Monday, November 29, 2004

Dr Rowan Williams, Homosexuality & the Anglican Way

In his Advent Letter (2004) to the leaders of the Anglican Communion of Churches, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, referring to the recent controversy amongst Anglicans over ordaining “gay” persons, wrote:

“In the heat of this controversy, things have been said about homosexual people that have made many of them, including those who lead celibate lives, feel that there is no good news for them in the Church. Remember that in many countries such people face real persecution and cruelty; even where there are no legal penalties, they suffer from a sense of rejection. Young people are driven to suicide by the conviction that no-one will listen to them patiently; many feel that they are condemned not for their behaviour but for their nature. As I write these words, I have in mind the recent brutal and unprovoked murder of a homosexual man in London by a group of violent and ignorant youths.

The 1998 Lambeth Resolution on this subject declared plainly that the Anglican Church worldwide did not believe - because of its reading of Scripture - that it was free to say that homosexual practice could be blessed. But it also declared that violence in word or deed and prejudice against homosexual people were unacceptable and sinful behaviour for Christians. Earlier Lambeth Conference Resolutions had made the same point. Any words that could make it easier for someone to attack or abuse a homosexual person are words of which we must repent. We are bound to ask, with the greatest care, how we best communicate the challenge of the gospel to homosexual persons and how we may free ourselves from unreasoning fear or even hatred.”


  1. The pastoral concern of the Archbishop for those who regard themselves as homosexual, Lesbian or bi-sexual is to be commended. However, whether an Advent Letter made available to the secular media is the right place to express this pastoral concern, is questionable.

  2. The phrase "homosexual people" may be regarded as significant. The "gay lobby" are the ones who have sought - and largely succeeded - in having homosexuality recognised as a defining characteristic of a person, belonging to their very nature, rather than (only) as a distinct form of behaviour. This recognition has proved an effective weapon in their campaign, since it enables them to define opposition to homosexuality as "discrimination" against individuals, on a par with racial discrimination or discrimination against women.

  3. The Resolution of the Lambeth Conference of 1998 is rather stronger than suggested by the Archbishop. Not only is the Church not free to bless homosexual practice it commits sin against God if it does so.

  4. Regrettably, there have always been certain male human beings who regard persons known to be homosexually active as proper recipients of verbal and physical punishment. Such youths and men obviously should not be encouraged in any way whatsoever in their attitude and anger; but, at the same time, it is difficult to see that the opposition of Anglican churchmen to the practice of homosexuality has directly influenced them and contributed to any recent attacks. Further, we do not yet know enough about the incident in London cited by Dr Williams to use it in a particular way as part of moral exhortation in a Letter to the far corners of the earth.

  5. One regrets that the Archbishop included these paragraphs in this (otherwise excellent) Advent Letter for whether he intended to or not he has once again raised the “temperature” (nearly to boiling point!) with respect to the controversy over homosexuality, sin, and God.

The Rev’d Dr Peter Toon November 29, 2004

Advent pastoral letter from the Archbishop of Canterbury

ACNS 3917 | LAMBETH | 29 NOVEMBER 2004

[Source: Lambeth Palace]

Primates of the Anglican Communion
Moderators of the United Churches

1. As we move towards the Advent season once again, I write with love and concern for the well-being of our Communion and the future of our common discipleship. In II Tim.4.8, the apostle speaks of the Lord's promise 'to all those who wait with love for him to appear' - or, in the older translation - 'all them also that love his appearing'. The Church is - in human terms - the assembly of those who 'love his appearing'. We are drawn together by love and gratitude for what we see in Christ's first appearing - his birth in humility, his ministry, his saving death and glorious resurrection - and by loving hope for his coming again. We look forward, praying (in the words of one of the most profound of the Christmas collects) 'that we may with sure confidence behold him when he shall come to be our judge'.

It is in this context that we are called as Anglican Christians to think about the Windsor Report of the Lambeth Commission chaired by Archbishop Robin Eames. As Providence would have it, this task is before us over the Advent and Christmas seasons, so that we constantly have in mind that basic sense of the Church as the community of those who love and long for Christ. This, I have said, is what the Church is from a human point of view; but it is more. It is also Christ's Body. Drawn into the fellowship created by the Holy Spirit, we live not from ourselves, our feelings, thoughts or achievements, not even from the fullness of our grasp of the faith into which God has called us, but from the life poured into us by God's free grace - so that the common life of the Church becomes a sign in the world of God's life and activity, a sacrament of his love.

God became human, said the teachers of the early Church, so that humanity might become 'divine' - not by any confusion between God and his creation, but by creation being made into a transparent vehicle of God's loving purpose and healing action, and most of all by men and women becoming God's adopted sons and daughters. The Church is the place where such a transparency to God's purpose and action is most fully realised when we worship in spirit and in truth.

Thus the Church is, as the Reformers said, 'the creation of the Word': it is made what it is by the Word of God incarnate, by the Word written in Scripture, by the Word proclaimed in speech and sacrament. As the Spirit makes the Word present and alive again and again among us, the Church is the place where God makes himself heard and seen.

But the Church is also where our failures are most painfully visible. The Church therefore must show God to the world not only in its faithfulness and holiness, but in its willingness to repent and begin again its journey of discipleship. One of the deepest challenges of the Windsor Report is about repentance. And in the Church we can never call on others to repent without ourselves acknowledging that we too in all sorts of ways are sinners in need of grace. If only the Church's renewal were always a matter of other people's repentance! But God speaks the same words to all and our first (though not our only) duty must be to hear clearly what he says to each of us.

2. Because there has been much talk of apology in the light of the Report, it has been all too easy to miss the centrality of God's call to repentance. Apology is the currency of the world. People in law courts argue about their rights in order to try and extract a satisfactory apology, an adequate statement of responsibility. But I hope and pray we can go beyond that. An apology may amount only to someone saying, 'I'm sorry you feel like that'; and that doesn't go deep enough.

To repent before one another is to see that we have failed in our witness as God's new community, failed to live in the full interdependence of love - and so to see that we have compromised the way in which God can make himself heard and seen among us. When St Paul writes about conflict in the Church, he is concerned above all that we act in such a way that we can be seen to live as Christ's Body together, so that the world may see Jesus.

3. The Windsor Report rightly warns us against an idea of 'autonomy' that simply takes it for granted that every local church does what it thinks is right. There are those on all sides of the current controversy who say that we have little alternative now but to accept that this is how the future looks: churches will go their different ways, even to the point of competing with one another. But in our Communion, God has given us a gift of something more than just a collection of local bodies. We often forget the countless informal links that bind us, parish to parish, person to person, across the Communion in a way that would be so much harder to realise without our public and official links. It is surely worth working to honour this gift as best we can. It is worth not giving up too easily - as if we felt able to say, 'I have no need of you' (I Cor.12.21).

So if it is true that an action by one part of the Communion genuinely causes offence, causes others to stumble, there is need to ask, 'How has what we have done got in the way of God making himself heard and seen among us? Have we acted in such a way as to suggest that we do not believe we are under the authority of Scripture - that the Church is not the creation of the Word? Have we bound on other churches burdens too heavy for them to bear, reproaches for which they may suffer? Have we been eager to dismiss others before we have listened?'

We owe it to one another to let such questions sink in slowly and prayerfully. But these are the important questions for our spiritual health, rather than arguing only over the terms and wording of apologies. It is as we deal with these questions that we do our proper duty to each other in the Church by calling each other back to Christ.

And we should not forget those questions that may make us most uncomfortable. In the heat of this controversy, things have been said about homosexual people that have made many of them, including those who lead celibate lives, feel that there is no good news for them in the Church. Remember that in many countries such people face real persecution and cruelty; even where there are no legal penalties, they suffer from a sense of rejection. Young people are driven to suicide by the conviction that no-one will listen to them patiently; many feel that they are condemned not for their behaviour but for their nature. As I write these words, I have in mind the recent brutal and unprovoked murder of a homosexual man in London by a group of violent and ignorant youths.

The 1998 Lambeth Resolution on this subject declared plainly that the Anglican Church worldwide did not believe - because of its reading of Scripture - that it was free to say that homosexual practice could be blessed. But it also declared that violence in word or deed and prejudice against homosexual people were unacceptable and sinful behaviour for Christians. Earlier Lambeth Conference Resolutions had made the same point. Any words that could make it easier for someone to attack or abuse a homosexual person are words of which we must repent. We are bound to ask, with the greatest care, how we best communicate the challenge of the gospel to homosexual persons and how we may free ourselves from unreasoning fear or even hatred.

4. It is beyond doubt that we stand at a point where the future shape and character of the Communion depend on our choices. What those will be is something that will be settled by various meetings and consultations in the months ahead, especially the Primates' Meeting. The Windsor document sets out a possible future in which we willingly bind ourselves closer together by some form of covenant. I hope we will see virtue in this. No-one can or will impose this, but it may be a creative way of expressing a unity that is neither theoretical nor tyrannical. We have experience of making covenants with our ecumenical partners; why should there not be appropriate commitments which we can freely and honestly make with one another?

