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).

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