Saturday, April 30, 2005
Those Episcopalians and Anglicans (not to mention Roman Catholics and Lutherans) who note the use of prepositions in liturgy will have observed that the Church used to describe the Sundays following Easter Day as “Sundays” after Easter but now calls them Sundays of Easter.
In the 1970s there was a liturgical revolution which included changing the Calendar, and one result was that the Sundays after Easter (some six of them) became a part of Easter itself. According to the new theory, Easter stretched from ONE day into FIFTY days, the period in the Jewish Calendar from Passover to Pentecost. In fact, the chief liturgist in the Episcopal Church at that time declared that the key to understanding the content of the new Prayer Book of 1979 was the “recovery” of the “unitary festival” of Easter (which it was held was the norm and practice in the Church of the second to the fourth centuries). So it became common for many Episcopalians as they used the new Prayer Book of 1979 to speak of “the great fifty days”, to insist on standing throughout the whole Eucharistic Prayer and to omit public confession of sin (in order to emphasize the theme of celebration for the risen Christ) in these fifty days. Further, the Paschal Candle was kept alight until the day of Pentecost (old name – Whitsuntide) in order to underline the unity of the whole period of fifty days.
Obviously this new ethos of celebration did have some beneficial effects for some people since the proclamation of the Resurrection in clarity and power must be good. However, there were and there remain some serious problems with this way of treating the period from Easter Day till Whitsuntide (Passover to Pentecost).
Here are a few.
First of all, in the life of the Early Church the unitary nature of the fifty days was deepened and made more complex by the addition of the Festival of the Ascension in the fourth century, held forty days after the Day of Resurrection. Thus the FIFTY instantly became FORTY plus TEN and church liturgy, ceremonial and devotion changed with the change in the Calendar. The Liturgy of the West, including from 1549 the reformed catholic liturgy of the Anglican Way, reflected this forty plus ten arrangement from the fifth to the twentieth century (and still reflects it today where the 1970s revolution is not in place).
Secondly, the modern emphasis upon the unitary nature of the fifty days has led to a serious neglect of the fact and theology, not to mention the celebration, of the Ascension of our Lord (see Acts 1). The fact that he left the earth and took into heaven as his very own for all eternity his resurrected, immortalized and glorified human body and nature is of absolutely fundamental importance for Christian Faith & Hope. Now believers approach the Father through, in and with this Lord Jesus Christ who is Man as they are but is also God as is the Father, and yet He is One Person – One Person made known in two natures, divine and human. There is no doubt but that the Festival of the Ascension has been neglected in modern times and that this is a most serious loss to the piety of the Church.
Thirdly, the keeping of the Paschal Candle alight for fifty instead of forty days has led to confusion concerning what the Candle represents and how long Jesus met with his apostles and disciples before He parted from them (see Acts 1). It should be extinguished after the reading of the account of the Ascension on the fortieth day after Easter Day in order to signify that Jesus has ascended into heaven and that the period of ten days of awaiting His Paraclete, whom the Father will send in His name, has begun.
Fourthly, the omission of public confession of sin with absolution in these fifty days represents a wrong notion of celebration. In the Bible – see the Psalter for example – the genuine confession of sins is the praise of God, for it is the praise of His holiness, justice and mercy, for that He who hates and punishes sin also forgives sin in the humble and penitent. And was not Jesus raised, as St Paul says, for our justification before the Father, for the forgiveness of our sins and a right relation to God?
In summary, there is much to be remembered and then said in terms of the long tradition of worship, doctrine, ceremonial and piety for the FORTY plus TEN and for the wholehearted celebration of the Ascension on our Lord on the fortieth day (and if not on the Sunday following). However, in order to recover the old ways Episcopalians and Anglicans need to make use of the classic, historic Book of Common Prayer in the edition of 1662 in England, 1962 in Canada and 1928 in the USA. Modern prayer books remove this approach in favor of the Easter of 50 days.
Celebrate the Ascension on the day appointed for the Resurrected Lord did actually ascend into heaven, and is exalted to the right hand of the Father as the One Mediator between God and Man, as our exalted Prophet, Priest and King!
The Revd Dr Peter Toon April 30 2005
Friday, April 29, 2005
Since World War II there have been many changes or developments within the Anglican Way. In the West, and particularly in North America, these have been continuous and consistent. A decision was made, or a route was adopted, at the beginning of the second half of the twentieth century by the Episcopal Church in the U.S.A. to become relevant within and acceptable to the changing culture and “the spirit of the 1960s”. From this move, which was as much being caught up in the wind of change as making a decision to take a new path, has come a whole series of innovations and changes in the worship, doctrine, discipline and polity of the Episcopal Church. Protests have been made from time to time by the would-be faithful before, during and after each innovation; but usually the protestors have eventually accepted the latest innovation and prepared themselves to resist the next one, only to accept this in due time. Some people have voted with their feet and departed (so the membership of the Church has dropped by as much as 66 per cent since the 1960s).