It is in such a context that the proposals for the future of my own office should be discussed. They do not seek to create a central executive, but to create a means to discern what covenantal relationship might mean and to act to restore it when it is threatened.

But staying together as a Communion is bound to be costly for us all. To be in the Church at all obliges us to try and discern the difficult balance between independence and responsibility to each other, and to face the dangers of causing others to stumble (Mark 9.42, Rom.14). How can we be true to our consciences, yet aware that the Church as the whole Body needs to reflect and decide - not just ourselves and our friends? The only thing that will ultimately keep us together is a recognition in each other of the same love and longing for the same Lord and his appearing.

How do we do that? Not primarily through public words and statements. We know each other's hearts as believers only when we share each other's prayer. In the months ahead, please do not forget this. Be aware of others praying with you across the world. Take the opportunities that may arise of sharing directly in prayer wherever you can. Let us use the various links of the Communion for this good purpose. Do not forget the good things we have shared as a Communion. Do not think that repentance is always something others are called to, but acknowledge the failings we all share, sinful and struggling disciples as we are.

5. We have been given a working tool of great value and great challenge in the Windsor Report. It will not straight away answer all our questions, but it will help us find out what are the right and the useful questions to ask.

I invite you during this Advent season to devote time and attention in the second week of Advent - the week following what has traditionally been the Sunday when we think about God's gift of Holy Scripture - to prayer around all these matters - prayer for all who have difficult decisions to make, prayer for the whole of our Communion, so that we may together find how we may best honour our God and Saviour and serve his mission in the world.

May God bless all of you in your preparation to celebrate the Lord's Coming, 'as we wait for the blessed day we hope for, when the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ will appear' (Titus 2.11).

As ever,

+ Rowan Cantuar


The Christian season of Advent (Latin, adventus, “Coming”) runs from the fourth Sunday before Christmas until the eve of Christmas. It is also the beginning of the Christian Year.

One way of thinking about its purpose and meaning is to take each letter of the word, a-d-v-e-n-t, and let it represent a theme or aspect of this season. So let us try this method.

A – Arrival

During the season of Advent the Church of Christ joins the remnant of Israel (such as Simeon & Anna) through liturgy in preparing for the Arrival of the Messiah, the Son of David & the Son of God, even Jesus, Son of Mary. Further, the Church joins Israel in listening to John the Baptist, who prepared the way of the Messiah.

Also, during the season of Advent the Church of Christ as the Bride of Christ looks for his Return to earth, his Arrival as the Lord of lords and King of kings to raise the dead, judge the nations and inaugurate the kingdom of God.

So the Church prays on Advent III

“O Lord Jesu Christ, who at thy first coming didst send thy messenger to prepare thy way before thee: Grant that the ministers and stewards of thy mysteries may likewise turn so prepare and make ready thy way, by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, that at thy second coming to judge the world, we may be found an acceptable people in thy sight, who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.”

D -- Devotion

The four weeks of Advent provide the possibility of a period of intense and deep Devotion both in the public liturgy of the Church and in personal times of prayer and meditation. This consecration to walking with God in humility and obedience is summed up in the Collect for the last of the four Sundays:

O LORD, raise up (we pray thee) thy power, and come among us, and with great might succour us; that whereas, through our sins and wickedness, we are sore let
and hindered in running the race that is set before us, thy bountiful grace and mercy may speedily help and deliver us; through the satisfaction of thy Son our Lord, to whom with thee and the Holy Ghost be honour and glory, world without end. Amen.

The Collect is addressed to God, the Father, and it is an earnest request that he will gather up his power and descend to his people (by the Holy Ghost) in order to help, succour and sustain them in the race they are running in their earthly pilgrimage towards the goal & fullness of the kingdom of heaven (see Hebrews 12:1).

In making this petition, God’s people recognize that due to their sins of omission and commission they have failed to run in God’s grace as gracefully and swiftly as they are called to do and ought to have done. Thus they look to the Father to provide them through his Son and by his Spirit, and in grace and mercy, the help they need. In particular they look to the “satisfaction of thy Son”, to his perfect obedience of the Father in his life and in his death, as the basis for asking for divine mercy and assistance (i.e., to his active and passive obedience).

If God’s people are to live as those who expect the return of the Lord Jesus Christ, then they need not only to watch and pray but also to live as the obedient and faithful servants of God, engaged daily in his service and running the race that is set before them. This requires true Devotion!

V. Volition (the act of willing or resolving)

God is merciful and gives us grace but we have to be willing to receive that grace and to commit ourselves to his will and purpose. The Devotion of Advent requires definition Volition! But this we prayed for in the week before Advent: “Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people…”

The season of Advent may be viewed as a short Lent as a time when strict discipline over the body through Fasting is one means of deepening awareness of God and devotion to him. The colour for this season, like Lent, is purple pointing to asceticism and the words of the Advent Collect, “Give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness” also suggest the need for discipline & Fasting. Further, it is possible for four weeks to omit “Gloria in Excelsis” from the Eucharist as a sign of liturgical asceticism – but to do this without developing the interior Devotion of asceticism is to miss out!

Yet Volition, the commitment of the will resolved to do what God requires and to please him, is the real thing here! That is, the will as it is graciously turned towards the Lord to obey him and to do his bidding.

E – Expectancy

As the righteous remnant in Israel waited for the Messiah in hopeful expectancy, so Christian worshippers in the Liturgy throughout Advent grow in expectancy for the arrival of the Son of God Incarnate. And their expectancy is joyfully fulfilled at the first service of Christmas as either they hear the words of the angel first spoken to the shepherds: “To you is born this day in the city of David, a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord,” or the majestic words of John 1, “And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth…”

Further, liturgically Expectancy is communicated by the great “O’s” used during the last week of Advent.

O WISDOM, that camest out of the mouth of the Most High, reaching from one end to another, firmly and gently ordering all things: Come and teach us the way of understanding.

O ADONAI, Captain of the house of Israel, who didst appear to Moses in the flame of the burning bush, and gavest him the law on Sinai: Come and deliver us with thine outsretched arm.

O ROOT OF JESSE, who standest for an ensign of the people, before whom kings shall shut their mouths, to whom the nations shall seek: Come and deliver us and tarry not.

O KEY OF DAVID, Sceptre of the house of Israel, who openest and no man shutteth, and shuttest and not man openeth; Come and bring forth out of the prison-house him that is bound.

O DAY-SPRING FROM ON HIGH, Brightness of Eternal Light, and Sun of righteousness: Come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death.

O KING OF NATIONS, thou for whom they long, the Cornerstone that makest them both one: Come and save thy creatures whom thou didst fashion from the dust of the earth.

O EMMANUEL, our King and Lawgiver, the Desire of all nations and their Saviour:
Come and save us, O Lord our God.

N – Narrative

The Scripture passages, the Bible narrative, read, heard and pondered during Advent are most important. In the Daily Offices of Morning and Evening Prayer, the Book of Isaiah the Prophet is prominent and is read extensively throughout the four weeks as the Old Testament Lesson. In this book, not only are there many passages addressed to ancient Israel but there are also prophecies that look into the future to proclaim the arrival of the Messiah, the nature of his kingdom, his exaltation through suffering, and the triumph of his cause.

The Anglican Collect for Advent II refers to this relation to Holy Scripture:

“Blessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark,learn and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast, the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.”

T – Thanksgiving

Though there is a strong element of penitence accompanying the fasting and asceticism in Advent, there is a stronger element of Thanksgiving! For God is praised and thanked for his saving deeds and his inspired words recorded in the Old Testament, all of which point to their climax in the arrival of the Messiah, the Saviour, who came to “fulfil the Law and the Prophets.” There is celebration of God’s mighty salvation experienced by the Israelites and there is anticipation of the even mightier salvation wrought in the Lord Jesus Christ.

And of course the meaning of the word, “Eucharist”, is “Thanksgiving” and thus in the Sacrament each week there is profound thanksgiving offered to the Father through the Son and with the Holy Spirit.

The Advent Collect to be used throughout the four weeks

Almighty God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious Majesty, to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and ever. Amen.

