Apparently the Pope has authorized various officials to look into ways to facilitate the conversion of confused and disaffected Anglicans—especially in the West—to the Church of Rome (Sunday Times, London, Nov 19). And unless the people called Anglican in North America get their act together, as we say, then Roman Catholic facilitators are going to be very busy in the next three or four years.
Certainly we seem to be in a period when Anglicans in the West, even those who claim to be orthodox, do not seem to have the guts to stand wholly by the Anglican Way as it has existed, been known and defined since the sixteenth century. They seem to prefer to move on a very wide front of alternatives and choices with a massive mixture of liturgies, rites and ceremonies, not to mention varieties in doctrine, even touching the question, Who is God?
However, even in the depression and anxiety of Anglican life, there is talk concerning the renewal of Anglicanism in North America and the forming of a new Province of the Anglican Communion (to take the place of the present “sick” ones). Concerning this, I have made several proposals—or adapted ideas first articulated by others or in dialogue. Here they are. I suspect that they will only appear attractive and possible to those who are coming to the conclusion that the Anglican Way in the West has become so diversified and so comprehensive that it has lost identity and its must return to a simpler, more basic and unified stance in order to remain viable!
First of all, I have made the point that American Episcopalians who, desiring to find a common basis for Anglicanism, are suggesting that that the BCP (1662, but without prayers for the monarch) be made the general norm should not try to jump over the centuries to this BCP, but recognize the development and use of this BCP in its USA form—in editions of 1789, 1892, 1928—and use these as necessary bridges back to the 1662. Such a routing would help them to understand what actually is the BCP, what is meant by Common Prayer, and how the classic BCP has been both celebrated (and tragically rejected—in1979) by The Episcopal Church.
I realize that the going back to 1662 via one or all of the official Episcopal Church editions of the one BCP will be painful for those who have committed themselves to, used and continue to use, as if it were truly The BCP, the 1979 Book of Varied Services and Doctrines; but, I suggest that there can be no blessing upon a new Province that begins by refusing to confess its sins and those of its forefathers with regard to the rejection of the authentic BCP and Formularies in 1976/79 and the calling of “A Book of Varied Services” by the name of the BCP (after all the true confession of sins is the Praise of God, recognizing His Sovereignty and Justice).
In the second place, I have also made—what I think is a most important point—that the BCP 1662 (without the prayers for the monarch) should be the Template for all future Anglican Liturgy, that it should be available to be such in both its original classic English form and also in an agreed contemporary English form, and that in each Province there should be an appropriate commission to rule on approved additions and minor variations to this Template. (Presumably these would include the minor revisions of 1662 made in the USA and Canadian editions of the Prayer Book—1962 & 1928—and such others as are deemed to be according to the doctrine and style of the 1662 edition. Obviously the number would have to be controlled or the future would soon begin to look like the present confusion—i.e., many different forms of service with much varied doctrine and not a sign of liturgical unity before God..
The aim of all this is to make possible Anglican Unity in One Faith under One Lord and using One Liturgy (with appropriate local minor variations) in one Province. Of course, there would also be the need to settle which versions of the English Bible were to be used for public worship and what Lectionary would be in use. So there would be a minimal yet necessary uniformity—with comprehensiveness of churchmanship and ceremonial— and Anglican worship would become coherent and Anglican again.
Now, in the third place, I would like to add this. The BCP, Ordinal and Articles all printed in the 1662 edition (as well as in the 1928 & 1962 editions) of the One Book of Common Prayer do assume and require—by their inbuilt doctrine—the practice of male headship and thus, as they stand, they do not allow for women to be deacons, priests or bishops. In fact they positively require only those men who are called and tested to be ordained. So any new Province which makes the BCP 1662 its formulary has to be honest about this matter.
How difficult it is to retain the Formulary and to ordain women have been already seen and painfully experienced in the Anglican Communion; and it may be seen right now in the C of E in the attempts therein to make it possible for women to be made bishops. In this regard, the so-called “Anglican doctrine of Reception” needs to be revisited for it is more of a diplomatic agreement than it is a genuinely Christian doctrine! It has been grossly misused by the present ECUSA and as a way forward it will not work in North America. To produce the greatest harmony for the future (if divisive right now) it would be the wise thing not to have ordained women clergy at all in the new province, but to make all kinds of imaginative and practical forms of women’s ministry prominent and important in the new arrangements.
There are other issues and problems to be solved in the creation of a new Province but one thing is certain and it is this. Unless there is agreement on a common formulary, liturgy and ministry by Anglicans, then the Pope’s facilitators will be over-employed for the rest of the first decade of the twenty-first century receiving.
[See further my Anglican Formularies and Holy Scripture and my Anglican Identity both available from www.anglicanmarketplace.com and also my Reforming Forwards. The Doctrine of Reception, available at www.latimertrust.org ]
The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon MA., D.Phil (Oxford)