Friday, June 30, 2006

Alternative Primatial Oversight – a novel development for Anglicans.

In response to the failure of the General Convention of The Episcopal Church [TEC] (a) to express regret for the consecration of Gene Robinson as a Bishop in New Hampshire, and (b) to make commitment to cease the blessing of same-sex couples, together with its election of the radically progressive Katherine J-S, now Bishop of Nevada, as the new Presiding Bishop, four dioceses have asked for “Alternative Primatial Oversight” [APO] . That is, they do not wish to have the new Primate, Bishop Katherine, as their Presiding Bishop and Primate. They wish some Archbishop from overseas to act in this role.

Their stated reasons for this are mixed. Two dioceses seem to have two reasons – that the new P.B. is a woman, and, also that she is wholly supportive of the new sexual innovations in TEC; while the other two seems to have one reason – that she supports wholeheartedly the new sexual agenda and practice in TEC.

Apparently the Diocese of Recife in Brazil, which is separated from its province, asked for APO last year and still awaits a reply from Lambeth Palace, the home and office of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Whether (a) the Archbishop of Canterbury as counseled by his chosen advisors is ready even to think of such a move as a possibility, and (b) whether it would be acceptable to the House of Bishops, Executive Council and later the General Convention of The Episcopal Church, are unknowns at this time.

If we view the action of the four dioceses – Fort Worth, South Carolina, Pittsburgh, and San Joaquim – as a cry to the Anglican Communion for help from a beleaguered minority, we shall be tuned into where they are and how they feel. In this context, this appeal for APO may well be – in political terms – the best way they could come up with, at this time, to express their cry for help, and give them a rather long breathing space to see just how much help is forthcoming from overseas in terms of specific recognition, guidance and help for what to do in the months and years ahead.

Right now, it appears that the Dioceses are placing themselves in the strongest negotiating position they can find in their unhappy state so that they can move in one of several directions as and when required. They appear not to be thinking of secession but of staying where they are and developing different and new relations and connections on the ecclesiastical map.

What I find confusing in their claims is (a) that they state that they are “biblical and orthodox” and yet (b) their chief Formulary, which they seem to use uncritically and always, is not “biblical and orthodox.”

“The Book of Common Prayer 1979,” which is truly “A Book of varied services and doctrine” and not in truth “The BCP”, was put in place by TEC as a replacement for the Formularies which had been in place throughout its history – the very same Formularies which are the Formularies of most of the Anglican Provinces overseas. In Canada the equivalent of the 1979 Book was called “The Book of Alternative Services” and in England, “The Alternative Service Book,” as the BCP itself stayed in place. The creation of the new “BCP” of 1979 was part of the remaking of The Episcopal Church in progressively liberal terms (remember it was the 1970s which saw the changing of the doctrine of marriage in 1973, the introduction of the ordination of women in 1973 (illegally) and 1976 (legally) and the beginnings of many resolutions on the rights of “gay” people.).

It is clear that this setting aside of the received Formularies of the Anglican Way and the commitment to new ones (all within the 1979 Book), with different and varied doctrine, is one of the root causes why TEC is where it is today – advancing into more and more radical expressions of Religion. The Baptismal Service with its “Covenant” has been and remains the religious charter often mentioned for the innovations in all areas as “peace and justice” are pursued, and “the dignity of all persons,” just as they are, is affirmed.

So the questions arise:

Why is it that those who claim that they are “biblical and orthodox” and are seeking a better future for the Anglican Way in North America will not state clearly that the 1979 Book is NOT now their Formulary (despite the Canon Law of The Episcopal Church) and that their Formularies are those of England, Nigeria, Uganda and so on --- i.e., the classic BCP, Ordinal and Thirty-Nine Articles? Why do they not demote the 1979 Book to the status of “ASB” or “BAS” as a starter in this recovery of authentic AnglicanTradition?

This kind of action would really tell the Anglican world where they intended to be and to go.
And it would show clearly to all that their concerns are much greater than not having actively “Gay” clergy in their midst! To stay with the 1979 Book s Formulary is to stay with – at best – a mixture of truth and error, of orthodoxy and heresy and it is to be committed to “The New Episcopal Religion” of America, which was invented in the 1960s and put in place in the 1970s and afterwards!

June 29, 2006

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

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Tech Note

The main PBS site has been down since Tuesday, 6/27. We do not yet have an estimate from our web host on when it will be back up. All the graphics for this page are hosted at that site, as well, so, until it is back up, there will be missing elements on this page.

Thanks for your patience.

UPDATE: the main PBS site is now back up. The outage was caused by the bad weather and flooding problems in the Northeast. Our thanks to the folks at (our gracious web hosts) for all their hard work and dedication.

The Archbishop of Sydney comments on the REFLECTIONS of the Archbishop of Canterbury, sent to all the Primates - June 28, 2006

A few comments from the Revd Dr Peter Toon


Response to the Statement “Reflections on the Anglican Communion”, released by the Most Rev Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury

“All members of the Anglican Communion welcome the statement from Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury. Dr Williams has done us a great service in these reflections following the recently held General Convention of the Episcopal Church in the United States. I offer my own response to his statement.

Among other things, Dr Williams has recognized the following:

First, a separation within the Communion is inevitable. To use an analogy, partners have separated although they have not divorced. This is recognized in his categories of constituent churches and churches in association with the Communion.

Second, the Archbishop has made it very clear that this whole controversy is, at a fundamental level, about the authority of the Bible, and the way in which we learn and follow God's will in fellowship with each other. The presenting issue may be human sexuality but the real issue remains the word of God.

Thirdly, the Archbishop has spoken of the need of a covenant to hold the constituent churches together and for new institutions to develop. In talking like this he seems to be more optimistic than I would be. Rather than looking into the mid-term future with hopes for the development of new covenants and institutions, I think we need to be looking at the realities of the present situation, and recognising the need to accept the new relationships that have occurred. Like him, I am not without hope that our future relationships can be sustaining and enriching. Unlike him, I think that the Communion has already become a looser network of churches with much in common but, unfortunately, much that separates.

The Archbishop remains concerned that our life together remains a valid and vital way of presenting the good news of Jesus Christ to the world. I think that his summons for us to listen to the word of God enables us to continue to have a future. Just as Archbishop Williams does, I also pray that it may be so.”

The Most Rev Dr Peter F. Jensen

Archbishop of Sydney, 28 June 2006

1) Dr Jensen is probably right in his assessment that there is already a division in the Anglican Communion and that the only way to keep the present 38 Provinces together is by having two levels of membership in the Communion. One would be full membership committed to the historic Christian Religion and one would be partial association, without rights to attend meetings or to vote, and only loosely committed to historic Christian Faith.

2) Dr Jenson is wholly right to state that the matter of same-sex unions is the presenting problem and that the real basis for the growing separation is the presence of two views of authority and the Bible. The view of the progressive liberals is that the Bible is authoritative in that it is, for them, unique in the sense that it is the first record of human reception of divine revelation; yet, at the same time, it is not the final and the last such record, because their God, the God of evolution and progress, is continually revealing Godself, and has done so much recently in human experience of rights, of freedom, of self-realization and of sexual activity. So the God of 2006 has updated what he/she/it was and made known in biblical times and thus there are changes in faith and morals.

3) Dr Jenson is right to point out that to create a covenant that will acceptable to all Primates and then will be approved by all the Synods of all the Provinces is to aim at the near impossible, not least because of the complex legal issues that such a proposed covenant would face within given provinces – not least Australia.

4) It is surely sensible, reasonable and morally right that provinces which come from the same roots and share the same basic Faith should restore and cultivate genuine cooperation and fellowship in the Gospel and thereby testify to the unity for which the Lord Jesus prays as the High Priest. (It is a great pity to note that what bound the provinces together in bonds of affection for many years is not mentioned by the Archbishop of Canterbury as a basis of unity – i.e., the classic Formularies and the regular use of the Book of Common Prayer all over the world.)

5) Dr Jenson does not mention(because he was being deliberately brief) the ordination of women as that which divides Anglicans one from another, though Dr. Williams does refer to it. However, if the projected, new form of the Communion is composed of those who reject same-sex blessings and the like, it will still be divided over whether it is God’s will to bring women into the Historic Ministry, and very particularly over whether they should be made Bishops. In Sydney, there are no ordained women priests and the doctrine of headship, espoused by the archdiocese, prevents any move in that direction. But in other parts of Australia no such doctrine is confessed.

6) Also Dr Jenson does not mention that the great variety of liturgical forms now being used in the Anglican world (not least in Sydney!) makes unity more difficult to achieve and manage, for we not only to have to deal with the permanent realities of language and cultural differences, but also with both different churchmanships (an old problem) and a vast spectrum of forms of service (a new problem).

7) What I would like to see alongside the Instruments of Unity (the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference, the Primates Meeting and the Anglican Consultative Council) is the restoration of the classic Formularies (BCP, Articles of Religion and Ordinal) and the harmonizing of the canon law of the various provinces in matters that deal with relations one to another.

Certainly the Anglican Way is now being challenged in ways that would hardly have been envisaged a few years ago. If it has in God’s providence anything to share in the long term with other jurisdictions within the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, it will need to be brought by divine guidance and grace, through the difficult years ahead, to stability in the Faith and a unity in worship together with a genuine comprehensiveness in membership and mission.

In an appendix below the Response of the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church of the USA is provided. His province would – on present insights – be not in full membership of the Communion but in associate, that is partial, membership.

The full text of Griswold's statement follows.

