Festivals and also including such things as days of fasting and ember days.

  • Commitment to Daily Prayer (Morning & Evening), to the use of the Litany twice a week or more & to the Order for Holy Communion on the Lord’s Day and Festivals.

  • The Praying of the Psalter specifically as the Prayer Book of Jesus Christ and thus within His Body and in union with him.

  • The reading daily of the Lectionary from OT & NT on the basis of One Canon with Two Testaments, where the Old is fulfilled in and by the New.

  • The use only of the Collects and Eucharistic Lectionary for Holy Communion within H C as an expression of continuity through space and time.

  • The belief that the normal way of prayer is to the Father through the Son and with the Holy Ghost.

  • The dogma and doctrine concerning the Trinity, the Person of Christ and the Church, specifically stated in the Three Creeds, and as further expounded in the Articles of Religion (the latter being the first Formulary of the C of E).

  • The doctrines contained in the Catechism concerning the Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed and the Sacraments, and as further expounded in the Services of Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Communion and in the Articles of Religion.

  • The doctrine of Marriage clearly set forth in the Preface to the Marriage Service.

  • The doctrine of sin as taught and implied in the Exhortations of Morning & Evening Prayer & the Order for Holy Communion and the Service of Holy Baptism.

  • The doctrine of justification by faith as liturgically expressed in the Order for Holy Communion and stated with clarity in the Articles.

  • The doctrine of the Ordained Ministry as presumed in the rubrics and as deduced from the Formulary known as the Ordinal. (Since the Service for the Consecrating of a person as a bishop clearly states and implies that this can only be a man, this doctrine is included.)

  • The doctrine of the Church as the Established National Church which prays specifically for the Queen and Royal Family.

To leave out any of the above is to be committed to something less than “the Doctrine of the Prayer Book”. There are other points that can be made.

The Rev’d Dr Peter Toon March 13th 2004

ACTION & SHAPE. Did the liturgists of the 1960s/1970s get them out of perspective?

A discussion Starter

All Anglican theological students and seminarians of the 1960s through to the 1980s came to know the name of Dom Gregory Dix and his theory of the “four-action” shape of the Eucharist as it was supposedly celebrated in the second and third centuries.

They learned from him that all eucharistic liturgies without this “four action shape” were inferior and not appropriate for the Church of God in the late twentieth-century. Thus this shape dominated the new prayer books of the 1970s and 1980s – e.g., that of the ECUSA in 1979, the C of E in 1980 and of Canada in 1985.

They also were usually encouraged to believe that the Eucharist or Mass is primarily an action. In instituting it, Jesus actually did certain things – four things, he took, he blessed, he brake and he gave. Thus, it was asserted, Christians should attend the Eucharist not to hear mass said but to participate in an Action! Not that Dix held that words do not matter. He had no desire to lose the words or treat them as insignificant only to insist that the ACTION is primary and that the words, though important, are secondary.

What this emphasis has meant in practice, and can be seen in parishes of the ECUSA each Sunday, is that the priest behind the altar and facing the people has gone to great lengths to be as visible as possible as he performs the four actions (especially the breaking of the bread). Yet, at the same time, and most regrettably, he or she has used a form of words to go with the actions that is far from excellent.

In other words, there has not been the same attention paid by liturgists and priests who follow in Dix’s way to seek to have words with the action (i.e., the words of the Eucharistic Prayer) of the highest theological quality and style. That is, much emphasis has been placed on getting the actions right and not sufficient care taken to get the words right. The content of the eucharistic prayers composed for and since the 1979 prayer book of ECUSA is generally speaking a dumbing down of what would have been regarded as sufficient or orthodox in the Early Church. Some of the content even seems to be nearer to heterodoxy than to orthodoxy in the developed Rite II material in approved liturgies after 1980 (approved by the Gen Conv.).

What is difficult to understand about the mind of the liturgists of the 1960s to the 1990s is that though they were passionate about getting the right “Shape” and the right “Action”, though they believed these to be indispensable and sought for their origins in and only in the Early Church, they did not think that the same search and care should govern the words and doctrines they created to be the substance of the shape and to explain the action. They were happy with a form of words that lacked excellence and often lacked clear orthodox content.

Since the Shape proposed by Dix is in the end only a theory, what really matters today is what the congregation actually hears! That is, if the Celebration is dignified and is obviously in one of the great traditions of the Church in terms of structure, then what is taught them by the words of the Eucharistic Prayer that they hear is of supreme importance. Shape and Action do not save or sanctify; but, the word of the Lord taken by the Spirit of God has power to achieve both in sinful human beings who repent and believe.

