Wednesday, April 26, 2006
We are hearing many calls to prayer by Episcopalians for their church, the Episcopal Church of the USA, especially as its General Convention on June 13 draws near. This should be in principle a good thing, but possibly it may become a means of avoidance and denial of the real truth, and thereby contribute to the problem that prayer to the Father is intended to address.
One thing is clear to the careful reader of the Bible wherever he lives in space and time. God’s covenant people are called daily to engage in praise and thanksgiving, confession and petition, intercession and supplication. And when the people of God in any place and time face a crisis (and there were many in Old Testament times and not a few in New Testament times), then they are specifically called to humility before God and to petitionary and intercessory prayer to the Lord our God, looking to him for the relief of the crisis and for a good resolution to the problems – see such calls as Psalm 122:6-7; 123:2; 130:1-8; 2 Chronicles 7:14; Jeremiah 6:16; Ephesians 6:18 & Jude 20. Humble,sustained intercessory prayer, especially in times of difficulty, is clearly the vocation of the people of God.
Yet with the vocation to intercession and petition, there inevitably comes temptation, and this varies according to local place and circumstance. At this time in the U.S.A., temptations are particularly powerful(because the world, the flesh and the devil use commonly held cultural, social and political assumptions in and by which to present their “case”)and often hardly discernible, except by those whose hearts are truly in communion with the Father through the Son and with the Holy Spirit, and who engage in self-examination before the light of heaven.
Here are some of the temptations that godly persons think they see – obviously there are others and many variations of the ones here presented:
1. To think that if we pray fervently and often then we can avoid facing the whole truth – as we ought to know it – about the rebellion against God’s ordinances, laws and will in which the church [ECUSA] of which we are members is engaged. In other words, we can pretend that the only real problem is the recent same-sex agenda, avoid the deep roots and innovations that lie beneath and around this hot issue, and keep this (as it were iceberg below the surface) from our self-examination and prayer.
2. To think of those whom we judge to be primarily responsible for the present “crisis” as the guilty ones and ourselves as the innocent ones [that is, they are the “revisionists” and we are the “orthodox”], and thus not to see that before God, the Holy and Righteous One, and before the Lord Jesus Christ the Perfect One, all of us are sinners and, furthermore, as part of the Anglican Way and local church-body we are sharing in its rebellion and its pride, even if we do not actively advocate its cherished agenda.
3. To approach prayer politically, on the model of the way that political parties approach making their position and policy known, and trashing their opponents. Before the holy and all-knowing Lord God, all of us, whatever name we give ourselves and whatever cause we support, are only at our very best guilty sinners, and only in Christ is there available for us a robe of righteousness, pardon and cleansing. In intercession, our only plea is the blood of Jesus, the Saviour and Lord; we cannot appear before God triumphally or as the Pharisee,saying, “I am not as other men are…”.
4. To think in contractual terms, that we can co-operate with the Lord our God by doing our part and then he will do his: that is, we can raise lots of dollars, employ the best communication teams, devise the best political strategy and ask for help from abroad, and then God will see our resolve and sincerity, bless and multiply our efforts, for we are right after all! Often the Psalmist tells us not to put our trust in princes or any of the devices of men.
5. To rely on our feelings and assume that because we feel good about ourselves and we feel the so-called “revisionists” are the problem, thereby to assume that God is on our side and will support our cause , which is – according to our feelings – obviously his!
6. To pretend, along with the leadership of the Episcopal Church, that ECUSA in all its parts including “the orthodox” is really only in a temporary state of upheaval, and is not in an advanced state of apostasy and dysfunctionality. That is, to engage in communal “denial” before God and with our fellow members and thus pray, as it were, only about on the surface matters.
