Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Paralysis through Analysis: Facing major issues in Anglicanism

When facing a major problem in church or state, one way to give the appearance of seeking a solution, and also, at the same time, to ensure that it is not truly solved, is to set up boards of enquiry, commissions of study, and investigations of facts: and then to debate their findings and proposals with vigor and in depth and detail. Meanwhile, the problem does not go away but becomes part of the context and scene in which the ecclesial or the political life continues. Eventually what was originally seen as a major problem causing a major crisis is accepted by the majority, through exhaustion or boredom or because “there are other things to deal with and we must move on.”

Paralysis through Analysis is a well tried way in church and state to face a problem without doing anything vital about it. It is often, but not necessarily always, the open door by which innovations enter the common life, and do so against what was originally a majority intention.

With respect to the current crisis in Episcopalianism & Anglicanism over the status and authority of the Bible in the moral and relational lives of human beings as male and female persons, we can see the real possibility of “paralysis through analysis” occurring down the line within the next five years or earlier. Even now people are tired of the subject and want to stop reading, talking and listening about it. Yet they are being counseled to wait for the next General Convention, the next Primates’ Meeting, the next Lambeth Conference and the next something else.

Looking back on the history of the Episcopal Church since the 1960s, one can see that from the 1970s (the decade of “rights” in the USA) there have been continuing debates, studies, commissions, reports and controversies within the General Convention and diocesan conventions about what in ecclesial terms it means to give full human rights to those who denominate themselves as “Gay, Bisexual and Lesbian.” By the beginning of the twenty-first century the topic had been analyzed from many perspectives – see the published Reports of the General Conventions from 1973 onwards for the details. There have been partial acceptances and partial rejections of “full rights” in a variety of resolutions. Thus by 2004 there was exhaustion and near paralysis of the majority who, set aside the protests of the evangelicals of the American Anglican Council and others and opened the door for Gene Robinson, a self-professed “gay” man, to be made a bishop.

The attack on the ECUSA for its innovatory decision is now serving to make the majority in its leadership rise to the defense of “the beloved Episcopal Church” and to its democratic principles and also to be prepared to join in its openness to moving with the God of surprises into the future, ready to be guided by him/her, in the prophetic task of making Christianity credible and relevant to post-modern society.

Looking back we can see that since the 1960s, the Episcopal Church has adopted major innovations which also, after paralysis through analysis, became part of the mainstream of the Church’s life. For example, in the 1970s (the decade of rights) the Episcopal Church changed its internal character and its external face by:

(a) coming to terms with the divorce culture and the new sexuality by changing the nature and content of its canon on marriage in 1973 and then of its marriage service in the new prayer book (passed 1976 & 1979);

(b) coming to terms with the powerful feminist movement by making deaconesses into deacons (1970) and then passing the legislation to allow the ordaining women to all three orders of the Ministry (1976); and

(c) changing the doctrine of the Church on the principle “the law of praying is the law of believing” by creating a new prayer book with varied services and varied doctrines and calling it by the hallowed name of the traditional book, “The Book of Common Prayer” (1979).

In the latter case, the Church was exhausted after using and discussing a series of trial services from the late 1960s onwards and so readily accepted the end of the process, a new book, to bring some stability. The new book brought new doctrine and rejected the classic Anglican Way as it set aside the received Formularies. In the former cases people were weary of the incessant public debates from the 1960s onwards and so decided it was easier to go with the flow than keep up resistance. Now in 2006, divorced and remarried clergy and laity comprise at least a quarter, and possibly up to a half of the Church’s membership; women clergy are a fixed part of the scene and only a few members remember what “The Book of Common Prayer” really means as a historic title of one of the most important books ever published in the English language, a book known in the USA in its editions of 1662, 1789, 1892 and 1928.

Accepting all this, it is also true, to change the metaphor, that there can only be genuine treatment for sickness if the sickness if rightly diagnosed. And it is surely obvious that the sickness of the Episcopal Church – and with it of Anglicanism in the West – is much more than having new doctrine and practice of sexual relations, approved and blessed inside churches.

My own view is that if we look at all the major innovations since World War II we see that they all are aspects of a general rejection of what used to be called Reformed Catholicism, the Anglican Way solidly based upon the Holy Scriptures and secondarily, upon the historic, classic Formularies (The Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal). To put it solely in biblical terms, they represent a growing and accumulating setting aside of God’s revealed order for creation and the new covenant of grace. In this perspective, the consecrating of Gene R. is the icing on the cake of apostasy and the sign of what has been going on in terms of the worship of the new Episcopal deity, “the God of surprises.”

Before a cure there must be a diagnosis, but there must come a time when the surgery is attempted and the new regime of treatment is begun. Diagnosis must not lead to paralysis.

To change the metaphor, after analysis, there must be not paralysis but a major U-turn on the road, and a walking back to the adoption of the revealed, divine order set forth in Scripture and Formularies. This is much more then returning to the status quo of say the General Convention’s position in 2000. It is in simple terms the creation of a new Province of the Anglican Communion in North America, solidly based upon the Holy Scriptures and the received Anglican Formularies (regrettably ditched by the present ECUSA).

To avoid paralysis through analysis there must be decisive action; cooperative and coordinated. Merely waiting for this and that to happen and hoping that the crisis and problem will go away is to accept paralysis as the order of the day! Let there be diagnosis and then action.

[See Peter Toon, EPISCOPAL INNOVATIONS 1960-2004. Theological and Historical Reflection on the current crisis in ECUSA (published March 5th, 2006 as a 64 page booklet by The Preservation Press of the Prayer Book Society of the USA – view it on pdf on www.episcopalian.org/pbs1928 and order by calling 1-800-727-1928; special prices for bulk orders.)]

petertoon@msn.com Shrove Tuesday 2006 Dr Peter Toon

Monday, February 27, 2006

The Windsor Report – not everything therein is good!

Those who call themselves “orthodox” in the Episcopal Church of the USA and other provinces of the Anglican Communion tend to view the Windsor Report (2004) from the Lambeth Commission of Communion as a good thing, both in general and in specifics.
However, there are voices to be heard and words to be read from the left and the right that raise important questions about what this Report actually assumed and commended on a variety of themes.

Dr Ashley Null, author of a book on Cranmer (Oxford UP 2000) and Canon Theologian of the ECUSA diocese of Western Kansas, has expressed serious concern as to the view stated by the Report as to how the people of God are to relate to the Bible from now on in the Anglican Communion. His concern arises because he knows, as well as any other person in the whole world, the classic position of the Holy Scriptures in the Anglican Way -- as stated by Archbishop Cranmer in the Preface to the Great Bible, in his Homily on the reading of Scripture in the First Book of Homilies, and in Articles VI, VII, & XX of The Thirty-Nine Articles.

Dr Null understands that what the Commission is recommending in its Report , in order to maintain the Communion as a diversity in unity is the equivalent in Anglican terms of an authoritative teaching magisterium (the Archbishop of Canterbury and a panel of advisers, in close liaison with the Primates). Bound together by a covenant, the provinces will be also bound to accept in major matters of controversy the final ruling of the magisterium.

Let us be clear. The Anglican Communion is a very long way from agreeing to either a mutually binding covenant or to a teaching magisterium. However, what the ongoing controversy and crisis over “same-sex stuff” has brought out into the open is the variety of ways in which the Bible is interpreted by Anglicans. And different approaches to the Bible lead to the discovery therein of different, even opposing doctrines. If the Anglican Communion is to survive as a diversity in unity and unity in diversity it will certainly need to agree at least on which forms of biblical interpretation are either acceptable or not.

The classic, traditional position, first stated with great power and clarity by Cranmer is that the basic message from God given in the Bible, One Canon with Two Testaments, is clear to all. This message is that everlasting salvation is given by God through and in Jesus Christ, and with it a basic form of doctrine and morality is presented. So what is essential to salvation is clearly there in the Bible, understood in its plain sense and in the light of the entire canon by the rule of non-contradiction. No teaching magisterium is needed to do this job for the baptized people of God; and further the national Church, and the even the Church international meeting in Council, does not have the authority to require of any local church or individual Christian for eternal salvation anything that is not clearly taught in Scripture or may not be deduced from the clear teaching of Scripture.

We are now at a point in Anglican history where some of the sophisticated teachers of Biblical Studies in colleges and seminaries, together with some bishops, are claiming that the received position of the clarity of Scripture on basic faith and morality is wholly wrong, and that the Bible only opens up its unique message with the use of special tools of interpretation, as sued by scholars. One may see these tools being used in To Set Our Hope on Christ, the book produced for the Presiding Bishop of ECUSA by a team of scholars, and then presented to the Anglican Communion as a way of justifying the new ECUSA doctrine with respect to the holiness of same-sex unions. (see my response in Same-Sex Affection, A Response to Presiding Bishop Griswold - 1-800-727-1928 or www.anglicanmarketplace.com )

What these “western” enlightened Anglicans are saying is that the Cranmerian approach to the Bible (a) is totally outdated and will not work in post-modern society, (b) was taken by missionaries to Africa and is the cause of the “fundamentalism” of African bishops and Primates, and (c) must be replaced by an approach to the Bible that is consonant with modern sensibilities and knowledge.

To be specific -- the Cranmerian approach states that sexual morality is clear in the Bible and is given in the form of commandments and exhortations and by these we know the will of God for today for sexual relations.

In contrast, one approach amongst theologians from mainline churches suggests that the key to understand what the Bible really teaches is by identifying with Jesus as he is presented at his most different from others in the Gospels – that is as the friend of the outcasts of society, as the Saviour of the excluded, as the healer of those rejected by their families, and so on. This true and vital Jesus stands against sexism and patriarchy and discrimination and homophobia and in his embrace of all deserving souls he blesses loving, faithful, covenanted same-sex partnerships. So here the Jesus of parts of the Gospels is the internal critic of much of the content, doctrine and morality of the Bible! And this all-inclusive Jesus commends and defends what the traditional Jesus says is sin and immorality.

