Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A Letter: Anglican Renewal, and the costs involved in such renewal

Fr Dick Kim
All Hallows Eve, 2006
My dear Dick:

You and I spend a lot of time thinking about the Anglican Problem, Identity and Ways of Renewal. Here are some further thoughts on Renewal.

Anglican Renewal, and the costs involved in such renewal.

In any genuine renewal, be it of a person, a family or a congregation, there are obviously costs involved. For there is no way into a mature way of believing and behaving from a dysfunctional or diseased way of living that does not involve pain—but pain which can be followed eventually by joy. The recognition of wrong, repentance before God for it, the forsaking of it and the embracing of what is right and good do not come without costs to personal standing, prestige and self-righteousness, as we all know from experience and observation.

Let us agree that the moves to the kind of renewed life to which the apostolic writers of the N.T. Epistles call the baptized people of God involve pain and cost, which cut to the core of our beings and humble us before the Holy Lord.

In this context, I wish to suggest that for there to be renewal of Anglican persons, families, congregations and dioceses there has to be the absolutely indispensable Gospel element (already noted) and the secondary, but still important, Anglican element.

In the light of the suggestions made by the Moderator of the Anglican Communion Network, Bishop Duncan, that we should think of returning as North American Anglicans to the ideal of One Prayer Book and One English Version of the Bible—and if it is also possible, we may add, One Hymnbook—I make the following suggestions concerning the Anglican element (which will only work if they are closely connected to the Gospel element):

1. We have gone through a long period where there has been excessive liberty granted to local rectors and local worship committees to use whatever Rite they wished and to adjust it to their tastes. Though the USA is the land of the free, sometimes we must curtail our freedom simply for the greater good and for the common good. So the first suggestion is that we think about the Anglican ideal of COMMON Prayer and the way that we have made it virtually a non-starter since the 1970s by our excessively varied local liturgical rites.
2. We re-learn and begin to appreciate the ideal of Common Prayer where the people of God in different places are joined across space and through time in one basic set of forms of worship (we can see this in the services of The Orthodox Church, if we need a modern example to view). This was the case basically in the Anglican Family from 1559 through to the 1970s where the One BCP, in various local editions in English or other languages, was used everywhere. Of course there were variations in style, ethos and churchmanship but it was truly everywhere the basic COMMON Prayer.
3. We also re-learn and appreciate the ideal of one English version of the Bible heard in all the churches and memorized in all the Sunday schools. The KJV was used from 1611 through to the 1970s virtually everywhere and by all. It is of course still widely read and memorized but not usually by Anglicans in North America.
4. We consider how we can all—I mean all of us—begin to trim our sails, curtail our freedoms, and move towards a COMMON center and commitment, where there is at least principally One BCP and One English Version of the Bible used most of the time in public worship. To get to this position we need clear and solid guidance from Bishops by word and by example, and we need many local meetings to reflect upon these things and come up with agreed ways of reaching the goal. For some of us it will be a massive change to return from the ends of the world to the center, and this will be the case whether it be from excessive charismatic/evangelical freedoms or anglo-catholic, “papist” extremes; or whether it be from 1950s style traditionalism or 1960s libertinism; or whatever else.
5. The point is that renewal of people in a specific movement requires that they go back to their origins for inspiration, guidance and strength both in the Bible as Christians, and to Common Prayer and Formularies as Anglicans. Reformation always has the important content of going back to the roots, to the sources, and to the origins, or, to change the metaphor, it requires drawing water from the original well of life.
6. Of course, the One form of COMMON PRAYER with the ONE BIBLE will not and cannot be as it was before the radical changes that occurred from the late 1960s. What is needed is a godly consensus as to what is the appropriate form for One BCP and One Bible (and even One Hymnbook) for the decade ahead as Anglicans seek UNITY in TRUTH and TRUTH IN UNITY and discover afresh their IDENTITY as Reformed Catholic Christians, in whom there is comprehensiveness around a common evangelical and catholic commitment.
7. I agree with Bp Duncan that the edition of the One BCP has to be that of 1662 because of its present very wide use in the Anglican Family (especially in Africa) and because it is in 150 or more languages. In terms of English it can also be rendered into a modern, contemporary form for those who feel that they need to address God as “You.” [The AMiA is presently working through this in trial form.] The edition of the English Bible is more difficult and here we may have to go both for the KJV, which is unique, and one of the modern classic forms of today, like the RSV or one of its successors. [On this point see Ian Robinson, Who Killed the Bible? , available from www.edgwaysbooks.com ]
8. But are Americans willing to curtail their liberty? If they are not then the future of the Anglican Way to be a coherent and united expression of Reformed Catholic Christianity seems merely a dream!

Dick, think on these things and do get the readers of your LIST to do the same. I sincerely hope that people will not respond—as some often do—with instant, brief and (sometimes) rude comments. I hope that reflection and consideration will be evident in any responses to you.

Thanks a lot,

Peter (drpetertoon@yahoo.com).

The Lambeth Conference as a basic cause of Anglican problems: Will the application of the brakes slow down the Anglican train?

The Anglican Way as one autonomous National Church, with the Christian Monarch as its Governor under the Most High God, began as Ecclesia Anglicana and in the late 1540s became The Church of England and issued the Bible and the Prayer Book in English. Over the centuries other National Churches have been formed from or by the English Church to practice the same form of the Christian Religion—Reformed Catholicism—and in recent times this association or fellowship of national or regional Churches has been called ”The Anglican Communion of Churches.” However, it is only very recently, because of internal crises, that the Churches in this “Communion” have been required to begin to face the question(s): “As a national or regional Anglican Church, are you not only autonomous but also interdependent? And are you willing to sign An Anglican Covenant which clarifies what interdependency means in practice? That is, are you willing to do what it takes to participate fruitfully in a truly conciliar polity involving all the Anglican Churches around the Globe?”

The process of answering will take not months but years. However, the process may be speeded up by actions taken, and advice given, by the so-called Instruments of Unity—The Primates’ Meeting, The Archbishop of Canterbury, The Anglican Consultative Council and The Lambeth Conference of Bishops (due July 2008). Until there is consensus and the terms of a Covenant is agreed—perhaps in late 2008—there will be continuing uncertainty and anxiety especially in the West of the “Communion;” and, importantly, there will be the risk that the Churches of the Global South will lose patience and act unilaterally. And, at the end of this process—if it is ever reached—it is more than likely that the “Communion” will have less members than it presently has, for the terms of An Anglican Covenant may be too tough or traditional for the progressive liberal provinces of the West to swallow. It is also not improbable that before or at the end of the process what is now a 38-member “Communion” may divide into several parts—regional and or doctrinal—and that in one geographical region there will be present two or more of those parts. (Indeed, it is also possible that the present fragmented state of Anglicanism in the USA will become a model for what occurs in other regions!)

Looking back over the recent history of the Anglican association of Churches, it is easy to see that the central claim of Anglicans to have the basis of a conciliar Anglican polity in the regular meeting of “The Lambeth Conference” of all serving Anglican Bishops, with the Archbishop of Canterbury as Chairman , has been both a sign of unity and interdependency and also the means of creating forces which may be called centrifugal and thus actually work against unity and interdependency. And we must remember that this Conference has been dominated by “open-minded” bishops from the West until the last Conference in 1998, where what is now called “The Global South” made its mind, voice and votes known, especially in the matter of sexual relations between human beings.

1. As a Body, by majority vote, the Conference commended the use of artificial birth control in 1930 and thereby (apart from provoking a famous reaction from the Vatican) began a process of changing the received doctrine of Christian Marriage as it had been known and taught, especially in terms of the relation between marriage and procreation. In the West, the Anglican Churches liberalized their canon law and pastoral policies with respect to marriage after World War II (and preeminently so in the USA). The Lambeth Conferences did nothing to seek to halt the development of this new doctrine of marriage which is widely and generally accepted in the West and may be found in liturgical form in the 1979 Prayer Book of The Episcopal Church and in canon law form in the Episcopal Church canon of 1973.

2. Again the same Conference voted in 1968 to encourage each Church/Province to begin the process of creating new forms of service, not to replace the One Book of Common Prayer then used everywhere and by all, but to exist alongside it and to provide variety for people living in the new era of change and prosperity in the West. Instead of their being cooperation by Provinces in the production of these “Books of Alternative Services” each Province which had the money and available scholars (the Western ones obviously and only) did its own thing and began a process and movement that has not ceased to this day. The Anglican Churches are swamped by new and progressive and innovative liturgies and these have overwhelmed the One Book of Common Prayer! In the West no one seems to know any more what is Anglican worship for the variety is overwhelming!

3. With respect to the ordination of women and their consecration as Bishops, the Lambeth Confernce invented the specifically Anglican doctrine of reception in 1988 in order to deal with a situation of its own making (see my Reforming Forwards? The Process of Reception…., The Latimer Trust, London, www.latimertrust.org). It had not opposed and did not oppose this innovation, which had been given the go-ahead by the Anglican Consultative Council between Lambeth Conferences. However, by its acceptance of the presence of ordained women (even if their whole ministry is an “experiment” being tested) the Conference in effect, and for all practical purposes, gave the green light to the claims coming into the Churches from the growing emphasis and presence of human rights in society—in this case equal rights for women.