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

Theological Education for the Anglican Communion: BOOK LIST

A basic book list on Anglicanism

This book list was put together on behalf of TEAC (= Theological Education for the Anglican Communion) by Dr John Corrie, Development Officer of CEFACS, the Centre for Anglican Communion Studies, which has been based in Birmingham, England. Dr Corrie consulted with the other members of TEAC in choosing these key texts. The books are intended as a provisional list of about 30 books which the members of TEAC feel that, if possible, all Anglican theological education institutions where teaching and learning takes place in the English language, should contain as part of their library. We would welcome additional suggestions from around the Anglican Communion of other books which people would particularly recommend, and will be revising this list from time to time. We would also welcome information about books on Anglicanism in languages other than English. Please send any additional suggestions to Clare Amos, the Coordinator of TEAC at:

  • Anglican Communion, The Official Report of the Lambeth Conference, 1998 (Morehouse, 1999) [An essential resource for resolutions, plenary presentations (including an important lecture by Rowan Williams on 'Making Moral Decisions) and discussion on all the major issues affecting the Communion]

  • Avis, P, The Anglican Understanding of the Church (SPCK, 2000) [An excellent introduction. Chap 7: 'The Shape of Anglican Ecclesiology', is a particularly good summary. His preference is for a 'Communion-through-baptism' model of understanding the essential nature of the Church. There is a useful, up-to-date bibliography]

  • Avis, P, Anglicanism and the Christian Church (T and T Clark, 2002) [A detailed and scholarly historical discussion from the 16C onwards, although it is not intended as a comprehensive history, but focuses on the development of the Anglican doctrine of the Church. Chap 1 'In search of Anglican Identity', is very good on what constitutes Anglican identity. Not for the faint-hearted, but made very readable in this completely revised and up-dated edition]

  • Bradshaw, T, The Olive Branch: An Evangelical Anglican Doctrine of the Church (Paternoster, 1992) [A comprehensive discussion of what it means to be Anglican from an evangelical perspective]

  • Bunting, I, Celebrating the Anglican Way (Hodder and Stoughton, 1996) [Chap 3: 'Anglican Belief', by Bruce Kaye, is a succinct summary of some core Anglican beliefs Chap 5: 'Anglican Origins and Ethos' by Elizabeth Culling, is a good introduction at a basic level Chap 6: 'The Anglican Way of Worship' by M.Vasey is a useful summary of what makes Anglican worship distinct Chap 7: 'Word and Sacrament' by P.Seddon summarises Anglican sacramental theology Chap 9: 'Praying our way through life' by G.Piggott draws out the breadth and diversity of Anglican spirituality in a straightforward style]

  • Craston, C (ed), By Word and Deed: Sharing the Good News through Mission (Church House Publishing, 1992) [Exploring the components, contexts and priorities of mission and their relationship to the centrality of evangelism in the light of the Decade of Evangelism. Some good articles from a good cross-section of the Communion]

  • Chatfield, A, Something in Common (Nottingham, St John's Extension Studies,
    [A introduction to the principles and practices of worldwide Anglicanism set out in modular form as very useful course material at a basic level. Ideal for a foundation course in Anglicanism]

  • Douglas, I T and Kwok Pui-Lan, (eds), Beyond Colonial Anglicanism (Church Publishing Inc, New York, 2001) [A wide-ranging set of essays on the issues that have to be rethought if Anglicanism is to relate meaningfully to the new reality of the 21st Century Anglican Communion where the majority are 'majority world' Christians. Covers issues such as: structures and power, cultural hegemony, feminist readings of violence, ecology, sexuality, urbanisation, baptism, leadership, worship. Chap 14: 'Culture, Spirit, and Worship' by Jaci Maraschin is a challenging Brazilian view of how worship needs to be contextualised]

  • Evans G R and Wright J R, The Anglican Tradition: A Handbook of Sources (SPCK, Fortress, 1991) [Anglican documents and extracts throughout history - brief and fascinating insights]

  • Gitari, G, Anglican Liturgical Inculturation in Africa (Grove Books, 1994) [Built around the Kanamai Statement (1993), which set out principles and guidelines for liturgical renewal in Africa, it briefly explores the indigenisation of liturgy]

  • Hannaford, R(ed), The Future of Anglicanism (Gracewing, 1996) [A set of scholarly essays on the themes of faith, authority, order, ecclesiology, Christology, orthodoxy Chap 3: 'Order and the Episcopate', is a rather diffuse discussion rooted in the Early Church's development of bishops and pointing to some contemporary application to how decisions are made. Chap 4: 'Ecclesiology and Communion', is an extended discussion of the meaning of 'koinonia', its roots in the Trinity and Christology, and its implications for the current division on the ordination of women]

  • Holeton, D R (ed) Our Thanks and Praise: the Eucharist in Anglican Theology Today (Anglican Book Centre, 1998) [Papers from the Fifth International Anglican Liturgical Conference on a wide range of theological issues including contextual liturgies]

  • Jacob, W M, The Making of the Anglican Church Worldwide (SPCK, 1997) [A historical survey of how Anglicanism evolved into a worldwide communion beginning with the Reformation up to 1960. Focuses especially on episcopacy and unity]

  • Johnson, E and Clark, J (eds) Anglicans in Mission: A Transforming Journey (SPCK, 2000) [Summarises the work of MISSIO, the Mission Commission of the Anglican Communion, and gives some good reflections on the dimensions of Anglican Mission, including the 'five marks of mission' (Chap 3), Evangelism (Chap 4), and Mission Structures (Chap 6)]

  • McAdoo, H R, Anglican Heritage: Theology and Spirituality (Canterbury Press,
    [Chap 1: 'The Anglican Ethos', is a good introductory chapter which roots being Anglican in the traditions of the 17C]

  • McGrath, A (ed), Handbook of Anglican Theologians (SPCK, 1998) [Every significant theologian in Anglican history reviewed. There is a good survey of the history of Anglicanism in Britain from Henry VIII to the present by Paul Avis, pp 3-28. Part I is a useful regional survey of Anglican Theology]

  • McGrath, A, The Renewal of Anglicanism (SPCK, 1993)
    [This is McGrath's attempt to renew Anglican theological method by reconstructing the 'via media' between fundamentalism and liberalism with a 'postliberalism' that is rooted in orthodoxy]

  • Okorocha, C C (ed), The Cutting Edge of Mission (Anglican Communion Publications, 1996) [A report at the mid-point of the Decade of Evangelism on what was happening around the world. There is a good essay by Dr George Carey on 'The Anglican Communion and Evangelism']

  • Percy, M, The Salt of the Earth: Religious Resilience in a Secular Age (London, New York, Sheffield Academic Press/Continuum, 2001) [A wide ranging exploration of Christian engagement with contemporary western culture by the new Principal of Ripon College, Cuddesdon, a leading Anglican academic and parish priest. Percy questions the secularisation paradigm and suggests that a discerning yet sympathetic, positive engagement with culture can generate a practical-prophetic ecclesiology that can help recover the role of the church as the 'salt of the earth'. Contains some insightful discussion on Anglicanism]

  • Pobee, J S, Invitation to be an African Anglican (Accra, Asempa Publishers,
    [Examines all the basic foundations of Anglicanism from an African perspectives and challenges the Church there to indigenise the traditions so that its identity is authentically African]

  • Rowell, G, Stevenson, K and Williams, R, Love's Redeeming Work: The Anglican Quest for Holiness (OUP, 2001) Centre, 1998) [A comprehensive compilation of writing from Latimer to the present on prayer, spirituality and holiness]

  • Sachs, W L, The Transformation of Anglicanism (CUP, 1993)
    [A detailed and scholarly exploration of the process by which Anglicanism was transformed into a missionary church in diverse contexts. Not just a narrative history, but details how modernity and world mission have changed Anglicanism]

  • Sykes, S, Unashamed Anglicanism (DLT, 1995)
    [Part II is an extended and scholarly discussion of an Anglican doctrine of the Church Chap 7, 'Foundations of an Anglican ecclesiology', is a good place to begin]

  • Sykes, S, Booty, J, and Knight, J (eds) The Study of Anglicanism (SPCK, Fortress, Rev Ed, 1998) [Part I: 'The History of Anglicanism', is comprehensive and detailed. Part II: 'The Gospel in Anglicanism' by Louis Weil, tries to show what is distinctive and especially discusses the relationship between doctrine and liturgy. Part III 'Authority and Method' is an in-depth discussion of the respective roles of Scripture, Tradition and Reason, taking a historical view of how these terms have been interpreted. Part IV, Chap 6: 'Lex Orandi - Lex Credendi' by W T Stevenson is a discussion of the relationship between worship and doctrine, and especially the place of symbolism. Part V, Chap 2, 'The Fundamentals of Christianity' by S W Sykes is a summary of what has constituted the 'fundamentals' of Anglican teaching through its history Part V, Chap 4: 'Initiation' by D R Holeton takes a historical view of the development of baptism and confirmation to the present day Part V, Chap 5: 'Holy Communion' by W R Crockett is a scholarly but carefully worded and clear discussion of how Eucharistic theology has developed as something nether Catholic nor Calvinist Part VI, Chap 1: 'Anglican Spirituality' by A M Allchin describes helpfully how Anglican spirituality seeks to integrate faith and life through literature, poetry and music]

  • Warren, R, Being Human, Being Church (Marshall Pickering, 1995) [The best Anglican ecclesiology in recent years, this book argues for a paradigm shift in our understanding of the Church from maintenance mode to mission. Comes out of a British context, but has wider application]

  • Williams, Rowan, Anglican Identities (London, DLT, 2004)
    [Any basic set of books should include at least one by our Archbishop-theologian. A stimulating set of essays based on leading Anglican theologians from William Tyndale to John Robinson, and as always challenging to read and assimilate. Relevance for today is sometimes hard to find, but the essays on Hooker are especially helpful in exploring what Archbishop Rowan calls a 'contemplative pragmatism' which engages positively with both revelation and reality to give us a 'sapiental theology' for today]

  • Wingate, A et al (eds), Anglicanism: A Global Communion ((London, Mowbray,
    [A wide-ranging set of essays written from a predominantly 'majority world' perspective bringing together voices from all over the world]

Freedom – western style & Christian style

A discussion starter from Dr Peter Toon

Liberty (or Freedom) is a prized possession of some nations, especially those of the “West”.