7. To assume that some kinds of “sin” are worse than others, e.g., that sodomy is worse than adultery, that same-sex blessings are worse than blessing serial monogamy, that ordaining active homosexual persons is worse than affirming Unitarianism and denying that the One God is the Blessed, Holy and Undivided Trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
8. To think that because we have left the ECUSA and are in the Continuum or the AMIA or another jurisdiction that the problems of the ECUSA are not ours; the truth is that we are all in the same family and even if only cousins the pain of one part is the pain of all and must be addressed in compassionate care and intercession.
9. To feel that we know as well as God what are the real and deep problems of the ECUSA and further what are the ways out of them into genuine dynamic faithfulness in worship, doctrine, discipline, mission and devotion.
The point is that intercessory prayer, if it is to be genuinely fervent and truthful prayer to the Father in the Name of the Son and with the Holy Spirit, has to arise from hearts that are wholly open to God’s truth, are clothed with humility and repentance and recognize that mercy is not what they or anyone involved deserve. The example of the tax collector not the Pharisee in the Temple as described by Jesus is surely the model here.
Above all, the precious vocation of Prayer addressed to the Blessed and Holy Trinity, must not be used as a substitute for not recognizing the depth of rebellion and sin and for escaping putting right what can be put right (at whatever the cost). That is, we cannot continue in intercessory, fervent and truthful prayer to the Father in the Name of the Son and with the Holy Spirit, if we are not as we proceed ready to recognize and put away from us such errors, immoralities, and sins of both omission and commission as the light of God’s Spirit and Word brings to our minds and hearts.
Be holy for I am holy, says the LORD. & Be perfect as my heavenly Father is perfect, says the Lord Jesus. Imitate me as I imitate the Lord Jesus, says the apostle.
And says St Paul, “Pray without ceasing!” and begin now.
Let us hear of days of prayer and fasting being arranged all over the nation and within the ECUSA and Anglican bodies outside the ECUSA. Let the angels hear fervent, effectual and truth intercessions arising from the being-renewed, being-cleansed and being-sanctified Anglican family.
April 25 (St Mark the Evangelist Day) 2006, of which the petition in the Collect in the classic BCP is, “Give us grace that, being not like children carried away with every blast of vain doctrine, we may be established in the truth of thy holy Gospel…”
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Monday, April 24, 2006
It is generally true to claim that the mainline churches in the West – Europe and North America – are defining the worship, doctrine and discipline of the Christianity in a more liberal, tolerant, and expansive way as the decades come and go. So much so, that, say, the liberal position of the 1950s is the conservative position of 2006, and the conservative position of the 1950s is the extremist or fundamentalist position of 2006. Anyone who is 60 or more and has been involved in church membership can supply examples of many kinds after a short search in memory.
Again, generally speaking, this move across the spectrum towards more tolerant demands of faith and morals, worship and piety, has occurred as the West has adopted a variety of attitudes and practices, which have profoundly changed culture and society in a secularist direction. Let us recall that 1960 was the year that artificial birth control through the “pill” became safe and widely available and this made possible the new sexuality; that during the 1960s there began the tremendous push for rights – civil rights and human rights – which still continues with the result that the right language has become the moral language of the West; and that beginning in the 1960s more and more people went into therapy and society adopted therapeutic definitions of the meaning and purpose of life.
In order to retain their members and to appear relevant, the mainline churches moved with the times and began to talk about “family values” (instead of biblical norms); marriage in terms of self-fulfillment (rather than for pro-creation and sharing); salvation and redemption in therapeutic and counseling terms (instead of biblical and moral terms); multi-ethnic and multi-racial churches; the duty of the Church to open up all ministries and vocations to women because of their rights (instead of following Scripture); the Liturgy and Bible in accessible, simple and relevant language (instead of received, traditional language); personal holiness and piety to be more worldly-wise and expressed in social-economic terms; mission and evangelization to be less directed to individuals and more to social and cultural change – justice and peace issues, and especially to those who are the “excluded” and “outcasts” of modern society (e.g., “gay” men, lesbian women and bi-sexual persons).