Resistance to the sexual innovations of recent years seems to be rather more sustained and widespread than earlier resistance – but it may be the final kick as it were of the dying horse.
The progression of innovations, changes and revisions, is relatively simple to plot from the middle to the end of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first. From the changing emphases and curriculum in the seminaries which produced a new kind of priest, less the man of God and more the man of the world, through the acceptance of remarriage in church after divorce, the imposition of a new prayer book, the setting aside of the classic formularies, a new hymn-book with inclusive language, the advent of the “You-God”, the arrival of the feminist agenda with the ordination of women, the use of inclusive language for human beings and also for God, the mandating of the acceptance of women as priests, the acceptance of the human rights’ agenda, the granting of rights to actively homosexual persons, the blessing of same-sex unions, to the changed function of a Bishop as the CEO and Chief Liturgical Officer, and so on.
It is important to see the relations and connections between the various innovations. Without the acceptance of the human rights philosophy and agenda there would have been few innovations. And the same can be said of the influence of the influence of psychotherapy and the pursuit of self-worth and human dignity programs. Likewise of the peace and justice movement from the 1960s. Further, without the background of the arrival of the divorce culture in the ECUSA, there would have been little basis on which the LesBiGay agenda could be based. For, if the heterosexual persons have the right to fulfillment of their feelings and the right to be true to their orientation in serial monogamy blessed by ECUSA priests, why cannot the homosexual person have the same rights and opportunities to experience his own orientation?
The protest today by those who call themselves “orthodox” against the progressives (or “revisionists”) may be said to have little credibility because the “orthodox” themselves accept in practice if not in theory not a few of the innovations of the second half of the twentieth century – e.g., the new formularies of 1979, ordination of women and the remarriage of divorcees in church (with few questions asked). And, let it be noted, the same type of exegesis and interpretation of sacred Scripture which makes it possible to claim that serial monogamy and the ordination of women is approved by God also can be put at the service of showing that long-term unions of same-sex couples is not contrary to Scripture and tradition.
Therefore, logic and justice would seem to be on the side of the progressives for they have been consistent since the 1950s in their adoption of modern ideologies and culture and the changing of Church doctrine and practice by their ethos and content.
For the “orthodox” to be consistent – and I really want them to be so -- they need to be prepared to go back, as it were, behind all the innovations, recapture the authority of Scripture and a right way of reading It, and also restore the Formularies as the guide to worship, doctrine and discipline. For as long as they challenge the progressives from within the actual innovations that they share in common, their credibility and voice are muted; and further, they stand on sinking ground.
The Revd Dr Peter Toon April 29 2005 firstname.lastname@example.org
Thursday, April 28, 2005
In modern western society there is ample space and time for leisure for most people. To have such possibility and time is not the case in all the word and has not always been so in the West. But whatever has been the case in Europe and the USA and whatever is the case today in much of Africa, Asia and South America, so massive is the pursuit of leisure in the West in the twenty-first century that it is called an industry and billions of dollars, pounds and euros are spent on it and by it.
Leisure takes many forms according to age, taste, opportunities, finance, physical ability, and many other factors. So we see people surfing, gardening, golfing, gambling, playing games, hiking, swimming, doing do-it-yourself activities, visiting theatres, museums, shows and the like, having membership in clubs, and many other things as well.
One distinct form of leisure for many people appears to be the practice of religion with the attendance at a church, synagogue, temple, mosque or “holy place” usually once a week at the weekend. There are usually facilities and activities for all ages in the bigger religious places and so families can go together, stay for a couple of hours on Sunday (or Saturday) morning. And there is active competition between different denominations in this supermarket of religions, leading to advertising which suggests that one place offers more and better facilities than the others for the pursuit of this leisure activity!
Now before leisure had become such a large part of the space, time and life of modern westerners, people did go to church or synagogue. No-one attending worship a hundred years ago would have described it as a leisure activity. More likely they would say that they were God’s creatures and his children and that it was their duty to assemble together to worship him through praise and thanksgiving, confession of sin and intercession and petition. Of course, many went because it was expected of them but they did not see it as leisure but as duty and, importantly, dressed as if they were to meet Someone most important.