4. At the last Lambeth Conference of 1998, that green light was turned off for a while because the presence of the basically “fair-minded liberalized Western bishops” was less in numbers and determination than the biblically-based and evangelistically motivated bishops from the Global South. I was there to see this new phenomenon when a new united voice was heard at Lambeth and it was a voice that challenged assumptions previously taken for granted by so many bishops in the West. It was primarily seen in the adoption of a resolution on sexuality, where traditional understanding of the relation of man and woman in marriage was preserved and declared. And this has proved to be a massive challenge and barrier to the onward march of the human rights movement within the Western Churches with regard to sexual relations between persons of the same sex. It was, as it were, putting on the brakes that were taken off in 1930!

However, since the brakes had been off for so long, many people in the West especially had got used to their “freedoms,” the “exercise of their rights” and the recognition of “their dignity,” and the application of the brake has caused what is now generally agreed to be a crisis- a crisis of Identity- for the people called Anglicans. Not only are same-sex blessings and marriage being opposed but also serious thought is now being given, at last, to the liberal attitude towards serial monogamy, the deployment of divorced and divorced/remarried clergy as pastors in the churches. Further, the proliferation of liturgical texts is being challenged and the idea of having One Prayer and One Version of the Bible is now a respectable thing to talk about! A shake-up has started which is affecting all parts of the Anglican Family. Whether it will create centripetal forces for unity and renewal in unity we shall have to wait and see, for over the last fifty years it has been centrifugal forces that have dominated the Anglican scene especially in the West.

Finally, let us spare a moment to think about the devoted, faithful church member in rural America, rural Tanzania or anywhere around the Globe whose only desire is to serve the Lord faithfully day by day by doing his will and loving Him and his people. Let us pray that the failures of the Shepherds of the flock of Christ will not do serious harm to these “saints” of God.

All Hallows Eve, 2006 drpetertoon@yahoo.com

ONE and one only: Reflections on the Proposal of the Bishop of Pittsburgh made on October 25

St Paul tells us that “there is one Body and one Spirit—just as you were called in the one Hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6). No wonder the apostle goes on to emphasize that unity in the congregation is of paramount importance both for God’s purpose and for human salvation and sanctification.

From such a foundation it is reasonable to infer that where you have in the present time a denomination (which by definition is a distinct part of the One Body of Christ that exists because its members prefer its special emphases in preference to other possible emphases within the One Church and One Faith under the One Lord), that denomination ought to be more united in basics than it is possible, under normal circumstances, for the whole Body of Christ to be. That is, birds of a feather flock together and people of like mind should find a strong commonality. By definition a denomination is a group with similar or identical doctrines.

Therefore, working from this premise, one could assume that members of the Anglican Way are united on majors and only differ on minors. Or, at least, one could assert that they ought to be, for unless they are so united, what is the use of there being a specific jurisdiction or denomination within the One Catholic Church of God called Anglican?

Moving along from idealism to reality, we all know that the Anglican Way in North America is not One Way but an assortment of many ways which seem to be—in general terms and in charitable estimation—going in roughly the same direction but at different speeds and with different vehicles. There is not one Anglican Church but fifty or so, from large to very tiny; there is not one Anglican Liturgy, but hundreds of variations of several basic liturgies; there is not one English version of the Bible used, but many different renderings, translations and paraphrases. Just precisely where “the underlying unity” is in all this is most difficult to pinpoint—maybe just in the name itself.

In this context, it was most encouraging to read that the Episcopal Bishop of Pittsburgh, speaking at Nashotah House on October 25, 2006, boldly proposed that to bring some basic unity into the fragmented Anglican Way in North America there should be One Prayer Book and One version of the Bible. He does not state what is his preferred Bible but his preferred Prayer Book is The Book of Common Prayer of 1662 (which is the most widely used and authoritative Liturgy in the Anglican Communion, either in English or in some 150 other languages into which it has been translated).

Perhaps—in order for this excellent proposal to come anywhere near to possibility in the extremely opinion-based culture of America—we need to expand this proposal a little, while keeping to its essence.


In order to make the BCP 1662 the primary Formulary, under the supreme authority of the Bible, and in order for this to mean something real and lasting, and be a unifier, then Anglicans need actually to use it regularly, at least twice month. They should use it either in its original, classic English form (with prayer for President instead of Monarch) or in an agreed equivalent form in a kind of contemporary English where God is addressed as “You.” [The AMiA is already doing the latter on a trial basis with texts that will be perfected after trial use—contact thomascranmer2000@yahoo.com for details.] Of course the ceremonial and music can be according to local taste as long as neither actually conflicts with the doctrine and spiritual ethos of the Liturgy. On any Sundays when the BCP 1662 is not used then there could be the availability of an official Alternative Rite which would under the doctrinal authority of the BCP 1662 and thus in conformity with it in essentials, including “Shape” (here one can think of the American BCP of 1928 in its original form or in a contemporary English form as an Alternative Rite, as also the Canadian Prayer Book of 1962 in both forms).

One advantage of this way forward would be to put the American Anglican Way into much the same Liturgical use as vast parts of the Anglican Communion. Those who really wanted a more specifically “Catholic” way could go off to Rome or Orthodoxy and those who wanted a specifically more “Protestant” or “Charismatic” Way would have a massive choice in the supermarket of religions. Practical unity requires that there be limits to comprehensiveness.


As we all know, from 1611 through to the 1970s in the English speaking world there was only really One Bible, and that was the English AV or, as it is known around the globe, the KJV. This Bible version goes naturally and admirably with the BCP 1662 and only the radical iconoclast dare tear the two apart.

Yet, as there is a felt need for a Liturgy in a contemporary form of English, so there is the same for a version of the Bible. But, in the capitalist culture of the U.S.A., this desire for a contemporary language version of the Holy Scriptures has got out of control. There are so many versions now on the shelves of the bookstore that only the expert can distinguish their varying purposes and quality. Happily, there are very few which are suitable for public reading in Liturgy, where such reading of the Scriptures is seen as a vital means of grace, and to go with the KJV one of these few has to be chosen—one per diocese if not one per province. And such a version has to have the Apocrypha if it is to be used for the Daily Offices. Thus we are left with the RSV preferably in its later form as the Common Bible and the NRSV (which has for some the disadvantage of taking a deliberately inclusive approach in regard to the sexes). Regrettably, as of now, the ESV (which is closely related to the RSV) does not have the Apocrypha and so if used would need supplementing with the RSV or NRSV.


Obviously these matters have to be made public, thought about, debated and studied—and why not now in the great crisis of Identity facing the Anglican family.

At the same time, we all need to be aware—and consider most seriously—that the present encouragement of centrifugal forces in liturgy, Bible versions, doctrine, discipline and devotion, is keeping Anglicanism as a very much divided and dysfunctional way in North America. The effort and readiness of coming together in a disciplined and humble way to use One Bible and One Prayer Book would be to set in motion (with divine help) powerful centripetal forces that have not been felt or known for many years. To work for this to happen may be at first a thankless task in the highly opinionated and fractured reality of Anglicanism in the USA but it may pay off in the long term—especially if a growing number of sincere souls get involved and the winds from heaven blow to cause the centripetal movement to take place!

P.S. If God’s centripetal winds do blow upon us then maybe we shall also move to more unified doctrines of both women’s ordination and holy matrimony.

drpetertoon@yahoo.com October 30, 2006

[again I commend the book, Who killed the Bible? by my learned friend and distinguished literary critic, Ian Robinson. Buy this paperback from www.edgewaysbooks.com It addresses this question of "One Bible."]

Diocese of Olympia in 2006 is radical like ECUSA in 1973

GOD is LOVE: all loving action and all true sexual passion is of God for LOVE is God.

The Diocese of Olympia proclaims its radical creed. But is it merely and only part of the Creed adopted in 1973?

If—as many Episcopalians do—you believe that the Bible is only the beginnings of the record of how people interpreted their experience of God, and that they continue both to have experience of God, record and interpret it, then you can understand the prophetic zeal of the radical progressives in The Episcopal Church and in the Diocese of Olympia in western Washington State. For them the real Jesus of the Gospels is the Jesus who included the outcasts, who went to their homes, who enjoyed their company, who affirmed them, said God loved them and sought them, and made them part of his inner group of disciples. Today, for them the action of God as Spirit in the world is to support and affirm the excluded, the needy, those without rights and food. For God loves everyone JUST AS she or he is.

In an affluent city like Seattle, this means God shows special partiality towards those whom the “traditional Church” tends to exclude—e.g., those whose sexual orientation is not within the bounds of normal respectability. Further, in the context of the Anglican Family of Churches, which is dominated by views of God based solely on the first two books of records (OT & NT) and is not reading the later books that bring us into the 21st century, God is seen as using the Diocese of Olympia in a prophetic way to call attention to the later books and to the revelation therein. The pioneers for the radical Jesus in Seattle seek to lead the way not only in The Episcopal Church but also in the global Communion—that is, the way into a full appreciation that GOD IS LOVE and LOVE and TRUE PASSION are of GOD, and that true holiness is found in same-sex relationships.

Here is the resolution passed by the Diocese with a 2/3 majority on October 28.

RESOLVED, That this 96th Convention of the Diocese of Olympia affirms and calls upon the Bishops and Standing Committee of the Diocese to affirm the full inclusion in all areas of the life of the Episcopal Church of our otherwise qualified brother and sister Christians who are single or partnered heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual, or trans-gendered persons, non-celibate singles, and divorced persons as well as the full inclusion in the Episcopal Church in the full life of the Anglican Communion.

