Friday, July 29, 2005

True Liturgy, both impersonal and supra-personal because through, in and with Christ

(a discussion starter, from Peter Toon, adapted from a piece by F.P.Harton)

When the individual person takes his part in the celebration of the divine mysteries he is not making his own prayer – he enters into an act of prayer which is going on independently of himself as an individual, because it is the prayer of Christ, our high Priest. Even on earth each Eucharist is not a separate act of worship, but the taking up, in that particular place, of the ceaseless worship of the Church throughout the world, and is one with the worship of the Church Triumphant…

The prayers of the Liturgy are plural, not singular, “we” not “I” (just as our Lord taught us in the fundamental liturgical prayer to say “Our Father”), for they are the prayers of the whole body of Christ. We must realize the universality of the liturgy – that it is not simply the action of the few or many people gathered together in the particular building in which the Eucharist is being celebrated; in the celebration of the holy mysteries that congregation is one with the whole Church, semper et ubique, the barriers of time and space disappear, the faithful are lifted up to the heavenly places, Christ descends upon the holy table, and the Church militant, expectant and triumphant, is one.

In the Liturgy is realized the unity of the Body of Christ, for the Church is an entity; its vital principle is the life of Christ, it is one with him its head, guided by the Holy Ghost. The individual Christian is not an entity, but a member of this unity, a cell of this living organism which is the Church. He has his own spiritual life, which must be lived and developed, but which can never be developed fully apart from the life in the organism.

The collective prayer of the body differs considerably from the separate prayer of the individual, for it is not simply the sum of many individual prayers, but the prayer of an organism which is more than an aggregation of individuals, the prayer of the mystical body of Christ the high Priest.

Attempts are sometimes made to assimilate the prayer of the Liturgy to that of the individual, but such attempts are really misguided. Services of a popular character (using the word “popular” in its best not its cheapest sense) are necessary to the full expression of individual devotion and must exist side by side with the Liturgy, but the two must not be mixed or substituted for one another. A sensitive soul instantly feels that extempore praying and subjective hymn-singing, while eminently right at a prayer meeting, are out of place at the Eucharist, though perhaps he may not be able to say why he feels it. The individualist, on the other hand, wants to find in public prayer the direct expression of his own spiritual condition and needs, and to him therefore the Liturgy seems to be generalized, formal and cold…

The fact is that individual prayer, even when collective, is one thing, and the liturgical prayer of the Church another, and both are necessary. The Liturgy is not concerned with the individual as such; it is the expression of the worship of the body; hence liturgical prayer is essentially and rightly impersonal. The individual is required to sacrifice his individualism in order that he may enter into the fullness of the Body of Christ. Only as he is humble enough to do this does he find out what worship really is. In liturgical worship one is worshipping God the Father in union with the Incarnate Son, and this worship “through Jesus Christ our Lord” is far deeper than the most beautiful offering of our own which we can make to God the Son, because he is offering it in us who are members of his Body.

The liturgical worship of the Church is essentially impersonal, because it is supra-personal, and this impersonality is right. The sacred vestments, so far from doing honor to the individual priest, obscure his personality; he is not longer A.B., but Christ’s deputy. The priest who attempts to use his personality or consciously develops personal eccentricities at the altar is putting himself before his Lord, and so dishonoring him; and the layman who worships merely as an individual is doing, in his own degree, much the same thing.

[Note: the truly corporate Liturgy provided by “The Book of Common Prayer” in its public services is explained and commended by Dr Peter Toon in Worship without Dumbing Down: Knowing God through Liturgy (The Preservation Press of the Prayer Book Society of the USA, August 2005). It will be available from The Prayer Book Society, P.O. Box 35220, Philadelphia, PA. 19128-0220 for $12.50, postage included, from mid-August.]

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon MA., D.Phil (Oxford)

SAME-SEX AFFECTION booklet now ready

The 64 page booklet examining the ECUSA teaching on same-sex partnerships is now ready. Call 1-800-727-1928 to order multiple copies.