Freedom to pursue one’s religion, to hold and express opinions, to vote without duress, to own home & land, to expect a fair trial, to enjoy privacy when desired, to pursue personal happiness within the law, to move without hindrance within one’s country as well as in and out of one’s country, to improve oneself educationally and to seek for promotion in jobs, to have the full exercise of one’s rights, to read newspapers from a free press, and so on, are the content of this Liberty.

No country or civilization perfectly embodies these personal, civil, political, legal and cultural freedoms because, in essence, people themselves are imperfect and therefore abuse or stand in the way of some of these liberties most of the time. Even so, countries with these liberties usually see it as their “missionary” duty to export them in a suitable form to other countries, where as yet they are not known.

Exercising and enjoying these freedoms does not especially predispose a person to the devout practice of religion – Christian, Jewish or Muslim. In fact, these freedoms can create a situation in which what “the law of God” declares to be “sinful” or “immoral” is openly advertised and commended as not only available but good. Of this tendency there are many pertinent examples in north American and western European countries as the many encyclicals of the Papacy in modern times demonstrates.

In fact, to live as a committed Christian (or Jew or Muslim) in a secularized, free western society is extremely challenging, because in making use of the freedoms to pursue his religion, the devout believer has the duty both to resist temptations to sin on many fronts but also to use his right to express an opinion in order to oppose the most obvious signs of freedom gone wrong (e.g., easy abortion).

What a committed Christian living within these freedoms has certainly to be clear about is that what is called “Christian Freedom” in the New Testament has nothing to do with the “Liberty” and “Freedom” of modern liberal, democratic society. For, strictly from a Christian perspective, a Christian believer can be wholly “free in Christ” and “free in the Spirit” while living in a totalitarian and persecuting state.

The Freedom enjoyed by a baptized believer in Christ Jesus is radically different from the Freedom enjoyed by a citizen of the U.S.A. or Canada. Of course, one person can simultaneously enjoy both Freedoms, the one to the full and other guardedly, for the latter (unlike the former) may lead to perdition.

The first freedom (see the Epistle to the Galatians for details) is based upon a relation to the God the Father through God the Son (the Lord Jesus Christ) and by/with the Holy Spirit. It begins with freedom from the guilt of sin and moves on to freedom from the power of sin so that there is a freedom to worship God in spirit and in truth and to serve him without counting the cost – even unto the martyr’s death if that be the will of the Lord. It is freedom to say “Yes” to the Lord Christ at all times and thus “No” to all who oppose the will of the same Lord Christ. It is a freedom that is given by God to committed members of the new covenant of grace and it is kept alive through God’s faithfulness and human consecration to God. It begins as an inner quality of life and proceeds to be expressed in word and deed.

Thus genuine Christian Freedom is available through the mercy and grace of the Holy Trinity (God the Father through God the Son and with God the Holy Spirit) at all times and in all places. Nothing whatsoever in this world can prevent its arrival and its exercise (see Romans 8 for an eloquent statement to this effect).

To know and enjoy Christian Freedom in a totalitarian and persecuting society means that one is most conscious of being united by the Spirit with the Christ who witnessed and suffered, as one looks to the Father in heaven for sustenance and reward, and as one lives as a witness along with one’s brethren in Christ. To know and enjoy Christian Freedom in the secularized West means that one has to watch and pray, to be aware of temptations on every front, and to use all opportunities offered to testify to the Lord Jesus Christ.

To equate the Freedom offered in the West with the Freedom that is in Christ and by the Holy Spirit is to make a tremendous mistake and to proceed to engage in many mistakes and errors. (Regrettably the Episcopal Church USA provides a stunning example of such a mistake!!!)

Christians have to find a way to live in the freedoms of the West while prizing most of all the freedom that is in Christ Jesus!

O God, who art the author of peace and lover of concord, in knowledge of whom
standeth our eternal life, whose service is perfect freedom: Defend us thy
humble servants from all assaults of our enemies; that we, surely trusting in
thy defence, may not fear the power of any adversaries; through Jesus Christ our
Lord. Amen.

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


From Touchstone's Mere Comments:
At the Thanksgiving holiday , the Wall Street Journal reprints, as it has on this day for the past forty-three years, the account given by Nathaniel Morton of the so-called Pilgrims who departed their refuge in Holland for the unknowns of the New World. It is difficult to put ourselves in their place, and give adequate weight to the courage and resolute faithfulness that they needed to show in this undertaking---not mention also the remarkable lengths to which they were willing to go to establish a Christian way of life for themselves and their offspring:

So they left that goodly and pleasant city of Leyden, which had been their resting-place for above eleven years, but they knew that they were pilgrims and strangers here below, and looked not much on these things, but lifted up their eyes to Heaven, their dearest country, where God hath prepared for them a city (Heb. XI, 16), and therein quieted their spirits.

When they came to Delfs-Haven they found the ship and all things ready, and such of their friends as could not come with them followed after them, and sundry came from Amsterdam to see them shipt, and to take their leaves of them. One night was spent with little sleep with the most, but with friendly entertainment and Christian discourse, and other real expressions of true Christian love.

The next day they went on board, and their friends with them, where truly doleful was the sight of that sad and mournful parting, to hear what sighs and sobs and prayers did sound amongst them; what tears did gush from every eye, and pithy speeches pierced each other's heart, that sundry of the Dutch strangers that stood on the Key as spectators could not refrain from tears. But the tide (which stays for no man) calling them away, that were thus loath to depart, their Reverend Pastor, falling down on his knees, and they all with him, with watery cheeks commended them with the most fervent prayers unto the Lord and His blessing; and then with mutual embraces and many tears they took their leaves one of another, which proved to be the last leave to many of them.

Being now passed the vast ocean, and a sea of troubles before them in expectations, they had now no friends to welcome them, no inns to entertain or refresh them, no houses, or much less towns, to repair unto to seek for succour; and for the season it was winter, and they that know the winters of the country know them to be sharp and violent, subject to cruel and fierce storms, dangerous to travel to known places, much more to search unknown coasts.

Besides, what could they see but a hideous and desolate wilderness, full of wilde beasts and wilde men? and what multitudes of them there were, they then knew not: for which way soever they turned their eyes (save upward to Heaven) they could have but little solace or content in respect of any outward object; for summer being ended, all things stand in appearance with a weatherbeaten face, and the whole country, full of woods and thickets, represented a wild and savage hew.

If they looked behind them, there was a mighty ocean which they had passed, and was now as a main bar or gulph to separate them from all the civil parts of the world.

It is an awesome scene. Small wonder that so many of the New England Puritans saw themselves enacting, with the grit and determination of their own lives, the familiar patterns of Biblical displacement and exile. For those stories were the very warp and woof of their existence, the meat and drink that sustained them. Without that template of meaning for this endeavor, the great Puritan migration to this hemisphere would not have occurred, certainly not in the way that it did.

And we would consequently have been a very different people. It is because of them that those stories, including their own story, are part of the warp and woof of this nation too. The critics of the concept of "Christian America" are right, of course, albeit in a limited way. The founding of this nation can't be reduced to religious tenets and motives. But it cannot be understood, then or now, without constant recourse to them. And a group of people that know themselves to be "pilgrims and strangers here below" have a safeguard against the tendency to confuse the nation with the Kingdom. Let us be thankful, this Thanksgiving, that this insight has not been lost.

It is now fashionable among certain Christians to prove their devotion to Christ by expressing their unqualified contempt for the American nation-state and all its works. I have some sympathy for such sentiments, and consider some of these folks my friends. They do valuable work in reminding Christians that they are first and foremost citizens of heaven. But I think their judgment misses the mark, and falls short of Christian maturity. It is the anger and mocking tone that creeps into their discourse that gives them away. There is all the difference in the world between, for example, a cosmopolitanism that builds upon, and transcends (sometimes at great personal expense), one's more provincial and local loyalties, and a cosmopolitanism that never had any such loyalties to begin with, and adopts cosmopolitanism as a perpetual superior pose, a lifelong adolescent revenge against the village. Calling ourselves "a peculiar people" or "resident aliens" should not become a religiously sanctioned way of giving the finger to our neighbors.

One of the most overused words emanating from this particular perspective is "idolatry." It should be used far more sparingly. Not every powerful earthly attachment is a form of idolatry. On the contrary. The incarnational qualities of the Christian faith demand that we cherish what is here and now---the day-old bread on our table, the tangled families in which we find ourselves, the often-exasperating work of our hands, the disappointing churches in which we worship, and so on---even as we are called to remember, and live in the light of, what is beyond them.

And so the virtues of patriotism are secondary but real---as real as any of our loyalties, short of those to God Himself. We should be thankful for the peerless gift of this rich and abundant land. With all its faults, it has been a refuge for all of humanity—an island of prosperity and order and democracy in a cruel and violent world, and a place where the most vital of all liberties, the freedom to worship God in spirit and truth, has been cherished and enshrined in our fundamental institutions.