Inevitably, the way that these churches read and interpreted the Bible, along with the way they received their original confessions of faith and standards of worship and discipline, and used hymnody also gradually changed, in order to justify or at least make possible the adoption of major changes in doctrine and practice. And this happened within a context of massive cultural and social change and so was less obvious than it otherwise would have been.
Many members walked away from the main-line churches into more conservative denominations, where at least some of the norms, standards and disciplines were recovered and retained and seen as important. But others just drifted away from regular worship and church membership. This is easily illustrated from the history of the ECUSA – its membership was at its very highest in the mid-1960s and by 1980 had dropped massively. Further, in the 1970s there began what we call the Continuing Anglican Church (now in a variety of jurisdictions).
What appears to have happened is that, as each change or innovation has come along, been debated (and often resisted for a while) and then adopted, the conservatives have eventually accepted it and said, “thus far but no further.” Obviously from this point that which the conservative (or “orthodox” or “traditionalist”) stands for is modified, often (for the long term) significantly. Then the next change is proposed, the next innovation is debated. There is resistance and then again it is adopted. Once more the conservative decides to accept the change but again says, “thus far and no further” as he also is told by well-meaning friends that “schism is the worst form of heresy” to persuade him to stay here he is and make the best of the changed situation (for after all, it is said, it provides new opportunities). So the conservative (or “orthodox”) of 2006, earnestly working for The American Anglican Council and The Anglican Communion Network, will be worshipping using the innovatory 1979 prayer book of varied services and doctrine, addressing God as “You”, using a Bible (e.g. NRSV) and a liturgical psalter which have been translated to remove patriarchy and male headship; being served by female clergy; encouraging children to receive Holy Communion before instruction and confirmation since children also have rights; having membership in a church where a large proportion of the Ministers and membership are divorced and remarried, where procreation as a purpose of marriage is seen as optional, not part of being “one-flesh,” and where “orthodoxy” is now primarily defined in terms of opposition to the blessing of “gay” partnerships and ordaining persons in them.
Thus the liberal of 1960 is the conservative of 2006! And the traditionalist of 1960 is either in the Continuing Anglican Church or in Rome or Orthodoxy. Indeed, perhaps, and if so by grace alone, he is in the Church expectant, looking for the Church triumphant. There is a possibility also that he may be found on the perimeter of the modern ECUSA in a congregation that, against all the odds, continues to worship the Lord using the traditional PECUSA Book of Common Prayer and its 1940 Hymnal.
One reason, I think, why modern charismatic, evangelical Episcopalians innocently and sincerely believe that they are truly “the orthodox” (even though by the norms of 1960 they are liberals and “revisionists”) is that they only entered the ECUSA in the late 1970s or in the 1980s (on “the Canterbury trail) and they accepted the then status quo as orthodoxy and sought to defend this against the advancement of the “gay” cause which had begun in earnest in the 1970s.
email@example.com do visit www.anglicansatprayer,org
It is common for authors to revise their books, especially text-books, for second, third and later editions. Then Dictionaries and Encyclopedias are regularly revised in order to take note of research and development. In all these cases, it is essentially the same book, with the same title, theme, structure and shape but with adjusted content.
We are also familiar with revision in the translation of the Bible from Hebrew and Greek into English. The King James Version of 1611 (known in Britain as the Authorized Version, the AV) remained unrevised until the nineteenth century when there appeared in 1881-1885, The Revised Version. This claimed to be based on a more accurate Greek text for the NT and to present a more accurate rendering into English. However, in the UK the KJV did not go out of print but continued in print with the RV alongside it. In the U.S.A. the KJV also remained in print with the American equivalent of the RV, the American Standard Version (1901), alongside it.
Then in the middle of the twentieth century there appeared The Revised Standard Version (1951), which claimed to be in the tradition of translation of the KJV, RV and ASV, all of which remained in print somewhere. Then at the end of the twentieth century, there appeared the New Revised Standard Version which also claimed to follow in the footsteps of the KJV, ASV, and RSV, again which also remained in print.