This goes past resolutions passed in the General Convention in its doctrine of inclusivity by specifically including “non-celibate singles and divorced persons.” It blazes the trail for God’s love that the prophets of Seattle have seen and felt clearly, the trail that they want all to walk on and enjoy.

If we slow down for a moment and go back into the recent history of The Episcopal Church, we find that there was in the early 1970s a very powerful period of radical prophetic activity, even more radical than that of the Diocese of Olympia on October 28, 2006.

In the early 1970s began the first general moves to give a full place in the life of the churches to active homosexual and lesbian persons and also, very importantly, at this time, very major changes were made in the doctrine of marriage in The Episcopal Church. The new marriage canon of 1973 passed by the General Convention abandoned the received, traditional view of marriage and created a new “pastoral” canon and doctrine, in accord with the divorce culture and the artificial birth control culture and the self-fulfillment/realization culture from the late 1960s. Here the developing doctrine of the secular world was simply baptized with the name of God and given the blessing of the Church, and thereby serial monogamy, deliberate childless marriage and the ordination and deployment of divorced and remarried persons became common in The Episcopal Church, and remain so until today—even in the so called “conservative” and “orthodox” dioceses. Such radical liberalization served to strengthen the claims of the LesBiGay lobby for full rights (which now they have) and to weaken the whole moral and spiritual fiber of this Church on a very wide front.

Thus it is clear that one of the major causes of the spiritual and moral weakness of the reforming movements (such The Network) in The Episcopal Church is that every time they/we point a finger and criticize the LesBiGay lobby they/we also find their/our thumbs pointing to themselves/ourselves, for what they/we have embraced (the effective rejection of Christian marriage) and made very little effort to change is actually—in the great scheme of things—far more serious that what the LesBiGay lobby works for (because what the LesBiGay lobby works for is parasitic on the failure of Christian Marriage in The Episcopal Church).

drpetertoon@yahoo.com October 30, 2006

Monday, October 30, 2006

Global South—Are we placing too much faith in IT?

“It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes.” (Psalm 118:8-9)

“Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.” (Psalm 146:3)

Increasingly it appears that the would-be orthodox, not only in North American Anglicanism but also in the Church of England, are looking to the “Global South” as their guides, leaders and saviors. In turn, the Primates of the “Global South” are becoming more and more articulate (a) in their criticism of western/northern debased forms of contemporary Anglicanism and (b) in their proposals as to what MUST be done now or in the near future.

While stating their agreement with The Windsor Report in terms of what it says about the sickness of the North American Anglican Churches and wanting North Americans to accept its judgment, they appear to reject what it says about crossing diocesan boundaries and “interfering” in dioceses and provinces not their own. Their reason for doing the latter without shame is that the Gospel and pastoral needs require it and so they are justified in rejecting the advice of The Windsor Report.

Let us be clear. Right now the Anglican Way, in terms of biblically-based worship, doctrine, discipline and mission, is in much better shape in the provinces of the Global South than it is in those of the West/North. There is much greater obvious commitment to growth in maturity in the faith and growth in numbers through conversions to Christ. And for the foreseeable future it looks as though these realities will stay in place. Further, it is also good and right that some of the economic resources of the churches in the West should go to the Global South churches even as their solid Gospel commitments are offered and given to the failing churches in the West.

All this and more needs to be said. So, let us sincerely thank God for the courage, the zeal and the commitments of the Global South laity and clergy and let us see ourselves as one with them in the One Body of the One Christ in the One Faith (Ephesians 4).

Also, and here is where the solemn Word of the Lord, in Psalms 118 and 143 speaks to us so clearly and timely, let us be realistic before our heavenly Father. As we thank God for the Global South and its leaders, let us remember that they are but men—men who are committed to the Lord Jesus but nevertheless men who are sinners being saved by grace. As they trust in the Lord (and not in themselves!) so let us not trust in them but also trust in the LORD, YHWH, the Father through his Son, the Lord Jesus, by the Holy Spirit.

Put not your trust in princes in whom there is no salvation.

If I may now speak in very human terms based on what we know of human nature, human history and experience of the churches in the world.

First of all, there is a real possibility—because of the spreading of human rights ideology, western media influence, international trade and capitalism—that the churches of the Global South will slowly but surely begin to suffer in obvious ways with the same kinds of moral and spiritual diseases that inflict the Anglican Way (in its myriad manifestations) in North America. What is happening for example in South African Anglicanism could well spread north rather quickly—even as it could also spread south from Europe! Also, the Anglican Provinces could also develop the fragmentation of the Anglican Way which is so embarrassing and debilitating in North America—in fact there is some of this now in Africa.

Secondly, there is the real possibility—because the Evil One wishes to subvert the Gospel and to destroy the developing fragile Anglican Conciliar Polity—that he, the devil, will in all kinds of subtle ways tempt the Primates and other Bishops of the Global South (see Ephesians 6:12 & 1 Peter 5:8) into thinking of themselves more highly than they ought to think (see Romans 12:3), that they will exceed what they ought to do and say within the parameters of the emerging Anglican Conciliar Polity. Some think that there are real signs of this occurring now as some of them seem unwilling to wait for Lambeth 2008 to address certain major issues. The grace of patience seems to have left some of them and there are 20 months to go to Lambeth 2008.

The point is not to criticize the Primates of the Global South or they are servants of the Lord Jesus. Rather the point is that we are to trust in the LORD and in the LORD alone for salvation, both in the ultimate sense of full redemption, and also in the lesser sense of deliverance from the present major crisis of faith, morals, polity and identity. Certainly we all throughout the Anglican Family are to accept help and to work with others to this end; but, we are to recognize that all the leaders of West and South are “princes” who are men, sinful men, and that when they are wise they will wholly submit themselves to the Lord, and only ask us to follow them when they are truly sure that they are following the Lord Jesus himself. As we all know, church history has many examples of good and sincere people, being sincerely wrong, and leading many astray in that sincerity. We all need to “watch and pray.”

“It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes.” (Psalm 118:8-9)

“Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.” (Psalm 146:3)

October 29. Trinity XX for which the Collect is:

O Almighty and most merciful God, of thy bountiful goodness keep us, we beseech thee, from all things that may hurt us, that we, being ready both in body and soul, may cheerfully accomplish those things that thou wouldest have done; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Anglicanism from two perspectives: some sobering thoughts

One can look at the churches which make up the Anglican Way in the U.S.A. from various perspectives. Here I choose two to view and then comment on.

1.At the ground level in a small town. A parish of around 100, with a hard-working, long serving priest as the rector and pastor, a group of dedicated women called “the altar guild” who keep everything clean and beautiful for divine worship, a small group of committed men who regularly do yard work and maintenance at the church building, a competent organist who tries to keep the singing lively and reverential, a few Sunday School teachers who look after the small band of children, and a solid proportion of the membership who tithe to keep everything afloat. Here there is a real sense of belonging and of commitment, even though there is only a minimal sense of evangelization and mission in locality and in general. There is a great appreciation of the Sacraments but (regrettably) only minimal appreciation and desire for solid and sound biblical exposition in preaching—so sermons are usually short and minimal in expository power. Most of the folks here are only minimally informed about the depth of the Anglican Crisis affecting the whole movement, and they prefer it to go away and allow them to be what they have been and want to be, a stable worshipping parish.

2.Viewed from above, the whole scene. From the vantage point of looking down, the first task is to separate the Anglican [Episcopal] churches from the others, for they are often difficult to find amidst the Roman Catholic, Southern Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran and other churches. When separated into meaningful types, we see that they belong roughly speaking to various groupings (where significantly each grouping is itself subdivided into several or many competitive parts). (a) The Episcopal Church leads the way in size in terms of both buildings and numbers (two millions on paper but 800,000 each Sunday) but is itself deeply divided into “Windsor compliant” and “Windsor process” dioceses. (b) Then there is the group that has left this Church in recent years and stayed in the Anglican Communion by a slender or strong thread through pastoral association with an overseas Bishop or Province—and this is truly “an alphabet of affiliations” which may involve as many as 25,000 people and grows weekly. (c) There is the group who claim to be the real “Continuing Anglicans” who left the Episcopal Church in the 1970s and are now split into several small jurisdictions and altogether they may involve some 20,000 people, and they tend to be high church or anglo-catholic, emphatic that a woman cannot be a priest. They are not officially within the Anglican Communion. (d) Also there is the small Reformed Episcopal Church which dates from the late 19th century and a host of other small jurisdictions which may be as many as thirty, which claim to be a real embodiment of Anglicanism, and here we may have another 15,000 people. Again these are not officially in the Anglican Communion.

One can be a member of the kind of parish in (1) above and carry on without reference to the larger scene and without allowing one’s mind to take seriously the profound relation of unity to truth in the High Priestly Prayer of the Lord Jesus (John 17) and the powerful presentation of St Paul in Ephesians 1-3 of unity in the full purpose of God for the Church and cosmos. One can keep busy with so many good things and thereby avoid asking the difficult and probing questions, which—let us be honest—disturb our equilibrium. [Another kind of local parish different in style to the “high church” one described, where there could also be minimal interest in the “Crisis,” would be that which is charismatic and generically evangelical and is involved in “church growth” schemes.]