I am greatly encouraged by the Archbishop of Canterbury's timely call to the provinces of the Anglican Communion to join together in exploring our Anglican identity. I am one with him in his desire to develop a covenant capable of expressing that identity amidst the complexities of the world in which we live. I believe it is possible for us hold up a renewed vision of what it means to be Anglican Christians.

The Archbishop's has helpfully raised up in his text the constituent elements of classical Anglicanism, namely the priority of the Bible in matters of doctrine, the Catholic sacramental tradition and a "habit of cultural sensitivity and intellectual flexibility that does not seek to close down unexpected questions too quickly." This both reminds us of the tradition that has formed us and points us to the future.

The conclusion of this lengthy process is now unknown. Therefore is it misleading that some, in responding to the Archbishop's lengthy theological reflection, have focused their attention on speculations about a yet-to-be determined outcome. And, as we enter into that process of discernment, we must never forget that God can always surprise us, and that the church is not our possession but is an instrument of God's reconciling love in the world.

The Most Rev. Frank T. Griswold
Presiding Bishop and Primate
June 28, 2006

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Anglican Identity, according to Dr Rowan Williams: A call to Common Prayer

The Archbishop of Canterbury is facing the present, major crisis within the Anglican family of Churches with wisdom and courage. He does not have the authority and power of a Patriarch or Pope. His authority is basically moral and relies on long-formed “bonds of affection.”

Following the failure of the American Episcopal Church to provide the totality of positive response asked for by The Windsor Report and the Primates’ Meeting, Dr Williams is making a tremendous effort to guide the discussion and debate within the Anglican Communion in both reasonable and responsible ways, true to the Christian heritage of the Anglican Way. In this he ought to be supported by the prayers of millions of Anglicans, for unless wisdom and grace prevail over the next few months or so, the Anglican Way may be split into several ways, never to be re-united.

Dr Williams has written to all the thirty-seven Primates and sent to them a REFLECTION, which has the purpose of sharing with them how he would like them to consider a way through the present crisis so that a maximum unity is preserved, a maximum truth is confessed, and the least harm is done to churches and pesons.

Everything he writes in this REFLECTION is worthy of careful thought, but here I wish to invite my reader to consider what Dr Williams says about Anglican Identity and whether the Anglican Way is worth preserving, and belonging to at this stage in its history and development.

Whether or not to remain Anglican is a live question in North America, where the Episcopal Church seems to have walked away from its Anglican heritage into a radically progressive religion and where Anglicans outside the Episcopal Church (“Continuing”, “Extra-Mural” or otherwise named) seem unable as yet to find real and practical ways of uniting in a common cause and faith. So the temptation is great for many people in despair and tiredness to go either to the supposed safety of Orthodoxy or Rome on the one side or to non-denominational evangelicalism (i.e., to the Church invisible) on the other. (And let us admit that God may be leading some people in these directions for their true good.)

In his REFLECTION the Archbishop is telling us to take a broad not narrow perspective and to see the fullness of the Anglican Way within the fellowship of a world-wide family of Churches:

The Anglican Identity

“The reason Anglicanism is worth bothering with is because it has tried to find a way of being a Church that is neither tightly centralized nor just a loose federation of essentially independent bodies – a Church that is seeking to be a coherent family of communities meeting to hear the Bible read, to break bread and share wine as guests of Jesus Christ, and to celebrate a unity in worldwide mission and ministry. That is what the word ‘Communion’ means for Anglicans, and it is a vision that has taken clearer shape in many of our ecumenical dialogues.

Of course it is possible to produce a self-deceiving, self-important account of our worldwide identity, to pretend that we were a completely international and universal institution like the Roman Catholic Church. We’re not. But we have tried to be a family of Churches willing to learn from each other across cultural divides, not assuming that European (or American or African) wisdom is what settles everything, opening up the lives of Christians here to the realities of Christian experience elsewhere. And we have seen these links not primarily in a bureaucratic way but in relation to the common patterns of ministry and worship – the community gathered around Scripture and sacraments; a ministry of bishops, priests and deacons, a biblically-centered form of common prayer, a focus on the Holy Communion. These are the signs that we are not just a human organization but a community trying to respond to the action and the invitation of God that is made real for us in ministry and Bible and sacraments. We believe we have useful and necessary questions to explore with Roman Catholicism because of its centralized understanding of jurisdiction and some of its historic attitudes to the Bible. We believe we have some equally necessary questions to propose to classical European Protestantism, to fundamentalism, and to liberal Protestant pluralism. There is an identity here, however fragile and however provisional.

But what our Communion lacks is a set of adequately developed structures which is able to cope with the diversity of views that will inevitably arise in a world of rapid global communication and huge cultural variety. The tacit conventions between us need spelling out – not for the sake of some central mechanism of control but so that we have ways of being sure we’re still talking the same language, aware of belonging to the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church of Christ. It is becoming urgent to work at what adequate structures for decision-making might look like. We need ways of translating this underlying sacramental communion into a more effective institutional reality, so that we don’t compromise or embarrass each other in ways that get in the way of our local and our universal mission, but learn how to share responsibility.”
We are all coming to see that the special characteristics of the Anglican Way as a worldwide family make it the more difficult to keep it as a united Way and family. So the Archbishop is prepared to support, in order to gain the maximum unity possible: (a) the continued slow work of bringing into harmony the canon law of the thirty-eight provinces; (b) the moving toward a covenant wherein individual provinces freely restrict their own right to act independently in order to act in concert with other provinces in major matters; and (c) an association of provinces unable to sign the covenant as such but who are nevertheless loosely related to the Communion of Churches bound by covenant ( a kind of circle within a circle). This long-term view of the Archbishop may be called “visionary” for to see it become a reality will be “a miracle.”

In North America, Episcopalians and Anglicans of every kind, who intend to remain Anglican in mind and heart, are surely called to seek ways towards unity in truth and unity in love and to pray fervently for guidance and strength to work for these ends. We are all clear that there are no easy or simple ways forward but what is surely needed is a holding firm to the Triune God as He is known in the Anglican Way and seeking to do His will at this difficult time so that this Way is the more united and the more a dwelling of the Holy Spirit.

One thing we can all do – and this is mentioned by the Archbishop as part of the Anglican heritage – is to engage in Daily Morning and Evening Prayer, using that edition of The Book of Common Prayer with which we are familiar. In these daily services are the opportunities to hear from the LORD through His Word written, to speak to the LORD in versicle, canticle, collect and psalm and to engage in fervent petition and intercession for the renewal of the Church, both in North America and in the larger world.

Keep, we beseech thee, O Lord, thy Church with thy perpetual mercy; and, because the frailty of man without thee cannot but fall, keep us ever by thy help from all things hurtful, and lead us to all things profitable to our salvation; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

LORD GOD, guard your Church with your perpetual mercy, and, because in our frailty we cannot stand without your support, keep us always from all that may harm us, and lead us to all that is profitable for our salvation; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Rev’d Dr Peter Toon June 28 2006


A meditation from Dr Peter Toon, President of the Prayer Book Society of the USA

All Christians claim that the Bible (the One Canon with Two Testaments) is fundamental to Christianity. Without the Bible it is probable that there would be no Christian Religion at all in the world today.

Yet there are within the Christian Church throughout the world a variety of doctrines and views as to what authority the Bible should have in the Church, and how it should be interpreted. Within what we may call the Anglican branch of the worldwide Church, two basic approaches to the Bible, which have been present for a long time, have come into open and severe conflict over the last few years. And the focus of the controversy has been what the Bible says about “human sexuality,” specifically whether the church should bless a union of two people of the same sex/gender, who claim to be living in a covenanted partnership and ordained a person in such a “relationship.”

Let us call one view the “traditional” and the other the “radical” and describe them in general terms, recognizing that within each category there are variations, from mild to extreme.


The simplest way to present the “radical” approach to the Bible is to describe it as “The Book of Experiences”. That is, it is unique in that it is the record of how Israelites, Jews and Christians experienced God, as written by themselves of themselves. Their telling of this story was within their own social and cultural horizons but, even so, it is, and will always remain, unique for it is the first and only record of the how people responded to redeeming actions and words from the Creator God, including pre-eminently the response to Jesus, the Messiah and unique “Son/Child” of this God.

Yet this “radical” approach does not stop here, for it believes that in the Experience of both the Church and the world, God has continued to reveal Godself as the centuries have gone by. Thus it is, as it were, as if there exists a Book that is continually being written as the Church and the world experience more of God. The original Bible has the two foundational chapters (OT & NT); but, in the twenty-first century, the Church has other chapters to read covering further records of experience of claimed Revelation over the centuries. And. specifically, it has the chapter now being written of the seemingly abundant revelation of Godself during the second half of the twentieth century, and this is the source of much inspiration and action today by progressives.

Through Experience – of persons individually, of couples and of community as well as through research upon human psychology and actions – God has revealed much and will reveal more. And this revelation through experience both modifies and perfects what has been previously held to be the will of God, based upon the initial experience of the first Christians. Thus what would, according to original biblical categories (found in chapters 1 & 2 of the enlarging book) be declared to be sin, immorality and dis-order, is now, in a much later chapter, declared to be known as holiness, morality and order.

It is easy to see how this seeming reversal by God of God’s own will can be; but only if one reflects upon two things. First, that the original two chapters are said to be expressed within the cultural framework of their time and so carry much of this (e.g. patriarchalism and sexism) into their presentation of the good life. In the second place, that God is seen as the God of process, the God of evolution, the God who changes in interaction with the universe. Or, God is understood to contain the cosmos within his/her Being and to be, as it were, continually birthing it and thus in constant movement and change (this is panentheism).