It will be instructive to note the differences in these various translations.
The KJV is based (a) on the Greek text established by Erasmus & Beza , called the Textus Receptus, and close to the classic Byzantine text, and, (b) following the originals, distinguishes between the second person singular and plural, always using the second singular for God—Thou art my God!
The RV and ASV are not based upon the Textus Receptus but on supposed better and earlier MSS, and they retain the distinction between second person singular and plural.
The RSV is not based on the Textus Receptus but on supposed better and earlier MSS, and uses the second singular (Thou/Thee) only for the Deity, not for a single human being.
The NRSV is not based on the Textus Receptus, but on supposed better and earlier MSS, does not distinguish between the second singular and plural, and seeks to minimize the “patriarchalism” and “sexism” of the originals by providing “dynamic equivalents” for such expressions as “Blessed is the man” [“Happy are they”] and “Brethren” [“Brothers and Sisters”].
Alongside the above there have also appeared, for example, the New King James Version, which is based on the Textus Receptus, but eliminates the second singular; and also the English Standard Version which is an update of the RSV but without the “inclusivism” of the NRSV.
What I wish to focus on here is that in each and every case from the RV onwards the translators were honest as to what they had done, explaining it in the Preface and also choosing a title that indicated what the version was. Since no official edition which is truly a straightforward revision of the KJV has yet appeared, this title of AV & KJV is not used except for the continued printing of the KJV itself in its 17th century text. And it is so used to this day. [By straightforward revision, I mean updating of vocabulary and expressions to take note of changing patterns of the English language. In fact, looking back, it is regrettable that there was not a royal commission appointed every fifty years from 1662 onwards to make such minor adjustments to the text of the KJV and keep it both traditional and “modern”.]
Further, the publishers and translators of the seeming every-ending flow of versions of the Bible based on the dynamic equivalency theory (e.g. Good News Bible) are also honest in their titles and prefaces as to what kind of translation and version is being offered.
This being so, I am led to ask: Why is it that several Anglican Provinces of the Anglican Communion of Churches have not displayed, and do not display, the same kind of honesty when they engage in revision or replacement of The Book of Common Prayer? Let us look into this.
Within England there were several editions of the BCP before the classic edition of 1662, a text which has been translated into over 150 languages, and is still used very widely around the world. The first edition was 1549, the second 1552, the third, 1559, the fourth 1604 and the fifth 1662, and the dates are primarily related to the reigns of different monarchs whose government had to authorize the text.
The BCP (1662) was used in the American Colonies until Independence and then it was revised to become the American edition of the BCP of 1789. It was not a new book but the American edition of the one book, edited to meet the needs of a new country. And this one book was again gently revised by the authority of General Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the USA in 1892 & 1928. So there is one American BCP which has had three editions, the last being 1928. (Many traditional Episcopalians regard this 1928 edition as still the true BCP of the PECUSA/ECUSA and it is still printed by Oxford University Press and other presses.)
In the revolutionary decade of the 1960s, there began in the western provinces of the Anglican Communion the provision of new forms of worship in contemporary language and with a new structure (and doctrine) and, after trial runs, there appeared in the 1970s and early 1980s a variety of new prayer books, which were usually clearly distinguished from the received, classic and historic BCP by being given new kinds of titles – e.g., “Book of Alternative Services” & “An Australian Prayer Book”. And the classic BCP remained in place with its ancient title and as the primary prayer book and formulary.
But there was one exception to this general rule in the 1970s and that was -- do not be surprised! -- within the Episcopal Church of the USA, which had been deeply affected by the social and cultural revolution of the 1960s. Here, after the use of trial services, the new book of varied services with new structures and varied doctrines was published. It was not given a title to reflect what it was, but a title to suggest that it was merely and only a gentle revision of the received American BCP (editions of 1789, 1892 & 1928). Amazingly, and dishonestly, this new kind of prayer book was called, “The Book of Common Prayer, 1979,” and all the publicity associated with it presented it as if it were a simple continuation of editions of the authentic BCP of 1662, 1789, 1892 & 1928! What had not been done in the provision of new Bible versions in the USA and Britain was now done in a new Prayer Book version by the ECUSA.