Today, it is also the case that some traditionally devout people, who attend a place of worship regularly, would not see it as a leisure activity, but rather they would see it as the expression publicly with others of what is fundamental to their lives, a walking with God day by day and serving him as Lord.
In 2005 in the vast religious supermarket of America, we may say that there is the outward appearance in many parts of religion as a leisure activity and at the same time there is the presence of genuine devotion related to a sense of a divine duty to worship God. The dominance of the picture of leisure activity is suggested by all kinds of things: here are a few…..
The way that the vast majority dress – usually casually, as if they were going to a barbeque or a ball game or a party or shopping in the mall. They do not dress in the way they would if invited to a reception at the White House or the State Governor’s House or to meet the Queen of England. And, further, they do not dress in a uniform when engaged in “liturgical” activity such as giving the “Sacrament” in a church – note how those who distribute Communion even in the R C Church dress very casually as if they were offering lottery tickets or free samples of a product. Apparently, the God-factor in their experience is not sufficiently strong and intense to make them regard what they are doing as qualitatively different from being at a ball game or shopping in the mall.
Then we may note the generally casual and easy going approach of the leaders and assembly within “the worship service” as if there was NO-ONE there present, or NO-ONE looking on, of such exceptional importance that His Presence required an humble attentiveness and awe, with much silence before His Majesty.
Also we may note that the whole presentation is often very similar to, and may well be based upon, aspects of the entertainment industry. It all appears to be primarily concerned with satisfying human feelings and immediate spiritual needs. It seems not to be much concerned with extending the mind, heart and will in reverential awe towards the Deity, the living, holy LORD God, as an end in itself. Altogether it gives the impression of not being involved in the knowing of God, for God’s sake, for merely for the increase of the self worth and dignity of human beings.
Further, we may note that sociologists have for a long time consistently described religious practice as privatized, especially in America. It is something for the church and for the privacy of the home but not for the public place and not for the work place. So to belong to a church seems not to be for a many people a lot different than belonging to a golf, soccer, football, hockey, sports club or being committed to this or that party or society or action group.
If worship is offering to God, the Worthy One, the adoration, praise, thanksgiving, intercession, petition and confession that is due to Him and that is the human privilege and duty to offer, then one would expect that the way worshippers dress, assemble together, join in prayer and worship, use language, symbolism and ceremonial, and conduct and deport themselves would not be imitative of the world around them (which is secularized and godless), but would rather reflect in its style and content the uniqueness of the activity in which they are supposedly engaged. They are a people who apparently are seeking to know God, the LORD, and to enjoy Him for ever!
It has been said that the Church is to be in the world (until the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus) and for the world (in Ministry of evangelization and service) but not of the world (sharing its spirit and ethos, accepting its value-system, imitating its methods, using its language and so on).
The Revd Dr Peter Toon April 28, 2005 email@example.com
Wednesday, April 27, 2005
In English, but not in other European languages, the Nicene Creed is presented in modern Liturgy, be it Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran or Methodist, as beginning “We believe…”
This is very odd bearing in mind that we call the Creed the “Credo”, which is it first word in the Latin Liturgy and that Credo clearly can only mean “I believe”. In fact in the Greek Orthodox Liturgy also it is Pisteuo, which also can only mean “I believe.”
Some years ago I had a correspondence with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now the Pope) on this topic and we agreed that while “we believe” is not heretical it is nevertheless wrong and should be “I believe” – and (to jump into the 21st century) I understand that eventually the Roman Missal in English will revert to “I believe” and will have other changes, e.g., “and with your spirit” for “and also with you.”
Two reasons have been given by modern bishops and liturgists for having “we believe” in modern rites and services.
First of all, the original form of the Creed, as agreed in the Ecumenical Councils of the fourth century was certainly in the first person plural, we believe, for all the bishops spoke together to affirm it. However, and this is very important, when it was received in local dioceses it was used as a Baptismal Creed and so it automatically became “I believe.” And later when it entered the Divine Liturgy in the East in the fifth century it was in the form of the Baptismal Creed. Then when it eventually entered the Latin Liturgy it also entered in the form of the first person singular, Credo. And theologians of the Church interpreted the Pisteuo and the Credo not only in terms of the personal confession of Faith at Baptism but also as the response of the Bride, the Church, to the Bridegroom, Christ (speaking of course as one Person the Church thus speaks in the first person singular). All musical settings for the Creed until very recently were to the Creed in the first person singular in all languages.