To summarize. For the modern, Anglican “radical” what is called “The Bible” is unique and can never be replaced. However, it does not contain the last word in terms of what should be believed, taught and confessed by the churches – and this for the simple reason that God is in process and evolution and is continually revealing more to his/her receptive children through both their experience of life and of scientific reflection upon it. So God is proclaimed as Love, who welcomes everyone just as he or she is, and affirms and supports each human being in a life pursued according to personal “orientation” and “self-realization,” Thus, on this view, the Church should be inclusive, welcoming and affirming all and not being guided by old, obsolete, standards belonging to a patriarchal, sexist society.

[Added note: Usually the same approach is used with reference to both the acceptance of the ordination of women as deacons, presbyters and bishops and the right of “heterosexual” persons to experience serial monogamy in search of happiness. Thus all these things come as a package of new morality.]


For Anglicans, the traditional approach to the Bible is expressed in The Thirty-Nine Articles, which with The Book of Common Prayer and The Ordinal belong to the subsidiary formularies of the Anglican Way – immediately under the unique authority of Scripture.

Article 6 begins: “Holy Scripture sets forth everything that is necessary for our salvation. Consequently, nobody should be required to believe as an article of the Christian Faith, or to regard as necessary for salvation, anything that is not found in Scripture or that cannot be proved from Scripture.” Then the books of the OT and NT are listed, after which is stated: “The books known as the Apocrypha are read by the Church, as Jerome said, because of the examples they provide of heroic lives and faithful conduct, but the Church does not use these books to establish any doctrine.”

In a sentence, the One Canon of Scripture with its two Testaments provides God’s Word to us concerning what we are to believe, teach and confess with regard to faith and morals. And what it provides is the final word of God, not one that is subject to later development or change. It is, however, the final word of God stated in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek and thus has to be translated into other languages and explained within later cultures – and this is often a difficult task.

The actual facts and teaching are not subject to change. This is so because the doctrine of God associated with this traditional approach proceeds from the complete distinction between God and the cosmos, along with the insistence that God created the cosmos out of nothing. So the eternal Being of God is one unique, self-existent form of being and the being of creatures is a wholly different form of created being. Thus God is believed to be first of all transcendent, wholly above and beyond the created order, and then, secondly, immanent present by his Spirit through the created order keeping it in existence and order. Into this world, this God, who is the almighty Father, sent his Son and Word to become Man and as the God-Man become the Saviour of the world and to reveal the nature, attributes and will of God to mankind.

The Trinity, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, is not, therefore, a God in process, or in evolution, or in emergence, but is the great YHWH, the I AM WHO I AM, and the I WAS WHAT I AM AND WHAT I SHALL BE. And in the Bible, and in the Bible only, according to the traditional approach is the authoritative message of how created and sinful human beings may know this living God. the Father. through Christ Jesus, the Son, and by the Holy Spirit; and live as his adopted children to his glory. Included in his will, says the traditionalist, is the doctrine that only male and female are to be united in holy matrimony as one flesh for procreation and intimacy, and there cannot be any holiness attached to same-sex unions, fornication, adultery, serial monogamy, or polygamy.

[Added note: Usually those Anglicans who are committed to Trinitarian Theism and the authority of the Bible believe that the church cannot either ordain women or bless serial monogamy; and this is what is presented in The Book of Common Prayer and The Ordinal.]

In conclusion

In the light of what has been presented above, it does not really matter either which modern version of the Bible or which Lectionary are used by the Radicals, because the Bible used is ultimately only the first two chapters of the long story. In contrast, the choice of version of Bible and Lectionary matters to the Traditionalists for they desire to know as accurately as possible what God has said and to know it in the best ordered way.

Further, it would appear that the Radicals and the Traditionalists not only have very different doctrines of God and Revelation but also that they worship two different Deities – or one Deity perceived and addressed in two opposing ways. It is not always easy to see this because some Radicals make use of traditional hymnody, music, ceremonial and liturgy; while in contrast some Traditionalists use modern music and liturgy.

What seems to be clear is that these two different Religions cannot stay permanently together in one jurisdiction, be it a diocese or a province. If either group concedes any major point to the other side it loses its integrity and its whole position becomes unstable. Yet there is no reason why a reasonable and just separation should not and cannot be negotiated!

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Baptism into the New Episcopal Religion. But is it baptism into the real Kingdom of God?

Post General Convention Reflections from the Revd Dr Peter Toon

What was again made clear in Columbus, Ohio, at the 75th General Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church is that there is a very clear connection and route from the content of its innovative 1979 Prayer Book to its major innovations in sexuality. And that connection is specifically through the constant use of the text of the “Service of Holy Baptism” (pp.299ff.) with its “Baptismal Covenant.”

Here is the text of one Resolution from the 2006 General Convention which communicates the radicalism of the use of this “Covenant” as it refers to people of all kinds and all “orientations”:

Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, That the 75th General Convention commit itself to baptismal equality for members of all ages; and be it further

Resolved, That the 75th General Convention direct the Executive Council to appoint a Task Force for interpreting our biblical and theological language and heritage about God and people in ways that include all those created in God’s image; and be it further

Resolved, That the Task Force will offer guidelines to assure linguistic visibility in the everyday worship, music, education, preaching, written materials, and clip art used at the congregational, diocesan and national levels of the Episcopal Church such as many Protestant denominations already have; and be it further

Resolved, That the Task Force include theologians, members of the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, the Committee on the Status of Women, the House of Bishops’ Theology Committee, the Executive Council Anti-Racism Committee, and the Office of Communications; and be further

Resolved, That the Task Force publish by 2009 those principles and guidelines with recommendations for introducing them to congregations, the Episcopal Church Center, church-related organizations, staff and media; and be it further

Resolved, That Baptismal equality is understood as the welcoming of all baptized persons into the Body of Christ, where all are included equally, and the grace and gifts bestowed by God in this this sacrament are recognized and fully utilized; and be it further

Resolved, That the General Convention request the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance to consider a budget allocation of $38,000 for two meetings of the Task Force and $2,000 for publication of the principles and

Inclusivity and equality are the common denominators in all of Jesus' parables about the household (kingdom) of God. Today the Church is challenged to look at
what it means to receive someone through baptism into the household of God and to include them fully into its life and ministry.

Overseas journalists present at the Convention were mystified by the constant references in Committees and House of Deputies and Bishops to the Baptismal Covenant as the basis of ECUSA religion. Andrew Carey, son of Lord Carey, admitted on his Blog that he could not see why baptism was mentioned so often. This is because the emphasis upon the supposed contract made with God in baptism to become a radical innovator is peculiarly North American.

I recall vividly being present at a meeting of the Standing Liturgical Commission at the Convention of 2000, where I was giving evidence on behalf of the use of the classic BCP of 1928. It was agreed that with the local bishop’s permission and under certain conditions certain services of the 1928 BCP could be used. However, of one thing they were all clear, and the female priests there present most clear. This was that there was no substitute possible for the use of the Baptismal Service. For herein was contained what they obviously believed was an essential part of the progressive religion of the modernizing Episcopal Church.

I also recall vividly watching the installation – by himself! – in the National Cathedral at Washington of Griswold as the Presiding Bishop. Here it was made very clear that in Baptism God sows the seed of all possible ministry and ministries in the Church, lay and ordained. Thus at any time a baptized person may be called to any ministry, whatever the person’s sex or “orientation.” So, once baptized, any person is a potential candidate for all ministries and the fact of having been baptized is always to be the primary consideration.

Baptism, ECUSA style, is the ritual entrance into a community (a community in modern terms is the coming together of “individuals” for a common purpose). But what kind of community? This is presented within what is called “The Baptismal Covenant”. Though there is promise to be committed to certain traditional things such as church attendance, resisting of evil and proclaiming the Gospel, the innovation is in the questions which require an affirmative reply: “Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?” And , “Will you strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being?”

Anyone who has followed the debates and resolutions of the General Convention from the 1960s through to 2006 will have no doubt of the great importance attached to these innovative commitments, which provided for not a few General Conventions their titles and themes. What these commitments mean – if we listen to the General Convention and the Executive Council – is a virtually total dedication to the expanding agenda of civil and human rights and the support of all moves to affirm self-worth and human dignity. Thus anyone making these commitments within the context of the Episcopal Church is virtually committing himself/herself to all the innovations introduced by the General Convention since the 1960s, from the right to divorce and remarriage in church, through a variety of women’s and minority rights, to the rights of homosexual persons to be true to their orientation. That is, a commitment to a community which is not only in the world and for the world but is also OF the world, differing only from the world (enlightened culture) in using “God-language” for human ideas and activity.

In the traditional Services of Holy Baptism, the emphasis is upon regeneration, birth from above, and dying to sin and rising to new life in Christ, for membership of a heavenly communion (not an earthly, activist community) where life on earth is a pilgrimage and where as a soldier and servant of Christ one is at war with the world, the flesh and the devil in the service of the heavenly Father. Let my reader compare the content of the 1979 service with that in the edition of the classical BCP of 1662 or 1928 in order to get the complete contrast between the doctrine, style and emphases as well as the content of the two different forms of entrance into Christian Faith.

Of course, there is sufficient traditional material in the 1979 Baptismal Service to hide its real and true purpose, which is that of initiating people into an activist community which, in the name of God, and with some use of traditional language and means, is primarily committed to bringing or reflecting change in human society, so that in it equality, justice and peace are to be found, and war and discrimination against persons are no more. To see what “peace and justice” mean one only need look at the work of the “Peace and Justice Commission” of the Episcopal Church since the 1970s, and to see what “dignity of persons” is all about one only need the acceptance by this Church of most of the agenda of the LesBiGay and Feminist lobbies.

