Thursday, March 30, 2006

Anglicanism – its new divisions in 2006 Will they ever be healed? Reflections as an aid to prayer

Since the mid nineteenth century, there have always been differences in churchmanship and style in church services of worship and related activities – from low-church Latitudinarian and low-church Evangelical to high-Church Latitudinarian and Affirming Catholic; from low-church Charismatic to high-church Charismatic, and from high-church Anglo-Catholic to Romanizing Anglo-Catholic, and so on.

Yet the differences within the Anglican Communion in the first decade of the twenty-first century are only minimally related to churchmanship as such. The response from around the world to the innovations of 2003 in sexual doctrine and practice within the Episcopal Church of the USA reveals differences of mindset which cross churchmanship lines. This response has been both sharpened and diversified by the publication of The Windsor Report which itself makes proposals for maintaining in practical terms of the unity of the Anglican Communion of Churches.

At the right end of the spectrum are those who believe that there can be no compromise over sexuality: the church’s doctrine is that sexual intercourse and relations are between one man and one woman in holy matrimony as one flesh and every other alternative is wrong and sinful (fornication, adultery etc.). A very large number of bishops and laity in the global South hold to this position.

At the left end of the spectrum is a very small number, found almost exclusively in the North and West, who believe that a new day has dawned, new revelation has been given and received, and that covenanted, same-sex faithful relations are to be blessed by the church, for this is the will of Jesus the Saviour. They see the implementing of this vision as a prophetic duty and task. Because of their dedication and skill in communication, they have been able to make their agenda into the major talking-point of the Anglican Communion. There are no signs of their slowing down.

Left of center are a majority of bishops of the North and West. They suspect that, in a culture of human rights and new insights from psychiatry, some forms of homosexuality and lesbianism are probably inevitable and even good, but they are not yet prepared to say so clearly and unambiguously. They certainly want to keep the doctrine of Christian marriage between a man and woman in place; but they also want to be able, in principle, if circumstances allow and people agree, to implement a limited form of same-sex blessings. They do not want to see the ECUSA have to leave the Communion and will work hard to find ways to keep it in, but they will accept this loss if that leads to peace and quiet amongst the remaining 37 provinces.

Right of center are many bishops, priests and laity around the world, who do not want to see any acceptance of the homosexual agenda but yet who do not want to see the Anglican Communion torn apart or split by this hot topic. So they look to the proposals of The Windsor Report as a way forward to keep a minimum but practically effective form of unity within and amongst the 38 provinces. They see the creation of a Covenant with teeth and signed by all as one good way of maintaining reasonable unity. And they are prepared to see the departure of the ECUSA if that is necessary.

And, of course, there are those who have feet in two camps!

It would seem that for “moderate” Anglicans (who basically run the show in the West) unity in communion should no longer be based on “sound” doctrine but rather on what will work practically. A doctrine or practice is now deemed to be wrong not because Scripture says so but because a majority is not ready emotionally and intellectually to accept it. That is, God is seen to be in process, involved in the act of becoming, and the people of God are to move with him/her, which will mean catching up for most of the time with what God is revealing through the developments within human society and culture!

Just how long the right end of the spectrum can live in this world where Christian truth is seen to emerge with the full development of human rights and the sure results of the behavioral, sociological and psychological sciences is impossible to predict. In their present mindset the Global South leaders seem fired up to stay where they are in terms of faith and doctrine, but – a big but – their own countries are experiencing the rush of human rights and the effects of modernity and, perhaps, they too may gradually change.

Perhaps the best that can be hoped for is the creation of a covenant for the Provinces (38 or 37) – as suggested by the Windsor Report -- that maintains much of the received Faith and Morality, and that effectively binds Provinces to each other in a way that will prevent any of them moving ahead with innovations which embarrass the others and bring shame in the ecumenical sphere to the name of Anglican. However, let us be clear, there is no long term solution for, even with a covenant in place, there will be no real central authority to keep the autonomous units in check. With a covenant the Anglican Communion may begin to function a little like the Orthodox Churches do, but it will still be a universe away from the way that the Roman Catholic Church is organized and functions.

What I believe we all need to be clear about is that the sexual innovations which were the immediate cause of the present “crisis,” are not truly the real problem. To reverse them will not change the basic dilemma. As I have sought to explain in my essay, Episcopal Innovations 1960-2004, the innovations of the second half of the twentieth century represent a basic rejection of (a) the creation order/law of God for male and female, (b)the basic morality of the New Covenant and (c) Reformed Catholicism (the religion set forth in the classic Anglican Formularies). Unless these are truly addressed, then fixing the sexual innovations of 2004 will be merely a temporary achievement.

The Anglican Way is a jurisdiction of the one Church of God which has yet to find a sound and practical way to exist in the modern, fast world and in existing to serve the Lord with holy fear and consecrated love.

Visit and bring all these and other concerns to the Head of the Church at the Throne of Grace.

For a copy of Episcopal Innovations 1960-2004, visit or call 1-800-727-1928; to download as pdf file visit

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

The Bishop of Exeter, Michael Langrish comments after a week spent in the House of Bishops of ECUSA as a guest

(Introductory comment from P.T.: The Bishop sees the problems facing the ECUSA as those that relate to sexual relations between people of the same sex. He does not say whether such can be right or wrong but states that now is not the time for individual dioceses and provinces of the Anglican Communion to press ahead with experiments in this area of human life. For him, as for many in the West, the proposals of the recent Windsor Report provide guidelines for staying together in communion, even if it be strained and stretched communion. He speaks very much as a Bishop of the “West” or “North” and may be said to represent the general view of the leadership of the Church of England. He seems oblivious that the new doctrine and practice of sexual relations is intimately connected with novel doctrines of God, Christ, salvation, and so on and that the problem is not solved simply by ceasing to bless “gay couples” or ordain “gay” persons.)

As I look at the Anglican Communion at present I see its life threatened by two intersecting fault lines, each with its own totem. The first is the issue of same sex relations, with its focusing in Lambeth 1.10. The second is the nature and future of Communion, with its focus being the Windsor Report and the Windsor/Dromantine process. Looking around me I see those who not only stand firmly by Lambeth 1.10, but also see it as the litmus test of orthodoxy, and who are further opposed to, or have given up on, Windsor and all that it stands for. Probably nothing that happens is going to satisfy them. Similarly there are those who are so certain that Lambeth 1.10 was wrong that they in effect see both Windsor and the Communion as a price that it is simply to great to pay. Then there will be those (probably the majority) who while holding a variety of views on the issue of sexuality would nevertheless to varying degrees also be committed to Windsor and its outworking in the Communion’s life. That would certainly be where to a very large extent, the English bishops will be found.

(Comment. The “majority” of which he speaks is I think in the West not in the Communion as a whole. The real majority in the world appeasr to see Lambeth 1.10 [resolution of human sexuality of 1998] as the litmus test.)