The second reason why modern liturgists have rendered Credo as “we believe” lies in their desire to combat insidious western individualism and in contrast to emphasize “community” – we together, we in community, we united in our voluntary faith. (In contrast “I believe” as the word of the Bride to her Bridegroom is the word of communion, koinonia, not community as the association of “individuals”!)
Both reasons for having “we believe” are false and belong to the wider attempt by modern liturgists to change important parts of the received Liturgy and Tradition. As Cardinal Ratzinger wrote to me, “we believe” is not heretical. However, it is less than the best and it is not right. Let the Church as the One Body, One Household, One Bride echo what She/It has heard from her Lord in His Divine Revelation and let Her/It speak as One, saying, Credo, Pisteuo, I believe.
The Revd Dr Peter Toon April 27, 2005 firstname.lastname@example.org
The new Pope – as Cardinal Ratzinger – gave a lecture on Liturgy in Rome on October 24 1998 in which he said that there was sufficient space and right within the Catholic Church for priests to use, and the faithful to attend, both the Old Order (the so-called Tridentine Rite in Latin) and the New Order (that which was produced after Vatican II and is in Latin and the Vernacular). This message surprised many who believed that Vatican II effectively outlawed the Old Order. Ratzinger stated that what really mattered was that both forms of Celebration be in accord with the godly principles of Liturgy laid down by Vatican II in its document, The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy . To use either in the right way, he said, is to be within that which is permitted within the Catholic Church.
I ask: Do we not need in the Anglican Way, at least in the English-speaking sphere of this Way, a similar message addressed to all the Provinces/jurisdictions and made part of the canon law of the Provinces/jurisdictions? It is the kind of thing that possibly the Lambeth Conference and the Primates’ Meeting could provide, with all the moral certainty available to them.
We need to read and hear in clear terms the basic principles of Anglican reformed Catholic Liturgy and then receive clear advice as to how, within these principles, to use both the classic Book of Common Prayer (e.g., England 1662, USA 1928, Canada 1962) in the traditional mode, and also the authorized services from the modern prayer books, such as Common Worship of the Church of England, in the contemporary mode. Each form needs to have its own integrity and yet each form needs to be based on certain basic and common principles and commitments, so that each one is really and truly an integral part of the one reformed Catholic Liturgy. (At this time, the general approach of Anglican bishops and liturgists generally o dismiss the Old Order as being a thing of the past, just as Roman Catholic leaders have sought to dismiss the Tridentine Order – but in Rome and Canterbury the Old Order keeps on reviving itself!)
Of course, the Anglican Way can never provide and possess the same certainty in such matters as the Roman Way, for the simple reason that the latter has a central authority, which can speak not only with moral suasion but also with legal power. This admitted and recognized, it is possible, where there is genuine communion and charity for a common, majority mind on basic liturgical principles to emerge within the Anglican Way, even if the emergence is more complicated than it was in Vatican II.
It would seem that right now, both in the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Churches in the West, the liturgical scene is dominated by those who live wholly within the modern, the New Order, and thus there is insufficient space and right given to explaining and using the Old Order. No doubt the new Pope will work to ensure that this imbalance is put right within the Catholic Church. But who will do it for the Anglican Provinces and Jurisdictions?
The Old Order is not going to fly away and the New Order is not going to disappear. A way needs to be found for them to be seen and really to be two sides of one coin, two branches of one tree, and two wings of one dove! Younger people keep on discovering the Old Order and find it fulfilling and exciting and older people find encouragement in the New Order. Let the Anglican Way find its own common ground in the worship of God Almighty and let it use with integrity and godliness both the Old and the New Orders!
Monday, April 25, 2005
What we call “individualism” is so much part of what is taken for granted in the West, and particularly in America, that to raise the question as to whether or not modern individualism is a part, or should be a part, of the Anglican Way in the West is immediately to raise eyebrows and suspicions!
People read the frequent occurrence of the first person singular, “I”, in the Psalter along with the use of “I” by the apostles in their Epistles, and they take for granted that what is present here is individualism, be it that of the Psalmist or St Paul. This is confirmed for them by the singing of hymns which, though congregational, also use the first person singular. Then, not a few Ministers in leading public prayer, use the first person singular in speaking to God, as they ask for blessings upon the assembled congregation.
Let us seek to be clear. Used as an adjective “individual” has a long history. People in all places and times have needed to distinguish this one thing from the collection of things and so have spoken of an individual person or an individual meal. However, to call a person, a human being, an “individual”, where the adjective has become a noun, suggests that a special way of looking at persons has arrived in human culture.
