Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Patriotism and the American Prayer Book

A call for loyalty to the classic BCP tradition of the American Republic

Absolute loyalty of the baptized Christian is to be given to the Lord Jesus Christ and to Zion, city of our God, the Heavenly Jerusalem, which is the mother of the baptized (Galatians 4:26ff.). Subordinate to this, and always guided by the primary commitment to Christ the Lord, there is a limited loyalty to the country of one’s citizenship. This latter cannot be more than limited because Christians are aliens and pilgrims on earth, on their way through this evil age to the kingdom of God (1 Peter 2:9-12). In this frame of reference there is place for patriotism but hardly for nationalism.

Patriotism includes affirming all that is good in one’s country, working for its moral, spiritual and cultural improvement, and defending it when attacked. But it always means realizing that one’s country must never become an idol and its political freedom should never be interpreted as “freedom in Christ”(see Galatians 5:1 and the whole doctrine of freedom in that Epistle)!

Belonging both to the cultural heritage and to the Christian (Anglican heritage) of the U.S.A. is The Book of Common Prayer. In its 1662 edition it was used in the thirteen colonies for over a century, and then in its American edition it was used from 1789 (via gentle revision in 1892 & 1928) until 1979 in The Episcopal Church (TEC) – and since then in the Continuing Anglican jurisdictions outside TEC and also in maybe 100 [rebellious!] parishes within TEC.

Not only was the use of this Prayer Book in its early editions in the sixteenth century a major influence on the development of the English language, but it was also a major influence on the way people learned to address God in prayer. The American edition of it (1789) is part of American cultural history and it reflects a limited form of patriotism which is able to live under the Lordship of Christ. This is seen in the prayers for those in authority in the Republic of the U.S.A. and in its adoption of the major holidays of the Republic as signs of God’s providence and care.

Once we allow these basic facts to sink in to our thinking processes and become part of our mental frame of reference then we may regret that there seems to be a tendency amongst those who want to unite as orthodox Anglicans (and coming together, for example, under “The Anglican Communion Network and its affiliated Common Cause) to bypass this important cultural heritage and godly patriotism. That is, they seem to want to go directly back to the edition of The Prayer Book which was in use in the Colonial Period and still is in use in England and much of Africa today – the BCP (1662) -- and seemingly act as though there had been no American form of this Book over 200 years.

Now, without a doubt, the most important edition of The Book of Common Prayer is that of 1662 (which has been rendered into 150 plus languages). However, this was adapted for the Republic in 1789 by Americans and (at the request of the American Anglican Church – PECUSA) this edition was approved by the English Bishops as the basis for communion between the old and the new Church. The whole history of TEC (from 1789-1979) has been in relation to this American form of the one Book of Common Prayer.

One reason for going back to the very influential 1662 edition is because of its universal use and authority in the Anglican family. This one can understand and applaud. But why, in recalling it, cannot the 1789 revision for the Republic be also recalled and be part of the Tradition of the Anglican Way to be revived in 2006. After all the two are two editions on ONE book! Let them stand together (and with the Canadian form of 1662, the edition of 1962).

I fear, however, (and I hope I am wrong) that there may be an unstated reason for the seeming avoidance of reference to the American BCP (1789/1892/1928 and still printed and published by Oxford University Press and Anglican Parishes Association). It is this. TEC in 1976 and 1979, in its spirit of liberal progressive revolution (generated in the 1960s and fed from a variety of religious and social forces), sent off to the archives in a cavalier way this American edition of The Book of Common Prayer and put in its place a Book of Varied Services with mixed doctrine and had the audacity to call it “The BCP” as it if were a gentle revision of the received BCP! For many TEC Bishops and clergy this act of rejecting the Anglican Way as received is a topic they do not care to remember or talk about.

Thus to include positive reference to the genuine American edition of the one BCP means the awakening of not only painful memories but, if honesty reigns, of confessing corporate rebellion and apostasy by the General Convention in 1976 & 1979. Its new book should have been “A Book of Alternative Services” to the already in existence Book of Common Prayer!

True patriotism by American Anglicans surely includes the honoring and affirming of the tradition of Common Prayer in the Republic of the U.S.A. Further, the recovery of the fullness of the Anglican Way for Americans includes not only recovering the classic Formularies (BCP 1662, Ordinal 1662 and Articles of Religion 1662) but also the genuine Common Prayer tradition in the U.S.A. since 1789! – and in this recovery there surely must be repentance and godly sorry for the rejection of this Tradition since 1979 by TEC and by not a few members of The Network as well. At least the 1979 Prayer Book should be treated – in true American patriotic tradition – as the American Book of Alternative Services, for that is precisely what it is when one takes the bird’s eye view.