On the other hand, one can (as belonging by birth or choice or accident to any grouping within U.S.A. Anglicanism) have gained by study such a sense of the whole picture of a very dysfunctional, divided, warring, impotent family that one feels depressed and without energy. And here one can decide, for example (a) to soldier on where one is, facing the reality and recognizing that there is little hope of change for the better; (b) to change ships (go to Rome or Orthodoxy or interdenominational evangelicalism or whatever), or (c) to determine to work for unity with truth and truth with unity in this complicated situation and thereby risk everything and be maligned by some, with little hope of changing much (despite what voices from abroad may be saying).

Even the most optimistic of us, at least briefly and occasionally, asks whether or not the chastisement of God (even his judgment) is so obviously now upon the whole Anglican Way in the USA (no exceptions!) that heaven is telling us that this ancient way of being Christian (going back via the Church of England, the ecclesia anglicana, to the patristic period) has lost its purpose and meaning in this country and that, unless (read Revelation 2-3) there is a widespread repentance and coming together for unity in truth and truth unity, this Candle should (and will) be put out!

However, if we study the phenomenon of the massive supermarket of religions, sects, denominations and churches in the U.S.A. we see that many groups continue long past their “use-by” date and exist with minimal purpose and energy alongside newer groups, much energized and intent to march successfully to Zion. Maybe, in this land of religious liberty, the Anglican Way will exist for a long time, not as the Way of Reformed Catholic Holiness, but as a powerful example of what happens to an ancient and once united Church in the U.S.A., when it does not repent of its sins and when it is empowered more by the centrifugal forces of American individualism, human rights and secularist culture than by the Spirit of Christ.

How different it would be if—as in not a few countries where the Anglican Way is pursuing holiness and growing in numbers—there were for Americans a real, visible alternative, militant religion in their midst (like Islam in Nigeria). No doubt this would create powerful centripetal forces within the Christian Church(es) and especially within Anglicanism and the search for truth in unity and unity in truth would be a genuinely powerful and sincere one. But where, as now, American secularism is naturally and easily embraced in whole or part by most American churches and denominations, especially Anglican, centrifugal forces win hands down as they have for many years now. And the pattern will continue for there is plenty of shelf and storage place in the supermarket! A worrying prospect…..

If only U.S.A. Anglicans were more aware of the real ENEMY and were ready to put on the whole armor of God to fight him and all the manifestations of his presence and influence—read Ephesians 6:10ff.—then the story would be very different.

October 28, 2006 drpetertoon@yahoo.com

Friday, October 27, 2006

An Ancient Collect and also a Contemporary Prayer: A most appropriate petition for American Anglicans in 2006

A collect/prayer composed in the fifth century, and rendered into English by Archbishop Cranmer (1549), and then slightly edited by Bishop Cosin (1662), offers in a few words a prayer which all American Anglicans can profitably use as they come before God the Father. Here it is in traditional English in the classic BCP for Trinity XX:

O Almighty and most merciful God, of thy bountiful goodness keep us, we beseech thee, from all things that may hurt us, that we, being ready both in body and soul, may cheerfully accomplish those things that thou wouldest have done; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

And here it is in a related form for those who wish to address GOD as “You”:

All powerful and most merciful Father, keep us, we implore You, by your generous goodness, from all things that may hurt us, so that, being prepared in body and soul, we may cheerfully accomplish all those things that You would have us do; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Before we take it phrase by phrase, let us note in brief its basic relevance as a prayer for Anglicans in their present crisis of identity. Whatever their churchmanship and party allegiances, Anglicans have been seriously hurt by a variety of serious things—e.g., heretical doctrine, false morality, basic dishonesty, schisms and divisions—and they need desperately, but also by God’s grace cheerfully, to be prepared to do what the Lord requires in the healing and renewing of the Anglican Way.

How God is addressed The Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is omnipotent (as the original Latin has it); but he is all-powerful and almighty most wonderfully when he is the Father of mercy, the merciful and generous God. At the Cross of Jesus he was almighty to save! We address him as “Father” without hesitation even though some around us tell us that to do so is to be sexist and patriarchalist! He has adopted us in Christ as his children and he is “Our Father in heaven.”

Thy bountiful goodness God the Father, Creator of all things visible and invisible, and the Savior and Redeemer of the world, is not only wholly and superlatively good in himself, but he is good towards his creatures—in fact his goodness to them in creation and redemption overflows.

Keep us, we beseech thee. Though God is most merciful and bountiful in his goodness towards us, we have no rights to claim before him. We come before his Majesty, making request of him, according to our relation to him, as his unworthy creatures, deserving nothing but his judgment on our sin. We do not presume upon his mercy and goodness (even though it is said we have rights and dignity because of our humanity); but we beg for his favor.

From all things that may hurt us. “All things” covers anything and everything that may serve, or be used by ourselves or others, to injure us in soul or body, and especially harm us in our relation with our Father in heaven and with fellow believers in the Body of Christ. In The Episcopal Church there has been, and there remains much, to hurt us and thus we need to watch and pray and put on the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6).

That we, being ready both in body and soul. As God’s creatures we are unified beings but with two aspects, body and soul; and, as we know from modern psychology, there is an intimate relation between our minds/hearts and our physical bodies. In order to be truly useful in God’s mission in his world and on his terms, we need to be available to him as unified and whole beings, in whom there is harmony and sanctification of body and soul.

May cheerfully accomplish. The Lord our God wants his committed and consecrated people, the disciples of Jesus Christ, to be cheerful as they do his will. He wants them to rejoice as they work with and for their Lord to accomplish those purposes which he has ordained. And as they accomplish them he wants them to rejoice with exceeding great joy!

Those things thou wouldest have done. How easy it is, as we all know from experience and observation, to make into God’s will what we ourselves as sinful creatures would have done, that is, what is pleasing to us, rather than what God has said gives him pleasure and satisfaction in his creatures. The only way to edity the Church, to grow in maturity, and to please God and glorify his Name is to make sure that we only aim to do what he would have done, what is his will and what are his purposes. To aim for this will be a wholly new way for Episcopalians!

Through Jesus Christ our Lord. We offer this short but comprehensive prayer to God solely and only in the Name of the One Mediator between God and man, the Incarnate Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. Let is be clear that these words are not a kind of mantra, but they are necessary for unworthy creatures appearing before the heavenly Majesty and asking for favors. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life and no one comes to the Father except through, in and with him.

In conclusion:

The problems and difficulties, the trials and tribulation, the schisms and divisions, which have become part of the Anglican Way in North America are our fault, our own most grievous fault. We are responsible not the culture and not the enemy, the devil, and not even the economy! There is only one way to a right relation with God, to unity in truth and truth in unity, and it is to think and pray, to live and to behave, in the terms which this model prayer puts before us. Let us pray it.

The Revd Dr Peter Toon, October 27, 2006

Lex Credendi, Lex Orandi—not Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi: Let us cease saying the mantra, “Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi.”

It is exceedingly common in The Episcopal Church to hear from people at all points on the liturgical spectrum that the genius of the Anglican Way is expressed in the words of a Latin tag, lex orandi, lex credendi (the law or rule of praying is the law or rule of believing). And they usually go on to tell you that this law or rule has ancient, patristic roots (and it has, if and only if, by it is meant that a truly solid orthodox liturgy provides a doxological account of the Christian Faith!).

However, the popular use of this Latin tag in The Episcopal Church is related to the successful propaganda of the Standing Liturgical Commission in the 1970s, propaganda which was taken up and used widely by bishops and clergy (very few of whom, we can now see, actually knew what they were talking about!). The Commission, as we all now know, created a new Liturgy for the Church to replace the traditional one that had been passed on within the Anglican Way in the succeeding editions of the one Book of Common Prayer (first edition 1549 and last American 1928). The members of this revolutionary Commission well knew that what they produced was different in structure, style, doctrinal content and polity to the most recent edition of the one Book of Common Prayer (that of 1928), and that therefore they needed to commend it in ways that would not disturb people too much. And one of the ways that they used to commend their new liturgical productions as authentic (and truly ancient!) was to take a slogan from the contemporary ecumenical liturgical movement and apply it to their liturgy. That is, they sought to persuade people that real Christian doctrine is found in and communicated by the Liturgy and thus to know what the Church believes , teaches and confesses one must pray/use the Church’s Liturgy, which is a better source than Protestant-type Confessions of Faith. Further, the new Liturgy of the Episcopal Church, they said, is based on Early Church texts and principles, and therefore the old rule of “the law of praying is the law of believing” applies supremely to it.

And, with the help of some [much?] arm twisting by bishops, this strategy generally succeeded so that (with the exception of the members of The Society for the Preservation of the Book of Common Prayer –now the PBS of the USA) many came to believe that the new Prayer Book of 1979 was not only the real Liturgy but also the sole Standard of Faith of The Episcopal Church and into this Faith people were “initiated” by the “Baptismal Covenant” within the Baptismal Service within this Book. (In 1979, when the new Liturgy was finally made the official Liturgy, the received, classic Formularies of the Anglican Way were sent off to the archives to make room for the innovatory liturgy and faith—a most tragic moment in the life of The Episcopal Church.)

