Monday, August 28, 2006

The Ordaining and Consecrating of a Bishop – but what is his real identity?

A contemporary form of the Three Ordination Services from The Ordinal bound together with The Book of Common Prayer (USA 1928) is now at

for more on the topic of ordination, and differences between the English and American editions of the Ordinal -- read on…

If you compare and contrast “The Form of Ordaining and Consecrating of an Archbishop or Bishop” in the Ordinal printed at the back of The Book of Common Prayer of 1662 with the equivalent service at the back of the American 1928 edition of the Prayer Book, you find various differences. This is not surprising in that the American edition of the classic Anglican Prayer Book never completely followed the text of the original Church of England text, sometimes for obvious reasons (Republic not Monarchy) and at other times for less obvious (e.g., latitudinarianism).

In the Ordinal there is no promise of obedience by a newly ordained Bishop to the Archbishop of the Province, because The Protestant Episcopal Church never had Archbishops. Its Presiding Bishop was usually the senior Bishop in the House and not until very recently was the Office of Presiding Bishop made into a full-time job with no diocesan responsibility and also with the title of Primate!

Also, there is what appears to be a minor change in the call by the Presiding Bishop to the congregation to pray for the Bishop-elect.

In the 1662 (and Canadian 1962) text we read:

Brethren, it is written in the Gospel of Saint Luke, that our Saviour Christ continued the whole night in prayer, before he did choose and send forth his twelve Apostles. It is also written in the Acts of the Apostles, that the disciples who were at Antioch did fast and pray before they laid hands on Paul and Barnabas and sent them forth. Let us therefore,…

In the 1928 (& 1892) USA text we read:

Brethren, it is written in the Gospel of Saint Luke, that our Saviour Christ continued the whole night in prayer, before he chose and sent forth his twelve Apostles. It is written also, that the holy Apostles prayed before they ordained Matthias to be of the number of the Twelve, Let us, therefore,…

Note that the example from Acts 13 has been dropped and the example from Acts 1 has been included. Why? Because, I think, the purpose was to claim that the Bishops were truly successors of the Apostles (in some not here defined way) and not of semi-Apostles like Barnabas! Further, the Acts 1 account is Apostles ordaining Apostle but this is not so in Acts 13!

Since this change occurred in the first American edition of the Ordinal (1792), we are most probably to see the influence of Samuel Seabury, the Church in Connecticut and the High Church (Tory) party. We need also to recall that a century later the House of Bishops of The Protestant Episcopal Church also officially strengthened the received Anglican doctrine of the Episcopate for its own Province by the famous statement from Chicago in 1888 known as The Quadrilateral. In this it is declared that an essential for unity of denominations is “The Historic Episcopate, locally adapted in the methods of its administration to the varying needs of the nations and peoples call of God into the unity of His Church.”

It has often been observed that the original Ordinal of the Church of England left open various possibilities of the origin of the Threefold Ministry and its precise relation to the apostolic age. One question, often debated in the past, is whether the Episcopate is of the bene esse, the plene esse or the esse of the Church through space and time. By the Chicago Quadrilateral (later approved by the Conference - not Synod - of Bishops assembled at the Lambeth Conference) the Protestant Episcopal Church had virtually outlawed the bene esse approach (which had been and is very widely held by Anglicans) by insisting that the Episcopate was truly necessary for either the fullness of being or the very being of the Church. That is, the Church either is only really the Church when it has the Episcopate or is only the Church when it has the Episcopate (what does this approach do to the millions of Baptists, Methodists etc. in the U.S.A.?).

The Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral has of course no force in any province other than the American unless that province has actually adopted it by synodical action. Thus a majority of Anglicans worldwide still hold to the bene esse or at strongest the plene esse view of the Episcopate! The esse is seen as Roman Catholic or Orthodox in most places.

However, the strong temptation in the USA, in the competitiveness of the massive religious supermarket, is for the zealous in Episcopal Churches to claim that the Episcopate is either absolutely or very nearly absolutely necessary for there to be real and true, valid and efficacious, means of grace, sacraments and salvation. Anglicans in other lands where the competition is not so diverse and fierce can highly value the Episcopate without make it absolutely necessary!

Regrettably, if I understand the document aright, the recent (mid August) proposed theological basis of the Common Cause of the A C Network, includes a commitment to what appears to be the doctrine that the Episcopate is certainly of plene esse of the Church and maybe of the esse! If so, it excludes most Anglicans worldwide today and excludes the millions of evangelical Anglicans who have been faithful Anglicans over the generations! It reads:

“We confess the godly historic Episcopate as an inherent part of the apostolic faith and practice, and therefore as integral to the fullness and unity of the Body of Christ.”

This of course puts a particular spin on the 1662 Ordinal (which this Confession accepts) and prohibits the comprehensiveness that has always been part of the genius of the Anglican Way!

August 28, 2006

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

1 comment:

CB in Ca said...

Dear Dr. Toon: Until fairly recently, I was in an "extra-mural" parish, and found that, as a reformed evangelical, my "bene esse" approach to the episcopate was excluded! In all fairness, we evangelicals oughtn't be seen as non apostolic. Charles