In conclusion

So I am continually surprised, indeed shocked and grieved, that those who claim to be “the orthodox remnant” within ECUSA use this service, with its “Covenant” (= contract made with God), all the time and seem not to realize that by using it they are supporting unwittingly the very doctrines and agenda that they say they oppose! I am also amazed that AMiA clergy of the Province of Rwanda use it as well!

I suggest that as a protest for the Gospel and against the New Episcopal Religion they use instead the classic Anglican Service and, if they insist that it be in so-called contemporary language, then we can supply that for them right away!

(For a reasoned critique of the 1979 Prayer Book from the vantage point of the classic Anglican Way, see Louis. R Tarsitano & Peter Toon, Neither Orthodoxy Nor A Formulary…. Available on line at or by calling 1-800-727-1928)

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Protesting on behalf of the Gospel & Orthodoxy inside and outside the ECUSA.

TWO practical suggestions offered to the Bishops and Priests of the Anglican Communion Network

Peter Toon, President of the Prayer Book Society

Rightly The Network has protested against the decisions of the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church with regard to its inadequate responses to The Windsor Report. Rightly the Diocese of Fort Worth has appealed to Lambeth Palace, London, for a stand-in Primate to replace the new lady Primate of the Episcopal Church.

But…ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS. As small children used to cry out when I was a boy in Northern England: “Sticks and stones will break my bones but calling will not harm me.”

The clergy in the Network, and specifically those who use the 1979 Prayer Book, can take action which will both show their allegiance to the Gospel and historic Church Order, and at the same time be a protest against the innovations of the Episcopal Church.

Here they are:

1. Cease to use the Baptismal Service in the 1979 Book and use instead in traditional or contemporary language the Order for Baptism from the classic BCP in its 1928 US edition or its 1962 Canadian edition or its classic 1662 edition.

Why do this? Because the foundation of the New Episcopal Religion, which has been forming since the 1970s is based upon, as its practical theological charter,the 1979 Baptismal Service and, more specifically, on the much trumpeted “Baptismal Covenant.” Over the years the claims made that this new Religion is based on this “Covenant” have got stronger and louder. British visitors to the June General Convention in Columbus were mystified as to why there were so many references to “the Baptismal Covenant” as the basis for change and innovation.

I submit that those who aspire to “orthodoxy” should avoid the use of it completely. First of all, it has the appearance of,and is interpreted by the official ECUSA as making, a contract with God to do certain things. Prominent amongst these (and not found in traditional services of holy Baptism) are commitments to work for “peace and justice” and “the dignity of all persons.” There is no doubt that these are 1960s phases and to see what they mean one simply (a) notes what the Peace and Justice commission of the Episcopal Church has been and is concerned with, and (b) in what circumstances the “Covenant” is claimed as authoritative in usual ECUSA business. The present Presiding Bishop and the incoming Presiding Bishop, together with many others in leadership, see this “Covenant” as a contract with God to introduce the left of center social and political agenda into the doctrine of the Church, adding the names of God and Christ to give it a religious flavor. Further, they interpret Baptism as being the moment when a person is given in potential all the possible ministries of the Church, lay and ordained. Thus everyone, whatever their “gender” and “orientation”, has a right to be a priest and a bishop and even a presiding bishop by reason of his or her Baptism. So there can be no exclusion of Lesbian, Gay, Divorced, Divorced and Remarried, and Bi-Sexual persons, to name several categories.

In favor of using one of the other sound texts mentioned above is that they are clearly orthodox and without a 1960s revolutionary agenda within them. They provide the means to make a person the child of God and citizen of heaven.

2. Cease to use the Services for Ordination in the 1979 Book and use instead the classic Ordinal from an edition of bound within the classic Book of Common Prayer – either in traditional or contemporary language.

Why propose this? First of all the Episcopal Church changed its doctrine of the Ministry in 1976 and the services in the 1979 Book were intended to incorporate this change, not only in the inclusion of women but also in the lowering of standards for ordained Ministry. Secondly, the leaders and exemplars of the New Episcopal Religion have been ordained and consecrated by these Rites and now they use them to create a New Ministry for the New Religion by them. Their use of them makes the Rites to be theirs!

The Ordinal in its traditional Anglican form was used from 1549 to the 1970s everywhere and continues to be used in many places to the present time. To use it is a clear sign of commitment to classic orthodoxy and it is to commit oneself to the received apostolic succession and three fold Ministry, maintained and commended by the Anglican Way.


(Note: the Prayer Book Society can help with the provision of the classic services in contemporary English. All three editions of the classic BCP mention above are in print.)

Friday, June 23, 2006

The New Episcopate of the New Episcopal Religion

The Episcopal Church has created a revised form of the historic Catholic and Anglican understanding of the Episcopate. To understand this we need to recall what is the traditional teaching, that has been set aside.

In the past when Anglicans have explained and defended the Episcopate, they usually have claimed that its importance and strength derive from the combination of the following considerations:

1. The Episcopate symbolizes and secures in an abiding form the apostolic mission and authority within the Church of Christ; historically the Episcopate became in the Early Church the organ of this mission and authority.
2. In early times the continuous successions of Bishops in tenure of the various Sees were valued because they secured the purity of apostolic teaching as against, for example, the danger of the introduction of novel and erroneous teaching by means of written or secret traditions, falsely ascribed to apostolic authors. It has remained a function of the Episcopate, even after the era of the promulgation of dogma by Ecumenical Councils, to guard the Church against erroneous teaching.
3. The Bishop in his official capacity and vocation represents the whole Church in and to his diocese, and his diocese in and to the Councils of the Church. He is therefore a living Representative of the unity and universality of the Church.
4. The Bishop in his diocese represents the Good Shepherd; the idea of pastoral care is inherent in his office. Both clergy and laity look to him as Chief Pastor, and he represents in a special degree the paternal quality of pastoral care (“father in God”).
5. In as much as the unity of the Church is in part secured by an orderly method of making new Ministers, and the Bishop is the proper organ of unity and universality, he is the appropriate agent for carrying on through ordination the authority of the apostolic mission of the Church.

It is the coalescence of all of these elements in a single person (man) that gives to the Episcopate its peculiar importance in traditional Anglican doctrine. And added to this has been the requirement that the character and life of the man chosen to be a bishop should be a wholesome example to others. The latter has assumed that if married it will be to one wife and that he will not be a divorced and remarried person.

At its General Conventions in 2003 at Minneapolis and in 2006 at Columbus, the Episcopal Church confirmed with great clarity what it had done in 1976, when its General Convention created a revised form of both the received Threefold Ministry and of the Episcopate as part of this. It has taken thirty years to see this new doctrine come to full flower. Women have been ordained deacon and priest in growing numbers since 1976 and since the 1980s there have been the election of a small number of women to be bishops. But in 2003 and again in 2006 the meaning of “wholesome example” and “Order” were revised for all to behold and understand.

In 2003 the election of Gene Robinson to be bishop in New Hampshire was confirmed and in 2006 the election of Barry Beisner to be bishop in Northern California was confirmed. Robinson is a divorced father, who is living openly in a same-sex union; and Beisner is a three times married and twice divorced man whose present spouse is herself a divorced woman. In each case, despite protests, the election was approved by large majorities.

In the context of commitment to human rights and within a culture of therapy and self-fulfillment, what is looked for is “niceness” and the old standards of what is “wholesome” are regarded as outdated and not wholly relevant in a modern western country, where the “gospel” of the church is to be that God loves all and includes all whatever their circumstances.

In 2003 the Convention elected a progressive, liberal, feminist female bishop as the next Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church. Katherine Jefferts Schori is not the first female bishop of this Church but she is the first to be elected to this position. She beat by a narrow margin a man who is also a progressive liberal.

For the whole of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches, and for the majority of Anglican provinces, it is impossible for a woman to be a bishop and also to be in apostolic succession, and this is so, even if she personally is wholly orthodox and sets a wholly pure example to the flock. In the biblical and traditional doctrine of Order, only a man can be “Father in God” and exercise headship in the family of God. To elect a woman to be the equivalent of an Archbishop is to proclaim loudly and clearly that the received doctrine of apostolic succession and headship is being radically revised. Further, since she is wholly committed also to major revisions of received doctrine and morality, to elect her with her views is to proclaim that the Episcopal Church is wholly committed to its new Religion.

What the Episcopal Church has progressively done since the 1970s is to create a New Episcopal Religion and now we see very clearly what this implies with respect to the Ministry. Though a lot of traditional language is used, and though ceremonies of ordination have historical roots, the new Ministry of the Episcopal Church is NOT based on God’s revealed Order, but rests upon modern commitments to human rights and dignity for all persons before a Deity who is said to accept each one of us “Just as I am” and to affirm us whoever and whatever we happen to be.

Those ordained by this new Episcopate need to be aware that in the eyes of most of the Anglican Communion they are not ordained at all into the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church of Christ Jesus, but rather only into the new Ministry which teaches the New Episcopal Religion. Further, those consecrated by the new Presiding Bishop will be bishops only of the New Episcopal Religion, and thus will not be welcome in most provinces of the Anglican Family.

Reflections on Episcopalianism-- after 8 days at the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in Columbus, Ohio

I am now back in Seattle on the West Coast after the long trip back here from Ohio, via Chicago, on a day when there were many thunderstorms to delay travel. At the Convention, apart from representing the Prayer Book Society of the USA (along with the Revd Fr Edward Rix of Philadelphia), I worked in a team of four including David Virtue to produce daily news and analysis of events and views for The site had over 120 visitors reading pieces every minute, for 24 hours a day on most days.