We constantly fail to appreciate the magnitude of this legacy---and the responsibilities entailed in it. We should live in gratitude and faithfulness to it, even as we built upon it in our own ways. We should strive to be worthy of our forebears’ hopes, their dreams, their sacrifices, and their love. We should pray for the strength and wisdom and discipline to be good stewards of this gift. And yes, we are obliged to improve and purify and preserve it, so that the generations to come will also have reason to be thankful that we were here.

Yet even as we give thanks for our nation, the example of the Pilgrims reminds us that this beautiful place is not our home. That we were made not for it, or for any other earthly nation, but for God alone. That even this great nation, like all things here below, is imperfect, and will perish someday. That even as we make our homes, plant our gardens, and raise our families here, there will come a time when those families are no more, when our yet-unborn grandchildren will be vanished, our houses torn down, every earthly grace and beauty decayed into dust and scattered in the air. That this city on a hill is, like every earthly city, not a city for us to abide in.

So Thanksgiving is a time to love our country for the right reasons. It is, on the simplest plane, where God has placed us. That alone makes it a gift we did not deserve. It also is a nation that does not---yet---put Caesar in God’s place, and is still---for now---a land where the knowledge of God's Word and Kingdom have been given a special protection. Indeed, it has been a bulwark to pilgrims and seekers through the years, and remains so today, despite many threatening clouds. Long may it prosper. But may we always seek His Kingdom first.

—Wilfred McClay
9:54 AM

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Dumbing down and dressing down: Why worship God?

(for serious relection before Advent!)

Why ought human beings to engage in the worship of the Lord God, Creator, Redeemer & Judge? Why should men and women see it as their vocation to call upon the Name of the Lord God and praise that Name?

If one listens to what is being said and what is written in the supermarket of American denominations – as well as in the less intense arena of British religion - there are several answers given as to why human beings do/ought/should take part in “worship services”. Here are five of them.

One answer is “to create community”, a “community of faith” and a “community of celebration.” Here the coming together to sing, pray and listen is seen as combating alienation, individualism and an inadequate view of self-worth. In the presence of God, it is believed that there is affirmation and healing for all.

Another answer is “to prepare for mission” -- to be a mission-shaped church, to be a people who obey the command of Jesus to go into the world to preach the Gospel to all the creation.

A third answer is “to becoming a caring people” -- to be transformed through the songs, prayers and ritual into a people who care for those in need and learn to love their neighbor as they love themselves.

A fourth answer is “to teach & learn the Faith” – in the context of word and song to offer and to receive instruction in the Christian life, in faith and morals.

A fifth answer is “to bring the world to God and God to the world” in order to discern what God is revealing through what is happening in the world, to those with ears to hear and eyes to see.


It seems to be the case that the average type of “worship service” is designed by the leadership in a congregation to fulfill a given purpose which it is knowingly or, in some cases, subconsciously committed to. It could be any of the above, a combination of two or more of them, or yet other possibilities.

Usually, if not uniformly, the type of service relates clearly to the general theological and cultural position of the leadership and membership – e.g., many evangelical churches see worship as preparation for mission & evangelization, for to them the primary purpose of the church is to evangelize and fulfill the great commandment of Jesus; and many liberal churches see worship as an essential aspect of the discovery of God in the world as we know it, for to them God is revealing Godself through contemporary events and culture.

But what if Worship is an activity that exists primarily for no human, practical purpose, however exalted and noble that human purpose may be?

What if Worship exists for the sole purpose of addressing God, adoring and praising God, confessing sins before God, offering petitions and intercessions to God, and all for the unique purpose of bringing honor and glory to God alone?

Let us be clear: If the purpose of worship is wholly for God’s sake and not for our sake, this does not mean to say that in practice there are no benefits that flow from genuine worship. If a people meet with God to worship him in spirit and in truth, then such a people over time is changed, sanctified, inspired and fortified by the unique experience. And such a people will therefore – even in their weakness and imperfections -- be those who will have the desire to seek to glorify their Father in heaven through good works and mission, and by being his ambassadors in daily living.

But – and this is an important question -- is the church in the West able any longer to construct and offer worship that is pure and consecrated and which has only the one purpose of seeking in the Spirit to please the Triune God in his holiness and glory?

Is the church so affected by the dumbing-down of standards in all areas of human endeavor that it is incapable of rising above offering a worship service that is designed only to fulfill a human purpose?

Is the church so affected by the leisure industry that it sees worship as merely an exalted form of a leisure activity?

Has the church so lost the sense of the pursuit of excellence that it does not feel the need to seek after the One who is most excellent, the Lord of Glory and Grace?

No ulterior purpose!

In contrast to what is found in the West today, I close with a description of what awed Russian diplomats saw and felt when they first experienced the Divine Liturgy at Byzantium immediately before the Orthodox Church was invited into Russia.

“What impressed them as onlookers about the Liturgy was precisely ITS UTTER LACK OF AN ULTERIOR PURPOSE, the fact that it was celebrated for GOD and not for spectators, that it sole intent was to be before God and for God, pleasing and acceptable to God….”

O that this could be said of a few, better many, of our western churches today!

I dare to suggest that in the Anglican Way the celebration (in spirit and in truth and in the beauty of holiness) of the historic, classic Liturgy for the Lord’s Day -- Matins, the Litany, the Order for Holy Communion and Evensong -- also has no ulterior purpose for it is offered to God, the Undivided Trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. However, those who so offer are blessed by God as they are drawn into union and friendship with Him.

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon M.A., D.Phil. (Oxon.) November 23, 2004

Worship, a Leisure Activity!

A discussion starter for Advent Study Groups

The existence in the U.S.A. of many well-attended churches, belonging to a vast variety of denominations & sects, makes clear that religion is not neglected in America. However, the sociologists tell us that this religion is generally “a privatized religion” by which they mean that it has little impact on “the public square” and is practiced chiefly in the home and in the church building.

I do not want to discuss the relation of privatized religion to the virtual absence from, or minimal presence of, religion in the public square. Rather, I want to reflect upon how worship is conceived on the evidence of how it is practiced. And I want to suggest that for many local churches – from Roman Catholic to interdenominational community church – it is one form, howbeit an important form, of leisure activity for which members are ready to pay well. Further, I want to suggest that the same may be said of some congregations in Britain and Canada, where church attendance is much lower than it is in the U.S.A.

The very fact that religion is privatized in America tends to make the practice of religion into a leisure activity, howbeit a regular and important one, whether we like it to be so or not. This is because the choice is made to go to church rather than to go to the Mall, the Golf Course, take the kids to soccer games or to creative dancing or the like. Church-going is one of the many choices (in a society which celebrates choice as a “value”) open to people to engage in when they are not at work or in school.

Then the powerful reality of individualism and of the therapeutic culture also point and push people into the idea of seeing worship as leisure and of being casual for “worship”. In the context of going to the church of one’s choice, wearing clothing of one’s choice is an expression of the self; and the power of the “community” [church] wherein this individualism is preserved is seen as empowering and conducive to self-worth and self- realization and fulfillment.

Thus the impact of this social and cultural situation is that many people dress for worship in much the same way (even in an identical way) as they do for going to the Mall, taking the kids to soccer and so on. So to see people going to church on Sunday mornings, to see them at the coffer hour and in the sanctuary is to view a people who are to all outward appearances dressed for leisure. Also, even those taking part in the service also often do so without special vestments – e.g., the distribution of Holy Communion at the R C Mass is often done by men in sports slacks and open shirts and by women in blouses and shorts or slacks.

Further, the way that “worshippers” and “worship leaders” dress appears to be conditioned by (certainly very much related to) the type of services in which they participate. Services are often informal, easy-going and participatory and to dress up for them in formal clothing is seen to be “over-dressed”. In this kind of assembly, as the style, the words and the music appear to indicate, the presence of “God” seems to be perceived or thought of as being that of an Invisible Friendly Spirit and a “Father-God” whose function is to make people feel good about their religious exercises and experience together and to bless them according to their needs. [The classic sense of the presence of God as above and beyond (transcendent) in his holiness and glory and yet present to the humble and lowly soul does not seem to go with the leisure-style mindset, dress and deportment, and neither does the classic doctrine of worshipping the Father through the Son and with the Holy Spirit in the beauty of holiness and in spirit and in truth.]

Where this form of worship as attractive experiential religion is well presented, it is very attractive to millions of middle-class Americans (and to some middle-class Brits and Canadians). The reason is, I suggest, because it is culture friendly in a general way, even though in a few specifics it is anti-cultural (e.g., anti-abortion or pro-life). So its distinctiveness is primarily in the very narrow area where it actually differs from the dominant western culture of individualism, rights, leisure activities and communities of mutual interest. Yet as was seen in the recent Presidential Election this narrow area of difference (opposition to same-sex marriage, pro-life etc.) is, at the moment, important and is more than sufficient to be distinctive – even though this experiential religion as a whole is so very obviously only possible to practice in modern western society.

Of course there is a minority of middle-class churches where people attend dressed in their “Sunday-best” because they have been taught that in going to meet with God one should dress in at least as formal a way as one would if one were going to the White House for an audience with the President. (Usually these traditional churches have a formal liturgy with minimal participation by other than ordained ministers who are dressed in some form of vestments.)