Thus in the confusing array of doctrines and forms of morality arrived at by new and different methods in interpretation there is certainly diversity but no unity. So the Report suggests that to keep everyone together there is needed a central authority which after discernment can make a judgment and say “This is the Anglican Way” and then all the Provinces with their whole membership will be expected to follow after.

Dr Null is right to be worried as to the proposal and to where this will lead!

(Ashley Null’s booklet is THE THIRTY-NINE ARTICLES AND REFORMATION ANGLICANISM, Biblical Authority Defined and Applied, 2005, and is published by the Uganda Christian University, Mukono, Uganda.)

petertoon@msn.com Septuagesima Sunday 2006 February 26, 2006

Monday, February 20, 2006

Inseparable Triplets

Reflections upon the birth of three novelties in the ECUSA in the 1970s

I propose that three innovations made by the mainline Churches, especially the Episcopal Church, of the USA are like three triplets – that is they not only belong together but they are intimately related and have proceeded from the same womb and parents.

All belong in origin to the radical period that began in the late 1960s and continued into the 1970s. They are:

the new doctrine of matrimony that was adopted by the ECUSA in its 1973 Marriage Canon and its Marriage Service in the Prayer Book approved by the 1976 & 1979 General Conventions;

the new doctrine of ordained Ministry adopted by the ECUSA also in the 1970s, especially by the 1976 General Convention; and

the acceptance of same-sex relations as normal for some people, and thus open to being blessed by God, with the persons, so involved, as suitable candidates for offices in the church, including ordination to all orders of the Ministry. This has been discussed and debated persistently in the ECUSA since the 1970s, and is generally accepted in 2006.

In each of these innovations a similar logic is used with reference to the Christian Tradition (especially the use of the Bible) and to the contemporary world in order to justify the innovation. Let me try to illustrate this way of justification.

Matrimony. Here it is recognized and claimed,

that Jesus made some very strong statements about marriage as the union of a man and woman as one flesh for life (until one partner dies), where by “one flesh” is meant both the duty and privilege of procreation and a life of intimacy and friendship;

that what Jesus taught belongs to a very different society than the modern one, where babies and people live longer, where women go out to work outside the home, and where because of the availability of artificial birth control, married women need not be pregnant continuously, in fact not at all if they so wish;

that the companionship, friendship and sexual fulfillment available in a good, modern marriage is just as important as procreation and are proper ends in themselves;

therefore, marriage should not now have the duty of procreation built into it, but procreation and raising children should be optional, for those who feel called.

Further, in a society and culture where people live longer, where their lives are under all kinds of pressures, marriage for life should be an ideal but not a rule, and thus divorce should be available and acceptable, followed in due time by re-marriage if this is what seems good for those involved. And the Church should recognize this modern reality of widespread divorce and seek to help those involved pastorally, including preparing them for second and even third marriages.

So it is that the Church comes to accept a change in the purpose of marriage and also of the permanence of marriage – see the 1973 Canon and the Preface to the Marriage service in the Prayer Book of 1979.

Women’s Ordination. Here it is recognized and claimed:

That for Jesus and the apostles generous and gracious patriarchy was God’s plan for the rule of home and church;

That often patriarchy (because of the sinfulness of man) in home and church has been as often harsh and despotic as generous;

That only men were ordained to the Threefold Ministry from the first to the twentieth century;

That, on the basis of modern views of human rights and dignity, women have as much right to be Ministers as men;

That it was certainly pressure from the feminist movement for equal right in employment for women that moved the ECUSA to begin to favor women’s ordination;

That theological justification may be offered for this innovation by appealing to the spirit, rather than the letter, of the New Testament and especially to the equal status of all believers, male and female, conferred by Baptism;

That further justification may be offered (e.g., as it was by the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Pope) on the basis that, since patriarchy has effectively disappeared in the West, both female and male Ministers are required now in Church and for society to show that Jesus the Savior and High Priest is for all persons, and not only for males. A male-only Ministry sends out the message of salvation and acceptance with God only for men.

So it is that in the ECUSA the ordaining and deployment of women as clergy began in 1976 and is in 2006 very common and widely accepted as normal, right and good.

Same-sex affection and unions: Here it is recognized and claimed,

That the Old and the New Testament clearly condemn Lesbianism, sodomy and pederasty, along with all forms of adultery and fornication;

That what is being practiced and developed today by Christians in the West and in ECUSA is something of which there were only hints in past times and cultures; this is the important phenomenon of covenanted, faithful, same-sex unions; in these partnerships it is as though the couple are married for, like so many “heterosexual” couples they find sexual fulfillment and friendship through and with each other; and further they also may have a child (by artificial insemination or by adoption;

That the Bible has nothing whatsoever to say about this new form of same-sex relations for its writers did not know it; thus it is nowhere condemned in the Bible or in the Christian tradition; it is for the modern Church to make a decision concerning it;

That God speaking through the professional experience of psychiatrists and the psychological experience of those involved in same-sex partnerships reveals that this form of union can be a means of holiness before God and for the true good of each partner;

So it is that in 2006 many ECUSA dioceses bless the unions of such persons, ordain to the Ministry persons involved in these unions, and one diocese has even consecrated as a Bishop a man in such a union.

Summary: It is difficult to imagine how the acceptance of same-sex unions by the ECUSA could have occurred had not the other two babes (new form of marriage and women’s ordination) been born first. A way was created in both these innovations of interpreting the Bible in such a way as to deny its common sense, literal meaning and this served to give added strength and acceptability to the same-sex unions’ cause.

Let us be honest. There is little doubt but that patriarchy is portrayed in the Bible as God’s plan for the family and the Church; there is little doubt but that marriage is presented in the Bible as for unity of hearts and procreation from the one-flesh union; and there is no doubt but that same-sex unions, even the modern kind, are totally against the design and purpose of God in creating man, as male and female persons.

It would appear that the modern, liberal, progressive Church has become very adapt and successful at making the clear teaching of Jesus and his apostles to be unclear and confused, and thus able to commend “as prophetic” and “radically Christian” today that which is so clearly contrary to the teaching of Jesus and his apostles.

Perhaps this confusion in relation to the Bible also goes some way to explain how also in the 1970s, the ECUSA could call what was so obviously a Book of Varied Services by the name of the ancient and hallowed “Book of Common Prayer” (1549 first edition; 1928, last authentic USA edition). Those who made this decision had lost the ability it would seem to make a simple judgment as to what kind of book was being prepared, approved and published.

It would seem that the only way for the reforming remnant in ECUSA (e.g. The Network and AAC and FinFNA) to deal with the last of the triplets called “Same-Sex Partnerships” is first to deal with the two other triplets born just before this one. For whilst they are so dominant on the stage, it will be impossible to deal effectively with number three and keep it also off the stage!.

(for those who wish to pursue this theme further, may I invite you to read my latest 64 page booklet, EPISCOPAL INNOVATIONS which is available on several websites [ e.g., www.episcopalian.org/pbs1928 & www.challengeonline.org ] and will be available as a printed booklet around March 3rd from www.anglicanmarketplace.com or from 1 800 – PBS- 1928)

The Rev’d Dr Peter Toon petertoon@msn.com February 20, 2006

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Gene, we pray for you: Let us pray lovingly and fervently for Gene Robinson.

I am worried that too many of us seem to be treating the entry of Bishop Gene Robinson into medical care for alcoholism as an opportunity for making political advance for “our cause” – i.e., for “the orthodox” against “the revisionists.” It seems that our model for dealing with those we oppose in the ECUSA is too often the way that the activists and publicists for one political party use the failures, errors and misfortunes of members of the other party for political gain. We have seen plenty of this very recently concerning the accidental shooting in Texas of a friend by the Vice-President.

Surely, as Christians, it is not for us to gloat over the tragedy of what has happened to Gene Robinson. We all know how disastrous can be the effects of having the disease of alcoholism and in his case these are surely intensified by his commitment to the life of same-sex relations.

Rather, it is for us to recognize that each and all of us are weak creatures when it comes to resisting temptation and we are sinful creatures when it comes to gaining salvation. We are all greatly in need of the mercy and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the presence and power of His Spirit within us, to prevent us from falling and to help us live victoriously in faith, hope and charity. We are not in a position to judge anyone who has fallen! God in Christ is the Judge.

Should we not be praying that this painful episode in Gene’s life will be the occasion for the Spirit of the Lord Jesus to minister to him (and his partner), so that he is given the will to be and do what is necessary, in order to be raised from his descent into disease and depression into a life of total consecration to our Lord Jesus Christ in holiness and sanctification, as he is filled with the Spirit of the same Lord Jesus Christ.

We cannot believe that God has written him off completely and judged him finally, ahead of the Last Judgment at the end of the age. The blood of the Lord Jesus was shed for him and the pastoral love of the same exalted Jesus reaches out to him now. Let us pray that the Father’s will for this bruised and sick sheep will be done in Gene, and that he will become another of the long line of persons, who are being saved, healed and sanctified by the rich mercy and gracious love of God the Holy Trinity, so that he lives by faith in faithfulness to our Lord Jesus Christ, the great Shepherd of the sheep, relying day by day on the healing of the same Jesus, the Physician of soul and body.

Lord have mercy upon all of us, and especially Gene.

petertoon@msn.com February 18, 2006

Reforming ECUSA by creating a covenanted, godly remnant

discernment and fervent prayer by Episcopalians

I cannot escape the thought that the Lord of the Church is saying quietly and tenderly to those Episcopalians who have ears to hear:

“As a starter, find Me one, just one, bishop in the Episcopal Church who is so committed to Me and my mission, that he is prepared as a modern Athanasius to stand for Me and my truth, and take whatever persecution and dishonor comes his way in order to lead My people into the full experience of My grace and truth.”