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

The Reader at Dr Toon's Parish Publishes a Novel

Out of small rural parishes of the Church of England come good things -- at least sometimes. Terry Williams, long time Reader at the parish of Christ Church, Biddulph Moor -- a parish which uses the historic, classic Prayer Book (BCP 1662) -- has published his first novel from Pegasus of Cambridge, England. Please order a copy for yourself and your local library.

The Final Insanity, a novel by Terry Williams ISBN 1 843860 90 2 www.pegasuspublishers.com Orders 01223 370012 (from abroad 01144 1223 370012) £8.99

The story of a senior teacher who takes a holiday in a rural area in the Peak District National Park in the middle of England. A R.A.F. plane crashes and he find his proposed quiet vacation becomes altogether a different experience.

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

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Collect for the Lent III

Brethren, Let us pray...

The Third Sunday in Lent

We beseech thee, Almighty God, look upon the hearty desires of thy humble servants, and stretch forth the right hand of thy Majesty, to be our defence against all our enemies, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Epistle: Ephesians 5.1-14 Gospel: St Luke 11.14-28

The verb, “to beseech”, is more appropriate than the verb, “to ask”, when addressing Almighty God, our Creator and Judge, because it presents us as his loyal subjects and servants. After all he is the King of all kings and Head of all presidents and we speak in this prayer of “thy Majesty”.

Before praying this prayer we need to be spiritually prepared to address God. We call ourselves “thy humble servants” and humility is not a normal characteristic of our souls. It comes after due self-examination and penitence before God. Further “hearty desires” (praying with earnestness, fervour and sincerity) only arise when we are bowed before God in the right spirit.

The petition is for the omnipotent Lord God to defend us against all our enemies. While this always has reference to some human enemies, it also covers the spiritual enemies (Satan and his assistants – Ephesians 6:12) who seek to damage our covenantal relation of grace with God the Father through Jesus Christ. “The right hand of thy Majesty” echoes various petitions in the Psalter (see Psalm 138:7 & 74:10-11); but, it also refers to the One who is seated at the right hand of the Father in glory, even the Lord Jesus Christ, who is One with the Father; and it is, of course, in the Name of this same Jesus that we pray, for he is our Mediator before God the Father Almighty.

Let us in Lent celebrate the power of God to bring us into his kingdom of grace and save us from our enemies. “Thy right hand, O Lord, is become glorious in power; thy right hand, O Lord, hath dashed in pieces the enemy…Thou stretchedst out thy right hand, the earth swallowed them” (Exodus 15:6,12). As this Collect is fulfilled in us we shall walk in love (Ephesians 5: 1-14) and we shall be preserved from Satan and Beelzebul (Luke 11:14-28).

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

Sunday, March 07, 2004

Steering Committee of the Network

Prepared for Father Dick Kim's mailing list:

You asked me to comment on the formation of the Steering Committee by the Network. It is good to see that there is within the ECUSA a significant remnant which is willing to be courageous and take a stand for what it believes is the Gospel and (to use its own press release words) "the tradition and worship of Anglican Orthodoxy". Here is an extract from that press release

"The Steering Committee also began a funding and budgeting process and approved formation of an Anglican Communion Network Missionary Society. This Missionary Society’s primary purpose will be to bring into fellowship groups of people who have left ECUSA and those who are seeking to explore the tradition and worship of Anglican orthodoxy."

What I want to say through your good offices to this committee and the Network is that they need to continue to explore the Anglican Way and its tradition and to seek to put this movement on a sure foundation that is decidedly Anglican and biblically orthodox. Right now the Network is based on an unsure and unstable foundation, with its chief formulary being the 1979 Prayer Book of the ECUSA. This Prayer Book though it has an hallowed title (Book of Common Prayer) is not truly the Book of Common Prayer in the sense that the `1662, 1789, 1892 and 1928 editions are. It is, as we all know, a book of varied services and mixed doctrines. It is thus an unstable and shifting formulary to based a reform movement upon.

I do urge members of the Committee to take the time to read my latest booklet AN ACT OF PIRACY. THE TRUTH BEHIND THE EPISCOPAL LITURGY OF 1979 available from 1-800-727-1928 or from debbie@bee.net. Here I show - I think beyond all reasonable doubt - that the true Formulary of the Anglican Way is the historic, classic Book of Common Prayer - along with the Ordinal in that book and the Articles of Religion therein also. By all means use the 1979 book for what it is - a book that fits alongside but also underneath the classic BCP, just like the "Book of Alternative Services" of the Anglican Church in Canada, but do not use it for what it is not and can never be.