And then also many of the African-American churches present to the onlooker on Sunday mornings congregations of people “dressed up” for their members are taught that in the Lord’s House and presence they are to dress appropriately as they meet with King of kings.

What seems clear – when one seeks to separate religion from the strong cultural and social elements – is that where a congregation has a profound sense of the glorious transcendence of God the Holy Trinity and also a vital sense of the presence of the Holy Spirit, as the Spirit of the Lord Jesus in its midst, then it does not regard what it is doing in worship as recreational and its members do not dress as if they were going to a ball game!


WORSHIP An utter lack of an ulterior purpose.

“Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God and him only shalt thou serve.”
“Worship the Father in spirit and in truth.”

The most difficult and yet the most glorious thing that we care called to do in this world – in anticipation of the next – is to worship the LORD our God, the Blessed, Holy and Undivided Trinity. As the congregation of Christ’s flock, we are called “to enjoy and glorify God, the Holy Trinity, for ever and ever, even unto the ages of ages and world without end.”

In the Anglican context, I see at least four major temptations arising within western culture which both undermine the true purpose of Christian WORSHIP and reduce IT or change IT into something else. Professional and amateur liturgists, clergy and worship committees face these temptations and, regrettably, seem not always to resist them. It is not that they always re-write liturgies but that they use existing liturgies to serve new purposes by the spirit and ethos in which they are actually used. And, if growth in numbers or increase in “ministries” or making an impact are the real criteria by which to judge then Satan’s suggestions are good ones.

1. Satan comes along and, with excellent examples and/or stories, presents the thesis: that “a worship service” is (at least in part) to keep people interested and in an acceptable and dignified way to entertain them. So the people sit as the audience and the performers are at the front FACING the audience. God is assumed to be the friendly, non-judgmental Onlooker who blesses the occasion for the people are sincere in their desire for religious activity, performance and entertainment. Satan’s aim as the tempter is to make the people feel welcome, happy and emotionally satisfied/ fulfilled. What he wants to cause them to avoid is to fear God the Father, to bow before His Majesty and to seek His Face through and in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

2. Satan comes along and using telling phrases and ideas created by the modern therapeutic culture suggests that how people feel and their sense of self-worth are of major importance in true and vital religion. So he presents the thesis: that “a worship service” and all other church activities must have as a major aim the purpose of making people feel good about themselves. Folks need to know that God actually loves everyone unconditionally and wants each one to feel affirmed as His child, and this despite whatever they have done and whatever be their position or state in life. What Satan wants to avoid is the idea that it is much more important to be obedient to the Lord of glory and to seek His holiness through bowing before His Majesty than to be nice and to feel good about one’s individual faith.

3. Satan comes along and with moving illustrations suggests that people are alienated from one another and even from themselves in modern society and thus they need a real human community to which to belong. So he presents the thesis: that is it necessary to make the church of God in this place into a “community of faith” where the “worship service” is truly a community celebration. Alienated and lonely souls need to find soul-mates and soul-companions so that they feel they belong and that they existence is meaningful. So each person’s “faith and feelings about God, Jesus and religion” is affirmed and the church is seen primarily to exist as the place and sphere of affirmation one of another and each one by all. Satan wants to make sure that the idea of belonging to the local group and affirming each other rather than belonging to the communion of saints of earth and heaven is the ethos here. He is most happy when a lot of emphasis and time is spent on the “passing of the peace” with its walkabout to embrace as many people as possible.

4 Satan comes along and demonstrates that many people are ignorant of the basics of religion and of the meaning of the liturgy. So he presents the thesis: that “a worship service” is basically a teaching opportunity for instruction (they may not stay for Sunday School but they are here as a captive audience). Instead of the liturgy flowing naturally according to its own inherent ethos and logic, it is interrupted often in order for the “worship leader” or the clergyperson to use the opportunity to add comments to whatever is being sung or said or prayed in order to further the education of the people. The service is treated as an evangelistic or missionary opportunity. Satan is most happy when a congregation is engaged in learning about religion rather than involved in knowing God as GOD, the LORD, and experiencing communion with the Father through the Son and with the Holy Spirit.

The Revd Dr Peter Toon November 22nd 2004

Monday, November 22, 2004

Thanksgiving Day & Advent Sunday: From Feasting to Fasting

Each day the Church of God is to adore, glorify, praise and thank the Lord on behalf of the whole of the created order.

The People of God have been given minds to think, hearts to feel and wills to act. They are made in the image and after the likeness of the Lord, the Creator, and thus are uniquely placed as members of both the old creation (Genesis 1) and by grace members of the new creation (Rev 21-22) to speak out on behalf of all creatures (except the angels who can speak for themselves) the thanksgiving of the whole creation to its Creator.

The Daily Office(s) of the Church of God has always been seen as not merely the prayer of the Church as Church, but the prayer of the Church as the priest of creation, representing the whole order.

On THANKSGIVING DAY the Church of God in the USA (even though “by schisms rent asunder and by heresies distressed”) is surely called to exercise this priestly ministry with special joy and divine efficacy as She thanks God not only for her own receipt of blessings but also for the varied harvests of provision of food and clothing, shelter and providences He provides for all men.

If there is any nation upon earth that reason to be thankful and to express that thanksgiving it is the United States of America.

Let THANKSGIVING DAY be a day of feasting. Let it also be what it was intended to be -- uttering & expressing thanksgiving and making intercession for all.

See The Book of Common Prayer (1928) for Collect & readings for Thanksgiving Day.

Immediately after THANKSGIVING there is the arrival of ADVENT, and thus the beginning of the Christian/Church Year.

If one activity of THANKSGIVING is FEASTING then one duty of ADVENT is fasting. ADVENT is obviously a liturgical preparation for the FESTIVAL OF THE INCARNATION of the Son of God, Christmas, but it is also a period of four weeks of making ready for THE RETURN OF THE EXALTED LORD JESUS to earth to raise the dead, judge the peoples and inaugurate the kingdom of God. It is thus a time “to watch and pray” and “to fast and pray”.

The intensity of the fasting is no so great as that of Lent, but it is nevertheless real, for without it “to watch and pray” is without a necessary ingredient.

In fact the best way to prepare to celebrate the First Advent – the taking of human nature and flesh by the eternal Word/Son from the B.V.M. – is to be prepared for the arrival of the Son of God in glory, the Second Advent; and this is why the ancient lectionaries of the Church weave the two themes together in the four weeks leading up to Christmas.

See The Book of Common Prayer (1928) for the Collects, Epistles and Gospels for the period of Advent.

ADVENT – the twin themes of coming in humility and coming in glory

The ADVENT Collect
to be used from the First Sunday in Advent daily until Christmas Eve

Almighty God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious Majesty, to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and ever. Amen.

The Epistle: Romans 13.8-14 The Gospel: St. Matthew 21.1-13

This beautiful and moving prayer was written specifically for The Book of the Common Prayer (1549) by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer. Its structure, style and contents reveal just how perfectly he had mastered in English the grammatical structure of the traditional Latin Collects. It is a most appropriate prayer with which to begin the Christian Year for it is addressed to the Father, “Almighty God,” is centered upon the Lord Jesus Christ, “thy Son,” and looks for the direct help in daily living of the Spirit of the Father and the Son (“the Holy Ghost”). And it takes specific guidance and inspiration from the Epistle.

Here in remembrance before Almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we remember both (i) the Advent/Coming of the Only-Begotten Son when he humbled himself, took to himself our human nature and was born from the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Bethlehem, and (ii) the future Advent/Coming of the same Son as the Lord of lords and King of kings to earth at the end the age in great glory, to raise the dead and to judge the peoples, and to inaugurate the kingdom of God.

As baptized believers, living in a world darkened by evil and sin, but given Light by Jesus Christ who is the Light of the world, we ask for the personal help of the Father, through the Holy Ghost, in order to live not as children of darkness but rather as children of light. Indeed, we pray to be protected by “the armour of light” (see Romans 13:12). When Christ Jesus returns to earth in his Second Coming he will dispel all shadows and darkness, clear up all doubts, chase away all sorrows and cause the new dawn of the new day of the new age to appear. Then we shall cast off our sleeping apparel and put on the shining dress of the kingdom of God, as we are raised to the life immortal.

Prayed each day at Morning and Evening Prayer and whenever the Lord’s Supper is celebrated during the four weeks of Advent, this Collect is a real means of grace whereby we prepare rightly during the four weeks of Advent to celebrate the Incarnation at Christmas and the Epiphany a little later.

The Gospel for the week sets forth yet another Coming, the coming of the Lord Jesus to Jerusalem at the beginning of Holy Week. He enters the city as the Messiah, the Son of David, the Prophet of God, bringing salvation for Israel and the world, and he is welcomed as such by those who have previously heard his teaching and witnessed his exorcisms and miracles. Let us in Advent also prepare ourselves heartily to welcome the same Jesus as the Messiah of Israel, the Saviour of the world and the Judge of the peoples.
The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon M.A., D.Phil. (Oxon.)