I realize and am a little embarrassed to state that this word stands in such sharp contrast to the apparent, normal stance of most “orthodox” ECUSA bishops -- which is, or appears to be, to take a minimal stand for the full truth of the Anglican Way, and then wait upon the turn of events, hoping that somehow they will turn in their favor in such a way as to make it unnecessary for them to do anything out of the normal to keep things near the status quo of yesterday.

In various essays I have pointed out that that normal way of reformation in the mainline American Churches since the late 19th century has been by the “orthodox” departing, and doing so in order to create a new church wherein their cherished principles can be realized. In other words, schism is the name of the game, and this has energized the American supermarket of religions and keeps increasing the content of the yellow pages of the Telephone Directory.

Is it possible that the Episcopal Church could – against all the odds – provide an example contrary to the trend in the mainline and see genuine reform and renewal from within?

The answer seems to be Yes, if, and only if, the senior pastors of this dis-ordered flock (a) begin to act as if they were really and truly senior pastors of the flock, and (b) focus on the model provided in the Old and New Testament of the righteous remnant. How often are we encouraged to read about the remnant as represented by Hosea, Jeremiah, the family of John the Baptist, Simeon and Anna, with the earthly parents of Jesus of Nazareth. They did not the people Israel to form a sect but suffered and witnessed within this people, and their witness inspires us thousands of years later.

Right now, it is claimed by the CAN and AAC that there are ten diocesan bishops and ten dioceses who claim to be “orthodox” and opposed to the “revisionism” which characterizes the House of Bishops and the General Convention. We focus on bishops for the obvious reason that the polity of the Episcopal Way is in part hierarchical in that Bishops alone and together have much authority and are the office-holders who are specifically called to lead – to lead, however, as “father-in-God” and “shepherd of the flock,” not as C E O or Manager or Chief Liturgical Officer.

Therefore, because of their position as successors of the apostles and head of the hierarchy of ministry, it would appear that the only way that there can be genuine reform of the Episcopal Church at this time is by these ten bishops (or some of them) covenanting together, after due prayer, fasting and receiving godly advice from abroad. In the solemn covenant they could/would, for example,
  • bind themselves before God to stand together and act together, really and truly not partially and according to feeling;
  • declare themselves out of Eucharistic communion with all ECUSA bishops who stand even minimally for the progressive liberal agenda of the General Convention;
  • form a federation of dioceses, which (a) recovered the historic Formularies that were ditched in 1979, making the BCP 1928 as chief formulary and treating the 1979 Prayer Book as a Book of Varied and Alternative Services, and (b) declared null and void for the Federation all canons and resolutions of General Convention since 1970 which changed the received Anglican doctrines of baptism, confirmation, marriage, women’s ordination and same-sex relations;
  • attend the regular ECUSA meetings as a unit and stand together graciously yet firmly for righteousness and against heresy and immorality;
  • gather to them the seventy or so congregations that have left the ECUSA recently and make them real parts of their dioceses;
  • be instantly prepared to cross diocesan boundaries to minister to isolated parishes desirous to flee the ECUSA heresies and in need of pastoral care,
  • seek the blessing and support of Anglican provinces abroad.

As and when the Bishops do this, faithful clergy and laity will surely come to their side in loving and prayerful support. Further, the Media will take note and the faithful in the other mainline denominations will be encouraged.

Of course, canon lawyers will say that it is impossible; of course, bishops who are not used to being godly leaders of the flock will at first regard all this as just too much even to contemplate; and, of course, it will be ridiculed and opposed by the present leadership of the Church. And the chorus will even arise from within the “orthodox camp”: “We must wait to see what the next General Convention does and then also to see who is invited to the Lambeth Conference and what the Primates have to say….and so on and so on.” But, let us recall, all this kind of thing was said by the Episcopal Synod in the early 90s as it played a waiting game, and, we have to ask, where is that organization and movement now and specifically where are its bishops?

The possibility of the remnant acting NOW in the wisdom and strength of Christ is one real possible scenario of which one may perhaps dare to think and then say that “with God all things are possible.” If this movement of reform is approached from the remnant’s side in fear and trembling before the Lord of hosts and with humility before the God of all grace and mercy, who can predict what will happen?

It would appear (based on previous history in the mainline Churches of the USA) that if this kind of godly action is not taken now by the Bishops then all the fine rhetoric, expensive plans and large promises of the Anglican Communion Network and the American Anglican Council, with other bodies, will lead only to great frustration for thousand of laity and clergy and also the increase of the Alphabet of Affiliations outside the Episcopal Church (no longer 70 but hundreds). More and more parishes will leave the ECUSA looking for a godly bishop and they will eventually find him in one of the thirty or so provinces overseas. And it will become increasingly difficult to keep these schisms together and these relations over thousands of miles meaningful and sweet, and, indeed, very difficult to speak optimistically for “orthodoxy” at all within or without the ECUSA. The Anglican Way, although now deeply divided and pulling in many directions, will become even more centrifugally determined.

Anglican Polity is neither congregationalism nor Presbyterianism. It is the people of God in dioceses ruled and pastored by their Pastors (Bishops) assisted by presbyters, deacons and lay ministers. Note that the shepherds whom Jesus knew (read Psalm 23) went ahead of their flock to make ready the way for them and to lead them. And note that the northern European shepherd goes behind the flock using his sheepdog to keep the sheep under control. The shepherds Jesus had in mind as his apostles and bishops were those who led from the front, staff in hand, and did not look to others to do their jobs for them! They were prepared to risk all for the one lost sheep! Today we tend to choose as bishops men who become bureaucrats, managers, counselors, CEO’s, and facilitators, and last of all, if at all, a father-in God, a shepherd. But God our Father, we humbly believe, can make them into real Shepherds! Although he may choose to do so through our sacrificial and fervent prayer and devotion this Lent.

So, I believe, the Lord of the Church and the Great Shepherd of the sheep looks for an under-shepherd in the ECUSA who will truly display a shepherd’s mind, heart and will; and as such will inspire others to become and do the same so that the remnant can effectively be saved and become the catalyst for new beginnings for the Anglican Way in the ECUSA and its offshoots.

(for a portrayal of the serious sickness of the ECUSA, a sickness which affects all its bishops, priests and membership, and sickness to be delivered from, read my Episcopal Innovations 1960-2004 at www.virtueonline.org in the theology section; or at www.challengeonline.org or at www.episcopalian.org/pbs1928 It will be released as a booklet of 64 pages by the Prayer Book Society on March 3, 2006)

February 17, 2006 petertoon@msn.com

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Diagnosis and cure in the ECUSA: No accurate Diagnosis – No lasting Cure

Reflections on the sickness of the Episcopal Church

Amongst Anglican conservatives there is universal agreement that the Episcopal Church of the US as a corporate body is sick – some would say very sick. In contrast, the leadership of this Church proclaims that it is just the opposite, it is filled with prophetic zeal and has both a message and an agenda that are relevant and acceptable to a post-modern society. Thus it is not sick but rather committed to curing the sicknesses of alienation and discrimination in society to make an inclusive community.

One salient fact for all to bear in mind is that in the late 1960s around three million people attended Episcopal Churches on Sundays while in 2006 the number is down to around one million. The actual membership of the Church has more than halved in forty years whilst the general population has increased by at least a third. So there is a real problem within the Episcopal Church!

Back in the early 1990s I heard several explanations for the demise of the Episcopal Church both in membership numbers and in the walking away by its leadership from Anglican orthodoxy into a progressive liberalism.

The Anglo-Catholics placed much emphasis upon the change in the doctrine of the ordained Ministry, with the introduction of women priests in 1976 and women bishops a decade later. In general, they accepted women as deacons, but saw the placing of women into the ministerial priesthood as a major innovation and a rejection of catholic orthodoxy.

The Evangelicals saw a serious departure by the leadership from the Lordship of Christ and the authority of Scripture for faith and conduct into theological relativism and the embrace of a social gospel. However, few of them had any problem with the ordaining of women, which they accepted as fine, as long as the women in question were creedally orthodox, and evangelical in commitment.

The Charismatics saw a serious lack of the presence of the Holy Spirit in the corporate life of the churches and in the lives of members. They called for renewal, inspiration and guidance by the Holy Spirit and the use of his gifts and graces.

Members of the Prayer Book Society of the Episcopal Church proclaimed that the major ills of the Church were caused by the rejection of the historic Book of Common Prayer (edition of 1928, itself a successor of the classic 1662 edition) in 1979 and its replacement by a new kind of Prayer Book, a book of varied services and erroneous doctrines.

From a few, who tended to speak quietly, came the suggestion that the originating problem of the Church was the revision of the Canon on Marriage of 1973 and the acceptance in all but name by the ECUSA of the divorce culture, which had been intensified by the sexual revolution of the 1960s.

Also from a few came the message that the real problem with the ECUSA was that the House of Bishop as a body and diocesan Bishops as individual pastors were failing truly to lead the flock. They had ceased to function as father-in God and as pastor, evangelist and missioner and had become bureaucrats, managers and counselors. And the clergy were following these trends. (The present AMiA may be traced in part to this conviction.)

In the early 1990s most of the Anglo-Catholics, Evangelicals and Charismatics, along with those who saw a leadership problem, were more than happy to use the new Prayer Book of 1979. For the Anglo-Catholics it gave them certain liturgical possibilities for which they had campaigned (e.g., the Gloria in excelsis at the beginning of the “Mass” not the end, and a rite for private confession to a priest). For the Evangelicals and Charismatics, it gave them services in modern English that were short and simple and could be used in mission and evangelism. None of these groups seems to have carefully analyzed the Book to see whether it was identical in basic doctrine with the historic and classic Prayer Book tradition of the Anglican Way. Most were taken in by the propaganda for it from the Liturgical Commission via seminary professors and clergy conferences. (This propaganda is now basically rejected by current liturgical scholarship – see The Oxford History of Christian Worship, OUP 2005, chapters 1-2.)