This point is so obvious and clear to anyone who compares the 1979 book with the 1662 or 1928 editions of the classic BCP and knows the history of the work of the Standing Liturgical Commission in the 1960s and 1970s.

I do not want to stop the Network worshipping in modern language if that is what they desire. But I do sincerely wish and pray that it will dig again the wells of Abraham and sup the clear fresh water of those wells, by discovering its true roots, foundations and stability in the Formularies of the historic Anglican Way, for these are themselves so clearly fixed within the sacred Scriptures - within the One Canon with its Two Testaments.

Thank you for your patience.

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

Saturday, March 06, 2004

From 1997: Gay-'Marriage' Activists Say 'Inclusion' is not Enough

By Douglas L. LeBlanc

Editor's Note: This piece, which first appeared in the spring of 1997, gives valuable background on the true motives of the gay-"marriage" advocates acting within the Episcopalian Church and elsewhere: to wit, not merely the inclusion of homosexuals within the sacrament of marriage but the transformation of the institution as it has been eternally understood. Although the individuals so acting are doing so from within tradition of the Church of England, such sentiments are also found among many in the American Roman faith as well.

PASADENA, Calif., April, 1997. -- A meeting of activists has criticized the concept of "inclusion," usually advocated by liberal Episcopalians, as inadequate and patronizing of homosexuals.

The conference met under the theme "Beyond Inclusion" on April 10-13 at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena.

Conference organizer Ed Bacon Jr., rector of All Saints, said the Episcopal Church must "stop this foolishness of one segment of God's family presumptuously 'including' gays and lesbians in the family."

The conference attracted about 250 participants, who heard addresses by the Rev. Marilyn McCord Adams of Yale Divinity School; the Rev. Michael Jesse Battle of the School of Theology, University of the South; the Rev. William Countryman of Church Divinity School of the Pacific; Patricia Beattie Jung of Loyola University; and the Rev. Juan Oliver, canon missioner for the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey.

Andrew Sullivan, a senior editor of The New Republic magazine and editor of the newly published book Same-Sex Marriage: Pro and Con, spoke at the conference banquet.

The conference also featured the world premiere of a play by D. Paul Thomas, "The Presentment," which was inspired by the dismissed doctrinal charges against retired bishop Walter Righter. Bacon said he hopes to stage the play in Philadelphia during General Convention. Righter attended the conference and preached at the opening Eucharist.

Is it marriage yet?
Instead of offering mere inclusion, the Church should affirm and celebrate homosexual unions, Bacon said.

Whether the Church should celebrate homosexual unions as the moral or theological equivalent of marriage remained an open question. Keynote speaker Andrew Sullivan argued with quiet intensity that marriage is a fundamental right, preceding the right to vote.

Earlier, conference participants asked whether marriage is worthy of their allegiance. Some described marriage as an often sexist, patriarchal, "heterosexist" and violent institution that may not accommodate what they described as more egalitarian homosexual relationships.

A number of speakers and conference participants said they have no desire merely to imitate heterosexual marriage.

The Rev. Rand Frew of New York asked Countryman how the Church should respond to "bisexuals and transgendered people" and whether it should affirm non-monogamous relationships.

"I would be distressed if the drive toward blessing gay unions merely applied Reformation understandings of heterosexual unions to gay unions," Countryman said.

"I've started to think that maybe we are a threat to marriage as we know it, and maybe the Church needs to redefine marriage," another participant said.

"It does threaten, you're absolutely right," said the Rev. Mark Kowalewski of Huntington Beach. "It does threaten the primacy of heterosexual marriage, which is based on sexism."

A semantic question
Oliver distributed the "Report of the Second Consultation of Episcopalians on Same-Sex Unions." The consultation first met in 1994 at Episcopal Divinity School, then again in July 1996 in Washington, D.C.

Like the first report, the revision proposes a blessing rite that may be used by homosexuals or heterosexuals. Also like the first version, the revised rite includes no pledges of monogamy, but does offer a closing paragraph conceding that some relationships will fail.

Oliver defended those liturgical choices, saying that the two essential elements of marriage are commitment and blessing -- nothing more. The proposed rite is "not a contract or a book of law," he said.