What we need to realize is that:
  1. Certainly a sound liturgy functions as a law of believing.
  2. But, the law of believing in logic and chronology precedes the development of a full, sound liturgy.
In the Early Church, before the creation of the full Liturgies of East and West, in Greek, Latin and other ancient languages, the Church had a developed form of doctrine and dogma; and these laws of belief most certainly guided the shape, structure and content of the public Services. Where can one find more moving accounts of the Blessed, Holy and Undivided Trinity of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit than in the Divine Liturgy of Constantinople?

At the Reformation of the Church of England in the 1540s – 1560s the Reformers led by Archbishop Cranmer had come to clarity as to the “law of believing” based on Holy Scripture and the early Fathers before they produced the reformation of the services which became known as The Booke of The Common Prayer (1549, revised 1552). This is clear from the powerful, doctrinal printed sermons, known as The Book of Homilies (1547) and from the draft form of what became known as The Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, to which eventually from 1571 all the clergy assented by subscription. Cranmer and his colleagues revised the medieval Mass and other services by the very principles that are set forth in the Homilies and found in The Articles. Here as in the Early Church the law of faith certainly guided the law of worship.

All this stands in great contrast to what occurred in the innovating Episcopal Church in the 1970s. The work of a committee to produce a revised Catechism was rejected by the Liturgical Commission and House of Bishops because it did not harmonize with the content of the emerging new prayer book. So another committee was appointed with the express task of discovering from the Rite 2 services in the emerging prayer book what doctrine was contained therein – the result is “An Outline of Faith” in the 1979 Book!

No wonder that this “Catechism” departs from historic Orthodoxy in various ways; and no wonder that The Episcopal Church that set off on this dangerous path of deception in the 1970s has continued in it to this very day, adding innovation to innovation on its principle that the law of praying is the law of believing (so we had a whole set of diocesan rites for the blessing of same-sex couples in existence way before Gene Robinson was chosen as a bishop!).

So we are grateful to Bishop Duncan of Pittsburg for calling us back to the need for stability and to One Book of Common Prayer, preferably the classic edition of 1662, even though we may regret that he chose to use the Latin tag (which we would like to see forgotten by Anglicans!):

I want to be so bold as to suggest the following: that Anglicanism’s practical magisterium – its reliable teaching authority — has been its Book of Common Prayer, and that without a restored Book of Common Prayer, reasserting the theological propositions of medieval Catholicism as reshaped by the English Reformation, best represented in the prayer book of 1662, Anglicanism will continue its theological disintegration apace. For that Western Church whose popular and practical believing was more nearly lex orandi, lex credendi than any other tradition — for that Western Church whose practical magisterium was its prayerbook — a fixed prayer book is essential. For a tradition that has a separate magisterium, Vatican II-style liturgy is a possibility. For us as Anglicans, it is, quite demonstrably, not. Forty years of alternative texts and expansive language have produced an undisciplined people and a theological wasteland. [address at Nashotah House, Oct 25]

The time has surely come for Anglicans to discover and humbly re-assert their Identity, and as Bp Duncan states, this means a fresh dialogue with the written statements of that Identity, the historic Formularies (see my The Anglican Formularies and Holy Scripture, 2006 from www.anglicanmarketplace.com )

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

Who killed THE BIBLE?

Reflections arising from comment of Bp Duncan and a book by professor Robinson

From both sides of the Atlantic I now hear cries for One Prayer Book and One Bible for the Anglican Way—like it used to be before we were swamped from the late 1960s with the ever expanding variety of liturgies and versions of the English Bible.

A little choice can be confusing to the sensitive, but much choice can be harmful. And experience of unstable variety in religion is bad for all souls whether they say so or not. Where is the Bible memorization these days? Where are those in hospital beds or elsewhere in pain who can recall portions of Scripture from a stable version or profound Collects from a stable Prayer Book?

Here is what the Episcopal Bishop of Pittsburgh (who uses in his diocese as his norm a book of alterative services called the BCP and who also allows all kinds of variations from it) said on October 25 in Nashotah House Seminary:

I want to be so bold as to suggest the following: that Anglicanism’s practical magisterium – its reliable teaching authority — has been its Book of Common Prayer, and that without a restored Book of Common Prayer, reasserting the theological propositions of medieval Catholicism as reshaped by the English Reformation, best represented in the prayer book of 1662, Anglicanism will continue its theological disintegration apace. For that Western Church whose popular and practical believing was more nearly lex orandi, lex credendi than any other tradition — for that Western Church whose practical magisterium was its Prayerbook — a fixed prayer book is essential. For a tradition that has a separate magisterium, Vatican II-style liturgy is a possibility. For us as Anglicans, it is, quite demonstrably, not. Forty years of alternative texts and expansive language have produced an undisciplined people and a theological wasteland. We have become a Church that actually does believe, in the words of one eucharistic canon, that we are “worthy to stand before [Him].”(10) How staggeringly un-Scriptural and un-Anglican!

What I would also add to this is that the need for an “Authorized Version” of the Bible, at least parish by parish, or diocese by diocese, re-emerges alongside the need for a Book of Common Prayer. How shall we ever learn Scripture again except that we always hear it in the same way? The matter of formation needs to dominate our liturgical and ascetical thinking, rather than our desires for education, variety, correctness or newness. And since I have already given quite enough offense, I shall leave off here without arguing for hymnody that is static enough to produce texts that are known by heart…

All I want to note here at this time is the cry for One English Bible and One Prayer Book. The Prayer Book is named—the classic Book of Common Prayer in the edition of 1662, which has been translated into over 150 languages.

Let us now cross the ocean and go to the ancient city of Hereford in England, travel from there down the old Roman road until we come to a small village called Bishopstone, and to an ancient cottage at the side of this road. Inside live the Robinson family and at the back are various birds and animals including one or two horses. Ian Robinson is a distinguished literary critic, a retired university professor of English, the author of books published by Cambridge University Press and others publishers, and a man who has a profound respect for both The Book of Common Prayer and The English Bible in its King James Version of 1611. Very recently he has prepared a new edition of The Homilies for publication (visit www.edgewaysbooks.com) for he sees an intimate relation between the English Prayer Book, Bible and Homilies both in terms of the development of the English language and also doctrine and devotion.

His latest book on the One Bible is entitled, Who killed the Bible? (Edgeways, 2006). In this he shows himself very aware of the reasons why Bp Duncan calls for One Bible, and, further, he also shows in some detail where the intellectual thrust came to develop the long list of (dynamic equivalency based) versions of the English Bible that we have seen since the 1970s. As a scholar who wrote for Cambridge University Press critically about the theories of Noam Chomsky (which theories have deeply influenced Bible translations since the 1960s), he is intellectually well placed to see and to evaluate the whole ethos of modern Bible translation in the West, and especially in America. His verdict is that we have, as it were, killed the Bible in our zeal to render it into so many and varied (and usually poor) translations.

Who killed the Bible? may be ordered directly and safely from www.edgewaysbooks.com and I do commend it to the serious minded amongst us. His edition of The Homilies may also be ordered there or from www.anglicanmarketplace.com

One version of the Prayer Book is easier than One version of the Bible. The 1662 is so widely used amongst the 80 million Anglicans that it has no competitor in real terms. Certainly Ian Robinson would vote for the KJV of 1611 to go with the BCP 1662, but Bp Duncan may prefer the RSV or the newer ESV—I do not know. In the rendering (for the AMiA) of the texts of BCP 1662 into a modern form of English which addresses God as “You” (texts now in trial use) the recommended text is the ESV, but since it does not have the Apocrypha it has to be joined by the RSV or Common Bible for the Daily Lectionary readings on some days.

We look forward to hearing from Bp Duncan which version he recommends; but I for one hope that both he and his advisers read Ian Robinson’s important work (which has no USA publisher as of now) first before they issue the name of the version.

ISBN of Who Killed… is 0 907839 49 5

The Revd Dr Peter Toon October 27 2006

How to please the LORD our God.

Suggestions from an old Latin Collect known as Trinity XIX in the BCP.

In his best moments, what any genuine Christian wishes to do is to please the LORD. That is, in thought, word and deed, in relations with others and in life in the world, he desires to please the Father through the Son and by the Holy Spirit.

In moments of renewal and insight, what any real Christian Church wishes to do is to please the LORD. That is, in doctrine, worship, discipline and polity, in preaching, teaching, evangelizing and in mission, the congregation of Christ’s flock desires to please the Father through the Son and by the Holy Spirit.

However, no Christians and church assemblies desire—even in high moments of religious experience—to hear the suggestion that perhaps they just are not able or even competent to please the LORD our God even they really want to! In response, the reply may be: If we are made in the image of God surely we have the inward possibilities and potentials to please God if we go about it the right way!

So how do we please the Lord, our God?

First of all, “without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him [by faith]” (Hebrews 11:6). That is, we are to not only to believe in, but also to trust in, the One God, the Father almighty. He is not only the Creator of the universe but also the Judge, Savior and Redeemer of the world. Such trust in the Father (through the Lord Jesus Christ) implies that we are to receive and believe what he tells us in his revelation and act upon it in our lives.

In the second place, to please God, says the apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8, is specifically to present to him continually and increasingly a sanctified life, a life set apart to him and for his will. “For this is the will of You’re your sanctification that you abstain from sexual immorality, that each of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God….For God has not called us for impurity but for holiness.” So we please God by offering to him lives that are pure and chaste, not contaminated and infused with the worldly passions and pursuits that characterize much of the secularized life around us. As Paul put it in another place: “Present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness” (Romans 6:13).