On Lambeth 1.10 a wide spread of views will be found in our own House although, as our own most recent report ‘Some Issues in Human Sexuality’ makes clear, the great majority of us see the matter as being multifaceted and complex, not capable of a quick resolution, dealing as it does with issues not only of justice and moral choice, but also of the relationship between intimacy, sexuality and community, the connections between sexual behaviour and both human identity and human fulfilment, and the way in which, as part of our missiological imperative, we are to critique these things in a society where sex and choice together make for such a dominant and formative force; and of all these to be held within a coherent exegetical framework. So despite the range of opinions there is an almost total intention to stand together, and with the rest of the Communion, in taking no precipitate action, as the listening and engagement go on. I suppose one of the major challenges for the Episcopal Church now has to do with whether there are enough of you to stand on broadly the same ground, holding a range of opinions on the issue of Lambeth 1.10 but firm in carrying forward the Windsor vision of a strengthened and enabling communion life. This, I believe, is the key question rather than questions (unhelpful questions I think) about whether the Episcopal Church will either be pushed out of Communion or consciously walk away.

(Comment. The new doctrine of unity in the West is “stand together despite a wide range of opinions on God and human beings as sexual creatures -- views which may be freely held but not put into practice as yet if they arte outside the received norms.”)

Let’s be clear: On the one hand no one can force another Province or Diocese either to go or remain. We are not that kind of Church. Yet equally, no Diocese or Province can enforce its own continued membership simply or largely on its own terms. There has to be engagement. There is no communion without a shared vision of life in communion (at least that is how I understand Windsor). So it does seem to me, as I listen to those other parts of the Communion that I know best, that any further consecration of those in a same sex relationship; any authorisation of any person to undertake same sex blessings; any stated intention not to seriously engage with The Windsor Report – will be read very widely as a declaration not to stay with the Communion as it is, or as the Windsor Report has articulated a vision, particularly in sections A and B, of how it wishes to be. Having said that, I do believe that I have heard in this house this week, by and large, a desire for shared life in communion and ongoing engagement with others in just what this must involve.

(Comment. This would most probably represent the position of the Bishops of the C of E and the English Archbishops. If the Americans and Canadians cannot act reasonably and restrain themselves for the public good, then they have effectively placed themselves apart from the rest. The sin is not to have acted contrary to God’s will as such but of being hasty, impatient and thoughtless about others.)

May I make the further comment that what I find missing in most discussion of the North American problem – even by those who call themselves “the orthodox” and the innovators “the revisionists” – is the recognition that the innovation of same-sex stuff in recent years is intimately and inextricably related to earlier innovations enthusiastically introduced by the Episcopal Church from 1960 onwards.

In my essay, Episcopal Innovations 1960-2004, printed as a booklet and available as such, or as a document from a web site, I have sought to show that these innovations, of which the latest is the same-sex stuff, are definite attempts to set aside God’s order for creation and God’s law for the new covenant. They go with a changed doctrine of God, creation, grace, salvation and anthropology. I believe that until this larger picture is understood and faced any repentance or regret or changes by and within ECUSA will be, as it were, skin deep only. Without right diagnosis how can there be right cure. Regrettably the diagnosis also applies to much of the “West” in the Anglican Communion of Churches, and not merely to north America.

Download the 64 page booklet from or buy a copy from For multiple copies at reduced price call 1 800 727 1928.

Also please visit and place all these problems before the Throne of Grace.

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

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Petition and Intercession for the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams

A Bidding Prayer. (composed after my recent meeting with him in Oxford)

Let us in all sincerity of spirit fervently pray for the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, the Body of Christ, dispersed throughout the world, that it may please God to confirm and strengthen it in pure faith, holy life and perfect love and to restore to it visible unity at the local and international level.

Lord in thy/your mercy…….hear our prayer (repeated after each bidding)

Let us also in sincerity of spirit and fervently pray this day for the Anglican Communion of Churches, together with other Anglicans bodies joined in fellowship and service, that all may be true to their calling and seek to know and do God’s will, and to serve and worship him acceptably.

Let us especially pray for Dr. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in his vocation as “first among equals” amongst the bishops of the Anglican family, and in his work as the Primate of all England and bishop of the diocese of Canterbury, that he may be given all the necessary virtues and gifts of the Holy Spirit to perform and fulfill his tasks.

Let us pray for Rowan in his relation to the Queen and the British Government and for his own position and work in the House of Lords, that God will give him the wisdom and discernment to speak and act as a Christian statesman.

Let us pray for Rowan in his relation to the General Synod and House of Bishops of the Church of England, that he may provide godly, learned and appropriate guidance and leadership in the many issues and problems faced by the National Church of England today.

Let us pray for Rowan in his work as a Christian apologist via the media and as a theologian in church and academia, that he may be faithful to the faith once delivered to the saints and make this faith meaningful and attractive to people today.

Let us pray for Rowan as he acts as the “primary instrument of unity” in the Anglican Communion, that he may receive wise counsel and godly help as he seeks to relate to, and serve with, all the Primates and leaders, and as he attempts to bring all the Provinces into faithful commitment to biblical Faith and Morality and to Anglican witness as Reformed Catholics.

Let us pray for Rowan as he seeks to understand and provide guidance and help to the Provinces of Canada and the U.S.A. in this period of crisis and controversy, that he will truly represent the mind of Christ Jesus, the Head of the Church, and the heart of love of the same Lord Jesus in his ministry to them.

Let us pray for Rowan as he represents the Anglican Churches in relations to other Churches – e.g., Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran, Methodist, & Presbyterian – and to other religions -- Judaism and Islam -- that he will speak and act with wisdom, grace and courage.

Let us pray for Rowan as a family man that he may make and find the time to spend quality time with his wife and children, and that his family will grow in grace and knowledge of the Lord.

Let us pray for Rowan as the individual Christian believer before God the Father, that he may be sustained in union with Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit, through meditation on sacred Scripture, and the use of the daily offices, the holy Sacrament and other means of grace.

Let us pray for Rowan that he may be given sound physical, mental and social health so as to have the energy to fulfill his many roles and tasks.

Let us pray for all who work closely with Rowan at Lambeth Palace and other places, that they may provide for him excellent service, guidance and assistance, that he may be enabled the more fruitfully to serve the Lord of the Church.

Finally, let us praise God the Holy Trinity for his creation, salvation and redemption of the world, and let us give thanks for the long and sustained witness of the See of Canterbury to the Faith, Worship and Order of the holy Catholic Church over many centuries.

These prayers and praises let us humbly offer up to the throne of heaven as we pray:

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

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

Friday, March 24, 2006

God is our FATHER and the church is our mother

Mothering Sunday – the Mid-Sunday in Lent

The Epistle for the mid-Sunday in Lent (in the classic BCP and western Eucharistic Lectionary) proclaims: “The Jerusalem that is above is free, which is our mother” (Galatians 4:26). The Jerusalem above, our mother, is a wonderful and powerful theme for us to ponder on this special day of celebrating the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.

We must not call God “Mother” for he is “the Father” but we may and should call the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church of God our “mother.”

In Britain this day is also called “Mothers Day” and thus the original meaning pointing us to the heavenly Lord and his Bride the Church is often and regrettably eclipsed by the celebration of human mothers and motherhood as a beautiful this-worldly reality. Happily in the USA what is called “Mothers Day” is wholly separated from Lent and comes in May. So there is little danger of the mid-Sunday of Lent being called “Mothers Day.” However, this does not mean to say that US congregations truly keep “Mothering Sunday” in its full biblical meaning.