The RESPONSE to Bishop Griswold & his team concerning “Same-Sex Affection” by Peter Toon is not a repetition of commonly-made arguments against the blessing of homosexual practice made by opponents of active homosexuality and same-sex blessings, but is something different. And what it states is important, worrying & challenging for all Episcopalians and Anglicans, who care about the moral teaching of their Church.

In presenting its long essay, To Set our Hope on Christ, in book-form in June 2005 to the whole Anglican Communion in late June, Presiding Bishop Griswold and his team took a dramatic step. Not only did they publicly demonstrate their belief that covenanted same-sex unions of males or females can be examples of Gospel holiness, but they also demonstrated the theological methods by which they reached this conclusion. That is, they revealed how they approach Scripture and how they do theology, and in so doing how they embrace error and heresy.

The 64 page booklet by Dr Peter Toon – Same-Sex Affection, Holiness and Ordination – responds to the Griswold essay not by discussing homosexuality as such from within such disciplines as biology, anthropology and psychology. Rather, it faces head-on the basic theological methods used by the ECUSA team to come to its conclusions about homosexual partnerships. And, in doing so, it shows just how and why these methods will always produce results that are contrary to received orthodoxy.

So there is a major chapter on the topic of “the development of doctrine,” and the question is faced whether the claim that same-sex couples demonstrate holiness is truly a development or a corruption of doctrine.

Likewise, there is a major chapter on the interpretation of Scripture, and how the ECUSA team uses the data of Scripture as merely being the data of religious experience, to be used along with other data, to come to conclusions contrary both to the common-sense meaning of the text of Scripture and the way it has been understood for centuries.

What the booklet also makes clear is that the theological methods used by the ECUSA to justify and commend same-sex unions are methods which have been gaining ground within the liberal denominations of the USA, and especially within the Episcopal Church, since the 1960’s.

Regrettably, in fact very regrettably, even opponents of the sexual innovations have been using, or at least not opposing, the same methods, in other areas of church life where there has been major innovation in doctrine and practice, liturgy and prayer. However, the adoption by the Episcopal Church of the new doctrines of same-sex partnerships as blessed by God, and active homosexual persons ordained as Ministers, is not unexpected – at least not to those who have been watching how the Episcopal Church has increasingly innovated in doctrine and practice, liturgy and morality, canon law and discipline, over the last forty years!

Same-Sex Affection, Holiness & Ordination. A Response to Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold is published by the Preservation Press of the Prayer Book Society on August 5, 2005, and is available from The Prayer Book Society, P.O. Box 35220, Philadelphia, PA 19128-0220, for $7.50 per copy, postage included. Discounts are available for orders of five or more copies: call 1 – 800 – 727 – 1928 from August 1st.

Be sure to get a copy, or better to get several copies and share them with others.

Let there be a discussion as to how the Bible is read and used in parishes, and how theology is pursued in our colleges and seminaries -- and how this differs from the way It was read and used by earlier generations.

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon MA., D.Phil (Oxford)

Thursday, July 28, 2005

On appreciating the Old & Good through encounter with its contemporary equivalent

It is reasonably certain that anything composed since the 1970s, and it is highly probable that anything that will be created in the next decade or more, as public liturgies will not compare favorably with the texts of the public services in The Book of Common Prayer (first English edition, 1549; latest USA edition, 1928). That is, will compare in quality as texts to be read aloud as forms of public worship which address God, the Father, in a suitably humble and reverent manner in the Name of his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

To make these claims is not to say that it is impossible to worship the eternal and infinite Holy Trinity addressing the Three Persons as “You;” rather, it is to say that developing an excellent form of prayer language in contemporary English is a tremendously difficult task and that the contemporary Church is still a long way from attaining this goal. Thus, if any of us is wholly satisfied with the “You”-language used to address God in modern hymns and liturgies, then he or she has possibly set his/her aim too low, and is probably offering to God something less than the best that is possible.

