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)