But now to our great theme!

The Jerusalem that is above, that is the Lord Jesus Christ and his redeemed people of the new covenant in heaven in an everlasting ordered society and reality, is free – that is, free from all forms of bondage due to sin, the law of Moses, the weakness of the flesh, the conditions of space and time and any other possible means of restriction and constriction.

Further, this heavenly Jerusalem, this perfection of the Church as a fully redeemed, sanctified and glorified people of the new covenant of grace, is for those of us still on earth, “our mother.” That is, those who are the baptized disciples of Jesus Christ, and are pilgrims and sojourners on this earth in transit to the realms above where Christ now is, are to look to, and to regard, God’s Church in her heavenly, everlasting perfection as their “mother”.

Jerusalem as a city on earth was regarded in Old Testament times as not only the city of David and Solomon but also, and more importantly, as the city of God. There was the Temple, and there was the focus and center of the Covenants, both the Mosaic and the Davidic covenants. Jerusalem was the “mother” of faithful Jews and to her they went in pilgrimage for the great festivals of the Old Covenant; towards her they faced when they prayed; from her bounty they believed that their covenant life before God came; and without here they were as lost people. Jerusalem was nothing less for them than the city of God on earth and in and around her the final events of human history would take place, as all roads would lead to Jerusalem and all people come there to worship the LORD.

The Church as the new Jerusalem is likewise the very center of the activity of a covenant, this time the new covenant, wherein Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit are engaged in the regenerating, nurturing, teaching, sanctifying and redeeming those who believe the Gospel, repent and are baptized. In this covenant, by the word of the Lord and the power of the Spirit, in Baptism a believer is born again, born into the kingdom of God and the Church. It is the Church as mother who is the sphere where he is born again, where he is nurtured and taught, and where he is fed by the word of God and by the food of the holy Eucharist, the Holy Communion of the body and blood of Christ. The Church as mother caring for her children provides the ministers who do the holy work of administering the sacraments, preaching and teaching, and providing moral and spiritual direction, with pastoral care. Thus the Church as Mother takes care of the new-born persons from their baptism right through to their funeral service and then receives them into her everlasting abode to be fully and really members of the holy and free Jerusalem which is above.

It has often been said that a sinner who desires salvation from God cannot have the First Person of the Holy Trinity, God the Father, as his Father unless he first has the Church, the Church of the Father and the Son, which is the new Jerusalem above, as his mother. This is true, very true, and is what we celebrate this day.

However, in affirming it, we must realize that the Church is the creation of the Blessed, Holy Trinity and therefore is in no way whatsoever at all in any way to be seen as an equal of God the Father. Certainly the new birth, the being born again, occurs within the Church but it is an act that is only possible by the presence and agency of the Holy Spirit at the direction of the Lord Jesus Christ. And most certainly after a person is born again by the Spirit, he has the high privilege and gospel duty to address the First Person as “Our Father.” The task of the Church is to act like a mother in bringing souls to birth, and in nurturing, feeding, teaching, guiding and caring for them. Yet she only does these things, through her ministers and members, as they are inspired and empowered by the Holy Spirit and in obedience to Christ. As the mother actively caring for her family, she is dependent upon the love of the heavenly Father, the grace of the Incarnate Son and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.

Thus the Church which is our mother is not merely and only the human reality and society – often so culturally and socially bound to time and place -- that we encounter meeting for worship services within buildings we call cathedrals, churches and chapels – that is, the groups of people who call themselves Anglican or Baptist or Presbyterian or any other denomination. The Church, which is the new and free Jerusalem and which is our mother, is in much of her life and ministry hidden from our eyes and discerned only by our enlightened spirits. That is why theologians have spoken over the centuries of the Church as being both visible and invisible – not one or the other but both simultaneously. In fact to be the holy, catholic Church, she must be unto us both visible and invisible.

Just as our Lord Jesus Christ is more than what the eyes saw and the ears heard when they beheld Jesus of Nazareth in Galilee or Judea, so the Church is more than the visible reality of the congregations/churches we know. For the truth about Jesus was/is that he is certainly man, assuredly human, but he is also divine – he is One Person made known in two natures, divine and human – and of course the divine is, as it were, hidden behind the physical appearance of male humanity.

Thus the full nature of the Church as the new Jerusalem is also, as it were, hidden behind and experienced through the presenting reality of the preaching of the Word, administering of the Sacraments, exercising of discipline, fellowship, worship, pastoral care and acts of charity of the local churches.

The new Jerusalem is with Christ in perfected glory and she is wholly free – free to love and serve God totally, and she is wholly free to be a people who love each other without any restrictions or reserve; and of course she is free from all sin, weakness and impurity. She is the perfect Bride of Christ.

However, for believers as pilgrims on earth and until the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus and their full redemption, the Jerusalem above is the gracious Mother embracing them in her arms so that they may all know the Father as their Father, and truly be his adopted children. She reaches out to them through the sometimes very ordinary means of grace known in the local church.

To have God as our Father we must have the Church as our mother for God has chosen to make us his children through his grace which we receive from the embrace of the mother, the Jerusalem above which is free.

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

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Archbishop's sermon at the service to commemorate the 450th anniversary of the Martyrdom of Thomas Cranmer

From today’s epistle: ‘The word of God is not bound’.

When it was fashionable to decry Cranmer’s liturgical rhetoric as overblown and repetitive, people often held up as typical the echoing sequences of which he and his colleagues were so fond. ‘A full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction; ‘Have mercy upon us, miserable offenders; Spare thou them which confess their faults; Restore thou them that are penitent’; ‘succour, help and comfort all that are in danger, necessity and tribulation’; direct, sanctify and govern’; and of course, ‘earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust’. The liturgical puritan may well ask why it is not possible to say something once and for all, instead of circling back over what has been said, re-treading the ground. And in the same vein, many will remember the arguments of those who complained of the Communion Order in the Book of Common Prayer that it never allowed you to move forward from penitence to confidence and thanksgiving: you were constantly being recalled to your sinful state, even after you had been repeatedly assured of God’s abundant mercies.

Read the whole thing...

Friday, March 10, 2006

Pray! Yes, Pray! United in Prayer and United to the Lord Jesus

A suggested way forward from The Rev’d Dr. Peter Toon

Even seeking to unite minimally [those who call themselves] “orthodox” Anglicans or Episcopalians and who exist in a variety of forms, by appealing to such things as:

Doctrine held in common, or

Liturgy used in common, or

Bible version used in common, or

Discipline exercised in common, or

Ordained Ministry shared in common, or

Polity & Jurisdiction accepted in common, or

Bonds of Affection created over centuries of Anglican life,

seems doomed to failure at this present moment in North America. Why? Because below the surface there is no real unity in any of these areas that one can point to and use as a basis for serious unity which involves all concerned.