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

"Stir up" Sunday

The Sunday next before Advent (Nov 24 in 2004)

This Collect for the last Sunday in the Christian Year is a free translation by Archbishop Cranmer from the Latin original for this Sunday in the Gregorian Sacramentary & in “The Use of Sarum.”

Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they,
plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously
rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Epistle: Jeremiah 23:5-8 Gospel: St John 6:5-14

As this is the last Collect of the Christian Year, we may regard it as summing up in petition a major theme of the Collects, Epistles & Gospels for the Year past. And this theme may be simply stated: in the Christian life, unless the human will is engaged then all thought and feeling may be, or even are, wasted.

One of the great spiritual diseases of the Church and of individual Christians is lethargy. We remain content with where we are on the highway of holiness and in the climbing of Mount Zion. There is always tomorrow, we say to ourselves; then we can strive the more. Today we can relax! As pilgrims heading for the celestial city we are tempted to take too many rests on the way and thus do not seek to conquer more of the terrain & path in front of us.

The call is to press on towards the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13-14). We are often deaf and stationary and do not pay heed to that call. We need to be awakened, stirred up and energized to make headway!

So the major petition of this Collect is that God the Father will cause the Holy Ghost to stir up our lazy and inactive wills and to rouse us from the slumber of complacency. Yet, as we know, a fire when stirred up does not always blaze and a sleeper, when roused, does not always get up! In the final analysis we are given a measure of freedom by our Creator so that we can respond to his call as persons with dignity and freedom and in love. This said, it is also true to say that our wills are naturally weak and need divine inspiration and assistance in order to be directed towards the glorifying of God in good works.

Thus there must be both stirring up from heaven and wholehearted cooperation by ourselves to the motions of the Spirit in our souls.

We can have the best of intentions and we can have the sweetest of feelings about those intentions but unless the will is engaged then there is no action! And action by the will is inspired and energized by the Spirit in souls that are prepared to do what is right.

In this prayer, God is thought of as the Judge who is the Lord of the harvest. Our reward (though altogether undeserved) will be apportioned to the measure of the good fruit that we produce. Obviously, we cannot bring forth plenteously such good fruit without an unfailing perseverance and unceasing exertion which only a resolved will can supply.

Let us ponder for a moment the amount of work that is necessary to produce a good harvest in the world of nature. The farmer has to accept the conditions and provisions of nature (e.g., sunshine & rain, wind and frost) and persevere week by week in his varied tasks for many months until he sees the purpose of his labour in the plenteous harvest. If he did not prune and water, feed and protect, there would be a reduced harvest or none at all. Likewise, there is no fruit of the Spirit produced in our lives if we simply sit back and do not cooperate day by day, week by week, with the Spirit of the Lord, who assists us to cultivate our souls, intellect, emotions and will, aright.

The idea of plenteous reward for good works freely and lovingly done for the glory of God is a scriptural doctrine. “Let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Galatians 6:9); “Be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58). Of course, the rewards are at the end of the age and pertain to the life of the world to come.

Then, let us be clear, we offer this prayer not on the basis of our own merits and achievements (assuming we have any!) but through the one Mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ, in and through whom alone there will be reward for the faithful in the age to come.

Finally, what would this Collect have been like if Cranmer had translated it fairly literally? Here it is:

“Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they,
more readily following after the effect of thy divine working, may obtain from
thy fatherly goodness larger assistances [of grace]. Through Jesus Christ our
Lord. Amen.”

Here the reliance of the weak human will on the divine working, the action of the Holy Ghost, is very clear. Further, it is assumed that the more we co-operate with the action of God in and upon our souls, the more we shall experience the grace of our heavenly Father and grants of his mercy in our lives in all kinds of situations and ways. Thus the meaning of the original Latin Collect and that of Cranmer’s are complementary.

It is important to notice that both Collects do not reduce Christianity merely to a religion of and for strong wills. It is a Christian Faith which requires the involvement of the whole soul, including the will, but it is not a graceless religion for a will energized by the Holy Ghost looks to please and glorify God and not exalt human achievement.

Let us end this Christian Year. and enter into the new one beginning on Advent Sunday, as those who intend to persevere in the Christian pilgrimage even as we are energized and guided by the Spirit of the Lord. The Epistle and Gospel for this last week prepare us for the great theme of Advent – the coming of the Incarnate Son of God in humility and then in glory.

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

ECUSA & Psalm 81 (especially verses 12 & 13)

Each month on the sixteenth morning, those who use the Psalter in the classic Book of Common Prayer read, pray and meditate upon Psalm 81.

In this (originally a Liturgy of Northern Israel) there is a divine oracle (verses 6b –17) in which God reminds his people that it was He who freed them from Egypt, fed them in the wilderness, brought them to the promised land, commanded them not to worship strange gods and punished them for disobedience. If they will but obey Him then he will take care of them and bless them with prosperity.

Verse 11 describes the exodus from Egypt and the provision of food in the desert and then in verses 12 & 13 we read:

But my people would not listen to my voice and Israel would not obey me.
So I (the LORD) repudiated them for their stubbornness of heart and they followed their own designs.

For details of this forsaking of the LORD their God by the tribes of Israel we must turn to the Old Testament – to the Books of Moses along with Judges and Joshua. It was always a great temptation to the Israelites to adopt the local gods, customs and ways of the local people.

What about the Episcopal Church?

Its history from the early colonial period through to the 1950s and 1960s is abundant with signs of the blessing, guidance and favor of Almighty God. Though there is apostasy from time to time, there is always a return to the Lord, to His Word and ordinances.

But from the late 1960s, on through each decade of the twentieth century, the Episcopal Church chose to be more influenced by the powerful changing secularist culture of western civilization. This culture absorbed a variety of innovatory ideas and movements (from rights to self-esteem etc.), and the Episcopal Church followed it. God-language became increasingly used to give authenticity to secular and even immoral themes and ideas taken into the doctrine and liturgy of the Church.

The remnant cried out in protest and in prayer to God but the apostasy, funded by the dollar, continued and does so to this very day. In this apostasy the remnant is inextricable intertwined event though it seeks to be faithful to its vision of what the LORD requires.

It would appear that what is stated in verses 12 & 13 applies directly to the ECUSA as an institution and as a religious denomination – Episcopalians (and especially their leaders) have not listened and do not listen to the word of the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; they openly disobey this LORD God, and they have deliberately followed their own designs in stubbornness of heart. Even now as the whole Anglican Communion calls to them to engage in a great U-turn, they appear still to defend themselves and their apostasy out of the feelings and thoughts of their stubborn hearts and minds.

Yet, as God the LORD cried out to Israel, so he cries out to the ECUSA (vv.14-15):

If only my people would listen to me;

If only Israel would walk in my ways;

If there is a change of heart and mind, if there is a U-turn, then God the LORD will come to his people and restore them to his favor! With God such an intervention is always a possibility!

The Rev’d Dr Peter Toon November 16 2004

Sunday, November 07, 2004

What is an ideal? And the Ideal of Marriage in modern church talk.

A discussion starter from Peter Toon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let us be aware that the language of "ideals" effectively moves matrimony from the realm of the real world into the realm of pure ideas, more or less granting in advance that in the mundane realm, where we all are, the ideal will not be possible because even the best marriage will be less "pure" than the idea of marriage.

Under the canon of modern pragmatism whether secular or dressed in God-language, to fail to accomplish that which is impossible cannot truly be a "sin." One merely seeks to learn from one’s mistakes and tries, tries, and tries again. This same pragmatism builds on the common experience of multiple marriages in a divorce culture as a demonstration that lifelong, monogamous marriage is an unrealizable ideal (and thus, in the end, impossible) in order to do away with all commandments, which are in turn transformed into ideals themselves. "All have fallen short" ceases to be a confession of sin and a plea for mercy, becoming instead a sort of "So what!. Everybody does it."

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

Looking back into the 20th century, we can see that the first generation or two that treated marriage and other commandments as an ideal retained some sense of sin and redemption, however vague. But the generations of children that they raised, who saw their parents and their pastors doing what God forbids and not doing what God commands, began to draw the inference that the whole business of sin and redemption is quaint and out of date. They don't, after all, see any major consequences of sin or failure in this world. If anything, they see a great deal of self-affirmation among those who have departed from God’s will in this or some other particular.

It is most interesting and sad that in the massive “born again” constituency of North America, where the divorce rate is at least as high as among other persons, so often marriage is described as an ideal. If it were not so there would surely be a greater sense of its wrong and a greater determination to heal the wrong.

Beware of the language of ideals, especially where the subject is the clearly revealed will of the Lord!

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

Is there such a thing as “Christian values”?

A discussion starter

In the recent election in the U.S.A. much was heard from “The Moral Majority” about “Christian values” and the need to vote for those who upheld them. From many pulpits and on many Radio Stations there was and is much talk about “Christian values”. These include the true humanity of the fetus in the womb, the genuine civic, religious and political freedom of each citizen and the institution of marriage as between a man and a woman. (However, because up to 50 per cent of those who claim to be “born again” and of “The Moral Majority” are divorced/divorced & remarried, the “values” refer only to the ideal – in contrast to the divine requirement& norm -- of a one man and one woman union for life.)