* * *
Below I print a discussion piece that I wrote in the summer of 2005 in response to questions about singing the National Anthem within The Order for Holy Communion. Its content may help to focus more the difference between godly patriotism appropriate for Christians and secular patriotism which is whipped up by secular-minded leaders.

Patriotism, Divine Worship & Citizenship of the heavenly Jerusalem
A discussion starter from Peter Toon

Let me begin by talking about Britain, which I know well.

In the Church of England, which is an established Church, there is in all the Sunday services the possibility of appropriate prayer [and in the classic BCP it is a requirement] for the Monarch (Queen Elizabeth II) and the royal family. The reason for this inclusion is that the Monarch not only rules the nation as Queen in Parliament but that also in England alone she is the Supreme Governor of the National Church. All Bishops are appointed by her, on the advice of the Prime Minister (who himself is advised by a commission of the General Synod of the Church), and any major changes in the worship, doctrine and discipline of the Church have also to be accepted by her. So she is prayed for in that double capacity.

Though there is prayer for the Queen, the government and nation in the intercessions of “The Order for Holy Communion” of the Book of Common Prayer (1662) in the Church of England, it is not usual, for there to be any obvious patriotism or nationalism displayed in this traditional service. For example, the singing of the National Anthem or the carrying of the national flag is extremely rare within this service, The Order for Holy Communion, the Holy Eucharist. This is how it ought to be, I think.

However, with public services of Morning and Evening Prayer, or other Services of public worship, the case can be different. Here controlled patriotism (not nationalism or racism) is displayed from time to time in civic services when the flags and banners of organizations are taken in procession through the church and when the National Anthem is sung and when the dead of the World Wars are remembered on November 11.

Here I want to suggest that anywhere in the world the celebration of the Eucharist should never include anything more than the expression of a mild form of patriotism? Why?

Because, wherever one is in God’s world, the celebration of the Holy Eucharist is a celebration of the heavenly Jerusalem, beyond space and time, not of an earthly city or kingdom. Those present lift up their hearts and, by the Holy Ghost, they are lifted up into the heavenly place, where they feast at the Messianic Banquet of the once crucified and now exalted Lord Jesus. They are in communion with the Father through the Son and with the Holy Ghost and they feed on the One who is the Lamb of God. As they are lifted up in Christ “there is no male and female, Jew or Gentile” for all are one in the Saviour. Jesus Christ. There is absolutely no place for overt patriotism or nationalism or racism here in this holy and rarified ethos. The family of God is from every tribe and every tongue and the heavenly Lord is lord of all peoples, races and nations. So those celebrating the Eucharist in Australia or in Bolivia or in Estonia or in New York City are all lifted up to the same Place, heaven, and are present there as citizens of heaven, as fellow members of the Body of Christ and of the Household of God. In terms of their relation to earth and nations, they are sojourners and pilgrims, for their true home is in the heavenly paradise, along with the angels and archangels, and all the redeemed.

If we have a right view of what the Holy Communion is all about, then we surely know that in its celebration we leave behind all nationalisms, patriotisms, racisms, ethnicities and whatever else. For only in so doing by God’s help and grace can we become that which God actually reckons us to be in Christ – that is, his adopted children, citizens of heaven and dwellers in the heavenly Jerusalem, who have been made clean by the blood of the Lamb. The experience of the Eucharist is for pilgrims & sojourners on earth nothing less than a foretaste of heaven, the first-fruits of the heavenly life and the anticipation of what shall be for ever!

This being so, I suggest, the place where the Christian assembly for Eucharist (I speak not of a civic prayer service) takes place ought not to display obvious excessive signs of patriotism, let alone forms of nationalism or racism, and there should not normally be the singing of patriotic songs. There is plenty of space and time for healthy patriotism outside the sacred hour of the Eucharist, and such I heartily endorse. But this sacred hour belongs to the patriotism of heaven, of the heavenly Jerusalem, and of the new heavens and the new earth, and we should not make the earthly and imperfect City of Man a competitor of the heavenly City of God in this holy hour.

To say this does not mean that in the Intercessions that we should not pray for the leaders and armed forces of the country wherein the Church is placed and is witnessing. Of course, there should be such prayer for them and others in positions of authority; but always the sense is to be that in comparison with membership of the heavenly City of God, citizenship of any earthly country or kingdom is always secondary and temporary.

The Revd Dr Peter Toon

P.S. It may be objected that in the BCP (1928) there is provision of a collect, epistle and gospel for Independence Day (July 4). We need to remember that the service of Ante-Communion (= Part 1 of the Order for H.C. but without the Sacrament consecrated and given) has been much used in the past (from 1789 to middle of 20th century), and this provision was as much for this service of the Word and Prayer as for a full service of Holy Communion. Further, the Collect expresses what I have called a mild form of patriotism.

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