In the twenty-first century, most conservative groups (but not the Prayer Book Society) have united in claiming that the acceptance by the ECUSA of the rights of Lesbian, Bisexual and Gay persons to full membership, their holding of church offices and their partnerships being blessed, is such a serious innovation and error that it overshadows all the previous errors of this Church. Further, and importantly, the impression given by the Anglican Communion Network (which represents a good proportion of the conservative movement in the ECUSA) and its friends oversees is that if the Episcopal Church at the its June 2006 General Convention accepts that it erred and went too far in its embrace of the LesBiGay agenda and takes a few steps backwards (or does a kind of U-turn) and returns to say where it was in 2000 or 1997, then it will be restored to being an “orthodox” province of the Anglican Communion – or at least a province wherein the “orthodox” can dwell securely.

I personally reject this analysis and position. Why? Because, in medical care, physical or spiritual, where the diagnosis is false or incomplete then there can be no true and lasting cure. My belief is that conservative Episcopalians have not been given a full, candid and proper diagnosis of the sickness of the ECUSA. Rather, they have been given partial diagnoses which being incomplete are probably dangerous!

In a 64 page large booklet, EPISCOPAL INNOVATIONS 1960-2004, Theological and Historical Reflections on the Episcopal Church, I suggest that ALL the doctrinal, liturgical and moral innovations in ECUSA since the 1960s are inter-related and inter-connected and that they have a common origin. What this common origin is was first clearly suggested in seminars by Professor Charles Caldwell when he taught at Nashotah House in the late 1980s and early 1990s (where he was often a voice crying in the wilderness). After much conversation with him in the 1990s, I have developed and clarified the thesis which he first articulated there, -- a thesis which he created from his reading of Scripture with the help of the Greek Fathers of the Church, and in particular, of the Apostolic Constitutions from the fourth century (but containing much third century material).

Put simply, there has been a sustained rejection of divine order by ECUSA as that is given by God the Holy Trinity in the created order and in the order of the new covenant. Each and every major innovation from the marriage canon of 1973 to the consecration of Gene Robinson in 2004 is a rejection of divine order. Further, there is a lineal relation also between the major innovations for certain had to occur before others could occur – e.g., the Church had to make Christian marriage an option, rather than a requirement and doctrine, before the Church was ready to see the “justice” of blessing same-sex partnerships and ordaining persons in such; and the Church had to reject the Reformed Catholicism of her inherited Formularies in order to open the door to radical, progressive liberalism with a liturgical face

My view is that simply asking the ECUSA to return to its position of the 1997 or 2003 General Convention is like making an incomplete diagnosis and thereby giving the patient the wrong medicine, medicine which does not cure the sickness but makes it worse. The ECUSA needs surgery and medicine which will deal truly with its real and death-threatening sickness.

Episcopal Innovations 1960-2004 will be published by the Preservation Press of the Prayer Book Society on March 2nd 2006 and be available at www.anglicanmarketplace.com soon after that date. Individual copies including postage and packing are $7.50 each and may be ordered by sending a check to PBS, P. O. Box 35220, Philadelphia, PA. 19128-0220. Multiple copies (5 or more) are $5.00 each, postage included.

The text may be accessed now at the following websites -- www.virtueonline.org in the theology section; www.episcopalian.org/pbs1928 & www.challengeonline.org

I do hope that you will both pay a visit and also order copies to distribute amongst concerned persons to read and ponder. Unless we get the diagnosis right, there can be no real cure. My essay is meant to assist in diagnosis.

Septuagesima 2006 The Revd Dr Peter Toon drpetertoon@yahoo.com

Sunday, February 12, 2006

ORDER and the Prayer Book Society.

“Let all things be done decently [with grace and dignity] and in order,” wrote the Apostle (1 Corinthians 14:40)

The Prayer Book Society of the USA is not a gathered church for it has no congregations or parishes and it is not an evangelization society for it does not plant churches.

The Society is an organization that both commends and provides a service for the churches of the Episcopal or Anglican way and polity – and what it has on offer is highly valued by some and scorned by others inside and outside the ECUSA! What it offers may be described as Ordered – that is, it aims to implement specific aspects of God’s revealed order for his creation and his church.

Perhaps it needs to be made clear that “order” is not about obeying the “orders” of a dictator, boss or military commander. Neither does it refer to the bureaucratic notion that there should be a place for everything and everything in its place. Nor it is an ideology. Rather it points to the fact that God has so made his world that there is a first, middle and last; there is a beginning, a means and an end. One thing is first, another second and yet another last and all things and persons are related according to God’s design.

The Society keeps in print and seeks to encourage use with understanding of the historic, classic prayer book of the Anglican Way – The Book of Common Prayer first published in 1549 and known in North America through three editions currently in use, that of 1662, that of 1928 and that of 1962. These editions of the one BCP contain services for each day and week, for Sundays and holy days, for baptism, confirmation, marriage, burial and other occasions. The Lectionary and each service is called “An order” for it has a beginning, a middle and ending with a clear purpose and doctrine (and thus contrasts with much modern liturgy which allows for great variety in structure and content in use). Likewise the Psalter is arranged in an ordered way for the use and edification of the people of God and by the Calendar there is a walk by faith and with Christ day by day, week by week, season by season.

Since it commends the use of the classic BCP, the Society is also committed to the primary doctrines of that Prayer Book, which it believes are the essential doctrines of Scripture expressed in both Patristic and Reformation language. Thus it is wholly committed to the doctrines of the Creeds – to the doctrine of the Holy Trinity and of the One Person of our Lord Jesus made known in two natures, divine and human. Here it sees divine order revealed as belonging both to the internal life of the Trinity in the relations of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, and in the external action and word of the Trinity as the Father through the Son and by the Holy Ghost creates, reveals, saves, sanctifies, judges and redeems.

Turning to the creation, divine order as it is experienced in salvation and redemption is presented in the teaching of the Catechism, in the services for Holy Baptism and for Confirmation, and in Holy Communion and the Burial Service. There is a beginning in Baptism, a continuation in Confirmation and a further continuation in the reception of Holy Communion, leading on to presence with a redeemed body at the Messianic Feast in heaven in the age to come. The Eucharistic Lectionary for the weekly Holy Communion provides in the its two parts (Advent to Trinity and Trinity to Advent) ordered doctrinal teaching on which the Church is to meditate.

Divine order, stated in the opening chapters of Genesis and confirmed by our Lord Jesus, is also seen in the creation of man as male and female and their relation to one another, where the man is first in order and the women is second. In the marriage service there is a clear presentation of the divine order wherein the male and the female are joined as one flesh for procreation and for mutual help and friendship until death causes them to be parted.

Divine order in the new covenant and within the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church is further seen in the ordered Ministry of the Bishop, Priest and Deacon, as these are assumed in the BCP and ordination services for them are provided in the Ordinal which is bound with the BCP as one book.

By submission to Divine order there is freedom to serve God in peace and joy, and this is communicated by not a few of the Collects in the BCP. By joining with the orders of angels and archangels in worship the Church experiences the first-fruit of the fullness of communion with the Holy Trinity that shall be in the age to come.

The popularity of forms of services today that both lack the basic doctrines of order and are also without clear order in their structure reflects an age where discipline, formation of good habits and submission to those above us in the Lord are not highly prized, but rather individualism, subjectivism, relativism, relevancy and spontaneity are often and widely assumed to be the norms to follow.

Let all things be done decently [with grace and dignity] and in order! Let freedom be discovered through submission to the God of all freedom and let spontaneity be known in the disciplined walk in the Spirit with the Lord.

Do Visit www.episcopalian.org/pbs1928 & www.anglicanmarketplace.com

The Revd Dr. Peter Toon Septuagesima 2006

Women as Bishops: Rowan Williams of Canterbury got it right

At the close of the debate in the Synod of the Church of England in early February 2006, Dr Williams said:

"People have talked at times about differences of opinion and how the Church can live with differences of opinion. I think that the problem is, for those who are not content with the idea that we should go forward along the line of ordaining women as bishops, the problem is not one of opinion, it’s rather one of obedience. It’s one of obedience to Scripture, or obedience to the consensus of the Church Catholic. And, while that’s not a view I wholly share, I think we ought to recognise that that’s where it comes from, those who hold to it are not just thinking ‘this is a matter of opinion’. And therefore it is rightly and understandably a lot harder to deal with dissent if you are talking about what fundamentally comes down to a question of whether you obey God or human authority. That’s why it’s serious. That’s why it’s difficult. It is more than ‘opinion’."

Let us note some themes in these very significant words.
  1. Everyone has an opinion and this is assumed as a given by the media daily in their polls – opinion polls. But most of what we call opinions are not based on sustained study and prolonged investigation but on current feelings and circumstances, and often just selfishness. Opinions come and go.
  2. The Archbishop recognizes that opposition to the ordaining of women as priests, and the consecrating of women priests as bishops, is not mere opinion (as that word is used in the West today). It is something much more profound and much deeper than opinion.
  3. Dr Williams knows that serious students of the Bible, who regard it as God’s Word written, find there that there is in God’s ordering of the world a patriarchy (generous and gracious) to be exercised by the man in church and family. The father or bishop is to be a “father in God” (see the Ordinal of 1662/1928). Then the apostle Paul teaches that the man is to be the “head” of the family and “head” (pastor) of Christ’s flock. Again in a generous and gracious way.
  4. He also fully recognizes that the Tradition of the Church (as stated clearly by the contemporary Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches) is that of a succession of male bishops. Jesus appointed only chosen men as his apostles, but both women and men as his disciples. In obeying Christ as Lord, the Church has only male bishops as fathers in God.
  5. Thus he is well aware that if one takes as of divine authority the choice of men as the apostles and the Tradition of male bishops then one cannot accept a woman as a bishop, however saintly and gifted she is, for it is a betrayal of faith and an act of disobedience to the Lord of the Church to set aside his known will.

Obviously, Dr Williams wholly understands this doctrine and knows it to be authentic, even though he leans towards finding ways to accommodate calls for women bishops to keep the peace in the C of E.