It is not even possible, for example, to say that the Two Creeds are held in common for the use of different translations in different prayer books leads to the profession of different doctrines (e.g., where “by the power of the Holy Spirit” is used - in 1979 Prayer Book - to speak of how the conception of Jesus occurred, there is the doctrine that the conception and birth of Jesus were special but not unique; but where the original Greek is followed and the conception is “by/from the Holy Spirit,” that is by the Holy Spirit’s personal presence, then there is the doctrine that the whole operation was unique and unlike any other procreation.)

If one looks at the spectrum of “orthodox” Anglicanism staring from dioceses and parishes inside the Episcopal Church, through those missions, groups and congregations which have recently left the same Church, towards to those who left the same Church in the late 1970s and now have a variety of jurisdictions, and, at the same time, does not overlook those who have come into the Anglican stream from outside in the last twenty years, those who are ethnic groups (e.g., Indian or Nigerian or Chinese) and those who have been separated from the Episcopal Church since the 1870s (REC), then the task of getting all groups, or even more than half of the groups into some kind of federated or covenanted unity (for Christ’s sake) seems more than daunting, even impossible.

The Anglican Communion Network, charged with the task of uniting divided Anglicans in the USA by certain Anglican Primates, has not yet succeeded in attracting the most traditional of the Anglican jurisdictions into serious conversation. Further, the unity within the Network is a very weak one, where there is at the “top” lack of agreement amongst the bishops as to precisely where this organization is heading, and where the constituent groups within the Network are held together by the weakest of ties (e.g., often not much more than opposing a common enemy “revisionism”).

I have proposed that one way toward unity is for each group to find an overseas province or diocese to adopt it and then by this means, through the adoptive overseas “parent”, there will be communion and this communion then can be given, slowly and surely, a simple organizational form. But I do not pursue that approach here.

Rather I offer a way forward that is exceedingly simple but demands our hearts and time.

This way forward, is in part being used now, and is based upon the mind of Jesus, the High Priest, as expressed in his Prayer in John 17 and complemented by the prayers of the Apostle Paul for the Church as found in such places as Ephesians 1 & 4; with Philippians 1 & 3.

One way in which Anglicans & Episcopalians who (a) regard themselves as biblically orthodox, and who (b) recognize that God’s expectation and law is that all baptized believers should express the unity that they have in Christ in practical terms in space and time, can begin realistically to move towards fulfilling God’s will is to pray – that it to pray specifically for each other and for ways to open up to facilitate fellowship and co-operation in Christ Jesus of all Anglican groups. These special and extra prayers can be added to the intercessions at the end of the Daily Offices or in Family Prayers or wherever suitable and opportunity arises, e,g, the weekly church prayer meeting and bible study meeting.

A real problem at the moment seems to be that too many of us on the American continent think in political terms, on the analogy of competitive capitalism, a free market and individualism, even when the subject and concern in hand is ecclesiastical, concerning the Body of Christ. That is models of action and relations for church problems are usually taken from the political arena, with texts from the Bible being provided to support them. Much of The Network strategy seems to be of this kind as was that of The Episcopal Synod before it.

Yet, having said this, I must admit that even prayer can be manipulated to serve a political end! So we must be vigilant as we “watch and pray.”.

Thus I intend as a starter to compose a basic Litany (a very ancient form of prayer); a basic Bidding Prayer (a very ancient form of prayer) and also some Collects (again ancient forms of prayer) as a starter-pack and to put them both into the classic English language of prayer and also into a contemporary form of English and to offer them for use by all groups in the spectrum of Anglican witness in North America. Of course I realize that I can only offer them for we are all free to do and pray as we are commanded and guided by the Lord.

God willing I shall send these forms of prayer out soon and also place them on a website (more than one I hope) for downloading. If others, who are better able than I am, decide to take up this task of both encouraging prayer and providing forms to use in prayer, then I shall be delighted. But I do submit that we actually need to take the ministry of prayer far more seriously than we have done for the unity of God’s people who are called “Anglican.”

One reason that we need ALL to pray and to pray effectually and heartily is that the cancer which has caused much of the centrifugal chaos and disunity is much worse than most of us care or wish to admit. We must recognize the nature of the cancer within the ECUSA and its offshoots before the cure can be applied and the way to discernment is through prayer, real prayer, in and by all groups. (Note that I have tried to describe the profound sickness in our midst in the essay and booklet, Episcopal Innovations 1960-2004, 2006.) The aim of this prayer to which I call us is not political; and it is not to forward the work of The Network – for God’s will may be through other means and persons (He alone knows!) – but, rather, the prayer is to create and to forward the work of Anglican Unity in Christ and the Gospel in such ways as the Lord of the Church makes known to his praying people in North America.

“If my people who are called by my Name will humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways; then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

Below is one Collect for a starter (based on Luke 12:49) and in a few days I shall, God willing, publish a set of prayers, for godly souls to perfect and adapt as they are led by the Spirit of the Lord who is the Spirit of Unity. I offer this as an example and starter in the classic form and then the modern form; and I do hope that it is acceptable to all members of the spectrum of the Anglican presence in America.
Almighty God our heavenly Father, whose Son came to bring fire to the earth; Grant that as we, the people of the Anglican Way, faithfully seek thee in worship, prayer and meditation on thy Word, a fire of burning zeal for thy glory will be kindled amongst us, pass from heart to heart and congregation to congregation, till all our hardness is melted in the warmth of thy love and truth; through him who loved us and gave himself for us, the same, thy Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Almighty God our heavenly Father, whose Son came to set the earth on fire; Grant that, as we, the people of the Anglican Way, faithfully seek You in worship, prayer and Bible study, a fire of burning enthusiasm for Your glory may be kindled amongst us, pass from heart to heart and congregation to congregation, until all our hardness is melted in the warmth of Your love and truth; through him who loved us and gave himself for us, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

[Peter Toon at from whom the 64 page booklet may be obtained, as also from PBS at 1-800-727-1928. Lent II, 2006]

Babel? 100 plus versions! The Bible as the Word of God written, but in which English version?

For Anglicans, and members of mainline denominations, there used to be The Bible, that is the The King James Version, and nothing else, except the Coverdale translation of the Psalter inside The Book of Common Prayer (1662 & 1789 USA). Then from the late nineteenth century and before World War II there appeared a new translation, sponsored by the Church of England and the mainline denominations in the USA – specifically The Revised Version (1881-1895) and The American Standard Version (1901).

All of these versions followed the original languages in terms of distinguishing between the second person singular (“thou” & “thee”) and plural (“ye” & “you”). Further, they were essentially literal and traditional translations in that they sought to convey as far as possible the meaning intended in their times for their readers by the writers of the Bible.

One difference between the KJV and the RV & ASV was that the latter used (what were believed to be) better original Greek texts than were available in 1611, and this led to many minor verbal changes (but not effecting doctrine) and some minor differences in content especially in the New Testament (e.g., a shorter ending to Mark’s Gospel).

Then in 1946-1957 appeared The Revised Standard Version which followed in the tradition of the KJV, the RV & ASV, except that the old English second person singular “thou/thee” was used only for God and not for human beings.