What is very clear is that this Convention continued in the path that was plotted at the beginning of the 1970s – the path of progressive liberalism and of embodying the major developments in society into the Church in the name of God and as the leading of the Spirit. The commitment to human rights and equality for women in all areas of life caused the House of Bishops to elect a woman as the new Presiding Bishop – even though she has very limited experience as a Minister and her presence in the Primates’ Meeting of the Anglican Communion will cause great difficulties.

The same emphasis upon rights also caused the two Houses of Convention to approve as the next Bishop of Northern California a man who has been married three times and divorced twice, to a woman who is also a divorcee. And the rejection of a Resolution in the House of Deputies calling for a minimal type of moratorium on the consecration of an actively gay person as a bishop, and the blessing of same-sex couples, also proceeded from a belief in the “dignity of all persons”.

There was some concern expressed for the Episcopal Church to remain an active member of the Anglican Communion of Churches, but, it was made clear by the majority, this must not be so at the cost of giving up the achievements in religion of the Episcopal Church. When the Presiding Bishop managed to get both Houses on the last day to agree to a Resolution about a moratorium concerning the choice of actively gay person as a bishop, its wording hardly gets near to what was being asked of the American Church by the Communion. It sought to please Churches abroad and not offend “Gays” at home.

Commitment to the New Episcopal Religion is very strong and in this religion the Holy Spirit is identified with the progress of civil rights, human rights and peace and justice issues. Fifty years ago what was called sin and immorality is now called holiness and freedom. The outgoing Presiding Bishop, Frank Griswold, has been thoroughly committed to this religion and so also is the new one, Katherine Jefferts Schori, committed to it. She went out of her way to assure Gay and Lesbian people that she stands with them in their search for full participation in church and society.

This New Episcopal Religion has been around for thirty years or more but it is now clearer in terms of its beliefs and ethics because it is much more ready to explain itself and to move on to its next development. (In my Episcopal Innovations 1960-2004, I have described the growth of this Episcopal Religion through examining the innovations in faith and morality adopted by the General Convention.) Yet this Religion is not causing the Church to grow in numbers at all.

Not all who call themselves “orthodox” and refer to the likes of the outgoing and in the incoming Presiding Bishops as “revisionists” think that all the innovations have contributed to the New Episcopal Religion. In particular, some of them seem to think that (a) the change in the doctrine of marriage making procreation an option for health couples; (b) the allowing of easy re-marriage in church after divorce; and (c) the ordaining of women under pressure from the feminist movement, are neutral matters. For them, the new sexual agenda and the outworking of the commitment to the dignity of all persons are the primary manifestations of the new religion, along with such things as the influence of political correctness on the way God is named and addressed.

One big question facing the “orthodox” now is what to do. Eleven Bishops from the Anglican Communion Network have stated that they intend to fulfill the requests of The Windsor Report and seek to live in close cooperation with their “brethren” in the Communion overseas. That is they will stay within the Episcopal Church and go nowhere but wait for direction and help from abroad. The Diocese of Fort Worth has appealed to the Archbishop of Canterbury for help with the problem that they cannot receive the new Presiding Bishop into their diocese as they do not believe that a woman can be a bishop at all! In contrast the Bishop of Central Florida, who calls himself “orthodox”, has welcomed the election of the lady Presiding Bishop and has invited her to his diocese.

Below is a reflection I wrote for at the Convention on how to gather together the would be “orthodox”:

“The ‘Orthodox’ in the ECUSA”

In reply to the frequently asked question: “Will you leave the Episcopal Church in the light of its apostasy?” leaders in the American Anglican Council (AAC) and of the Anglican Communion Network (ACN) usually reply: “The Episcopal Church has left us. We have not left it. Thus we are going nowhere, for we are where we should be.”

This answer presupposes that (or hopes that) the majority of Anglican Primates and Provinces overseas, especially the so-called Global South, will very soon state that they are out of communion with the Episcopal Church as a whole, but in communion with those within it who claim the description, “orthodox.” And, of course, the AAC and ACN, see themselves as the “orthodox” even as they describe the leaders of the Episcopal Church as “revisionist.”

Let us, for the sake of musing, suppose that this scenario actually occurs. This will leave the “orthodox” in the uncomfortable position of having an “unorthodox” liturgy, doctrine, canon law and pastoral practice (i.e., that of the current Episcopal Church). So what can the “orthodox in intention” do in the short term to become “orthodox in reality.”

Here are some suggestions:

1. Recover the classic formularies of the Anglican Way as the basis of the Reformed Catholic Faith of the Anglican Way. That is restore to first place, after the authority of Scripture and the catholic Creeds, the Thirty-Nine Articles, the historic Ordinal and the classic Book of Common Prayer (in the editions of 1662 [used in a majority of the Anglican Communion] or 1928 [the PECUSA edition of it] or 1962 [the Canadian edition of it] . This will mean rejecting the 1979 Prayer Book as the chief Formulary and making it, at best, an approved Book of Alternative Services (which in shape and content it truly is, and as its equivalent, the BAS, is in Canada).

2. Create a contemporary language edition of the classic Prayer Book that is based on the classic 1662 edition, so that there can be used services that contain biblically informed, Reformed Catholic doctrine and morals and which are available for those who wish to address God as “You.” (A pilot form of this project has already been completed by the Prayer Book Society with others.)

3. Recover or create a new canon for marriage so as to make it clear that marriage is a union of a man and woman as one flesh and one major purpose of the union is procreation. Further, that divorce and remarriage are the exception rather than the commonly permitted rule. This will mean a setting aside of the notorious marriage canon of 1973 and the preface to the marriage service in the 1979 prayer book. It will also probably mean both a cessation on the ordaining of divorce and remarried persons and the standing down from parish Ministry of the ordained who do in fact divorce and remarry. To face the radical sexual agenda, the “orthodox” must tighten their discipline in order to be the salt of the earth!

4.. Begin to phase out in an honorable and reasonable way the practice of ordaining women and of deploying women clergy, while at the same time making it clear that there are many ministries for godly women in Christ’s Church. In the USA there is no doubt that the ordination of women has been a central part of the liberally progressive agenda of the Episcopal Church, and the only way to deal with this painful reality – even though it will bring sorrow to some – is to cease this innovation which began in 1976.

If those still within the Episcopal Church (in AAC & ACN) who desire an orthodox province will do this kind of thing, then they will truly appear to the Anglican Communion of Churches as a group who mean business, and who intend to conform to biblical and classic Anglican standards. Further, and importantly, they will also have built the bridges for the possibility of a growing union with the present Continuing Anglican Churches, which left the Episcopal Church because of its growing radicalism and apostasy. There certainly needs to be a coming together of those who desire to be authentic, orthodox Anglicans in the USA – right now there are too many groups apart from one another.

Right now, perhaps surprisingly to some, it is not unfair to describe the AAC and the ACN as “mildly revisionist” for they have not explicitly stated their rejection of the 1973 Canon on Marriage, the 1976 Canon on Ordination, and the calling in 1979 of a book of alternative services and doctrines, “The Book of Common Prayer.” Further they use and treat the 1979 Book as though it truly were The Book of Common Prayer and The Formulary for them.

There is light ahead for the “orthodox” as they pass through the dark tunnel. But to embrace that light will be costly – the price of recovering the dynamic Reformed Catholicism of the Anglican Way. Let us hope that they do this quickly and joyfully, whatever the cost!

It is impossible to predict the future of the Anglican Way in North America, or indeed in the world. What seems clear is that the Provinces in the West, with very few exceptions, seem to be moving (as do all the main-line and old-line American denominations) in an ever increasingly liberal direction and being proud in doing so. This suggests that the possibility of a rupture in the Anglican Communion between the provinces that are liberally progressive and those which are conservatively biblical is great indeed. The charming and wise Archbishop of Canterbury has certainly much to give him headaches and much to spread before the Lord in his holy chapel in Lambeth Palace.

The Revd Dr Peter Toon June 22, 2006

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Bishops' Statement: General Convention Actions Inadequate

June 21, 2006

For Immediate Release

Bishops’ Statement: General Convention Actions Inadequate

We, the undersigned, Bishops of the Episcopal Church make the following statement:

In the wake of the action by this House granting consent to the consecration of Canon V. Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003, many of us in this House made an appeal to the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Primates of the Anglican Communion “to intervene in the pastoral emergency that has overtaken us.” That appeal was heard and the Archbishop called for an extraordinary meeting of the Primates on 15–16 October, 2003. The Primates spoke forthrightly and unanimously about the consequences that would ensue across the Communion in the event that the consecration went forward, warning that it would “tear the fabric of our Communion at its deepest level.” They also called for the formation, under a mandate given by the Archbishop, of the Lambeth Commission on Communion. This General Convention has now given its response to the recommendations of the work of that Commission, known as the Windsor Report.

Now, once again, we find the need to speak candidly. The responses which the Convention has given to the clear and simple requests of the Lambeth Commission, the clear and simple requests indeed of the Anglican Communion, are clearly and simply inadequate. We reaffirm our conviction that the Windsor Report provides the way forward for the entire Anglican Communion, the ecumenical relationships of the Communion, and the common life of a faithful Episcopal Church. Further, we have agreed to submit ourselves to the Windsor Report’s requirements, both in what it teaches and in the discipline it enjoins. We have not changed in our commitment.

Sadly, because of statements made by members of this House at this Convention, we must question whether this General Convention is misleading the rest of the Communion by giving a false perception that they intend actually to comply with the recommendations of the Windsor Report. We therefore disassociate ourselves from those acts of this Convention that do not fully comply with the Windsor Report.