I am quite sure that Dr Williams knows well the content of The Apostolic Constitutions from the fourth century (but containing material from the third). Here the Church is portrayed as being in a culture where women were priests and where the Church had to think very seriously about why its tradition did not allow for women priests or even for women to baptize. The answer it gave was based on God’s order in creation and in the new covenant.

Women are more than capable of performing the work of Ministry but if they did so then grave disorder would enter the Church. Why? Because in God’s order man is male and female and in this creation by God there is order, a first and a second (not a superior and an inferior). The man is first in order and the woman is second in order, but they are equal in dignity and status before God and serve God together in a complementary manner. St Paul spoke of the hierarchy of holy relations in this way – God the Father, the Incarnate Son, the man/father and the women/wife. In God’s order the Son is subject to the Father and the man and woman to the Incarnate Son, and the woman to the man. Yet this is the subjection of love and service within a gracious and generous patriarchy. Thus God’s word in creation and in redemption forbids the woman to rule over the man; rather it requires the man to rule yet with nothing less than the love of Christ.

In the USA the Anglican Mission in America and the Continuing Anglican Jurisdictions are to be congratulated on standing firm to the principle of Scripture and Tradition in terms of headship in the ordained Ministry. In contrast, the Network and the Anglican Coalition in Canada cannot be congratulated because they have followed the modern doctrine of human rights in accepting the headship of women as probably OK and thereby have set aside obedience to the statutes of the Lord written into the created and redemptive orders.

We await with interest news of how the FinF of Britain deals with the developing situation in the C of E of the abandoning of divine order and headship. At the same time we watch with interest to see whether the ACN and the ACinC do some rethinking on the matter of headship in a world where human rights provide the basis of morality for most people and thus make the task of the Church to display headship very difficult.

Septuagesima, 2006. Dr. Peter Toon

FiF reacts to General Synod debate on Guildford ReportFeb 11, 2006

(I think that the Arch of Cant comes out of this well --P.T.)
Feb 11, 2006

Forward in Faith welcomes the decision of the General Synod this week, by 348 votes to 1, to devote a further six months to exploring whether 'Transferred Episcopal Arrangements' (TEA) might form a basis for making suitable provision for those who in conscience will be unable to receive the ordination of women as bishops.

Forward in Faith also particularly welcomes the words with which the Archbishop of Canterbury brought the Synod debate to a close.

Dr Williams said: "People have talked at times about differences of opinion and how the Church can live with differences of opinion. I think that the problem is, for those who are not content with the idea that we should go forward along the line of ordaining women as bishops, the problem is not one of opinion, it’s rather one of obedience. It’s one of obedience to Scripture, or obedience to the consensus of the Church Catholic. And, while that’s not a view I wholly share, I think we ought to recognise that that’s where it comes from, those who hold to it are not just thinking ‘this is a matter of opinion’. And therefore it is rightly and understandably a lot harder to deal with dissent if you are talking about what fundamentally comes down to a question of whether you obey God or human authority. That’s why it’s serious. That’s why it’s difficult. More than ‘opinion’."

Forward in Faith also notes with pleasure that all attempts to amend the resolution before Synod, including suggestions that the TEA proposal should be replaced by a single clause measure and code of practice, were soundly defeated.

The full text of the motion moved by the Archbishop and so overwhelmingly passed was as follows:
‘That this Synod

(a) welcome the assessment made in GS 1605 of the options for removing the legal obstacles to the ordination of women to the episcopate;
(b) consider that an approach along the lines of “Transferred Episcopal Arrangements”, expressed in a Measure with an associated code of practice, merits further exploration as a basis for proceeding in a way that will maintain the highest possible degree of communion in the Church of England;
(c) invite the House of Bishops, as part of its ongoing work on the underlying issues raised by the “Rochester report”, to produce for the July group of sessions a statement of the theological, ecumenical and canonical implications of such an approach;
(d) instruct the Business Committee to make sufficient time available at the July group of sessions for Synod to determine, in the light of advice from the House of Bishops, the next steps, including a possible timetable for legislation; and
(e) invite all members of Synod to reflect prayerfully and consult widely on the serious decisions now facing the Church.’

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

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Ladies who are Reverend, Very Reverend, Right Reverend and Most Reverend

Greetings from the West Coast as we head fast towards Easter with Septuagesima near.

May I make a comment on the absorption into the Anglican Communion Network of the Forward in Faith of North America groups.

It seems – if I understand aright - that the leadership of the Network holds the view that the ordination and deployment of women in parish ministry is not a cause for breaking Eucharistic fellowship, that those who are for, and those who are against, the ordination of women should exist together in the same Province or Network, rejoicing in what they hold in common and making secondary that in which they disagree.

This position is perfectly understandable for it assumes that there is agreement in what is opposed (“revisionism” of ECUSA) as well as in what is confessed and taught, and further
that there are secondary matters that may be held but are not essential to fellowship and cooperation or to corporate church life. In essence this is the kind of Anglicanism commended by the Eames Reports and their new doctrine of reception and it has held not a few Provinces together during times of controversy and theological high temperatures. Whether it will do so in the near future (watch the C of E) we cannot tell.

What I think the Network position does not take into account as a real empirical fact of contemporary church life, especially in the West, are these things.
  1. That there has been present in the West for forty years or more strong women’s and feminist movements calling for full rights for women. There is no doubt whatsoever that in the ECUSA it was this liberation movement which pushed for not only the ordination of women (done illegally in 1973 and approved in 1976) but later for the serious changes in the language used in the churches and especially for the naming and addressing of God, YHWH. So much so that many in the Network take inclusive language at least for humanity as a done deal, and they use dynamic equivalency versions of the Bible. For good or ill the presence of ordained women is the story of the triumph of human rights,
    Further, with these changes in the life and tradition of the Church there has occurred also serious changes in the way that the Bible is read and interpreted (as Forward in Faith of the UK has demonstrated in its recent book Consecrated Women? ) leading to changes in piety and spirituality, as well as to doctrine. For example, even though the Bible is filled with it, patriarchy has been used as a “dirty” word in terms of church and family, even by those who still call God “our Father.”
  2. That since the ordination of women entered the ECUSA as an aspect of full rights for women, it has become a basis for other groups to call for their full rights (as understood in a modern democratic society) to be recognized and implemented. Here of course we think of the calls from persons claiming to be Lesbian, Bisexual and Gay. “If they got their rights, we should be given ours.” In ECUSA they have been successful.
  3. That the tortuous forms of biblical interpretation required to make the New Testament teach the possibility of women as presbyters and overseers in the Church of God also serve to justify the claims of the LesBiGay for full inclusion also made from the same texts of Scripture. Indeed there is a commonality to the forms of Bible interpretation used since the 1960s to justify women’s ordination, the blessing of serial monogamy and the acceptance, blessing and ordination of Lesbian, Bi-Sexual and Gay persons. All these forms are in one way or another the rejection of divine order in creation and in the new covenant and thus all require a special kind of way of reading the Bible – unknown to our forefathers -- to make them acceptable in a culture where human rights is the language of morality and acceptability.

So, what I am suggesting is that by accepting the ordination of women as a possibility and by welcoming ordained women as fully accredited clergy, the Network (and the Fin F NA) is causing itself to read and interpret Holy Scripture in ways which cause a disconnection to those standard ways in place before the 1960s; and further is opening the door for the use of the claim of human rights to function if not today then tomorrow in its ranks – not necessarily on behalf of LesBiGays but maybe for serial monogamists and other persons with dis-ordered lives.

Finally, what I am stating does not in any way detract from the commitment, godliness and sincerity of ordained women in the Network. If they are part of a process of disorder then, whatever their gifts and graces, and through no personal fault of their own, their presence actually serves to keep the Church from being what She as the Bride of Christ is called to be. If there is blame it is to be attributed to the Bishops who ordain women.

Yours most sincerely,

Peter Toon

Thursday, February 09, 2006

A note to my friends and contacts – from Peter Toon

A note to my e-mail friends and contacts – from Peter Toon

This note is to let you know that the Board of the Prayer Book Society of the USA – meeting on February 8 in St John’s Church, Savannah, in its new facility called Cranmer Hall, and in the room containing the Library of the late Rev’d Dr William Ralston – appointed me as the President for this year 2006. This was suggested by the outgoing President, the Rev’d Fr David Kennedy SSC, and confirmed by all present.

This year the Society has its 35th birthday, being founded by Dr Ralston and others in Tennessee (at Vanderbilt University and the University of the South) in 1971. Happily my daughter, Deborah, attended Vanderbilt and lives in Nashville, working as a lawyer now, and is often present on the campus.

In returning to the USA in April 2005 I planned on working for the Prayer Book Society; but not on being President again, and certainly not in this momentous year for American Anglicanism, when we may see the departure of the ECUSA permanently from the Anglican Communion of Churches, and will continue to experience a major crisis within the Anglican Way. My wife, Vita, rightly fears that she will see too little of me during this period for I will be taken up by travel and writing. Plans for visiting here and there and doing this and that will be on hold for a while!

The present breaking off from the perimeters of the Episcopal Church of a growing number of congregations departing to be linked to overseas Anglican Bishops (creating a veritable alphabet of affiliations) is providing new opportunities for the Society. The trauma of departing often causes a search by those in the exodus for the real meaning of the Anglican Way, its Scriptural base, its attachment to the Fathers of the Church, its Formularies, its liturgy, music and poetry, its piety and devotion, and so on. Never before, I guess, has the Society been so sought out, consulted and asked to advise by those wanting to know more of the riches of Reformed Catholicism.

May I make bold to ask for your prayers for the Society and for me, that we may be given the strength and wisdom to make a positive contribution to the healing of the wounds of Anglicans/Episcopalians in the US and to the enrichment of the Anglican Way in North America. The Board approved a series of imaginative and bold projects for this year of crisis and it is our hope and prayer that in doing them in a timely and good way we shall serve Christ and the kingdom of God.