Because Evangelicals in the USA were not happy with minor aspects of the RSV (e.g. its rendering of “young woman” instead of “virgin” in Isaiah 7:14), they insisted on a new version which would be wholly in modern English (addressing God as “You”) and which preserved in translation the basis of evangelical beliefs about Christ and salvation. So there was born The New International Version of 1973-1978, the first English version of the Bible published specifically by and for one group of Christians, the conservative Evangelicals. This version did not on principle include the Apocrypha and it used “you” for both second person singular and plural. Further, it adopted in part, but only in part, the new philosophy of translating ancient texts known as “dynamic equivalency.”

Since the 1970s there has been a tremendous proliferation of versions of the English Bible, with the Roman Catholics joining in the production (e.g., with The Jerusalem Bible, 1966, & The New American Bible, 1970, both later revised). The majority of the versions from the 1960s have made use of dynamic equivalency either in general terms (as in The Good News Bible, The New Century Version, & The New Living Translation) or specifically to remove supposed patriarchalism and sexism from the English Bible (e.g., The New Revised Standard Version, The Revised English Bible and The New International Inclusive Version). Only The New King James Version, The English Standard Version, The New American Standard Version , the New Holman Christian Standard Bible, together with the Roman Catholic form of The Revised Standard Version (The Common Bible) have generally refused to make use of dynamic equivalency.

What is dynamic equivalency? A translation that claims to use dynamic equivalency translates the thoughts and ideas of the original text, Hebrew or Greek, while attempting to have the same impact on modern readers/hearers as it is believed the original had on its own readers/hearers. So, if the original in a traditional, English literal translation, is rendered, “So David slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David” (1 Kings 2:10, KJV), a “thought for thought” rendering would have, “Then David died and was buried in the city of David” (NLT). In the latter, to achieve immediacy and simplicity, what is lost is the Hebrew idea of death and its relation to the death of kith and kin, which is a real part of the original meaning.

Since this method can be used for any specific receptor audience (e.g., children, teenagers, women, blue-collar workers, liberal art students, etc., and for people being evangelized or catechized), and since the perceived mindset and cultural context of the receptor audience is all important in the rendering of “thought for thought,” there can in principle be a multitude of different English versions, aimed at different target audiences (and this is where this market has been and remains in the USA).

In contrast, the traditional approach to translation, which if often referred to these days as “essentially literal”, seeks to translate every word in the original text as understood within its own context, into the nearest English equivalent, and in an acceptable English word order and style. Here there is no specific target audience as such but rather is aimed at anyone who can understand and/or read English.

Bearing all this in mind, one has these days to think clearly before deciding which version to use. For example:

If one is using the traditional Book of Common Prayer for public worship then one will normally use a traditional Bible version to accompany it -- normally the KJV but also possibly the RV, ASV and RSV;

If the service is contemporary in language, liturgical in form and committed to women’s rights then a version like the NRSV will be the choice ( as is the case in most mainline churches);

If the service is the modern R C Mass then one will use (because printed in the official Missalette) the NAB.

If the service is wholly “contemporary” and is intended to be evangelistic then one will use (according to one’s taste and philosophy) one of the modern versions from the NIV to the NLT.

However, if in the contemporary service the preacher wishes to make serious use of the text of the Bible for expository preaching then he will need an essentially literal translation like the ESV or the NASV ( so that he/she does not have to keep on saying that “the original actually says this….”).

The general exception to these “rules” are many African American congregations which read from and preach from the KJV even though they address God as “you” in their prayers.

Turning now to versions of the Bible used for individual devotions and for family prayers, one finds here tremendous variety, where individual choice (like that of buying cars ) is usually determined more by advertising and peer group pressures than solely by objective study of the possibilities. And who can blame the average, devout Christian for “doing what others in church do” when there are so many possibilities available on the shelves of the local Christian bookstore, and making a choice is difficult and confusing.

What the proliferation of versions appears to have done is to make Americans less knowledgeable of the content and doctrine of the books of the Bible. Further, it seems to have made the memorization of key texts and passages a rare discipline and practice. And, worse, it has probably made the Bible into a kind of commodity so that, as we look for the new version of the computer, software, mobile phone and car, so we look for the latest version of the Bible to see what are its new features and whether they suit OUR needs.

In the case of Bible versions it is a case where “too many” has caused “too little” – too little real vital Christianity!

Further, the relation of the Bible to the Church has been diluted and distorted as the Bible has become the possession of Publishing Companies and the team of scholars employed and paid by them. Contemporary capitalism and modern individualism have joined hands to provide a Bible for the individual to use as he will.

In general, I would tell any person, whatever be his age or social class or education level, to stick with a traditional type of translation – KJV or RSV or ASV or NKJV or ESV. Better to be given the possibility of knowing what the original authors actually wrote, than what a group of translators think is the dynamic equivalent of God’s word of yesterday for today (and which may not apply tomorrow) and for this or that receptor audience

The Revd Dr Peter Toon March 9, 2006

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Anglican Communion NETWORK. What is its future after June 2006? A Prayerful consideration.

As The ECUSA General Convention of June 2006 gets nearer, more and more people are asking questions and making predictions about what will happen to “the orthodox” and the “revisionists” in ECUSA after that event. Here are some observations concerning what is being said about The Network, which claims to speak for “the orthodox”.

(a) There are those who optimistically believe that the purpose of The Network is to create a new Province of the Anglican Communion in North America. They hope that The Network will gather together the “faithful” dioceses and parishes in ECUSA and these will be joined by Common Cause Partners (e.g. Reformed Episcopal Church & Canadian Network) and as one new body (maybe a kind of federation of jurisdictions and dioceses) this amalgamation will be “approved” and “accepted” by a majority of overseas Provinces and Primates. And all this will occur after the General Convention of the ECUSA in June 2006, when the ECUSA will demonstrate that it is not worthy any more to walk in the fellowship of the Anglican Communion.

According to this optimistic way of seeing things, the ECUSA bishops and ECUSA clergy are all prepared to walk out of their well paid positions and trust in the Lord to supply their needs as new congregations and organizations of congregations are formed.

The placing and seating of Bishop Harvey of Canada and Bishop Duncan of the USA with the Primates at the recent service in Singapore for the installation of the S E Asia Primate is seen as a kind of prophecy of what shall be – two new provinces with two new primates.

(b) In contrast, another (this time) realistic way of seeing things is more sanguine about human nature, the history of the PECUSA and possibilities in a mainline Church. It also remembers the high hopes raised by the Episcopal Synod fifteen years ago for renewal and reformation, and how these were dashed to the ground. It is cautious!

It judges that the Episcopal leadership of The Network is waiting to see what will happen at the General Convention and then afterwards in meetings of the various “Instruments of Unity” of the Communion, as well in provincial synods overseas. It senses that the Ten diocesan Bishops are hoping either (a) that if the ECUSA via its General Convention in June begins a U-turn (maybe Bishop Gene R. who is presently on sick leave will have to resign for health reasons and this will provide occasion for beginning to turn); then they can stay around to work for reform for another three years at least; or (b) that if the ECUSA does not begin a U-turn that the rest of the Anglican Communion (especially the C of E) will then declare that The Network is the unit with which they will deal and thus the Network will become de facto the American Province of the Communion, without them doing anything much more than merely waiting and watching.