It is our intention not only to point to the inadequacies of the General Convention’s responses, but to declare to our brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the Communion that we continue as The Episcopal Church in this country who uphold and propagate the historic faith and order we have come to know through the Anglican heritage of apostolic teaching and biblical faith; who desire to be fully a constituent member of the Anglican Communion; and who are ready to embrace and live under the Windsor Report without equivocation. Accordingly, we repudiate the actions of the General Convention of 2003 which have breached the bonds of affection within the Communion. We bishops have committed to withhold consents for any persons living in same gender relationships who may be put forward for consecration as a bishop of the Church. And we have refused to grant authority for the blessing of sexual relationships outside Christian Marriage in our jurisdictions. We intend to go forward in the Communion confidently and unreservedly.

Our chief concern now is to fulfill our charge as bishops of the Church of God in the Anglican tradition to “guard the faith, unity and discipline” of the Church. Pastoral care and apostolic teaching must not only be given to our own dioceses, but to all the faithful in this country who seek apostolic oversight and support. We will take counsel together to fulfill our service on behalf of faithful Anglicans in this country, both clergy and laity, and to proclaim the Gospel and build up the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ, and we seek the support of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Primates and Bishops of the Anglican Communion as we do so.


The Rt. Rev. Keith Lynn Ackerman, Diocese of Quincy
The Rt. Rev. James M. Adams Jr., Diocese of Western Kansas
The Rt. Rev. Peter H. Beckwith, Diocese of Springfield
The Rt. Rev. Robert Wm. Duncan, Diocese of Pittsburgh
The Rt. Rev. Daniel W. Herzog, Diocese of Albany
The Rt. Rev. Jack L. Iker, DD, Diocese of Fort Worth
The Rt. Rev. Edward L. Salmon, Jr., Diocese of South Carolina*
The Rt. Rev. John-David Schofield, Diocese of San Joaquin
The Rt. Rev. James M. Stanton, Diocese of Dallas*
The Rt. Rev. Henry W. Scriven, Diocese of Pittsburgh
The Rt. Rev. William J. Skilton, Diocese of South Carolina
* Drafters of the original statement

Wednesday, June 21, 2006
Date: 6/21/2006

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Continuing Anglicanism given a bad write-up: Shame on Oxford University Press

Peter Toon

In the Exhibition Center at the General Convention you may find the booth of the Oxford University Press of NYC. Prominently on view is a new reference book, The Oxford Guide to The Book of Common Prayer, A Worldwide Survey (edited by C. Hefling and C. Shattuck).

As we would expect from this distinguished Press, there is in this well-produced book much that is informative, reflecting careful and learned scholarship. However, it is with regret that we have to report that there is one section in this book, which falls below the high standards we expect from this Press. It is a short section but it reflects lack of precise knowledge of the subject with a censorious spirit towards those described.

“Churches in the Continuing Anglican Tradition” by Lesley A. Northup (pages 218ff.) seems to have the intention of deliberately presenting Continuing Anglicans as being merely a bunch of sectarians. We get the frequent use of expressions such as: “Anglican sectarian movements;” “schismatic groups;” traditionalist sectarianism;” “schismatic Anglicans; “new sects” and “splinter groups.” We suggest that other expressions could have been used by Northup to reflect the doctrinal orthodoxy and commitment to historic Anglicanism which most of these groups display. Further, some of them are in covenant relations with provinces of the Anglican Communion!

Secondly, there is no clear account of the origins of these groups or jurisdictions or denominations, apart from that of the Reformed Episcopal Church (which was a nineteenth century formation, by those who were deeply grieved by the growing ceremonialism/ritualism of the Protestant Episcopal Church). What was needed from Northup was an account briefly stating which groups came out in which period; what was their problem with the Episcopal Church; and which liturgy they used and now use. For example, there were departures in the 1960s over the perceived liberal stance on social issues (e.g. in civil rights); in the 1970s the main issues were the ordination of women, the change in the canons on marriage, and the creation of a new prayer book of varied services and doctrines; since then departures have been over one or more of the innovations in doctrine and morality adopted or promoted by the Episcopal Church. Also there have been the creation of Anglican jurisdictions not by departure from the Episcopal Church but by planting new churches with an Anglican ethos, liturgy and doctrine, by converts from a variety of traditions.

Certainly and regrettably there have been divisions amongst those who departed from the Episcopal Church, but there have also been unions of those who came out. Northup seems not to have made a major attempt to acquaint himself with the history, worship and church growth of those who call themselves Anglicans and are not in the Episcopal Church or the Anglican Church of Canada.

Another area where Northup is plainly wrong in his account is his assertion that the main part of the Continuing Anglican Movement is in the USA. In fact the majority of Continuing Anglicans are outside the USA in Africa, India, Australasia and elsewhere. And the major language of the “Continuum” is not English!

Yet another area where both charity and accuracy are missing is in his dismissal of the Anglican Mission in America as “potentially schismatic.” The Mission is the official Mission of the Anglican Province of Rwanda and its bishops are full members of the House of Bishops of the Church in Rwanda. The Archbishop of Rwanda is the Primate of the Anglican Mission.

Whatever be its shortcomings the Continuing Anglican Movement deserves better treatment that given it by Northup and the Oxford University Press. Why was not a competent scholar from within this tradition or sympathetic to it used?

Monday, June 12, 2006

If only progressive Evangelicals would accept this point about “ Female Bishops”! Thoughts as the ECUSA General Convention begins

In reporting the address that Cardinal Walter Kasper (whose books on doctrine not a few of us have benefited from) gave to the House of Bishops of the Church of England, the British R C journal, The Tablet, made a very important point that all of us as Anglicans ought to take note of – and to digest inwardly!

First, the context for the Cardinal’s remarks.

The explicit issue before the bishops was how to advise the General Synod of the Church of England at its meeting next month. The synod has started the process leading up to the appointment of women bishops some 14 years after the same body decided in favor of women priests. Logically, as Cardinal Kasper admitted, one should lead to the other. The ministry of the priest was united with the ministry of the bishop. The fact that the 1992 synod ignored this connection, postponing the issue of women bishops for another day as if it were a separate issue, has produced a distortion in the Anglican theology of ordained ministry.

And The Tablet in commenting makes its very important point:

It must have occurred to many Church of England bishops listening to his address at Lambeth Palace that while talking explicitly about the likely impact of women bishops on Anglican-Catholic relations, Cardinal Kasper could equally well have been addressing the split in the international Anglican Communion over homosexual bishops. That linkage may deepen the theological argument when the House of Bishops presents its views to the General Synod. At risk of over-simplification, what Cardinal Kasper is saying to the Church of England about women bishops is precisely what the Church of England and the majority of churches in the Anglican Communion have been saying to the American branch of Anglicanism, the Episcopalian Church, about gay bishops.

They have been saying that the office of bishop stands not just for unity within a diocese, but above all for unity between dioceses and provinces, as a focus and sign of the koinonia or communio which is at the heart of the Church. Hence the American decision to ordain a practising homosexual bishop whose ministry is rejected by a large majority of other Anglican bishops worldwide shattered the Anglican communio and hence threatened to break up the Anglican Communion. Similarly a Church of England decision to ordain women bishops will change the nature of the relationship between Anglicanism and Roman Catholicism for the worse, permanently and profoundly. The partial communio that has been drawing them towards convergence and unity will end.

There is not much room for dispute about this. Anglican bishops may ask themselves the slightly different question: does it really matter? Hasn’t the historic process of theological and personal rapprochement and reconciliation gone as far as it can go? (And isn’t the unwillingness of Rome to engage in a theological debate about female ordination also part of the problem?) But now they have to face a new question, vital to their own future. Can they demand that the American Church halts or reverses its moves towards homosexual bishops, for the greater good of the communio, while the Church of England dismisses an appeal from Rome over women bishops on the same grounds? Or to put it bluntly, how do they say “Yes” to women bishops and “No” to gay bishops?

The answer to the question posed by The Tablet is twofold, First of all, they do not take sufficiently seriously and authoritatively, (a) the teaching of Scripture concerning Order in creation and the headship of the male; and further (b) they set aside sacred Tradition both of the Catholic Church and of the branch known as the Anglican Way. In the second place, they take the claims of the modern human rights movement (for equality for women in all areas and full rights for homosexual persons) as more important and authoritative than the teaching of Scripture and the lessons from tradition.

Full-blooded liberals accept the ordination and consecration of both women and actively homosexual persons as required by the God of Love who in their doctrine is the author of modern human rights’ claims; most Evangelicals accept the ordination and consecration of women because they leave acquired the habit of reading the Bible so as to eliminate from its essence “patriarchy” and “headship”; and they reject the ordination of active homosexual persons because here they read the Bible literally at its common sense level.

Those of us who have made the connection between the ordaining of women and the ordaining of active homosexual persons have been consistently laughed out of court as it were in Anglican circles. It is good to know that others with greater influence and experience think as we do.

--Peter Toon

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Approaching Trinity Sunday: The 1979 ECUSA Prayer Book & “The TRINITY”

Reflections to improve worship of The Trinity on Trinity Sunday from The Rev’d Dr Peter Toon.

If you wish a definition of the Christian expression, “The Trinity,” and you turn to the Catechism within the 1979 ECUSA Prayer Book (which is also its Standard of Doctrine), you find an answer in the section entitled, “The Creeds.” Here after four questions beginning with “What” (e.g., What is the Nicene Creed? ) the question is posed: “What is the Trinity?”