Three more things… First, I am available as an emissary of the Prayer Book Society to visit churches to give talks, sermons, conduct retreats, and engage in debate and dialogue. Please send me an email if you desire to invite me and suggest dates. Secondly, in your charity I ask you to give a donation to the Society to encourage the Board in its work and to help pay for the work that we do and plan to do. Finally, do not forget or hesitate to buy a copy of the new leather bound edition of the Altar Book for the BCP (1928). It is a first class product and will make a fine coffee table book as well as an altar book. Why not buy one in memory of a loved one for your church? Please call the toll free number to ask for prices.

The Prayer Book Society
P. O. Box 35220
Philadelphia, Pa. 19128-0220
www.episcopalian.org/pbs1928 and www.anglicanmarketplace.com

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Chronolatry. To what extent are we all engaged in this dangeorus activity?

A question for modern churchpeople!

The word “Chronolatry” is rarely used but it is a word that can serve a useful purpose. Its origins seems to have been from the pen of the philosopher Jacques Maritain in his Le paysan de la Garonne (Paris 1966), pp.25-28. And I learned of it from hearing Dr Crouse of Nova Scotia, Canada, use it.

Chronos is time and latria is reverence or worship. So chronolatry is the worship of the present, or the placing of the mind and opinions of ourselves or persons today above those of yesterday.

Now in matters purely scientific and concerned with such studies as mathematics, physics and cosmology, the theories of the leading scientists in these fields are obviously to be preferred to those of a former times. And the same applies in other modern scientific study as well. However, the opinions of today are not necessarily better than those of yesterday in all areas of human knowledge and experience.

Regrettably, what is happening today in society, church and culture is that too often we assume that modern opinions about morality and religious doctrine and practice are superior to those of yesterday. In Church synods in the mainline Churches of the USA (Episcopal, Methodist, Lutheran, etc.) there has been an increasing tendency since the 1970s to elevate “contemporary experience” and the “opinions of the elite” above the received tradition of faith and morality, assuming that the latest opinions held by the finest are obviously the best and thus to be made church doctrine!

In this ongoing Chronolatry, Church synods, working on democratic principles (with all the accompanying political activism of working for votes) assume that when they pass a measure, which introduces an innovation (which is itself a rejection of the wisdom of yesterday), then that majority vote is the “leading of the Spirit.” In their counting of votes, however, they do not count the saints who have gone before them and who had “voted” for that which the innovation displaces and replaces!

Have you noticed how both Episcopalians and Methodists now speak of the four-legged stool of theological method -- Scripture, Tradition, Reason and Experience? In this new formulation (it used to be: Scripture, Tradition and Reason, only) contemporary experience (not only personal and corporate, but also the supposed assured results of the human “sciences”) has the final word as to the place and use of the others.

In the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, claims for the “leading of the Spirit” because innovations were introduced through majority votes have been common since the 1970s. What has happened is that the Bible and Tradition are now sources that can be used to supplement or support doctrines which emanate within the enlightened mindset of modern leaders of cultural change. The authority is “experience” understood in a large sense and the worship offered is Chronolatry. No vote is given to the Apostles, to the members of the Ecumenical Councils, to the great teachers, female and male, of the Church through history, and to the faithful millions of the centuries. Contemporary opinion becomes doctrine for today and tomorrow even as it is given God-names and descriptions. Obvious examples in the Episcopal Church from one decade, that of the 1970s are: a new doctrine of marriage to take account of the growing divorce culture, 1973; a new doctrine of the Ministry to take account of the campaigns of the feminists for equality in all areas, 1976; and a new prayer book with the old title to replace the historic BCP, to take account of the latest opinions in liturgical studies, 1979. From the present decade there is the new doctrine of sexual relations which permits two persons of the same gender/sex to live together as though they are married and as such to be exemplars of holiness.

No area of received doctrine, morality, discipline, devotion or polity is safe from chronolaters, who inhabit the seats of power in the committees of synods and conventions. And they have developed the art of speaking about treasured things of the past in such a way that most people think that they take these things most seriously. Yet what they are often doing is using a very selective harvesting of teaching from Scripture and Tradition in order to use this to buttress their novel doctrine and morals. Presiding Bishop Griswold has often spoken of and cited great spiritual and mystical writers of the past in such a way as to make people think that he is teaching a doctrine like theirs, when he is actually offering very different views of holiness and union with God.

But let us come nearer home. Chronolaters are also found even amongst those who call themselves “the orthodox” over against those they term “revisionists”. To give a few examples: they prefer versions of the Bible rendered into English by dynamic equivalency rather then by a careful literal translation; their way of talking about morality is determined more by human rights theory than by the statutes of the Lord; their modes of evangelization give great weight to contemporary theories of communication and marketing which cause the Gospel message to be trimmed to fit the customer; and their way of running the church, and organizations connected to it, owes more to modern political activism than to biblical pastoral principles.

Chronolatry is a sin. It excludes both the wisdom of the Scriptures and the lesser but still important wisdom of the holy teachers of 7 councils of the Church from the creation of worship, doctrine and discipline in the present. Not that we are to hide in the past and become irrelevant today, but that we are to exhibit to God and his world that we are members of a people who have received the Faith and have witnessed to the Gospel through space and time. We today are a small minority in terms of the total membership. We have only a few votes in reality and we are outvoted. And we are certainly in a minority by far in terms of wisdom and knowledge of the Lord our God -- the Blessed, Holy and Undivided Trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

A final word from Greek mythology. The god of chronolaters is obviously the Greek god, Cronus, who looses Titans upon the earth, and reigns in heaven, consuming his own children, until the great god, Zeus, banishes him to Tartarus. Likewise, the god of present-day chronolaters will be cast from “heaven” and with him all who bow before him.

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

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Prayer Book Society of the USA – does it have a future?

A personal explanation from the Revd Dr Peter Toon addressed to enquirers

My first encounter with the Prayer Book Society was at the General Convention of ECUSA at Phoenix in 1991, where I assisted in the production of daily newssheet(s) providing theological comment on what was being debated. I had only been in the USA for 9 months and it was all new to me. Then it was called “The Prayer Book Society of the Episcopal Church.” It tended to act as though it had real influence in that Church (when it had very little); talked as though, by a simple return to the use of the BCP (1928), the ECUSA would be cured of all its ills; and used professional republican fund raisers to write begging letters, usually emphasizing the moral failures of leading Episcopalians.

Since 1995 or so, a deeper appreciation of the actual religion, faith and morality, of the Prayer Book, together with a practical and financial realism, have descended, I believe, upon the Board of the Society. So exhibitions and massive expenditure at the General Convention have ceased; production there of a daily newspaper alone or with the FinFNA has ceased; pretence that the ECUSA can easily be turned around has disappeared, and politicized letters begging for money no longer go out. Further, the Board has made major changes by (a) calling itself the PBS of the USA and enlarging its mission to include all Anglicans, outside and inside the ECUSA, and (b) by including in its mission statement a commitment not only to the 1928 edition of the BCP but to the 1662 & 1962 editions as well. By the latter, it states that it is one with the majority of the Anglican Communion of Churches for whom the Formularies of 1662 are their Standards.

Uniquely amongst the Prayer Book Societies of the Anglican Family, the PBS of the USA seeks energetically to preserve not only the BCP in print and in use but also all its clear doctrines (not only those of “Mere Christianity” and the Apostles’ Creed) as the teaching of Reformed Catholicism. In practice, this means that the Society assumes that the ordination of women is contrary to biblical and catholic truth and order, and that generous and gracious patriarchy/headship is to characterize bishops (“Father in God”) in church and fathers in Christian families.

In fact, the USA Society sees the three Formularies – BCP, Ordinal and Articles of Religion – as belonging together and therefore does not campaign merely for the text of the BCP to be in use but also for the Formularies to be in place and their reformed catholic teaching to be known, appreciated and propagated. It holds this to be good and right in itself but particularly apposite in the USA situation where only by a return to the foundations of the Anglican Way will there be both unity of Anglicans and advancement of the Anglican Way as Reformed Catholic Faith.

This means that the PBS of the USA has the distinct task of witnessing within the “would-be orthodox remnant of the ECUSA” to the need to set aside all the major innovations of the ECUSA and return with zeal and humility to the Formularies as the foundation for a real forward movement of authentic Anglicanism. At the same time, it has the vocation of encouraging those who already use the classic editions of the BCP to do so with enthusiasm, grace and humility so that what they do and offer is attractive to those who seek to know God and worship him in spirit and in truth. Also it seeks to encourage all who use the classic BCP to have fellowship one with another and join in common mission and service. Further, it recognizes that a real sense of evangelization is needed in BCP churches – “let your light shine before men…” !

To assist in these goals the PBS of the USA uses a variety of means of communication – bi-monthly magazine, web sites, books, booklets, CD’s, messages by mail and e mail, and so on. (see websites for details)

The PBS of the USA is of course a voluntary society and a non-profit society. It has a Board composed of dedicated men and women and this Board meets twice a year and keeps in weekly contact by e-mail. It seeks to keep its administration to a minimum and so spends most of its money on getting its message out. Naturally, it looks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ to inspire people to join the cause and to give financially and practically to the mission.

Whatever happens to the ECUSA in terms of its relation to the Anglican Communion, the mission of the PBS of the USA will remain reasonably clear. To keep in print and in use the classic editions of the one Book of Common Prayer (with the Ordinal & Articles attached) and to encourage congregations & jurisdictions (in the Alphabet of Affiliations which now exist and will probably do so for some years) to use it both as their Standard of Faith and also as their primary means of public worship.

The PBS of the USA does not itself engage in planting churches or calling congregations out of one jurisdiction into another. Rather, it seeks to serve all those who desire to worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness and in spirit and truth, using the proven and sound means of the services and rites of The Book of Common Prayer (editions of 1662, 1928, 1962).

www.episcopalian.org/pbs1928 and www.anglicanmarketplace.com

P.O. Box 35220, Philadelphia, PA 19128-0220 1-800-PBS-1928

African Primates & Bishops in relation to Holy Scripture

A starter to Bible Reading and Meditation

What was impressed upon me in watching African bishops at the last Lambeth Conference and then African Primates at several Primates’ Conferences (that I attended as a reporter) and when hearing them speaking at various places, was their devotion to the Holy Scriptures and to a seemingly straightforward reading of them.