According to this realistic view, the Ten ECUSA Bishops of The Network together with their leading clergy and laity desperately want to stay as ECUSA people in terms of use of good and familiar buildings, retention of stipends, healthcare and pensions. To them becoming “schismatics” is both a theological and a social horror. – for after all “schism is worse then heresy”. They see themselves as the true Episcopalians who have a right to claim and keep the property and resources of their dioceses and their denomination. Thus they speak of Anglicans outside the ECUSA as “diaspora” (where ECUSA as Jerusalem is the center of the movement) whom they are gathering together from their privileged place in Zion.

To contrast the two views, one could say that the first is the traditional way in the USA taken by reforming groups in the mainline Churches. There are many examples of “schism” leading to major new denominations (e.g. PCA) and seminaries (e.g., Reformed Seminary, Jackson) from the 19th and 20th centuries. And, or course, there was a small schism in 1873 from PECUSA leading to the formation of the Reformed Episcopal Church and in 1977 from ECUSA leading to the formation of The Continuing Anglican Church. The second is the way whereby respectable reform is attempted from within the mainline Churches – that is, one seeks to stay around and outlast the liberals and then regain power in synods and structures (the intellectual guru and advocate for this approach is Thomas C. Oden in his recent, Turning around the Mainline, Baker, 2006).

There are other possibilities. These two seem to be the basic ones which can be adapted.

History is in God’s hands. One can only speculate based on what we know from the past and what we know of the persons and groups involved right now. On this basis it would seem that the high probability is that the “realistic” approach will prevail wherein there will be no major exodus as such from ECUSA and possibly – as happened with the Episcopal Synod – the whole movement will fizzle out as a reforming movement, even as some congregations exit ECUSA to join the 75 or so which have left in the last year to be embraced by overseas bishops as their pastors. Bearing this in mind, it may be appropriate, even wise, for those Anglican groups already outside ECUSA to look to ways of uniting themselves in a coherent and comprehensive way and without the leadership of The Network.

It is all in God’s hand but he has given us a certain amount of free will and we so often use it in the interest of our own selfish ends. Lord have mercy.

The Revd Dr Peter Toon March 7, 2006

Monday, March 06, 2006

No real teaching without the use of the Anathema! On Teaching Doctrine in the Contemporary Anglican Context

A discussion Starter

In order to gain a Christian mindset, the Church has always insisted that new members must know The Creed (what Christians believe, teach and confess), The Commandments (how Christians live before God and with each other) and The Lord’s Prayer (whom they worship and how). Thus these form the basic content of all true Catechisms – see the Catechism in the classic Book of Common Prayer (1662/1928) for example, and the official Roman Catholic Catechism of 2000.

At a very basic level, the content of the Creed, Commandments and Lord’s Prayer can be taught wholly in the positive mode – that is, without mentioning any alternative forms of Creed, Morality or Prayer that press for acceptance in the local context, culture and Zeitgeist. However, very soon in any catechizing the distinction has to be made, at least for some people, with respect to “Who is God?” between Trinitarian Theism on the one hand and the alternative doctrines of God including those within pantheism, panentheism and process theology (all of which have made deep inroads into the mainline churches of the USA and Europe, and without which there would not be feminist and liberationist theology). Likewise, with respect to “Who is Jesus?”, very soon the received orthodox doctrine that he is the only begotten Son of the Father, One Person made known in two natures (divine and human), has to be distinguished from the alternatives which are found in the theology and liturgies of the mainline churches (e.g., adoptionism).

If we are to pray meaningfully and fervently to the Father through the Son and with the Holy Spirit in corporate worship and private prayer, then we need to know to WHOM we pray. Thus it is very important to have right teaching concerning The Blessed Holy and Undivided Trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and also concerning Jesus of Nazareth as the Incarnate Son of the Father, the Second Person of the Trinity. And, these days, one cannot have right teaching without knowing what other forms of teaching are common in the religious milieu of mainline religion. For, apparently and very regrettably, the received orthodoxy, based solidly on the Bible, and as set forth by the Ecumenical Councils and expounded by the Fathers, and then received, confirmed and expounded by both Catholics and Protestants in the period of the Reformation, is now a minority position in the mainline churches both in their doctrinal expositions and in their public worship.

In fact, the various powerful liberationist movements that have been absorbed by the mainline churches since the 1960s could not have been received without the churches accepting as permissible new forms of theology concerning “Who is God?, Who is Jesus? and What is salvation?” -- I refer of course to the impact of the feminist, “Gay” and “rights” movements.

Thus it would seem that it is impossible to take catechumens and enquirers very far these days into the depth of the divine Revelation recorded in Holy Scripture, without taking time to show where the received orthodoxy based upon the Bible differs from the forms of doctrine popular in the US mainline churches, not least the ECUSA.

Not that to state such a method is anything new. The Nicene Creed in its original form, first stated the orthodox doctrine of the identity of Jesus and his relation to the Father and then it anathematized heretics. Here is the final paragraph of the Creed in modern English:

And those who say “there one was when he [the Son] was not”, and “before he was begotten he was not”, and that he came to be from things that were not, or from another essence or substance, affirming that the Son of God is subject to change or alteration – these the catholic and apostolic Church anathematizes.

Note that it is the heretics who teach the heresies which deny that the Son is truly eternal and truly of the same Being, Deity and Divinity as the Father, that are put under the ban!

In AD 325 one could not truly teach the basics of Trinitarianism without facing the major heresies of the time (e.g. Arianism) and showing where they were wrong. This is why the later Creed, called The Athanasian Creed, is so clear in what it affirmed and what is set aside or denied – and why it has been hated by those who think that it is possible only to teach the positive (the PECUSA/ECUSA most regrettably rejected it in 1789 and it was never placed for use in the American BCP).

Today there are those who believe that the churches should attempt to teach only what may be called the positive (as perhaps is the method used in Alpha Courses); but it would seem that there can be no true instruction these days in the Faith once delivered to the saints unless it is also pointed out what this implies in terms of rejection of powerful contemporary alternatives. And the reason is obvious – the alternatives are the common or normal statements of faith or expression of faith in liturgy in the mainline churches!

The tag, “the law of praying is the law of believing,” has been a most successful way in the mainline churches to subvert received biblically-based doctrine and to introduce novelty in faith and practice wrapped in God-language. New doctrine placed in new liturgies has been introduced into the churches and by using the new services over time the churches come to believe, teach and confess the new doctrine. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the ECUSA since it introduced its Book of varied services and varied doctrine in 1979.

I remain amazed that those who claim to be “orthodox” and oppose the “revisionism” of the leaders of the ECUSA still feel confident to use its official liturgy, even when they leave the same “apostate” (in their judgment) Church. For if ever there was a liturgy put together in order to seek to change the faith and morality of a church it was that which is now called by the ECUSA “The BCP 1979”! (see further M.C.Burson, ed., Worship points the Way (New York, 1981) and the essay by Dr Urban T Holmes.)

Let us teach and receive the biblically, orthodox Faith joyfully, carefully and reverently and, as we do so, let us not be afraid to note and reject those forms of doctrine and morality which seem to subvert it!