Notice that the question occurs in a section on “The Creeds,” which are statements of belief about God. Thus the simple logic here appears to be (unless I am missing something) that “The Trinity” is a statement of belief, that is a doctrine about or of God. The meaning of this belief, this doctrine, called “the Trinity” is given in these words: “The Trinity is One God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”

Let us stop here and ponder for a moment. As we do, let us realize that “The Trinity” is not a doctrine as such (of course there is a doctrine of the Holy Trinity Who is a Trinity in Unity and Unity in Trinity); but is rather the Christian Name, the Name first used by the Early Church, of the LORD GOD whom Christians knew in worship and service as One yet Three, as God the Lord, and yet as the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. [Three yet One -- One Substance (Essence/Being or Godhead) and Three Persons (the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit) where each Person possesses wholly the One Substance/Essence/Being/Godhead.] The Early Church referred to this LORD God as TRIAD or TRINITAS, the Name that summarized the Dominical words in Matthew 28:19 [“in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit”].

The TRINITY is the Christian Name for the God of Abraham, the God of Elijah, the God of David, and the God who is revealed in the Person and Ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. Christians adore, worship and serve the One, Holy, Blessed and Undivided Trinity, of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

The real and true question is not “What is the Trinity?” but “Who is the Trinity?” And thus, the question posed on page 852 of the 1979 Book should not be there at all. It encourages false thinking. In fact, there should have been a whole section entitled, “Who is the Trinity?” where “Trinity” was recognized as the Christian Name of the God, who as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit is the LORD God of creation, revelation, salvation and judgment. Or a section on “What is the doctrine of The Trinity?”

The difficulties of doctrine and worship (“the law of praying is the law of believing”?) into which this Catechism places us by this major error are exacerbated when we examine the response to the “What?” question.

Presumably what is supplied is doctrine, that is, how the Episcopal Church pictures or imagines God when there is talk of “Trinity.” The precise words of the answer to the “What?” question are – “The Trinity is the One God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” The formula, “God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit”, occurs often in the Rite Two material of the Prayer Book and is required rather than optional in most places. Thus it is obviously to be regarded as important, even basic, for the Episcopal religion.

In this formula there is the use of the colon which effectively causes the sentence to have two halves or two major parts, with the second being equivalent to or having an equivalence to the first. That is “The Trinity is the One God” is the same as, or, is explained by, “Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” The formula does not say, “the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit” (as in Matthew 28: 19) for the definite article (provided three times in Matthew 28: 19) is wholly absent. Thus the doctrine here being presented may be, for example, any of these possibilities:

1. God is three in that he has three primary names, all of which truly belong to him as the one God. So God is One Person, with three Names. (This meaning is adopted by many Episcopal clergy who change the wording as it occurs in the Eucharist to “Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier” to avoid offending feminists.)

2. God is three in that he reveals himself and acts in space and time in three primary modes – those that in anthropological terms are said to be as Father, as Son and as Holy Spirit. Here God is One Person using Three Modes of Being in relation to the cosmos to achieve his purpsoes. (This meaning seems to be that of many who are basically Unitarian, or Panentheist or committed to Process Theology.)

3. God is Three Persons, One God, a Trinity in Unity and a Unity in Trinity. This is classic orthodoxy. (To claim or to accept that this formula on page 852 expresses the classic, patristic, orthodox doctrine of the Trinity as presented in say The Athanasian Creed [see back of 1979 Prayer Book, p.864 with your magnifier] is a big stretch and also a major act of charity. If orthodoxy was intended, why did not the writers use a formula that was not open to doubt, had been used in the Church for a long time, and could not be interpreted in its natural sense as being heresy!

Bearing all this in mind, the celebrant (when using Rite Two especially on Trinity Sunday) would be well advised not to use the formula as provided in the 1979 Book, but possibly to edit it in the name of orthodoxy to either the original form of it as used in the Orthodox Divine Liturgy [“Blessed be/is the kingdom of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and always, even unto ages of ages” and allow the congregation to say “Amen”] or in such a form as, “Blessed be God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit” and allowing the congregation to respond, “And blessed be his kingdom now and for ever” [that is the Kingdom of The Trinity]. It will be noted that the Roman Church uses the dominical form of words to begin the Mass; “In the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” It would do no harm to imitate this as a third possible way to escape error or misunderstanding!

Whitsuntide 2006. visit

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Consistency of Bishop Warner of Olympia

A discussion starter from Dr Peter Toon, President of the Prayer Book Society of the USA

We may claim that in terms of polity and organization the Episcopal Church is unique. Its form of government, modeled on the U S Congress, gives full place to laity, clergy and bishops, meeting in General Convention every three years. The meeting in June 2006 will be its 75th.

But, the ECUSA is unique in a further sense, according to the Bishop of Olympia in Washington State. Responding to those in the Church and in his diocese who think that the ECUSA can have it both ways over the episcopate of Gene Robinson – that is, there can be support for Robinson while regretting the time and the manner by which he became bishop – Bishop Warner states:

“We are in danger of losing our identity and our voice. We are a church that was born in revolution and we shouldn’t back down now. I believe that all members of the church can be in all orders of the church. And everyone should have both the rights and the rites of the church. God shows no partiality. I hope that the church will not only have that dream but will live it.” (Episcopal Voice ,June 2006, Magazine of Diocese of Olympia, Front Page story.)

Warner states the nature of the revolution, the radical progressive agenda, of the majority in ECUSA as clearly as it can be stated in a few words. In a nutshell: All forms of ministry are to be open to all baptized members & every baptized member has full access to all the rights and rites of the Church. So, in terms of the current controversy, no actively gay person should on this account be barred from any form of ministry in the Church. This is so important, says Warner, that no concession should be made to the bullies in the Anglican Communion who are trying to make the enlightened leaders of the ECUSA express regret (for doing what for them is prophetic and right!).

We need to mark, learn and inwardly digest the fact that this revolutionary agenda is given sacramental and doctrinal force by such as the current Presiding Bishop and Warner because it may – with all reasonable justification – be traced to the “covenant” made between the baptized and God in the “Baptismal Covenant” within the Baptismal Service of the 1979 Prayer Book (itself the doctrinal standard) of the Episcopal Church. In this Service promises are made by the baptized or by their sponsors to pursue peace and justice and to respect the dignity of all persons. This form of commitment has always been interpreted by the ruling elite in the ECUSA in it original 1960s meaning as including working for the full rights and opportunities within the Church of all persons – women, divorcees, minorities, homosexual persons and so on. Thus from the perspective of the “Baptismal Covenant,” understood as a post 1960s revolutionary statement, the election of Gene Robinson, a gay activist, as a bishop is wholly proper and reasonable: and to deny it or to regret it is to trample upon the sacred promises of the same Covenant, in terms of what they have meant in the post 1960s world and what they currently mean for the “Peace and Justice Commission of the ECUSA itself. ”

So let us admire Bishop Warner’s consistency even if we reject the very revolutionary doctrine of the ECUSA which is the basis of it.

And let us recognize that too many who claim to be “orthodox” have turned a blind eye to the radicalism of the Baptismal Service, which though it looks like a modern form of a traditional Anglican text, is in fact – as the elite know well – a charter for revolution in doctrine and ethics.
Let us acknowledge that too many of us, as priests, have allowed people to commit themselves to this radical form of Episcopalianism by actually using this service un-edited, and by also encouraging the novel practice of “renewing baptismal vows/the baptismal covenant” by everyone present.

Surely part of the repenting/regretting to which the ECUSA is called is the setting aside of the present Baptismal Service and using its predecessor, that found in the classic BCP of 1928 – which can speedily be put into contemporary English by competent persons so that it has a “Rite One “ and “Rite Two” form.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Baptism & Ministry – a major error within Northern/Western Anglicanism

Reflections from The Rev’d Dr Peter Toon

Much, very much, is being made of Baptism (and the “Baptismal Covenant”) within the modern Episcopal Church ( & Anglican Church of Canada).

At first sight this may seem a good thing. Why? For if we note what Baptism symbolizes and signifies in the New Testament then we are into thinking and speaking of a consecrated life offered daily to the Father through the Incarnate Son and by the Holy Spirit for God’s glory and human salvation. After all, Baptism is intimately connected in the command of the resurrected Jesus to making disciples, to the revelatory, Triune Name of God (the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit) and of being taught the whole content of Christian Faith and practice (see Matthew 28: 18-20 ); in the Apostolic teaching it is presented as cleansing by the blood of Jesus, new birth into the kingdom of God; dying to sin, being buried and rising with Christ Jesus to everlasting life; being adopted into the family of God, made a member of Christ’s Body of which He is Head, and more.

Regrettably this kind of teaching, which connects Baptism with the confession of Jesus Christ as Lord and a sanctified and consecrated life flowing from this confession, with the sure hope of eternal life, is significant by its general absence from modern Anglican circles where Baptism is much emphasized. Instead, Baptism is connected with secular notions of human rights, dignity, equality, and opportunity, and given a Christian reference by the use of biblical pictures and divine names. And this connection is made in all seriousness and with all enthusiasm by many in the leadership of the two Anglican provinces – and they appear to believe the novel doctrine wholeheartedly. It is the basis of the new Episcopal Religion.

Since Baptism is administered to all kinds and types of infants, children, young people and adults (but, of course, mostly to infants), and since the so-called “orientation” and “potentialities” of these persons is not (usually) known when they are baptized, the point is made that God accepts all whoever they are and whatever their inner personal identity, and they are accepted “just as they are”. They are placed within “the community of faith” and become “the children of God”.