Human beings/persons are related to one another in specific ways, first by procreation and blood so that each one normally has relatives – mother, father, brother, sister etc. -- and also by marriage, so that each one normally gains “in-laws”. Thus we talk of kith and kin. Until relatively modern times in the West (and to the present in much of Africa and Asia – and clearly in the Bible) an individual human being was defined or regarded in terms of human relations, the relations created by procreation and association, along with where he lived and what he did. Certainly he was an individual person but a related person, not an “individual” isolated and alone.
What we call individualism was noted by the famous French nobleman, Alexis de Tocqueville, in his visit to the USA and described in his book, Democracy in America, in the early 19th century. It was a phenomenon of human society and culture that he had not seen or known in Europe but it was present on the new frontier in the new republic of the United States. Here individual persons, separated from traditional family ties and facing challenging situations, had to fend for themselves and then for their nuclear families, and as they did so there developed in them a new mindset, that which he called individualism. It was not self-centeredness as such but a necessary adaptation of a sense of who one is to changed and demanding conditions of life. As such this new individualism was often very energizing, but yet in it were seeds that when grown in a changed America would have major consequences for life in the USA and the West.
Over the last two centuries, and to cut a long story short, the nature of individualism has changed dramatically, and not for the better, so that for many in 2005 it is a way of regarding themselves as unique. The claim of individuality and of individual uniqueness is now seen in terms of “my unique inner life, my personal feelings, desires, intentions, my rights, my orientation and my dignity.” No other person has my feelings! How I feel is unique! My rights and my dignity should be accepted by all for I am I and I deserve such!
Importantly, with this sense of individuality/individualism, there goes the further sense of the importance of “relationships” (not ordered relations or necessary relatives but relationships). That is my choice of with whom and to whom I choose to relate under conditions that I choose or accept – and here the association, long-term or temporary, can be with human persons, animals or the Deity.
Of course this modern sense of individualism exists against what is now usually a very weak background of relatedness of family, kith and kin, in the West. As is well known, the existence, even of nuclear families, in western society, is often now less as a proportion than other forms of living together as “individuals” in partnerships and relationships.
So, if one is affected – as we all are to some degree – by modern individualism how does it affect our practice of Christianity? Here are a few suggestions.
First of all, it makes us think that “an individual relationship” with God is the most important thing of all. (Note that in the best, literal translations of the Bible and in the classic Prayer Books one does not find the word “relationship” or the noun “individual.”)
Secondly, it makes us read the Bible, not from the vantage point of a member of the Body of Christ and of a servant in God’s Household, but from that of an individual entity, an unrelated person. Thus we tend to have a liking for modern paraphrases or dynamic equivalent forms of the Bible wherein modern culture informs the way the ancient text is rendered and our individualism is confirmed by the version used.
Thirdly, it causes us to find classic liturgy and forms of devotional writing and practices to be “dead” or “boring” or irrelevant ! For the content does not chime with out mindset and cultural outlook. In fact, it points us away from individualism, not into community as such but into koinonia, Christian fellowship and communion in God’s family. And as individuals we want community not communion, for community is individuals in association whereas communion is persons in fellowship.
Fourthly, it causes us to have a low view of the need for the actual unity of the Church of God on earth in space and time. If the individual relationship is the real thing then competitive denominations in the supermarket of religions are necessary for real choice for real individuals!
Fifthly, it causes us to mis-read a lot of political talk and action and to describe as Christian what is in line with individualism of the kind that suits us.
Though we cannot escape modern individualism, which we breathe into our souls daily, we can seek to be aware of it. We can be aware that as a way of understanding human personhood it is so very different from that presupposed and illustrated in the Bible, and in classic Liturgy, devotion and doctrine.
Consider this: When you or I am born from above by the Holy Ghost, and converted to Jesus Christ, I am placed not only in a relation with the Father through the Son by the Spirit, but also in a relation with the Body of Christ and into membership in this Body, which is the Household of God, where I have many brothers and sisters in the Lord, who are my family by grace! There is no individualism here but there are genuine personal relations – with the Holy Trinity and with the human persons who are in the Household of God.
A final thought. In classical dogma the Church uses the word “relation” to speak of the way in which the Three Persons are united one with the other as One Deity in a TriUnity, a Trinity of Love. In Latin the word is relatio, and to translate this as relationship, as many moderns do, is wholly to change the received dogma! A relation of order is not the same as a modern “relationship”, which is temporary and usually disordered.
The Revd Dr Peter Toon April 25, 2005 email@example.com
Sunday, April 24, 2005
If one is in the ECUSA, and if one uses Rite 2, then it is possible to be consistent in the way one addresses God. Always the Deity is the “You-God.”