I know that many of them also use the classic Book of Common Prayer (1662 edition) in either English or in local translations and actually know large portions of it off by heart, even as they know Bible passages off by heart. Yet – and at first I found this puzzling -- when they were stating the Anglican Way as an authentic form of Christianity they rarely spoke of the Formularies (the BCP, Ordinal and Articles) as a secondary authority. This is not because they do not believe that the latter mark out the basis and ethos of the Anglican Way; but because of their high view of the Bible as God’s Word written, and of its unique position as the supreme authority for faith and conduct. For them firstly and supremely the Anglican Way is a biblical way! So they carry their Bible with them everywhere. (However, as the Province of Nigeria has recently demonstrated, when the chips are down and confession is required then they do declare their unswerving commitment to the classical Anglican Formularies.)

It seems to me that these Africans share with the first Anglican Reformers, and particularly with Thomas Cranmer Archbishop of Canterbury, a common approach to the Bible, which we in the West have generally lost and which would be called by present-day academics, a pre-modern approach.

It may be remembered that in the famous Preface to the first edition of The Book of The Common Prayer (1549) Cranmer actually defended the reform of the Lectionary and use of the Psalter as part of a major theme of the English Reformation – i.e., that the ordered reading of Holy Scriptures (one canon two testaments) daily morning and evening in the Offices is the center of reformed Catholic worship. There is no preaching in the Daily Office and a sermon is only required on Sundays and Feast Days at Holy Communion. So Scripture is independent of and prior to the church’s exposition (via creeds or its pastors) of the Scripture. The Church relates to Scripture first by reading it aloud and hearing it continually and constantly and only secondly in sermon, teaching and exhortation. Now the implication of this is most clear and it is this – the books of the Bible are not authoritative because the church or the preacher views them as such; no, the church views them in a certain submissive way because they are authoritative in and of themselves.

Here is what Cranmer wrote in Article VI “Of the Sufficiency of the holy Scriptures for Salvation:”

“Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation; so that whatsoever is not read thereon, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be though requisite or necessary to salvation.”

Here it is clear! Scripture is authoritative precisely because of what it contains – the unique message of salvation, which is not found anywhere else.

Now today most of us – due to our education, the use of modern prayer books and teaching from those educated in modern seminaries – cannot think of the Bible (one canon with two testaments) as standing alone by itself as a objective gift from God. We want to think of it as only being authoritative when we (as academics or parish clergy or preachers or lay leaders) relate to it through a particular way or means of studying, interpreting and understanding it. There is much talk of hermeneutics, the science of interpretation, at all levels in churches these days. This felt need for a connection to or an approach towards the Bible before it can be word of God for us is common to conservatives and liberals, evangelicals and high churchmen, feminists and “gays” – most of us in fact. This is so even if it is in the apparently simple sense (at the ladies coffee morning bible study) of “beginning where we are” (a phrase that contains much, too much to be explored here!).

Now in saying that the African bishops seem to join Cranmer in being pre-modern, I am not suggesting that they are less intelligent than American bishops or for that matter Asian bishops. Rather I am saying that they still have this sense that the Bible is objectively the gift of God, is a unity and is supremely the authority for the Church for it is God’s word written. First, it is to be read prayerfully and submissively daily & weekly within the disciplined prayer-life of the Church; and in this the power of its narrative and content have to be allowed to make their impact.

Out of this way of relating to God and his Word written these bishops quote and cite Scripture as God’s word today and then are surprised that many in the West cannot follow them or even appreciate what they say. This is usually because their fellow Anglicans in the West feel the need for a mindset, a means, a theory, or even a complex therapeutic need by which to approach and then read the Bible. They shy away from this immediacy of relation.

This presence of a mindset is seen clearly in the recent book from the ECUSA National Office, To Set Our Hope on Christ, written by a team gathered by the Presiding Bishop to defend and commend the practice of covenanted same-sex unions. The Bible is only Word of God here when it produces the novel doctrines that the team holds to be true for them. Regrettably, this general mindset is also seen in the approach brought to Scripture by the so-called “orthodox” when they find there justification for such innovations as the ordaining of women as pastors of Christ’s flock and the blessing of second and third marriages of divorcees. The “orthodox” come to the Scriptures out of the pervasive rights culture and as this is their mindset as they read the Bible so they find ways of hearing the Bible agree with them – and behold, the Scriptures approve women clergy and remarriage of all divorcees in church.

Now of course there are some African bishops who have developed the modern way of relating to the Bible for many of them have attended western seminaries and universities. Thus they display the same characteristics as their western brethren. No doubt their number will increase as western values permeate Africa.

But back to Cranmer and to the Articles of Religion VI to VIII ( and see also the wonderful sermon on Scripture, written by Cranmer, in the First Book of Homilies). May I suggest that as Anglicans we should consider the recovering of the reformed catholic way of relating to God through Scripture – the daily reading of the OT and NT with the Psalms and Canticles in the daily Offices [ but PLEASE in a sound translation!]. Let the Word of God be the Word of God objectively to us and let its content be transferred to our souls. Let us not seek to control it by our subjectivity, that is via our chosen means of approaching it in order to interpret it! Let the Scriptures be the Word of God!

The Revd Dr Peter Toon February 4, 2006 drpetertoon@yahoo.com

A Theological Conference at St. Luke’s, Seattle

Yesterday’s Formulation And Today’s Truth: The Pastoral Dynamics Of The Classic Anglican Formularies – A Theological Conference at St. Luke’s, Seattle - March 2nd to 4th, 2006.

Dear Friends in Christ, I am writing to invite you to set dates aside for St. Luke's first Theological Conference. St. Luke's will be hosting a Conference on The Classical Anglican Formularies - March 2nd to 4th, 2006. It is appropriate that this conference falls in March 2006 - exactly 450 years after the martyrdom of Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury and key framer of the original Book of Common Prayer!

This conference is designed to inform and to encourage those in the Anglican Way, affirming the basis of our Faith as Reformed Catholics. Our conference speaker will be The Rev'd. Dr. Peter Toon, a well-respected Anglican Theologian. Dr. Toon is the Vice-President of the US Prayer Book Society - see: http://www.episcopalian.org/pbs1928

Dr. Toon taught at Oxford University (UK) and Nashotah House (USA) and has authored many books, articles, and "tracts for the times!" He is an engaging speaker with a passion to articulate the relevance of these historic formularies to our current Church situation and daily lives!

The Thirty-Nine Articles, with the Book of Common Prayer and The Ordinal represent the historic Formularies that frame classical Anglicanism. In a season of great upheaval in the Church internationally, it is important to understand and to affirm the distinctives of the Anglican Way as a Reformed Catholic path within the larger Body of Christ. This is not to exalt one Christian Tradition over another but to affirm diversity within the framework of Historic Belief.

Our hope is to affirm the Anglican Way as an historic, Biblically-orthodox tradition standing in contrast to the modernism that has ensnared much of North American Mainline Church life. The presentations will be offered in a positive manner, affirming the rich Biblical and historic legacy of the Anglican/Episcopal Tradition.Leaders and lay persons from Continuing and Convergence Anglican Traditions are welcome to attend. The presentations will reflect solid scholarship. However, these lectures will be presented in such a fashion that even those with limited theological understanding will benefit. We encourage strong lay participation to engage the core beliefs of our tradition.

Conference Agenda -

Thursday March 2nd, 2006 (Evening only)

  • 7 PM Opening Lecture, Response, and Question Period
  • 8:45 PM Compline

Friday March 3rd, 2006 (All Day)

  • 10 AM to 12 Noon - Clergy Interaction (interested lay leaders welcome, by invitation!)
  • 2 PM to 4 PM - Clergy Interaction (interested lay leaders welcome, by invitation!)
  • 7 PM - Lecture #2, Response, and Question Period
  • 8:45 PM Evensong

Saturday March 4th, 2006 (All Day)

  • 10 AM to 12 Noon - Lecture #3, Response, and Panel Discussion
  • 2 PM to 4 PM - Lecture #4, Response, and Panel Discussion
  • 4:30 PM - Choral Eucharist with Homily

DIRECTIONS TO ST. LUKE'S - Take I-5 to NE 45th Street Exit, turn west at NE45th Street. Follow signs to Ballard. This arterial weaves and becomes N.46th Street. After SR 99, the arterial goes down a long hill. At the bottom of the hill, the road turns left and becomes NW Market Street. Follow this to 22nd Avenue NW, turn right. St. Luke's is two blocks down on the right. Parking in back or on street.

Click for St. Luke's Map

Local Hotel Information –

  • Holiday Inn Express 14115 Aurora Avenue N. (206) 365-7777
  • Ramada Inn 2140 N. Northgate Way (206) 365-0700
  • Best Western Inn 13700 Aurora Avenue N. (206) 361-3700
  • Marriott Courtyard on Westlake 925 Westlake Ave. N. (206) 213-0100

Friday, February 03, 2006

A Call to a special and valuable kind of Conversation for Episcopalians and Anglicans in 2006

(a short preliminary essay addressed especially but not only to those who are thinking of attending the conference on the Anglican Standards/Formularies at St Luke’s, Seattle March 2-4)

Serious dialogue on important matters between Christians of differing backgrounds and convictions can be a good thing, especially when there is mutual respect and a common submission to Christ Jesus as Lord.

Likewise a kind of dialogue or conversation with important Christian teachers and theologians of the past can also be a good thing, especially when the present-day conversationalists genuinely wish to discover that which the worthies of the past were seeking to convey by what they wrote. Let us recall that Christian doctrine is not like the theories and hypotheses of the various sciences. A theologian of the fourth or tenth or sixteenth century may well know (have known) more about the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and the truth of the Holy Scriptures than say a theologian of 2006, educated at Oxford and Harvard, knows. So there can be great benefit in seeking to understand and to converse with important teachers of doctrine, piety and holiness from yesterday.