The protests from the Society for the Preservation of the Book of Common Prayer (founded in 1971 at the University of the South & Vanderbilt – and now the Prayer Book Society of the USA) were of no avail and, most regrettably, there was virtually no protest from abroad (for the autonomy of the American Church was over respected). So since 1979 the Episcopal Church has been based on a false claim and, to make it worse, part of that false claim has been the ditching of the classic BCP. So the ECUSA has in fact no genuine BCP, and its authentic editions of the BCP are in the archives (except of course that rebels continue to use it and so do the growing number of continuing Anglican churches outside the ECUSA).
Sadly, regrettably and again dishonestly, other western provinces of the Anglican Communion have followed the bad example of the ECUSA. In the 1990s the province of the West Indies called a book of varied services with varied doctrines, the BCP, and so also did the Church of Ireland in 2004 – and in 1984 the Church in Wales had done something similar. No doubt others will follow, but not the Church of England, whose ties to the Parliament and Monarch prevent such dishonest action.
As the BCP, with the Ordinal and Articles, is a primary Formulary of the Anglican Way, to ditch it and abandon it is in fact officially to abandon the Anglican Way in terms of basic worship, doctrine and discipline. Happily, in those provinces where this abandoning has taken place, there is a remnant which seeks to hold on to the historic foundations and to call the erring provinces back to their true standards of worship, doctrine and discipline. Regrettably, as far as I can tell, the American Anglican Council, the Anglican Communion Network and the Anglican Communion Institute have not yet joined in this call from the Prayer Book Society and others to rectify a great wrong and to make the 1979 book into what its shape and content indicate it is, “A Book of Alternative Services” alongside the classic BCP (1928 edition), which needs to be restored.
Visit www.anglicansatprayer.org ; Peter Toon firstname.lastname@example.org
April 23, 2006
Saturday, April 22, 2006
Evangelization is a certain duty, vocation and privilege of the local church and of each baptized member therein but it is not the first duty. Let us reflect upon this claim.
It is a sure fact that not a few Episcopal and Anglican Evangelical Ministers in the AMiA and The Network put great emphasis on “church growth.” Apparently, they see and feel the big emphasis in parts of American Protestant Evangelicalism on “growth” and this makes them feel and think that unless their churches are growing in numbers then they are not doing their job properly -- in fact they are not obeying the command of the resurrected Jesus (Matthew 28:18ff.). So the temptation is to do what is necessary in outreach to be successful – even involving dumbing-down of both the content of, and the demands of, the Gospel message (which is from the Father and concerns his only-begotten, Incarnate Son), in order to make it the more accessible, relevant and simple.
In fact, the emphasis on numerical growth is felt to be such a priority that the purpose of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church of God on earth is often defined primarily in terms of its duty to evangelize, that is to make converts quickly and efficiently and to grow in numbers. If there is no rapid growth in numbers, then there is something wrong with the Minister, or the leadership, or both -- for that is what the “experts” and “text-books” from “the church growth movement” indicate and such is the ethos of much popular Evangelicalism.
Let us pause here and go to the last recorded word of the Lord Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel before his ascension into heaven, his being seated at the right hand of the Father, and his sending to his disciples the Paraclete to act in his name:
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (28:18-20)
Jesus is the Lord, the Head of the Church, and the King of kings. To his Incarnate Son the Father has given all authority in heaven and earth.
Therefore, on the basis of this authority, the Lord Jesus issues his commands – to make disciples, to baptize them in the Name of the Holy Trinity, and to teach them to live according to the commands and teaching of the same Lord Jesus. All three parts are of divine origin and thus most important.