"It is more important to praise God for Sally and Sue, even in the face of infidelity, than to praise God for their 42 years of a genitally exclusive monogamous relationship, during which they have hated each other," Oliver said. "Faithfulness is not about plumbing."

Whether the Church refers to homosexual unions as marriages "is a political and a semantic issue, not a theological issue," Oliver said.

"I don't want the relationship I enter into with a partner to be the same as heterosexual marriage, thank you," he said. "I want it to be equal."

Oliver said the proposed rite "is a sign of the reign of God" and "is free of gender determinism."

"When you perform the rite, it deconstructs heterosexual marriage," he said. "Let's not kid ourselves about how earthshaking this really is."

Responding to Oliver's paper, the Rev. Jennifer Phillips of University City, Mo., described how she has blessed homosexual unions for several years.

Phillips was a participant in both rounds of the consultation and drafts various rites for the Standing Liturgical Commission. She said the proposed blessings rite is based on the two primary sacraments of baptism and communion, not on marriage.

As the Church "blurs the boundaries of marriage, it may affect the civic realm," Phillips said. "Deconstructing these categories, it seems to me, is part of Gospel work.

"What's next? Maybe we bless noncelibate single people. What a thought," she said, prompting laughter.

Common threads
Common themes among the four papers -- and the discussions they generated -- included homosexuality as a gift, homosexuality as another form of love, "heterosexism" as sin, blunt criticism of conservatives and a few worries about forces that may slow the movement.

- Homosexuality as a gift. Speakers repeatedly echoed Bacon's opening remark that "Homosexuality is a gift to be celebrated, not a malady to be healed."

"What God has joined together," Marilyn Adams said about homosexual unions, "we should have the courtesy to acknowledge and celebrate."

"Some of us have tried to root [homosexual orientation] out, and found that the effort was not only ungrateful but also impossible," Countryman said.

Homosexual couples "image God," Oliver said, because their relationships are "faithful, committed and generative."

"The relationship being celebrated is a gift of God and a manifestation of God's love," he said.

The proposed rite reflects such a belief. The most frequent recurring refrain is "Blessed be God who appears to us in their love."

- Homosexuality as another form of love. Adams, an Episcopal priest, turned to traditional authors to weaken the traditionalist case against homosexuality.

"I bring these witnesses to you as a way of undermining the traditional case for a ban on homosexual relationships," she said.

Adams quoted William of Ockham's teachings on the Holy Trinity and texts on friendship by Cicero and Aelred of Rievaulx (claimed by the homosexual caucus Integrity as its patron saint). Adams argued that homosexuality may be seen as a form of deep spiritual friendship and that blessing same-sex unions "would signal the fundamental union and likeness of the divine life."

Countryman sounded a similar note in his paper: "To love another person, and to be loved in return, makes life and joy. Whether the love is heterosexual or homosexual seems to make no discernible difference."

Adams titled her paper "Yes to Bless, or the Trinity as the Gay Men's Chorus."

If the Trinity is the model of spiritual friendship, a participant asked Adams, why does the Church celebrate the unity of two people, rather than three? "I used to think that the Trinity might be a model of kinky relations," Adams said, prompting laughter.

The question raises issues of psychology, taboo and sociology, and the question ought to be "looked at afresh," Adams said. Throughout her presentation, Adams recommended that participants "remove the blinders of taboo."

- Heterosexism as sin. Jung cited "heterosexism" or "heterocentrism" -- terms she coined that have found widespread popularity in homosexual apologetics -- as sins the Church must oppose. Jung charged that the Church has compromised with the surrounding culture when it opposes homosexuality.

"The sexual ethic at the base of heterosexism needs to be directly challenged," Jung said. "Much is at stake in this argument. Not only the burden of proof, but the ethical landscape, shifts when we recognize that heterosexism, not homosexuality, is the problem."

Jung said the Church has "failed to make a compelling case" for its traditional teachings on sexual morality.

Teachings that connect sexual activity with procreation "rest on the equation of male sexual experience with human sexual experience," she said.

For women, "the connection between sexual pleasure and reproduction is seen as periodic and seasonal, if not capricious," Jung said.

[P.S. The Prof. Marylin Adams quoted in the article has since left Yale to Assume the Regius Chair at Oxford University. Before leaving, she donated to a "gay-friendly" Episcopal Church a set of "liturgical vestments" consisting of leather sexual bondage wear. For details and a truly gruesome photo of her, click on the following link.]