[Read for more detail on the 1979 book of varied services and varied doctrine, Neither Orthodoxy Nor a Formulary by Louis Tarsitano & Peter Toon from or 1 800 727 1928’ visit also ]


There is a group in the ECUSA calling itself the Via Media, and it was formed in response to the formation of the ACNetwork. Its goal is to counter the spreading of the truth about ECUSA's deviations from traditional doctrine. The name is intentionally deceptive co-opting of the classical via media represented by the Anglican faith, and this unfortunately fools the inattentive or ignorant into conferring a legitimacy which does not exist. It claims to seek unity, but unity at the expense of received Truth & Orthodoxy of faith and morals; claiming diversity, but only of the one-way variety which rejects orthodoxy and traditionalism. Illustrative web site URLs:

The Revd Dr Peter Toon March 6, 2006

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Strict & Particular – Baptists & Anglicans!

A discussion starter

Back in the mid 1960s I published my first essay in an academic journal. It was entitled “Strict & Particular Baptists.” A little later I published my first book, The Emergence of Hyper-Calvinism in England, 1689-1765.

“Strict” referred to a policy of admittance to the Lord’s Table – only baptized believers of certain faith and practice were admitted; “particular” meant “particular Atonement” and pointed to the doctrine that Christ died only for the elect and the Gospel should be offered only to the elect (i.e., not indiscriminately). A developed form of Reformed theology or Calvinism held by these “strict and particular Baptists,” together with some Congregationalists, was called by their opponents “hyper-Calvinism.” (Thus my first visits to the USA to give guest lectures and courses arose from my “expertise” in hyper-Calvinism!)

There are a few “strict and particular” Baptists left in the UK and in the USA, but I am not in touch with them.

However, there is something like them – groups taking a pious, doctrinal and practical stand-alone position for fear of heresy – amongst the Anglicans and Episcopalians at the very right end of the wide spectrum of Anglican faith and practice in the USA. That is, there are small groups who practice “strict” communion both in whom they admit and with whom they will participate; further, they are “particular” in that they insist that the content of the traditional BCP (1928 USA; 1962 Canada) is not sufficient and needs to be supplemented from the RC Tridentine Missal and Breviary in order for their doctrine espoused and proclaimed to be “orthodox.”

In passing we may observe that groups, denominations and jurisdictions which take very strong practical positions, especially on discipline, find it hard to grow in numbers in a society and culture which is “liberal” and “tolerant.” The English Strict and Particular Baptists were always a small minority in the Baptist family, and the American Strict and Particular Anglicans will always be a small minority in the Anglican family. And, of course, devout souls in each group held/hold that this is much to be expected, since the world around them is hostile to the true church and that the mainline churches have compromised in so many ways to become credible. They feel humble before God that they are the righteous remnant.

We may ask: IS THERE a middle way between “strict and particular” and “progressive, open and wholly inclusive” (ECUSA policy)? It appears that that “the Anglican Communion Network” would claim that there is, and that it stands for it.

What then is this middle ground? It is the modern Via Media, which apparently a number of Anglican Primates think is where Episcopalians & Anglicans should be standing in North America; and thus they urge The Network in this direction.

Let me try to provide an outline of this middle ground which is neither “strict” nor “without discipline” and which is neither “particular” nor “totally inclusive.” Then, perhaps others, who are on the “inside” of the Via Media leadership, can correct me where I am wrong.

1. The Via Media is tolerant –
  • of both those who advocate that female priests are acceptable as Christ’s Ministers (of Word, Sacrament and Pastoral Oversight) and those who think that they are not;
  • of both those who believe that the ECUSA Prayer Book of 1979 is really and truly an authentic edition of The Book of Common Prayer (first edition 1549) and those who think that it is a Book of Varied Services and Varied Doctrine, even as were the ASB of England (1980) and the BAS of Canada (1985);
  • of both those who are anglo-catholic and those who are evangelical/charismatic in style and churchmanship;
  • of the use of a variety of versions of the Bible – traditional translations, dynamic equivalency renderings and paraphrases;
  • of the use of a variety of forms of music from rock to classical in church services;
  • of variety in forms of dress for church, from the very casual to the formal
  • in the practice of open communion inviting all who are baptized and “love the Lord” to share – including infants and small children;
  • in the practice of the marriage of divorcees in church (after counseling) and of the deployment of divorced and remarried clergy as pastoral Ministers (after counseling);
  • of the use of artificial birth control by married couples; and of the purpose of marriage to be either for mutual sharing or for procreation or for both;
  • of the use of modern techniques of counseling, communication, marketing and managing to run the churches and to be used in evangelization and outreach.

2. The Via Media is intolerant –

  • Of the ordination and ministerial deployment of persons who practice a “gay” lifestyle;
  • Of the blessing of “same-sex” couples who claim they are in covenanted, faithful partnerships;
  • Of the ECUSA insistence that all lay and ordained officers accept the ordination and deployment of women as of the faith and thus a compulsory belief;
  • Of the excesses of the feminist and liberation movements as they press for and exercise the right to address Deity by whatever pronouns and names suit their feelings and convictions, so that God can be She, It or He, or all;
  • Of the high-handed and tough CEO methods used by some ECUSA diocesan bishops to get their way and to persecute those parishes which are “traditional”;
  • Of the general policy of total inclusiveness by ECUSA leadership which now sees “the Table” as open to all comers, especially to any of the “outcasts” of modern society, even and especially when the outcasts are not baptized;
  • Of the practical theology of ECUSA which teaches that all human love is of God (or God in action) and that God is Love and radiates inclusive love which affirms and receives people “just as they are” without “repentance” (thus a kind of pantheism or panentheism).
  • Of the doctrine that God, like the cosmos, is in a continual state of evolution and development and thus to keep “in relationship” with God the churches must keep moving and adapting to where the God of the Process is – and now She/He/It is way past where She/He/It was in the 1970s.


The question arises as to whether The Network is sufficiently different in depth and detail to the moderate form of Episcopalianism, which remains within and loyal to the ECUSA, that the Network will be able to maintain, in the long term, a distinctiveness and thus be the basis for a new Province. Will the Via Media gradually veer left? It seems there is no chance of it going right.

Maybe the “strict” and “particular” Anglicans will be still around – howbeit a small group – when The Network has disappeared! Or maybe the “strict” and “particular” Anglicans will join The Network and give it more stability in depth!!

First Sunday in Lent 2006 The Revd Dr Peter Toon

Thursday, March 02, 2006

The Affirmation of St Louis (1977) and The C of E/Anglican Formularies.

A discussion starter

With the attempts by the Anglican Communion Network (at the request of the concerned Anglican Primates) to unify the Anglican witness and jurisdictions in the USA, the question of basic commitments of the presently divided groups is raised. And, it appears, the leadership of The Network is prepared to move towards embracing those Continuing Anglicans who hold to The Affirmation of St Louis by adjusting its own doctrinal basis to accommodate this 1977 statement and thus embrace these good people.

Let us then examine this statement and its origins in relation to the historic Anglican Formularies.