I want to suggest that it is a mistake for Christian preachers and leaders to use the plural form, values (belonging to the language of sociology and politics), as if it were a Christian word, especially in worship, preaching and teaching.

Values as a plural noun was first used by F. Nietzsche not as a verb meaning “to esteem something” (e.g., I value his contribution), and not as a singular noun meaning “the measure of a thing” (i.e., the economic value of money or labor or property) but describing the attitudes and beliefs, moral and social, of a given society. Max Weber the sociologist took up this use of “values” and popularized it so that it moved from sociology to ordinary speech, accelerated into common conversation by the radical & revolutionary 1960s. This use of “values” usually comes with the general assumption that all moral ideas are entirely subjective and relative for they are mere customs, conventions and mores, that belong to different societies at different times in their history and experiences. Thus politicians stand for different “values” and these change from generation to generation and from place to place. So “the Moral Majority” stands for certain values and Liberal Democrats for others.

A well known best-selling book of a few years ago and entitled “The Book of Virtues” was originally intended to be called, “The Book of Values.” Then the distinguished author, William Bennett, was told by friends (including I think Gertrude Himmelfarb, who has written on Victorian Virtues and Values) that what he had written about was “Virtues” not “Values” and the publisher agreed to change the title.

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

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

From Aristotle we get the cardinal virtues – wisdom, justice, temperance, and courage, together with prudence, magnanimity, munificence, liberality and gentleness.

From Christian tradition we get faith, hope and love/charity as the theological virtues.

The classical philosophical, together with the Christian tradition, saw moral standards and law as objective and so virtues belonged to objective reality and standards. Virtues were very serious things possessing authority (for they were anchored in objective reality).

For classical philosophy, including Christian moral philosophy, a virtue is a good habit, or a habit of excellence (excellence being a high standard of goodness) and vices are bad habits. Habits must be inculcated by repeated use, not just by one time application. Thus, for example, when we refer to a virtue of chastity, we are referring to the continual and repeated practice of chastity, which rationally orders one sexual desire towards its proper end, its good, either the natural good of marriage or its supernatural end in the Kingdom of God where the Church is united to Christ, her Bridegroom. Needless to say, to talk about “values” misses such a point altogether. Then, also, it is only possible to inculcate virtue by grace: even the natural virtues are impossible to man's nature on its own, wounded as it is by sin.

In contrast, “values” as a plural noun, as already noted, is a relatively new word for an Enlightenment world, describing the moral principles & ideas which are subjective and relative for they are mere customs, conventions and mores, that belong to different societies at different times in their history and experiences.

So I want to suggest that it is really disastrous for Christian discourse and teaching when the word values is used in such expressions as “biblical values.” Regrettably, not a few of us seem wedded to this and like expressions and do not seem to realize that we undermine the whole basis of the objective norms of God in creation and in redemption by using such a word if we really intend to describe what God has revealed and commanded. In fact the only biblical values – and this is a sobering thought -- in terms of the modern use of the word are those ways of life and behavior patterns condemned by the prophets, the Lord Christ and the apostles as being of the world, the flesh and the devil and of being totally opposed to the virtues or fruit produced by the indwelling Spirit of the Lord in the Church of God.

The Bible as a whole places supreme value on the objectivity of the revelation of God’s law and of the standards, principles, norms [virtues] or righteousness and holiness therein set forth. Such value makes “values” to be totally unsuitable for Christian use when dealing with what God’s will for us actually is.

So are there “Christian values”? Yes, but only in the sense that in a sociological description of the way of living of a Christian community it would be valid to speak of the values by which they live. But to speak in this way is very different from calling the standards, norms and principles by which Christians are called and commanded to live, together with the expression of these as virtues, “values”. Therefore “values” is not a word that should normally enter into Christian worship, teaching and preaching. For “values” describes what a society lives by or a political party commends. Whatever connections these “values” have in their origins with the moral teaching of the Judaeo-Christian Tradition does not of itself make the word “values” appropriate in 2004 for Christian discourse that is honoring to God, the Lord.

The Revd Dr Peter Toon November 6, 2004

The Episcopal Church & The Windsor Report

The Executive Council of the Episcopal Church of the USA met in Idaho in the first week of November 2004 and issued this statement. Comment upon it follows it.

From Executive Council / El Consejo Ejecutivo

Friday, November 05, 2004
[Episcopal News Service]

From Executive Council
November 4, 2004

Dear Sisters and Brothers in the Episcopal Church:

Meeting in Boise, Idaho, during the first week of November, we on Executive Council have been moved to give thanks for all the saints of God around the world. ….

As the Episcopal Church begins to receive the Windsor Report of the Lambeth Commission on Communion, we invite all congregations, dioceses and provinces of the church to take time to read and discuss the report. The church needs to explore the Commission's vision of how we are called to a deeper communion with one another as a reflection of the inner communion of the triune God. The church also needs to reflect on the Commission's recommendations about how the Anglican Communion might function amid differing views.

Our church's reception of the report will be enhanced as you share your reflections with bishops and members of this Council. The House of Bishops will meet in January, and the Council will meet in February. It is especially important that all orders of ministry, including lay people, contribute to the church's reflection. The Presiding Bishop would like to be informed by these deliberations as he meets with the Primates in February. We affirm his intention to appoint a group to respond to the Windsor Report's invitation that the Episcopal Church explain the rationale for consecrating a bishop living in a same-gender relationship.

The consultations of the coming months are just the beginning of our church's reception of the Windsor Report, for the principal response should be made by the 2006 General Convention. We believe our role as Executive Council is to help prepare deputies, bishops and the church at large for the discussions that will take place at Convention. As we considered the report, we were assisted by Bishop Mark Dyer, the Episcopal Church's representative on the Commission, and Bishop James Tengatenga of Southern Malawi, who shared perspectives as an African church leader.

The Council supports wholeheartedly the wise and articulate leadership that is being offered during this difficult time by Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold and Dean George Werner, President of the House of Deputies. We offer our prayerful affirmation to gay and lesbian Anglicans, both here and abroad, who continue to minister faithfully in a time of vulnerability in the life of the Anglican Communion. We believe that receiving the Windsor Report with humility and patience will draw us with renewed zeal and wider vision into God's mission of restoring all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.

In Christ's love,

The Executive Council


This statement shows no sign of any regret for the acceptance and blessing by the ECUSA of novel sexual arrangements between people of the same sex.
It also states and builds upon the false theology of the relation of the Holy Trinity to the Anglican Family of Churches that was articulated in The Virginia Report and repeated in The Windsor Report. Put simply this theology is that even as there is unity and diversity in the Communion of the Triune Godhead so this is reflected in the unity and diversity of the Anglican Family of Churches, enabling the latter to be called “A Communion of Churches”. (One simply needs to state that the Trinity in Unity and the Unity in Trinity is one of utter perfection, purity and beauty and as ineffable is truly beyond our understanding. In contrast the unity of the Anglican Provinces is imperfect, impure, variable and deeply affected by error and sin while its obvious diversity is also deeply affected by error. Controversy and sinfulness.) For the Executive Council part of the diversity appears to be the American pioneering of the gay cause.
It further states that a rationale explaining why the ECUSA went ahead with the consecration of a gay man as bishop will be prepared and offered to other provinces. (This could be done in such a way as to state – this is how we thought then but now we have changed our minds; but, more likely it will be a defense of and apology for the action.) If the Presiding Bishop takes such a document to the Primates’ Meeting it is not only possible but probable that this defense will hasten the action of a majority of Primates in declaring that they regard the ECUSA as no longer within the Anglican Family of Churches. From that moment it will be clear (what is clear now) that there is not an Anglican Communion of 38 Provinces but rather a world-wide denomination in which are various relations and associations.
Also, it encourages Episcopalians to read and consider The Windsor Report. This may be dangerous advice! Why? Because in many liberal congregations there has been little or no education in what it means for the ECUSA to be bound by its Constitution to the See of Canterbury, for the ECUSA to be one of 38 Provinces in communion with Canterbury, and for respect to be given to the “Instruments of Unity” especially when their word is contrary to the desires of a majority in an individual province like ECUSA. Many Episcopalians will be surprised by what they learn if they seriously read this Report and ask questions arising from it. The decent minded perhaps will even begin to question whether the way that the ECUSA has done business recently is wholesome. (Of course, it is also possible that a sense of being the ECUSA being the lone prophet unto the whole Family of Churches will emerge and actions taken will be affirmed – such is the deviousness of inbred sin in all of us.)
Finally, it is stated that the considered authoritative response of the ECUSA concerning The Windsor Report will not be until the summer of 2006 at the General Convention. Thus one finds it difficult to imagine that (a) the majority of the Provinces of the Family will be prepared to wait that long and will not declare a broken relation with the ECUSA in 2005; and (b) many troubled Episcopalians now in The Network will be prepared to remain within the ECUSA, as it now is, until the late summer of 2006 – their departure will lead to the growth of more extra-mural Anglicans in different types of associations and formations (and thus Extra-Mural Anglicanism in the USA will stand in very great need of being unified for it will have many dimensions to it!). From any angle the short-term prospects for the Anglican Way in North America are bleak and depressing.

The Rev’d Dr. Peter Toon November 6, 2004