If we now ask, “What did the same Lord Jesus teach his apostles and disciples during (a) the 40 days of his resurrection appearances, and (b) the evening in the upper room, before his arrest (John 14-17)?,” then we gain the wider and richer context in which this missionary mandate is set. It does not stand alone but it follows on from, and flows out of, the relation of grace and spiritual intimacy which the apostles and disciples [are to] have with the Father in the Name of the Lord Jesus and by the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit who will indwell, lead and empower them. In other words, the missionary outreach is a privilege and duty to be performed by a leadership and a people who are united to the Lord Jesus by the Holy Spirit in faith, faithfulness, obedience, holiness and spiritual communion and who worship the Father through the same Incarnate Son.
Before the missionary mandate was uttered by the resurrected Jesus, we read that “when they saw him, they worshipped him…” Before there is any duty to evangelize there is the duty to worship the LORD God for man is made (see Genesis 1-3 & John 1) in the image and after the likeness of God to be in constant communion with him. He is to enjoy and glorify God for ever. So when the people of God meet in the local congregation as Christ’s flock their first duty and privilege is to enter into the presence of the Father through and with the Lord Jesus and by the Holy Spirit. (For Anglicans the classic BCP exists to assist and guide in this holy vocation.)
The high-priestly prayer of the Lord Jesus (John 17) makes abundantly clear that union with the Father and intimate knowledge of him in prayer and worship is the first and clear duty of the baptized, believing Christian. In the Upper Room Jesus taught that the relation of the disciple/believer to himself and to the Father in the Spirit (Paraclete) is the very foundation and reality of being a Christian disciple. Here there is growth, growth into the intimacy of knowing experientially the Father and the Son in the Spirit, and this growth is absolutely fundamental. “I am the Vine and you are the branches” said Jesus and we all know that the branches rely upon the trunk for existence and nourishment and purpose. In such spiritual growth another commandment of Jesus comes alive, “love one another as I have loved you” (5:12).
There is no need to press this point further for a reading of John 14 – 17 will illustrate quickly and fully what is the background to, and the basis of, the command of Matthew 28, the missionary mandate.
So the first priority of the disciple, the first priority of the local church, and the first priority of the Christian family, is to believe, know, worship and be in intimate, spiritual communion with the Father, through the Son and by the Holy Spirit. The people of God exist as the Body of Christ and Household of God the Father and Temple of the Holy Spirit, to offer to the Holy Trinity as the redeemed people of God, the worship and spiritual service appropriate for sinful creatures, made clean by the blood of the Lord Jesus, and on their way to the heavenly Jerusalem which is above and free.
And in such a relation to the Father through the Son and with the Holy Spirit, the people of God will hear with attentive ears ands obey with ready wills the command of the Incarnate Son to proclaim the Gospel of the Father concerning the Son, to make disciples, to baptize and io teach them.
So growth in numbers is inextricably tied in biblical doctrine to growth up into Christ the Head of the Church (as St Paul expresses it – see e.g., Ephesians 4 & Colossians 3). If evangelism is conducted in ways which do not flow from and back into this basic necessary and required growth into ever deeper communion with Christ the Head and the members of his Body, then it will be certainly either dumbed-down or not truly genuine Gospel work at all. Let us be not deceived and let us not deceive ourselves. Making “converts” in America is relatively easy, let us be earnestly pray that we ourselves are truly converted and that the converts we make are also genuine. Let us look for real conversions, quality rather than quantity.
A final word. The road that we as sinners are called to walk into and upon is a hard way entered by a narrow gate and this is especially so in the USA where counterfeits are all too common. Let us hear Jesus talking to people in a religious, church-going country:
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 7:13-14).
Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and our Father by grace, give us the desire to read, meditate upon and take to heart what the same Lord Jesus Christ taught his disciples in the Upper Room and before his Ascension into heaven; and taking it to heart grant us the will, strength and joy to act according to it for the true growth of the Church and for the sake and glory of the same Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Do visit www.anglicansatprayer.org and for the latest issue of The Mandate visit
www.episcopalian.org/pbs1928 (this issue has much on Cranmer from the present Archbishop of Canterbury, from the recent Oxford commemoration of his martyrdom and from myself on Scripture’s purpose as seen by Cranmer.