In one of the many brief Collects in The Book of Common Prayer (1662) there is an important reference to pleasing God by the Church and by each individual member. The Collect for Trinity XIX begins, “O God, forasmuch as without Thee we are not able to please Thee…” and then it goes on to make a petition. We could put this into a modern form as, “Lord God, since without You we are not able to please You,…” Probably the allusion here is to the words of Jesus in John 15:5, where he uses the analogy of the vine with its branches to make the point that “without me you can do nothing.” A branch severed from the trunk cannot produce grapes, and a human being, not united to the Lord Jesus and through him to the Father, cannot bear fruit, faith and sanctification, and therefore cannot please God the Father.

So God requires that we please him and he also makes clear—and this we do not like—that the only way we can please him is by his direct help so that, in fact, we please him in the resolve and strength which he alone supplies. As Paul said of faith: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not the result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Further, as he wrote about sanctification and holiness: “For it is God who works within you both to will and to work for his [own] good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).

Now we can appreciate the whole of the short Collect:

O God, forasmuch as without thee we cannot please thee: Mercifully grant, that thy Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Coming to the painful realization that we cannot please God in and of ourselves by our own ways and powers however much we try, we are ready as individual Christians and as congregations humbly to implore God our Father to give us what of ourselves we do not have and cannot produce.

We pray for the presence of the Holy Spirit in our hearts—at the very center of our beings—so that he will do two things for us. That is, he and he alone will direct and rule our hearts. Unless we are careful we may think that the two verbs used in this petition in the prayer are speaking of the same general theme and do not point to two specific requests we make of God our Father. Let us be clear that “to direct” is to tell or show someone the way; but “to rule” is more than telling and showing, it is governing and controlling.

We may agree that the Holy Spirit directs often the hearts of the children of God and the mind of congregations of believers, as he make clear from the reading, meditating and study of the Word of God, what is the right way for them to walk in. And, we mat also agree, this time with deep regret, how often we receive this direction and fail to walk in the way put before us from heaven. Thus, we need to offer the full prayer and really mean it: “in all things direct and rule our hearts.” We need guidance and direction but we also need and, in fact, cannot do without the further rule—direct rule—of the Holy Spirit causing our hearts (mind, affections and will) to do what is the will of God, which will be our sanctification and for the glory of God.

Praying for the Anglican Communion of Churches

The problems and crisis now felt and known in the Anglican Way, particularly in the West, is serving to make many Anglicans painfully aware of their joint failure both to be directed and ruled by the Holy Spirit in the way of faith, holiness and sanctification to please the Lord our God. Of all Christians they at this point in time ought to be able to begin their time before the Lord God our Father in prayer by saying and meaning: ‘Since we are not able in and of ourselves to please thee and to do anything to get ourselves out of this mess we have gotten ourselves into, have mercy upon us and send the Holy Spirit to direct and rule our hearts in the way of faith and holiness.”

The Revd Dr. Peter Toon M.A., D.Phil (Oxford)

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The right Path to 1662 is via 1928, 1892 and 1789!

One of the more interesting phenomena within the "renewal" of Anglicanism movements in the U.S.A. is the call to restore a public standard for Liturgy and that the standard should be the English BCP 1662. Naturally the Board of the Prayer Book Society of the USA (http://www.pbsusa.org/) is watching this development with interest.

People who now use the 1979 Book of Varied Services and Doctrines of The Episcopal Church (e.g., much of the AMiA, the Network dioceses and parishes) and others who now use the last official American Book of Common Prayer of 1928 (e.g. some Common Cause Partners of The Network) are stating that part of the renewal of the Anglican Way is the adoption of a stable Liturgy, and that this should be the BCP of 1662. The latest and very significant voice in this call is the Moderator of The Network, who on October 25, 2006 at Nashotah House Seminary (which gave him a D.D. degree) said this with respect to the loss of the Book of Common Prayer in modern times:

I want to be so bold as to suggest the following: that Anglicanism's practical magisterium -- its reliable teaching authority -- has been its Book of Common Prayer, and that without a restored Book of Common Prayer, reasserting thetheological propositions of medieval Catholicism as reshaped by the English Reformation, best represented in the prayer book of 1662, Anglicanism will continue its theological disintegration apace. For that Western Church whose popular and practical believing was more nearly lex orandi, lex credendi than any other tradition -- for that Western Church whose practical magisterium was its Prayerbook-- a fixed prayer book is essential. For a tradition that has a separate magisterium, Vatican II-style liturgy is a possibility. For us as Anglicans, it is, quite demonstrably, not. Forty years of alternative texts and expansive language have produced an undisciplined people and a theological wasteland. We have become a Church that actually does believe, in the words of one eucharistic canon, that we are "worthy to stand before [Him]."(10) How staggeringly un-Scriptural and un-Anglican!

What I would also add to this is that the need for an "Authorized Version" of the Bible, at least parish by parish, or diocese by diocese, re-emerges alongside the need for a Book of Common Prayer. How shall we ever learn Scripture again except that we always hear it in the same way? The matter of formation needs to dominate our liturgical and ascetical thinking, rather than our desires for education, variety, correctness or newness. And since I have already given quite enough offense, I shall leave off here without arguing for hymnody that is static enough to produce texts that are known by heart?

A Church without a magisterium is soon no Church at all. It is not too late to begin the reform, but the time is short. The reform will also not come from the top -- as much as we might yearn for such a solution (for Reformations do not come from the top or begin at the center) -- but from a thousand altars, like the one at the heart of this House, and from leaders brave enough to embrace unpopular and counter-cultural truths. The future of Anglicanism is most assuredly tied up in this.

What Bp Duncan does not say here but what he certainly knows is that the BCP 1662 is a Formulary of most of the Anglican Provinces, that it exists in at least 150 languages through translation, that it is still used in many of these languages every day, and especially on Sunday, by the majority of the Anglican Family. (The Prayer Book Society is working with African dioceses to help them print editions of their own language-edition of the BCP 1662.)

So, as President of The Prayer Book Society of the USA, I must be happy that the AMiA, the Moderator of the Network, the Common Cause Partners of the Network and others are calling for a return to the classic Formulary of the Anglican Way. (See further, Peter Toon, The Anglican Formularies and Holy Scripture, 2006 -- available from www.anglicanmarketplace.com or 1-800-PBS-1928.)

Yet in my joy there is some sadness and it is best expressed in the form of a question:

Why is it that American Episcopalians in their desire for renewal seem to be ignoring the use of that edition of the one Book of Common Prayer, specially created for American use, in 1789 (with the full approval of the C of E Bishops) and gently edited in both 1892 and 1928, with the approval of the General Convention?

I can fully understand the argument that the 1662 edition of the one BCP is by far and away the most widely used liturgy in the Anglican Family and also that it is the primary Formulary of the Anglican Communion (usually with the Ordinal & Articles attached). And I can appreciate the argument that what they use in Nigeria or Uganda or Rwanda we should use here to be fully in fellowship with them (even if what we use is a contemporary version of BCP 1662, where God is addressed as "You").

However, though not born in the USA and only having been here since 1990, I do have this real conviction which I would like to share for consideration. It is this:

that the true way of reform for Episcopalians within the ECUSA or within AMiA and those congregations attached to foreign Anglican bishops means a full acceptance of their identity and that means fully accepting that which from 1789 to 1976/79 was the BCP and were the Formularies of The Episcopal Church (PECUSA) in the USA.

One possible reason why this embrace seems not to have taken place is that there is an embarrassment to accept that The Episcopal Church in its period of massive innovation in the 1970s called its new "Book of Varied Services with Varied Doctrines" the BCP 1979 and sent the its own classic edition of the BCP (1789/1892/1928) to the archives. We all know that to be made whole includes facing the darker side of our memories, and for Episcopalians this means accepting and taking full responsibility before God and man for what was done by the General Convention in 1979 and what has been, as it were, rubberstamped a million times over by those who use and call this book, "The Book of Common Prayer" and insist that it alone be used in The Episcopal Church, or chiefly used as in the AMiA.

In other words, before we can with integrity embrace the 1662 BCP as formulary and as living prayer book (in its classic form or in a straight equivalent in contemporary English), we need to take the path to it via the 1928/1892/1789 edition of the same BCP. That is we need to take full responsibility as Americans for what The Episcopal Church of the USA did and has done, and what we have done, with regard to the American edition of the real and true BCP. Until we do this, Episcopal reform and renewal movements will lack real honesty, for they will be turning a blind eye to the worst thing (amongst many bad things since the 1960s) that The Episcopal Church ever did through its Convention -- to reject its own received identity by the rejection of its birth certificate and naturalization papers! Recovering identity means tracking the record back via 1928 and 1892 and 1789 to 1662, not jumping across 336 years!

The Revd Dr Peter Toon October 26, 2006 drpetertoon@yahoo.com

Praying for The Anglican Communion of Churches: an introduction and a Prayer

In October 2006, the Bishop of Winchester in the Church of England, addressed his Diocesan Synod on the topic of the Anglican Communion. What he says has particular relevance since (a) he had been to Texas to meet with those bishops of the Episcopal Church who intended to abide by the advice of The Windsor Report in terms of sexuality issues, and (b) he had had long conversations with the Archbishop of Canterbury and others on this matter of the identity and future of The Anglican Communion. He said:

It’s clear to me that Gospel issues, fundamental to Christian identity, underlie the choices that now face the Anglican Communion and every Province of it – ultimately, each one of us:

• Will we use Scripture expectantly, humbly and obediently as formative of our discipleship and witness?