Those Episcopalians from the USA and Anglicans from Canada, who met in St Louis in 1977 and signed The Affirmation, appear to have believed that the Episcopal Church of the USA and the Anglican Church of Canada had ceased to be orthodox Christian Churches; and thus secession from them was a duty before God. The immediate reason for the departure to form the Continuing Anglican Church was the adoption by both Churches of women as presbyters (priests); but, the bigger issues in the background concerned faith and morality as well.

The signers state their commitment of seeking to maintain unity with the See of Canterbury (if Canterbury remains orthodox?), and, doctrinally, to the authoritative Scriptures, to the three Creeds (Apostles’, Nicene and Athanasian), to the dogma of the Seven Ecumenical Councils and to the doctrine and use of the Seven Sacraments. In terms of liturgy they express commitment to the 1928 edition of the BCP in the USA and to the 1962 edition in Canada. There is no mention of The Anglican Missal.

When you compare this Statement with the Constitutions and Canon Law of virtually all of the Provinces of the Anglican Communion you notice that in The Affirmation there is no specific mention of The Ordinal and The Thirty-Nine Articles (which are separate books to the BCP but are normally bound with it, so that all three Anglican Formularies are within the same cover).

The pew editions of the 1928 and 1962 editions, as they were in print in 1977, contained The Ordinal and The Articles. However, The Affirmation refers to neither and so it is not clear whether either or both were accepted.

Common sense would normally cause one to suppose that these two historic and classic Formularies of the Anglican Way would be taken for granted. However, other clear statements in The Affirmation tend to cast doubt on the matter, especially with reference to The Articles of Religion.

First of all, we have noted that there is a commitment to the doctrine of all the Seven Ecumenical Councils. Such a position has been held as a private opinion by some anglo-catholics and high churchmen since the seventeenth century; but it has never been officially part of any Anglican confession of faith or constitution. The problem is obviously with the Seventh Council where the topic is no longer The Trinity or The Person of Christ but icons and images; the veneration of icons was approved and given a theological foundation. A similar doctrine was set forth eight or so centuries later by the Council of Trent in the sixteenth century. If The Articles are authoritative then the doctrine of the Seventh Council and the Council of Trent on icons and images cannot be regarded as part of the Reformed Catholicism of the Anglican Way (see Article XXII and the Homily “On the Peril of Idolatry”, Article XXXV).

Secondly, there is commitment in The Affirmation to seven sacraments as in the teaching of the Council of Trent. This is specifically rejected by The Articles (see XXV), which teach that there are two real, dominical Sacraments and five commonly called sacraments (in the medieval Church and into the 16th century). It is also rejected by the content of The Book of Common Prayer in any of its authorized editions, for here again there are only two Sacraments together with other rites that were previously in Roman Catholic dress called sacraments (e.g. Confirmation and Holy Matrimony).


It is difficult to come to clarity on the question of whether the Affirmers in 1977 saw themselves as Anglo-Catholics committed to historic Anglicanism (as set forth for example in The Solemn Declaration of 1893 and printed in the 1962 Canadian BCP), who allowed their private and cherished opinions to influence their description of the Anglican Way, OR that leaving the two mainline Churches provided them with the opportunity to reform Anglicanism in a Rome-ward direction and they took this opportunity to do so, believing they were forging a new and better path for others to walk in.

Certainly The Affirmation of St Louis goes beyond the normal statement of The Anglican Way and thus probably cannot be signed or accepted by those who are committed to the classic Anglican Formularies as they are stated, for example, in The Solemn Declaration of 1893 and in the Constitution of The Anglican Church of Nigeria, and presented in many editions of The Prayer Book.

The Network, it seems, faces a dilemma. If it embraces the Seventh Council then it steps ahead of most of world Anglicanism and away from the historic Formularies of the Anglican Way. If it does not, then it will not win the hearts of the Continuers.

(I deal with the 7th council and its dogma on icons in my book on The Seven Councils , entitled: YESTERDAY, TODAY AND FOREVER. JESUS CHRIST AND THE HOLY TRINITY IN THE TEACHING OF THE SEVEN ECUMENICAL COUNCILS, Preservation Press, 1996.)

The Rev’d Dr Peter Toon Ash Wednesday, 2006.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Ash Wednesday – Why no Collect on Fasting?

People ask me: Why does The Book of Common Prayer (1549, 1662, 1928) delay the Collect on Fasting to the First Sunday in Lent when it should , by rights, be prayed on the First Day of Lent?

The Collect for the first Sunday is one of the very few such prayers addressed to the Lord Jesus Christ, rather than to his Father, and it does concern the discipline of abstinence and fasting. It was written by Archbishop Cranmer and begins,

O Lord, who for our sake didst fast forty days and forty nights; Give us grace to use such abstinence, that, our flesh being subdued to the Spirit, we may ever obey thy godly motions in righteousness and true holiness, to thy honour and glory…..

The Collect appointed for Ash Wednesday prays to the Father:

Almighty and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made, and dost forgive the sins of all them that are penitent; Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins, and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

And this Collect contains no reference to fasting at all.

The answer to the question is that back in the late patristic period when the Christian Year, with its Collects, Epistles and Gospels, was created Lent began on the Sunday which was called Quadragesima (previous Sundays being named Septuagesima, Sexagesima and Quinquagesima). Only later was the beginning put back to the previous Wednesday. So in the tradition of the Sarum Use (Latin usage in England before the arrival of the BCP in 1549) although Lent began literally forty days (excluding Sundays) before Easter on the Wednesday (called Ash W.), the Collect for the First Sunday testified to an earlier period when Lent began on the Sunday which was 40 days or so before Easter.

One further explanation is needed: the reformed Church of England did not use the actual medieval Sarum Collect for Quadragesima (which had a theology of works righteousness) but it did retain its theme of fasting in the powerful new Prayer written by Archbishop Cranmer.

Now back to Ash Wednesday’ Collect and its origins. It seems to have been composed by the Archbishop with the Collect used at the benediction of the ashes on Ash Wednesday in the Sarum Use, before the ashes were laid upon the heads of the members of the congregation with the words, “Remember, man, that thou art ashes and unto ashes shalt thou return.”

Here is the Sarum Collect in English translation, which seeks to preserve the style of the original:

Almighty and everlasting God, who hast compassion upon all men, and hatest nothing that thou hast made, and dost not impute the sins of men by reason of their penitence; who also dost succour those who labour in necessity; Vouchsafe to bless [+] and sanctify [+] these ashes, which thou has appointed us to bear upon our heads after the manner of the Ninevites, in token of humiliation and holy devotion, and in order to the washing away of our offences; and, by this invocation of thy holy name, grant that all those that shall bear them upon their heads, to implore thereby thy mercy, may obtain from thee both the pardon of all their offences, and also grace so to begin today their holy fasts, that on the day of Resurrection, they may be counted worthy to approach to the holy Paschal feast, and hereafter to receive everlasting glory. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Cranmer’s Collect preserves the Latin style of the use of relative clause (in contrast to the modern “You have compassion upon all”) but is both shorter and designed to be free of any possible suggestion of works-righteousness.

Lent, of course, is not about historical research but is about devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ. Let your abstinence and fasting be adorned in Gospel righteousness.

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