Now there are rules governing this “community of faith” and they are stated within the “Baptismal Covenant” of the Baptism Service of the 1979 Prayer Book. That is, the persons baptized make a personal covenant with God (either themselves or via sponsors) by accepting Baptism and entering the “community of faith”. Though there is promise to be committed to certain traditional things such as church attendance, resisting of evil and proclaiming the Gospel, the innovation is in the questions which require an affirmative reply: “Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?” And , “Will you strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being?”

So the “community of faith” (i.e., congregations of the ECUSA using the 1979 prayer book or of the Anglican Church of Canada using the 1985 BAS) is a baptized people committed to pursuing peace and justice (for what this means see the Reports to General Convention of the radical agenda of the “Peace and Justice Commission” of the ECUSA), to human dignity and equality of opportunity and treatment.

Therefore, based on the radical doctrine of equality, then in principle every baptized person, whatever the sex, gender, “orientation”, marital state, race, ethnicity, ability and maturity, is potentially a candidate for every office and position of leadership within the “community of faith.” To bar anyone from anything simply and solely on grounds of sex, gender, “orientation” and so forth is to deny the “Baptismal covenant” and to destroy the whole basis in “peace and justice” of “the community of faith.” Of course, not all can be a presiding bishop or even a deacon (the laity are needed to pay the bills and make up the congregations!) and so there have to be democratic processes for the election of candidates (as with Gene Robinson), but this is to be within the general commitment to equality and dignity of rights of the baptized. Yet to close any office to a baptized person is to deny the very basis and content of sacrament of Baptism – is the view taken in this new Religion.

I recall vividly being present at a meeting of the Standing Liturgical Commission at the Convention of 2000, where I was giving evidence on behalf of the use of the classic BCP of 1928. It was agreed that with the local bishop’s permission and under certain conditions certain services of the 1928 BCP could be used. However, of one thing all members were clear, and the female priests there present most clear. This was that there was no substitute possible for the use of the Baptismal Service in the 1979 book. For herein was contained what they obviously believed was an essential part of the progressive religion of the modernized Episcopal Church.

I also recall vividly watching the installation – amazingly by himself! – in the National Cathedral at Washington of Frank Griswold as the Presiding Bishop. Here it was made very clear both within the program and in his remarks that, in Baptism, God sows the seed of all possible ministry and ministries in the Church, lay and ordained. Thus at any time a baptized person may be called to any ministry, whatever the person’s sex, gender or “orientation.” So, once baptized, any person is a potential candidate for all ministries and the fact of having been baptized is always to be the primary consideration. Thus Griswold insisted on celebrating the continuing and emerging Baptismal Ministry in his life, of which the office of Presiding Bishop was the latest expression and phase.


Baptism is certainly of critical importance. It is a Dominical ordinance and sacrament and occurs but once to begin the life of the Christian disciple and so is unique. It is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual change, a change that has eternal implications for, by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, the baptized believer becomes a child of God, heir of eternal life, member of the kingdom of God, disciple of Christ, and much more.

Yet Baptism as such,
  • Has no necessary relation to modern doctrines of human rights, equality and dignity (for it has existed in the world since the time of the apostles and has been administered in many different cultures, societies and political system);
  • Is necessarily related to the Person of the exalted Lord Jesus Christ in heaven, to the Kingdom of which he is the King and to the Holy Church of which he is Head (for wherever Baptism is in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit it is true Baptism and is not to be repeated);
  • Has no absolute and necessary relation to ordained Ministry, to the offices of Deacon, Presbyter (Priest) and Bishop (for these are gifts of the exalted Head of the Church given to some members by the will and authority of the Head himself – they are not connected in any what whatever to democratic or egalitarian principles but proceed from the will of the Lord of all).
  • Is administered without distinction to all persons who repent and believe the Gospel (personally or via their sponsors) and as the baptized, both male and female, young and old, rich and poor, have the same access as God’s children to the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit.
While the whole people of God is as a divine society a royal priesthood, continually offering prayer, worship, sacrificial lives and service to the Father through the Incarnate Son by the Holy Spirit, what has been called the Ministerial Priesthood (the Bishop assisted by Presbyters, and Deacons) is distinct from it. The truth is not that membership of the royal, universal priesthood qualifies one as a candidate for the Ministerial Priesthood; but that the Lord Christ chooses from members of the royal priesthood those to whom he wills to give the office of Bishop, Priest or Deacon. After all, the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church of God is not a democratic society but a hierarchical Society, ruled by a King to whom all authority in heaven and earth is given.

Apart from changing the doctrine of Baptism and through it the doctrine of ordained Ministry, this innovation has implications on a wide set of fronts, It changes the doctrine of the Eucharistic which becomes the celebration of the rights and privileges of the local “community of faith” where the “passing of the peace” is in effect the “sacramental sign” of this “peace and justice” community. It changes the ethics or moral theology of the Church for it fosters the development of basing moral theology on the modern doctrine of rights – natural, civil and human. It changes the “Gospel” of the Church which ceases to be the message from God the Father concerning His Incarnate Son who died for our sins and rose again for our justification, and becomes a message about “peace and justice” for all peoples, here and now. And much more….

Therefore the notion that the only real problem with the ECUSA is its embracing of homosexual partnerships and ordaining people in them is wide of the mark! The problem is the adoption of a new Religion where the outward form of the Old Sacraments becomes the container of new doctrine and morality.

The Revd Dr Peter Toon June 4, 2006

One Chapter of One Book, then let it be this….

If I had the authority to require each and every Episcopal/Anglican clergyperson and seminarian in America to read one specific chapter of one specific book – apart from Holy Scripture – I am clear as to what it would be.

It would be Chapter Two of The Oxford History of Christian Worship (OUP, 2005, ed’s G. Wainwright & K.B. Westerfield Tucker), a massive book with 34 chapters and as many contributors. My choice is not based on the fact that this is the best or the most erudite or the most easily readable chapter, for many of the other chapters are very good, filled with useful information and easy to read. No, it is based on the simple fact that for too long Anglicans/Episcopalians have been taught that the liturgies produced to replace the traditional Book of Common Prayer (1662-1928) and found in the Prayer Book of 1979 (Canada 1985) are based on sure and trusted “facts” concerning the actual worship and texts of worship in the Early Church of the first three. Anyone who challenged this approach was dismissed as foolish and unlearned, even if he were truly wise and learned – as was the case with some of the founding fathers of the Society for the Preservation of the Book of Common Prayer (incorporated 1971).

In 2006, looking back, we can see that this foundation built and claimed by liturgists (e.g., those on the Standing Liturgical Commission of the ECUSA from the late 1960s onwards) was made of sand and has now fallen apart, so that virtually all the major claims made on behalf of the new liturgies of the 1970s have no solid foundation. Of course, modern bishops and liturgists who have pushed so hard for the adoption of the liturgies of the 1970s and 1980s are not rushing forward to apologize. But, happily, there are those who do present us with the consensus of scholarship concerning the nature and content of worship in the Church in the Early Church.

Maxwell E. Johnson is the writer of “The Apostolic Tradition” which is chapter two of the book. He is professor of liturgy at Notre Dame University and a Lutheran clergyman. In his opening paragraph he has this to say about “The Apostolic Tradition” a document highly favored and much used in the creation of the new Rites in the 1970s and attributed to Hippolytus of Rome (c.215) and thus claimed as being of early third century provenance.

“This influential document has been long thought to be, if not exactly what its title claims [i.e., directly from the Apostles], an authentic, authoritative, and dependable witness to the early third century Roman liturgical practice…and reflecting what the tradition of liturgy in Rome had been up to and include his [Hippolytus’] time. Today, however, the emerging scholarly view is that this Apostolic Tradition probably was not authored by Hippolytus, not even necessarily Roman in content, and probably not early third century in date, at least not as it exists in the various extant manuscripts in which it has come down to us [earliest being fifth century but majority medieval]. Hence the “Tradition” of this so-called Apostolic Tradition may well reflect a synthesis or composite text of various and diverse liturgical patterns and practices, some quite early and some not added until the time of its final redaction.”

Here Johnson writes cautiously, but to express the position minimally, we may say that no wise liturgist would today base the whole revision of liturgy for a whole Church on the claim that Hippolytus wrote the Apostolic Tradition and that it is to be dated around A.D. 200! What the 1970s liturgists believed was that there was a unified origin of Christian liturgy which space and time (after the arrival of Constantine the Great) varied. What is now generally accepted is that there were multiple origins and varieties of forms of worship and that these then converged at various points in the fourth century. In other words the basic thesis favored by Gregory Dix and his many disciples has been reversed!

The theoretical basis for the creation of the 1979 liturgies in imitation of what were seen as sure early-church models is explained by one of the chief innovatory liturgists of the Episcopal Church, Massey H. Shepherd – see his essay, “The Patristic Heritage of the BCP of 1979” in The Historical Magazine of the Protestant Episcopal Church, Volume 53, pp.221ff. We now know he was probably wrong on many counts.

Combined with this search for shapes and models from the Early Church were a commitment to the new theology, emphasis on human rights and therapeutic descriptions of humankind, which had emerged from the revolutionary 1960s – see further, Urban T. Holmes, “Education for Liturgy” in Worship Points the Way (ed. Malcolm C. Burson) New York 1991.

Of course, these powerful influences do not make the 1979 ECUSA Book to lack merit or to be unusable, but they do raise serious questions as to its real value and its continued use by those who wish to be “orthodox.”

So I return to where I begin. My desire is for every Episcopal/Anglican clergyperson and seminarian to read at least chapter two of The Oxford History of Christian Worship. Of course, chapter three on worship from the fourth to the seventh centuries is also worth reading, as are many others, even if in some of them about modern times there is too much of a dose of liberationism, inclusivism and feminism.

The Revd Dr Peter Toon June 2, 2006