There is, I believe, great value (for those who address God as “You”) in returning to the classic English texts of prayer and worship such as The Book of Common Prayer and the King James Version of the Bible and The English Hymnal (or another older Hymn Book). Returning, that is, to explore the quality, the style, the content and the doctrine of these texts, and to regain a vision of what it is to worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness and in an excellent (yet understandable) form of words.

To assist in this task of visiting and appreciating classic texts, the Prayer Book Society has just published, Worshipping the LORD in the Anglican Way. Traditional Texts and Prayers from “ The Book of Common Prayer” (1928) in Parallel with Functional Equivalents in Contemporary English for Comparison and Study (July 2005).

On one side of the page is the classic text and on the other is a modern equivalent addressing God as “You.” The idea is that people used to modern liturgy will begin with the modern form of the text and then read the classic, and, possibly, see the merits and qualities, as well as style and doctrine, of the classic!

To buy a copy ($12.50 including postage) call 1 – 800- 727-1928 or write to the Prayer Book Society, P.O. Box 35220, Philadelphia, PA 19128-0220 Multiple copies available at much reduced price.

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon MA., D.Phil (Oxford)

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Why I have been quiet!

July 13, 2005, a message from Peter Toon

I have seemingly been silent for the last month or so. No tracts have gone forth from my computer to my list of friends and interested parties.

The truth of the matter is that I have been working very hard. Now I break my silence as to what I have been doing

First, in preparing sermons for delivery in St Thomas Parish, Houston (to read and to hear them visit the website of the church, ) ;

Secondly, in re-writing my book of 1992 entitled, Knowing God through the Liturgy. In its new form it will be entitled, Worship without Dumbing Down: Knowing God through Liturgy (Prayer Book Society USA and Edgeways Books UK, late August 2005).

Thirdly, in writing a substantial reply to the book offered to the whole Anglican Communion by the Episcopal Church of the USA in explanation of its latest innovations in sexual relations and ordination. The book, from Bishop Griswold and his team and published by the Episcopal Church, is entitled, TO SET OUR HOPE ON CHRIST, which is based on 1 Peter 1:3 and is, I regret to say, a total misuse of that verse.

My reply is entitled: SAME-SEX AFFECTION, HOLINESS AND ORDINATION. A RESPONSE TO PRESIDING BISHOP FRANK.T GRISWOLD. You may read it on the website of St Thomas Church or on the website of the Prayer Book Society ( ) from July 13.

It will be published as a booklet of 64 pages by The Preservation Press of the Prayer Book Society of the USA in mid-August for $7.50, postage included. There will be special prices for orders of 5 and more. Call 1-800-727-1928 from August lst to order.

I show (a) that the innovatory doctrine of the Episcopal Church is not a genuine development of doctrine, but the very opposite; (b) that its claimed scriptural basis is non-existent; and (c) that the theological method used by the Bishop and his team is of such a kind as to lead to heresies and errors. I appeal to them to reconsider their position and to examine carefully the received teaching of the Catholic Church on chastity, celibacy and marriage, and also to change their theological method, which exalts contemporary “experience”.

The Prayer Book Society hopes that this response will demonstrate to Episcopalians in the USA and to Anglicans overseas that not all those who call themselves Episcopalians or Anglicans in the USA have accepted the innovations in doctrine and morality that the Episcopal Church has adopted since the 1960s. Of these, the doctrines that same-sex affection is holy before God and that persons in same-sex unions may be ordained as priests and consecrated as bishops are but the latest, and, of course, the ones in which the media has the greatest interest.

The Society also hopes that concerned Episcopalians will help to distribute this substantial booklet far and wide as a testimony for Basic Christianity and traditional Christian teaching on sexual relations between male and female. After all, the classic Book of Common Prayer is the Liturgy of Basic Christianity, its faith and morals.

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon MA., D.Phil (Oxford)