If one is in the ECUSA, and if one uses Rite 1, then it is possible – just about – to be consistent in the way one addresses the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Almighty God. That is one may address Him virtually all the time using the historic and classic English language of prayer as “Thou/Thee.”
I say – just about – because if one also uses the Psalter in the 1979 Prayer Book with Rite 1 then one is drawn not merely into the addressing of the “You-God” but also into a certain amount of politically motivated inclusive language (where, for example, a third person plural is used to replace “man” – see Psalm 1).
We all know that the addressing of the Deity in the historic second person singular as Thou/Thee is as old as the English language and was universal from the Middle Ages through to the 1960s in the English speaking world. It was the social and cultural revolution of the radical 1960s that caused the churches in the name of relevance and accessibility to seek to say goodbye to the “Thou-God” and to attempt to embrace the “You-God”. However, because the glorious heritage of liturgy and hymnody, prayer and praise, prior to the 1960s, is addressed to the “Thou-God”, it has been the case that the “You-God” in recent times has had to give way to the “Thou-God” here and there in order to sing certain familiar hymns and use certain beautiful prayers in a modern form of service.
This noted, the point being made here is that mixing the language by which we address God is not good from any reasonable point of view – grammatically, logically, devotionally, and doctrinally. In fact it is when done regularly harmful to the soul and to the conduct of public worship of Almighty God.
If we intend to use the traditional form, then let us stay with it consistently and not, either from carelessness, thoughtlessness, relevance or convenience, glide into the modern form. If we are using Rite 1 then let us use a form of the Psalter that is in the same style – e.g., as in the 1928 BCP or in the RSV – and let us make sure that our public prayers, litanies, canticles, and hymns are also in the same style.
The experience of the centuries tells us that consistency of language is important for the creating of habits of devotion and prayer, as well as for establishing a doctrinal paradigm in the mind. Addressing God as “Thou/Thee” (the 2nd person singular), for example, has the effect of emphasizing both that He is One God, One Deity, One Divinity and that also He is intimately related to His children, as their Father by adoption and grace.
Today in the West when the Church is filled with confusion created by a variety of cultural and religious factors, why would faithful pastors want to increase the confusion by mixing the use of language addressed to and describing the One, True and Living God who is a Trinity of Persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost?
Let us worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness, in spirit and in truth, and let us be consistent in our use of language, especially in public worship, in order truly to honor this majestic and righteous LORD!
[See further the important discussion of language for God in the book, Neither Archaic nor Obsolete, the English Language of Public Worship & Common Prayer, by Peter Toon & Louis R Tarsitano, 2003. ISBN 0 907839 75 4, available from 1- 800 – 727- 1928 and www.anglicanmarketplace.com in the USA and from www.edgewaysbooks.com in Europe and worldwide.]
The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon MA., D.Phil (Oxford)
Friday, April 22, 2005
It is common to hear those involved with The Network (= The Anglican Communion Network) in the Episcopal Church calling the promoters of the new sexual agenda by the name of “revisionists” - as they refer to themselves as “orthodox”. The presumption is that those who are innovating in sexual doctrine and practice, and claiming God’s blessing for this, are actually revising and changing the church’s received teaching concerning holy matrimony, fornication and the like.
So far so good….but, let us dare to ask, is it not also the case that many of those who accuse others of revisionism are actually and really revisionists themselves?
Let us look back over the second half of the twentieth century, and take a starting point at the end of Word War II. At this point in time the whole of ECUSA was using the one Prayer Book, that with the date of 1928, there were no women priests and the occurrence of marriage in church after a divorce was very rare, as were priests who were divorced or divorced and remarried.
Since the 1970s the Episcopal Church has officially set aside the received, historic and classic Prayer Book, put in its place a new kind of Prayer Book (1979), and used the title of the old one, The BCP, for the new one (even though it contains not Common but varied prayer). To have done this is dishonest and is a major revision; but most of The Network actually rejoices in this revision and uses this Prayer Book with few qualifications or hesitations, and speaks disparagingly of the classic BCP.
Also since the 1970s the Episcopal Church has officially rejected the male-only Threefold Ministry and has embraced women in all Three Orders; further (in rejecting the Anglican Doctrine of Reception) it has made acceptance of this innovation compulsory for office-bearers. To have done all this is major revision but most of The Network actually rejoices in this revision and promotes the ordination and use of women clergy, who are in its membership.