• Do we intend to be orthodox in creedal and ethical belief and in our ecclesiology?

• Will we persevere in behaving “as one Body” (see 1 Corinthians 12) across the

• Are we determined to treat each other, within a family of Christians of every ethnicity and language, with care, graciousness and respect – to cherish each other (see 1 Corinthians 13. 4-7 in contrast to 13.1-3, Galatians 5.22-3 in contrast to 5.19-21)?

Then he went on to offer five topics for fervent and informed prayer:

1. For a new will on every side, at every level and in every Province to return faithfully, humbly, expectantly and obediently to the four Gospel fundamentals that I outlined a few moments ago - denial, refusal of which I take to be the basic issue at stake among us.
2. For the Communion’s leaders, its Primates, its Bishops, its Consultative Council, and particularly for Archbishop Rowan - for faithfulness, courage, patience, perseverance through what will be decades of difficult, often controverted decisions if our Churches are to be renewed.
3. For whatever “conversion”, whatever changes in mind and heart and behaviour, our Lord will want to give to us ; and in this regard, as we pray for people of every Province and for each of us we should pray especially for the leadership, and the majority, of The Episcopal Church USA.
4. That we learn how to offer an appropriate care for, understanding of and witness to people who understand themselves to be homosexual – within learning to offer within our present culture a renewed, attractive witness to marriage and to continence outside it.
5. That God will renew our own Church of England, The Episcopal Church USA, and every other Province in a confident, joyful, attractive orthodoxy – and for each of us that our own faithfulness will be among God’s means of bringing this to a reality.

As you hold these themes in your heart, offer this Prayer as a start (which is provided first in modern and then in the classic English language of prayer):

Almighty Father, who have chosen us in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world and who have called us by the Gospel to be your faithful, holy and obedient people, give us eyes to see, minds to understand and hearts to love You and your purposes in Jesus our Lord, we implore You, so that our motivations and actions in the service of your Church may be pure and holy, and under your blessing and by your Spirit bring true fellowship and genuine unity of faith into the Anglican Family; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Almighty Father, who hast chosen us in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world and who hast called us by the Gospel to be thy faithful and obedient people, give us eyes to see, minds to understand and hearts to love Thee and thy purposes in Jesus our Lord, we beseech thee, so that our motivations and actions in the service of thy Church may be pure and holy, and under thy blessing and by thy Spirit bring true fellowship and genuine unity of faith into the Anglican Family; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

October 26, 2006 The Revd Dr Peter Toon

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


A comment from Peter Toon

Seven Bishops (but not necessarily seven dioceses) have appealed to the Archbishop of Canterbury to provide them with alternative oversight to that of the new lady Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church. For what they hold to be weighty reasons they do not wish to be under her superintendence.

In their Appeal they provide an Appendix B which sets out what they believe, teach and confess, and, amazingly, it contains a commitment to the 1979 Prayer Book. They begin in their message to Dr Williams (who is well known as a user and admirer of the classic BCP of 1662) with these words (which profoundly shocked me when I read them):

To help you understand the theological commonality which we as bishops share, it may be best to begin where our Constitution begins: that this Church will uphold and propagate “the historic faith and order set forth in the Book of Common Prayer.” In turn, our Prayer Book is built around the Baptismal Covenant. The first “promise” in the Baptismal Covenant is this: “Will you continue in the Apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in the prayers?” This promise derives from Acts 2.42 in the New Testament. We take this promise as our point of departure...

Now when the Constitution was revised in the 1960s The Book of Common Prayer was that of 1928 (the genuine successor of the 1662, 1789 & 1892 editions) and with it were The Articles of Religion and The Ordinal. But what the seven bishops refer to is not this book but to “The Book of Varied Services and Varied Doctrines” of 1979, which was falsely named “The Book of Common Prayer of 1979,” when the real BCP was sent off to the archives. We know that it is the false BCP not the genuine one that is being referred to by the Bishops because there is no “Baptismal Covenant” in the 1662, 1789, 1892 and 1928 editions.

Also, it is to be much regretted that the Bishops chose ”the Baptismal Covenant” out of the 1979 Book with which to begin their doctrinal statement. They surely know, as virtually all Episcopalians know, that this Covenant has been a major war cry of the liberal progressives in The Episcopal Church because, though it may begin well, it ends in phrases which reflect the radicalism of the late 1960s in terms of peace with justice and human dignity. And, without any doubt, it has been used in The Episcopal Church consistently and widely as a major platform and support for the innovations which brought secularized human rights into the doctrines of the Church. (I myself was told by the Liturgical Commission, before which I appeared, at the G C of 2000 that they saw no objection to the occasional or even regular use of parts of the 1928 BCP but that one service must be always without exception be retained from 1979 and that was The Baptismal Service; when I asked why this was so I was told that it was because of the great and revolutionary importance of “The Baptismal Covenant”.)

Why could not the Bishops have taken a commitment like that of their own Common Cause Partners in The Network, and like most if not all of the Provinces of Africa, and like the Archbishop of Canterbury, and commit themselves to the classic and historic Formularies (BCP. Articles and Ordinal) rather than to the Prayer Book that has been used in The Episcopal Church to trash and to remove these very same Formularies.

Why do these Bishops so love the 1979 Book of Varied Services that even now when they have a wonderful chance to restore in their proposals the classic BCP and relegate the 1979 to a BAS/ASB level they do not make use of it? Why do they also go for the Baptismal Covenant of the 1979 Book as their starting point and foundation when they know its association with extreme radicalism and heresy?

When one thought that these Bishops were really seeking to reform their own household, one finds that they want to hang on to the very essence of the ECUSA Faith, to the liturgy which it has used for thirty years to subvert the real Anglican Faith and introduce all kinds of changes and innovations.

Let us hope that this version of the Appeal gets lost in the mountain of paper at Lambeth and that the American Seven are not remembered and called to account for their continuing commitment to the American BAS/ASB rather than its own BCP, Articles and Ordinal (which are still in the archives of the erring ECUSA but not destroyed!). If they are wise the Seven will scrap this—at least the beginning- and rewrite it to make it conform to what the real Anglican Identity in doctrine and liturgy is. Let them look in the archives and start all over again.

The Theological Commitment of the Petitioning Bishops
To help you understand the theological commonality which we as bishops share, it may be best to begin where our Constitution begins: that this Church will uphold and propagate “the historic faith and order set forth in the Book of Common Prayer.”

In turn, our Prayer Book is built around the Baptismal Covenant. The first “promise” in the Baptismal Covenant is this:

“Will you continue in the Apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in the prayers?” This promise derives from Acts 2.42 in the New Testament. We take this promise as our point of departure:

1. We believe fidelity to the Apostles’ teaching is the ground of communion (koinonia), and the precondition for Eucharistic sharing and prayer; indeed, we believe it is the ground of the Church in all its aspects.
2. We believe that the Apostles’ teaching is found primarily in the New Testament, but also in the life and practice of the apostolic and sub-apostolic period in the Church’s history, giving shape to its ministry, its worship, its creeds, its exemplars (saints and martyrs), and its councils.
3. We believe that the center of focus of the Apostles’ teaching is their testimony to Jesus, and especially to his resurrection as marking him out as the Son of God in power.
4. We believe the Apostles’ teaching unfolds the meaning of this event both for the world as a whole and for individual men and women.
5. We believe that the Holy Spirit inspired the Apostles’ teaching, and on that foundation built the Church.
6. We believe that the Apostles’ teaching is mediated through the Church’s history in the formation of the New Testament and its appropriation of the Old Testament.
7. We believe that the Apostles’ teaching is at the same time the moving impulse of the Church’s history and its norm or measure, both directing and limiting the Church’s development.
8. We believe that Jesus is both human and divine, the second Person of the undivided Trinity, the Word made flesh, the Savior and Redeemer of the world, and is unique in all these aspects.
9. We believe that Jesus is the head of the Church, his Body, whose teaching and example is the final rule of life, individual and corporate, for His disciples.
10. We believe that Jesus died once for all, a sacrifice for many, overcoming sin; and that those who accept his sacrificial death and his resurrection, and who are baptized, are forgiven of their sins, made one with the risen Jesus, receive the gift of everlasting life, and are strengthened by his Spirit to live lives worthy of their calling.
11. We believe that individuals who are made one with the risen Jesus by faith and baptism are incorporated into his Body, and are impelled to give their lives in turn to be his witnesses and his servants in every aspect of their lives.
12. We believe that the Holy Spirit is given to such persons for the purpose of their transformation and growth, and to strengthen them for God’s service.
13. We believe that the Church, like its Lord, is called to give its life for the life of the world.
14. We believe that the Sacraments of the New Covenant are sure and certain signs of God’s grace given to the Church; and that they belong to the Church catholic.
15. We believe that bishops are called to guard the faith, unity and discipline of the Church; and that discipline serves unity, and that unity serves the cause of the apostolic faith so that Jesus may be known and God glorified.
16. We believe that bishops and all who are in Holy Orders must live lives that display the apostolic faith they are pledged to guard; and that those who live in contradiction to the Apostles’ teaching are moving away from that faith, and are subverting the unity (koinonia) and discipline of the Church.
17. We believe that, as bishops, we must not only guard the unity of the Church, but must exhibit that unity together with all others who continue in the Apostles’ teaching.
18. We believe that the Anglican experiment of a thoroughly apostolic faith and catholic order without a single centralized authority is both noble and has been historically fruitful; but we also believe that it is imperiled.
19. We believe the proposal of an Anglican Covenant offers the way to articulate a structure that will carry this experiment forward in an ecclesiologically responsible way.
20. We believe that the Constitution of the Episcopal Church expresses a valid purpose, namely that we be a “constituent member of the Anglican Communion in communion with the See of Canterbury;” that this also expresses an intent thereby to continue in the Apostles’ teaching; and that this expresses at the same time a commitment to the conciliarity of Anglicanism whereby only the whole Church can decide issues which affect the whole.
21. We believe in the unique role the See of Canterbury has played and will continue to play in the Anglican experiment, not only as a focus of unity among the parts of the Communion, but as a Pastoral presence and voice with unique authority, and as a visible connection to the Church catholic through time and with other churches throughout the world.
22. We believe we are called to stand together at this time in commitment to these beliefs as well as in commitment to the process by which an Anglican Covenant may be formed; and we trust in turn that such a Covenant will itself be a promise to “continue in the Apostles’ teaching.”