In 2006 Episcopalians/ Anglicans in the West/North of the world, where regrettably the Anglican Way seems to be losing its true character and witness, are beginning to recognize that they can benefit from conversation with the mind and voice of the Church of England, when it spoke during a period of laying foundations and of formative influence. That is, they can learn from the English Church in the middle of the sixteenth century, through two of its Archbishops, Thomas Cranmer and Matthew Parker, who speak on behalf of the Church of their time through what we now call the Formularies of the Church of England and of the Anglican Way, that is through The Book of Common Prayer with The Ordinal and The Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion. Between them they were primarily for these texts in their published form.

Regrettably too many of us in the West/North have neglected, during the last third of the twentieth century and on into the twenty-first, to read or use a genuine edition of the classic Book of Common Prayer (first edition 1549) and we have found all our sustenance in one or other of the modern books of alternative services (e.g., USA, 1979; England 1980 & 2000; Canada 1985) and modern paraphrases or dynamic equivalency versions of the Bible. Using these regularly has served to cut us off from our roots and plant us in modernity without anchors to the central message of the Scriptures and the traditions of the Anglican Way.

Further, the Ordinal has only rarely been used for ordinations and consecrations and so we have lost a sense of the Reformed Catholic doctrine of the ordained Ministry and of the office and duties of priests and bishops (no wonder we have CEO’s now!).

Finally, the Articles of Religion have been virtually wholly neglected except by a few conservative Evangelicals and devoted High Churchmen. Thus a sense of what genuine Reformed Catholicism is has not been planted in our churches.

There has been no conversation worthy of the name between the fathers of Reformed Catholicism and ourselves as modern Anglicans. And we are the losers for we have lost much of our genuinely Anglican ethos and character, and often filled the vacuum with either a generic evangelical/protestant church growth culture or a generic liberal, ecumenical culture, or a mixture of the two.

The Anglican Way of Reformed Catholicism is based upon the authority and supremacy of Scripture, but Scripture as received, preserved, and translated within the catholic Church, not Scripture interpreted by private judgment. It is the Way which preserves the doctrine and character of the Early Church through its commitment to creeds, dogma, the Threefold Ministry, Liturgical Worship, canon law, government by synods and so on. Yet it does not neglect evangelism and the call to growth in maturity and membership as it follows insights from the Lutheran and Swiss Reformations of the 16th century. In fact, it has been well said that the genius of the Anglican Way, as it originated in the Church of England between 1549 and 1604, has never been to grow its own theological nourishment, but rather to prepare what is provided from elsewhere (e.g., the patristic age, the medieval Church and the Continental Reformation) and to set it attractively and decently upon the table.

Thus it is very clear within the Anglican Way of Reformed Catholicism, by a study of what Cranmer and Parker actually wrote in the Formularies, what are the essentials of the Christian Faith and Religion and what are the adiaphora, the important yet secondary things that are not essential to salvation but useful for the good order of the Church on earth in a particular place and time. Therefore, Anglicans speak strongly only of those things which are truly central and essential both to Christianity as the Faith and for the existence of the one, holy, catholic an apostolic Church. Anglican comprehensiveness (in terms of churchmanship) exists within this framework of moderation which distinguishes the major from the minor and does not major on minors. The Anglican Via Media, as it is called, is not half way between Anabaptism (radical Protestantism) and Roman Catholicism; but it is considered moderation in terms of knowing what is essential and what, though good and useful, is not essential.

On a wide area of doctrine and piety, worship and discipline, Cranmer and Parker speak to us and we hear something rare in our times. For example,
  • we tend to think of morality and ministry in terms of human rights, whereas they thought in terms of God’s order for man, his commandments and laws for man;
  • we think of the immanence of God first (his presence everywhere) and of his transcendence secondly and in the light of his immanence (so we tend to panentheism and pantheism), but they begin with the Majesty of God, his glorious transcendence and see his presence in space and time in this light;
  • we think in terms of equality for men and women in all areas life and regard “patriarchy” as a terrible thing, but they rejoice that God is the Father and that “headship” is given to the husband and father, as well as to the bishop, so that they shall exercise generous, gracious patriarchy in home and church;
  • we think of having a relationship with God which we can in part negotiate, but they submit to a sovereign Lord who by grace regenerates, justifies, adopts us and make us his children to display good works to his glory; we tend to think of the weekly Eucharist as a kind of spiritual fast food that we take when we feel like it or when provided, but for them preparation for Holy Communion in repentance and faith is necessary for right reception;
  • And we think that to read and meditate upon the Bible whenever we have time and the inclination is OK, whereas they recognized the daily duty of devout reading and meditating on Scripture with self examination.

To engage in this conversation we need carefully to use the classic BCP for a time (e.g. 1662 England, 1962 Canada, 1928 USA) especially the Daily Office; then a little later read carefully the Ordinal and Articles as we continue to use the BCP; and then ask the question; How did Cranmer and Parker actually approach, read and interpret Scripture and how does this differ from my approach or that of my church?

This is not a one evening dialogue but a steady conversation over months. But do not be put off. TRY it.

The Revd Dr Peter Toon Feb 3 2006 drpetertoon@yahoo.com

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Latin returning to Mass

By Julia Duin
Published January 31, 2006

More and more Catholics are longing for Latin, the language of scholars, Gregorian chant and the Mass.

Some say it's all part of the general trend back to the classics of Western civilization. All the Rev. Franklyn McAfee knows is that when he announced earlier this month he was starting up free Latin classes on Saturday mornings at St. John the Beloved Catholic Church in McLean, more than 70 parishioners packed the first session.

One parishioner, former federal Judge Robert Bork, a recent convert to Catholicism, got there early to ensure himself a seat in front of Marion Smedberg, a Latin instructor from Reston.

The others, fingering Latin binders with one hand and clutching coffee or a doughnut in the other, crammed their way into a small classroom to learn "Et cum spiritu tuo" ("And with your spirit") as a response to "Dominus vobiscum" ("The Lord be with you").

By the second Saturday, the class had moved to the parish hall for the more than 80 people who wanted to learn the ancient language. Their assignment: learn the basic prayers by March 1, the beginning of Lent. Starting March 5, the church's popular 10:45 a.m. Sunday Mass will be in Latin.

"I want to sell it," says Father McAfee, pastor of St. John's. "I want them to love it as [Pope Benedict XVI] has said they should because it's their tradition, their roots."
Fans of the rite, who include film star Mel Gibson, say the Latin Mass lifts the human spirit, evokes a sense of eternity and draws worshippers' attention to Christ.

The Latin Mass, whose use has only recently blossomed after two decades of being squelched by many church officials, was front and center last April during burial rites for Pope John Paul II.

"People who saw the funeral and installation [of Pope Benedict XVI] heard a language not in common usage today," says the Rev. Paul DeLadurantaye, who teaches an introductory Latin course for the Notre Dame Graduate School of Christendom College in Alexandria. "They said it was different and unique.

"People want to connect with the richness of the tradition of the church. But many priests are not well-versed enough to celebrate a Mass in Latin, and it takes a lot of work to introduce Latin to people."

But it can be done, especially since the new pope enjoys chanting the Latin Mass and preaching in the language.

Language for the Eucharist first appeared in Greek, the earliest language of the church, but by the third century, North African Christians were using Latin in their liturgy. The Western church, comprising what would become Europe, adopted the Latin Mass.

In the 16th century, the Catholic Church established the Tridentine Mass, named after the Council of Trent, as the official version. It has since been set to music by Faure, Mozart, Bach, Schubert and Palestrina, and many of its terms -- such as "mea culpa," meaning "It's my fault" -- have become part of the fabric of Western culture.

This Mass remained the normative rite until after the Second Vatican Council in the early 1960s, which allowed the Mass to be translated into the language of each country. The Tridentine Mass, although never forbidden by the Vatican, was squelched by many bishops until 1988, when Pope John Paul II ordered the rite revived.

Pope Benedict has said "great harm" came out of the speed in which the Mass went from one language to another in less than a decade, along with other changes in the rite.

"I am of the opinion, to be sure, that the old rite should be granted much more
generously to all those who desire it," he said in his 1997 book "Salt of the Earth."

A newer Latin liturgy, the "Novus Ordo," also came out of the Vatican. That is the Mass St. John's parishioners are learning.

Father McAfee says one parishioner sent him a $10,000 check and another contributed $5,000 upon hearing Latin Masses are starting up.

"The younger people want to do it more than the older people," he says. "Converts are very open to it. Again, they want the whole thing. At St. Catherine's [his former parish in Great Falls], I converted two Jews because of that Mass."

St. John's will try the Latin Mass starting alternate Sundays. Other Latin Masses around the Arlington diocese include the 10:30 a.m. Sunday Mass at St. Catherine of Siena in Reston, first Sundays at St. Mary's in Alexandria, Wednesday nights at St. Andrew the Apostle in Clifton and first Fridays at St. Anthony mission in King George.

Moreover, first-graders and kindergarteners at two Catholic schools -- Our Lady of Hope in Potomac Falls and St. Veronica's in Herndon -- take mandatory Latin classes.

"When you worship God, you don't want to use something as common as street language, so you need to dress the language up," Father McAfee said. "It's like glossolalia -- speaking in tongues -- or it's like poetry and prose. The English Mass is prose, the Latin Mass is poetry. You need time to enter the words to understand their meaning.

"If a person's in love, and they have a choice between prose and a poem, they choose a poem. The liturgy is a love song between Christ and His church."

Now-deceased Arlington Bishop John R. Keating wrote a pastoral letter on reverence for the church that also encouraged the use of Latin, Father McAfee says.

"The younger priests are more apt to say it," he says. "They feel they've been cheated, and someone's taken away their heritage. But they're not teaching Latin in seminaries these days as much as they should be.