Also since the 1950s the Episcopal Church has steadily but surely changed its position with regard to divorce and remarriage. Now at least ¼ of its parish clergy and up to 1/3 of its laity are either divorced or divorced and remarried. To have adopted a lenient form of canon law and church procedure for the holy estate of matrimony is a major revision; but most of The Network has little or no criticism of this revision for many in its ranks owe the blessing on their second marriage to the new order in the ECUSA.
If we take the standard or norm of the Anglican Way as being found in the classic Formularies which were held universally in Anglican Churches in the 1950s, and if we compare the stance of members of The Network with that standard, then without a doubt not only the progressive liberals but also the conservatives in the ECUSA are revisionists!
But, maybe some revisions are good? Yes they are but not these, especially in the way they were stated, justified and carried out.
Was it good to embrace dishonesty and a lie in 1976/79 and call a book of varied services “The Book of Common Prayer” and remove as a formulary and service book the classic, historical Prayer Book of the Anglican Way? Surely not!
Was it good to set aside wholly and completely the received doctrine of the Ministerial Priesthood and further to force this innovatory position upon all – when most of the rest of the Anglican Communion embraced and practiced “reception” and thus held that there were two integrities not one only , the innovatory one (as in the ECUSA)? Surely not!
Was it good to lose all marriage discipline so that second marriages are normal and only at a third are any serious questions asked? Surely not!
Then also, and this cannot be brushed aside, is there not a clear connection in logic and in practice between the innovations described above and the innovation of blessing same-sex couples? Grant new rights for heterosexual persons in divorce and remarriage and very soon similar rights are claimed by the homosexual person.
Behind and underneath most of the innovations since World War II are changed answers (based on new doctrines) to such questions as: Who is God? Who is Jesus? What is personal salvation? And, How may a person truly know and serve God? We cannot solve the problems without a genuine renewal in doctrine, theology and ethics.
If the innovators in sexual practice are called to repent before God, so are the rest of us, who are also revisionists. To think that only the supporters of the gay bishop of Connecticut are required to repent is to have a low view of God, Scripture, Grace and sin!
The Revd Dr Peter Toon April 22, 2005
Thursday, April 21, 2005
a discussion starter
We are constantly searching for words to speak of those who (a) seek in general or specific terms to preserve basic Christian worship, doctrine and discipline, and those who, in contrast, (b) seek in general or specific terms to bring received worship, doctrine and discipline into line with recent and modern ways of thinking, relating and behaving. This morning I heard the Public Radio Religion correspondent use the terms, "orthodox" and "progressive". These are obviously not perfect but they will serve for this exercise of thought.
The point being made on radio was that the "orthodox" are found across and within the Christian denominations of America, from the Catholic to the Bible churches, and that the "progressives" are found also across America from the Catholic through the main-line (old line) denominations to the Unitarian churches. In general the Orthodox are united on doctrinal matters such as the authority of the Bible, the uniqueness of Jesus Christ and that He is the only way to the Father for personal salvation; and on moral issues like opposition to abortion, gay rights and euthanasia. Likewise the Progressives are united on their openness to a variety of ways to God and of naming God, together with support for abortion, gay rights and euthanasia.
What is seen across the USA as a general division amongst religious people is also seen within denominations, especially inside the Catholic and main-line Churches. Here the Orthodox seek to preserve some or all of the ethos and traditions of their Church while the Progressives seek to bring the ethos and style of their Church into conformity with what they regard as required modern standards, norms and insights. Thus in the Episcopal Church, those who support innovations such as the blessing of gay couples can be called the Progressives and those who oppose such innovations the Orthodox.
However, be it in the Catholic or Episcopal or Lutheran Church, terms used for general convenience should not to be made the equivalent or strict or careful description. For example, those who are presently called the Orthodox in the Episcopal Church are so called primarily because of their opposition to the "gay agenda"; in other areas they may well be progressives - e.g., in terms of approving women priests, the marriage of divorcees in church, the use of new prayer books, and so on. Likewise those who are Progressives may be supportive of gay rights but be very traditional in their attitude to and use of liturgical texts and church music.
The fact of the matter is that the Orthodox can be progressive and the Progressive can be orthodox in certain ways! After all, the new Pope is most certainly Orthodox in worship, doctrine and discipline, but (in contrast to the Orthodox of the religious supermarket of the USA) he will probably, like his predecessor, be progressive in social, political and economic matters.
In the Early Church "orthodox" was an adjective that described the Church as church rather than individuals as such. One became orthodox by being a faithful member of the Church accepting her teaching and confessing her faith. Today, where individualism is rampant, it has become an adjective for use with individuals first and groups second!