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

The GOD or DEITY of North American Anglicanism

A discussion starter.

One of the first things I learned on arriving in the USA from England in 1990 was that the three basic questions to ask in The Episcopal Church are: Who is God? Who is Jesus? And, What is salvation? (It was my colleague, Professor Charles Caldwell, at Nashotah House Seminary who taught me this, as he also taught me not a few other things about the doctrine, liturgy and parties of The Episcopal Church.)

The identity of Jesus is totally dependent on who is God, and salvation is wholly dependent upon the identity of Jesus! And the big question of today—Anglican Identity—can only be truly answered when these preliminary questions are answered satisfactorily.

In 2006, when anyone is trying to understand the progressive liberal leadership of The Episcopal Church, as also of the Anglican Church of Canada, it is beneficial to seek to begin not with the question, “Where do you stand on same-sex affection?”, but with the request, “Please share with me your doctrine of God!”

If you can get activist progressive liberals actually answering the question, “Who is God?” and you press them for details (which may not be easy to get) then you are likely to discover that you are being educated in one or more doctrines of God (from different people in the progressive camp) that have been around a long time and have had varied names, but are known in the text-books as Deism, Unitarianism, Modalism, Panentheism and Process Theology. All these are substitutes for or alternatives to Trinitarian Theism (as it is declared in the Nicene Creed and in the Athanasian Creed).

Here I want to reflect upon the presence and influence of Deism in Anglicanism today (we recall it was very present in the late 18th century in the PECUSA); but first I wish to make a comment about Panentheism and Process Theology. These two forms of belief in God have much energized the more educated and rational parts of the feminist and liberationist movements within the mainline churches in the last forty years or so. According to panentheism, although God transcends the world in one part of his/her being, he/she also communicates another part to the cosmos (thus the popular image of God [as Mother] birthing the cosmos continually). This allows for the naming of God as “Mother” and the use of “She” and “her” etc., and also it breaks the long established patriarchal structure and language of the Church. According to process theology, God exists in two aspects—in his/her “primordial” nature God exists eternally and immutably apart from the world; but in his/her “consequential” nature, he/she is constantly changing, constantly growing in perfection and including within himself/herself the world’s experiences. This can easily become a basis for a call for change in the Church to keep in step with God who (in the 20th century) is including in the divine being the advances in human freedom and dignity achieved in the world.

While panentheism and process theology have been adopted and carefully used by some of the liberal progressive intellectual leadership within the Anglican Family of North America, in fact it is a form of Deism or Unitarianism that is most widely held, not usually self-consciously but really and truly in terms of practical theology by many Episcopal/Anglican leaders. Deism has a very respectable pedigree in both old Europe and in colonial America and new born U.S.A. and is intimately connected to what we call the Enlightenment in the West. It is thus a rational doctrine and it seems to come naturally to human beings who both want to believe in a Supreme Deity and also in themselves as genuinely dignified and free agents.

How Deism works is something like this. A Supreme Being is confessed as God, the Creator and Preserver of the universe. Human beings are said to be made in God’s image which means (in the 20th and 2lst century context) that they have real dignity and full rights to be whatever and whoever they are designed/were created to be. Thus “in the image of God” is not seen as meaning—as in classical theology— that there is real potential for communion between God and the human being and that God can by his Spirit actually work within and through a human being to change, sanctify and deify her/him. No, to be in the divine image is seen as being a statement of the dignity of human beings before God and before each other, and this dignity remains in full, even if they are deemed to be sinners before and by God. or sinners in the judgment of humanity. In relation to such creatures—that is all of us—God acts upon us only in what we may call “external manipulation” by his providence. He can push us here or there but he cannot work any inner transformation within us by the action of the Spirit within us, because as creatures we are incapsulated in our finitude by the very design and purpose of God. Every being, human and other, has a complete nature, which contains from the start implicitly all that it can ever become. That is, all that we can ever be arises from the unfolding or working out of our primary constitution and nature. We are intended to be what we are created to be and there is no place here for supernatural intervention in this human constitution and nature, for the latter is complete. However, God can move us here or there to be in this or that place and situation to be what we are intended to be. As rational agents we can of course determine in our own power to love and be loved and to cooperate with God in his grand design.

So the religion connected with Deism and human rights/dignity ideology can make use of the outward form of received Christian worship and Sacraments but they are seen, not as the place where there is a true personal meeting with and fellowship with God but rather where there is a working out of the potentiality of each human being in community before God. God is the creator of each person and her/his unique nature. and it is in community that this is discovered and affirmed and celebrated. And God is seen not as the One who changes the inner nature but rather as the One who externally pushes each person into situations where the inner nature can reach its full potential. (Thus a wide range of innovations in church doctrine and practice, ethics and polity are justified on this basis, especially the claim that same-sex affection is God’s design.)

Deism is emphatic that there is One God but it also allows people to be in practice committed to Modalism (that is, God is One Person and this One Person has Three Special Names and Three Modes of Activity and Relationality). So a pretence or semblance of trinitarianism is maintained and further this form of trinitarianism is even used as a model for community on earth (diversity in unity and unity in diversity)!

Where Deism rules there is no evangelization of the kind we find in the Acts of the Apostles and no pursuit of communion with God in holiness that we find required by the Epistles. What there is—and this is seen in much official Episcopalianism and Anglicanism in North America—may be described as a religion based upon the Creator God’s support for the outworking of human liberation, potential, rights, dignity and nature, with Jesus as a Model from the past to encourage and guide, and the Spirit as the external wind of God blowing us into the places where Deity wants us to be. [Watch out for this doctrine to be given form in the Installation of the new lady Presiding Bishop in Washington DC on Nov.4.]

Conclusion. But those of us who seek to be truly Trinitarian Theists, and who believe in the reality of communion with the Father through the Son and by the Holy Spirit, cannot even think of being judgmental on our progressive liberal relatives in the confused Anglican Family, for, although we have preserved a modicum of orthodoxy and orthopraxy, we have bequeathed to America since the 1970s a form of Anglicanism that is divided into so many parts, schools, groups and jurisdictions, that we appear to venerate as icons centrifugal forces of division and have no desire for being united by the One Spirit, under One Head, worshipping One God in One Faith with One Gospel. One Baptism and One Eucharist.

October 25, 2006 drpetertoon@yahoo.com

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Baptism & Ministry -- a major doctrine 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 but not to marshal major forces to fight against the world, the flesh and the devil but rather to show the fullness of human rights and potential within modern radical Christianity.

I want to show how this post 1979 use of Baptism as a means of propagating human rights is usually related to Deism.

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 when and where Baptism is much emphasized. Instead, Baptism is more 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. In fact, it may well be the basis of the new Episcopal/Anglican 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" on terms set out in "the baptismal covenant."

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 (and it is much emphasized today) 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 told that it 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), and human dignity with equality of opportunity and treatment.

Therefore, based on the radical doctrine of equality, 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. So 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 systems);
  • 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.

One new (rather old) doctrine that is often presupposed (without necessarily being consciously held) in this view that all possible ministry in potential is contained in Baptism is Deism. For the deist every human being (in fact every being) has a nicely rounded off nature, which contains from the start, at any rate implicitly, all that it can ever become. All that it ever will be arises simply from the unfolding of its primary constitution given it (here in both creation and baptism). God, as it were, creates a human clock which he winds up (in baptism) and then allows the clock to tick away, striking the hours, until it stops. Deism certainly has God as Creator and Initiator but does not have God as the gracious, eternal Spirit acting upon the spirit of the human creatures he has made. And there is no active Head of the Church sending graces, virtues and gifts to his Body. All that Deism allows is an external manipulation by divine providence but any internal transformation it does not suggest or allow. The new Episcopal religion believes in God; but he is not the God with whom one may be in spiritual communion, and he does not speak to the human spirit and give the call to this or that specific and special ministry -- for he has already given everything in potential in baptism and it is up to human beings to work all this out.

The Revd Dr Peter Toon October 24, 2006