The Rev'd Dr Peter Toon April 21, 2005
Saturday, April 16, 2005
A new CD entitled Collects & Prayers Supplemental to the Book of Common Prayer is now available for $20.00 from the Prayer Book Society’s Anglican Marketplace or by calling 1-800-727-1928. The CD contains a .pdf-format collection of 12 books of prayers in various arrangements and of various ages, but all in traditional prayer-English.
The following description appears on the CD’s case insert:
Praying in the spirit and style of historic & traditional public Prayer
If we engage in public worship using one of the editions (e.g., 1662, 1928 or 1962) of the classic Book of Common Prayer, then we are highly privileged. For the prayers, when they become our prayers, have the ability in the Spirit to bring us into communion with God.
If we wish to continue to pray in the same style, spirit and doctrine of The Book of Common Prayer, either in extensions of public worship or in family/personal devotions, then we probably need help. To compose sound prayers is not easy and is a gift given only to the few.
The books that are provided here in digital form are all intended to help us pray together and individually in ways that are honouring to God and beneficial to ourselves. They provide us with a variety of forms of prayer for many different needs and occasions. Their contents have been much used and well tried in many places.
This collection of prayer books is therefore most useful to the priest and lay leader. Further, for the student who wishes to study the style and content of prayer, here are many examples of what godly persons have believed to be right and appropriate ways of addressing God the Father in the Name of Jesus Christ.
A careful and disciplined use of these resources of prayer will, under God’s blessing help the faithful to pray the more wisely, effectually and humbly.
BOOKS IN THIS COLLECTION
- After the Third Collect, edited by E. Milner-White. 4th ed. 1952.
- The Book of English Collects. 1940.
- The Book of Offices. 2d ed. 1949.
- Daily Prayer, compiled by E. Milner-White and G. W. Briggs. 1959.
- A Diary of Prayer, compiled by Elizabeth Goudge. 1966.
- A Manual for Priests of the American Church. 1944.
- Parish Prayers, compiled and edited by Frank Colquhoun. 1967.
- The Pastor’s Prayerbook, selected and arranged by R. N. Rodenmayer. 1960.
- The Prayer Manual, compiled by F. B. MacNutt. 1957.
- Prayers for the Church Service League.... 7th ed. Rev. & enl. 1952.
- Prayers Ancient and Modern, selected and arranged by M. W. Tileston. 1921.
- Sursum Corda, arranged by W. H. Frere and A. L. Illingworth. New ed. 1950.
Monday, April 04, 2005
PLEASE NOTE new addresses for Peter Toon:
new snail mail address
23120 S.E. Black Nugget, Q2,Issaquah, WA 98029, U.S.A.
Prayer Book Society phone 800 727 1928
THANKS AND BEST WISHES
Friday, April 01, 2005
For all bishops
Dear brothers and sisters:
As we begin our journey through the Great Fifty Days with its message of hope and new life, I find myself reflecting upon our time at Camp Allen. I am profoundly aware that whatever is called for from the House of Bishops at this time is already deeply present among us. Gifts of wisdom and imagination present within the community itself were given articulation in our conversations and then in our Covenant Statement and Word to the Church.
I have long spoken of the "diverse center" as persons of different and often passionately held points of view whose over-arching desire has been to walk together as integral members of Christ's risen body in the service of mission to our broken world. The diverse center was able to speak with force and conviction in a way that has given hope and confidence to many and opened the way toward strengthening our relationships with other parts of the Anglican Communion.
Though some of us are more comfortable when things are carefully spelled out, I think the fluid structure of the meeting provided opportunity for the leading of the Spirit to be honored in ways that might have been constrained if the agenda had been more defined in advance.
Our ability to move through our meeting and adjust to the various moments of invitation as they presented themselves without a great deal of unsettlement spoke well of the life we share and an increasing level of trust among us. I believe we will be able to build further trust as we continue to live trustfully rooted and grounded in Christ's love and open to the movements of the Spirit.
Some of you expressed the sense that we are ready to release ourselves from our past history as a House and our preoccupation with what has been. I share this view. While self-examination is always an appropriate discipline for persons and communities of faith, it can become an invitation to inversion. Being overly focused on our internal life can obscure our call to be engaged in God's work beyond ourselves. Looking to the past is only helpful if it liberates us and orients us toward our future in God.
In sum, it is an immense gift and encouragement to me to share the ministry of episcope´ with such a thoughtful and wise community of fellow ministers of reconciliation.
Yours ever in Christ,
Frank T. Griswold
Presiding Bishop and Primate