The Rev’d Dr Peter Toon April 19, 2006 email@example.com
A neglected, even rejected, cause of ecclesiastical apostasy - what was once called “hardness of heart” & “bondage of the will.”
But 9b-10 may in fact be a divine word to those seeking to understand what has happened to the Episcopal Church in terms of its moral and spiritual state before the Lord of hosts in 2006.
In fact, from a human perspective Isaiah’s mission as clearly stated by God in 9-10 seems one big mistake! He was commanded to make the heart/mind of his people fat, to make their ears heavy and to shut the eyes, lest they see with their eyes, hear with their ears, and understand with their heart/mind, and then actually turn and be healed of their apostasy and wickedness. This wholly negative result is to be seen, in the light of the rebellious nature of his listeners, God’s elect people, as an inevitable state of affairs. The prophetic word uttered by Isaiah would serve to crystallize the character and seal the destiny of those who heard it (cf. 2 Corinthians 2:15-16).
It is clear from the contents of the book of Isaiah that the prophet did not understand his commission to be that of blinding people with obscurity of expression and complexity of message. Rather, the material bears all the marks of a plain, systematic and reasoned approach. In fact he was accused (see 28:9-10) of teaching with too much simplicity and with a clarity suitable to the understanding of the very young. What this dedicated prophet did was to preach his message clearly and powerfully and, when resisted, to try again to make it even more clear. And, of course, the more this rebellious people of God refused to hear his message, the more they hardened their hearts/minds against truth and the way of the Lord. Thus the prophecy came true in reality as God’s people were confirmed in their rebellion and apostasy.
Isaiah’s task at a crucial point in the history of his people, who were God’s covenant people, was to bring the Lord’s word with fresh, even unparalleled clarity, but in their response his hearers would reach a point of no return – of total hardness of heart and of utter bondage of the will to evil and rebellion. The decisive word of the Lord was spoken and refused – even as much later the word of Jesus, the Messiah, was also refused (see Matt 13:14-15; Mark 4:12; Luke 8:10 & John 12:39ff.; Acts 28:26-27).
In our modern church life and theological atmosphere, it is not common or even deemed proper to reflect upon these themes, and to suggest that there may be a hardening of heart and mind with a bondage of the will occurring in people who belong to the Anglican Way (Episcopalians & Anglicans, clergy and laity). But how else can one explain the seemingly total commitment of large numbers of people within the ECUSA and other western provinces of the Anglican Communion to that which not more than a few decades ago was judged by all to be (at the bar of Scripture and tradition) erroneous, heretical, sinful and wicked? How else can one explain the virtual overthrow by ECUSA since the 1960s of God’s ordinances in creation and the new covenant for the right ordering of human beings one to another?
Hardness of heart/mind can be either total, where there is complete rejection of God’ known will (and this is where Isaiah’s contemporaries had arrived), or it can be partial, depending on the degree of such rejection and rebellion (a moral and spiritual state where Israel of old and the Church of yesterday and today often found herself).
According to St Paul in Romans 7 – 8 all of us suffer from the bondage of the will, in the sense that while we are free to pursue daily living and work and make choices of many kinds, we are not free to believing savingly on the Lord Jesus, repent of sin and walk in the way of the Lord. Only the act of the Holy Spirit, the new birth of regeneration, can free the will so that a person can then truly serve the Lord in spirit and in truth. This is why the Lord Jesus said, “Ye must be born again”, that is “it is necessary that you be born again” of the Spirit of the Lord (John 3). Further, only the spiritually regenerate can begin to love what God loves, delight in what God delights, and see things from the divine perspective. Even so (Romans 7) there remains even in the choicest of saints the diseased human will and it is capable of reviving and causing trouble, if spiritual disciplines are neglected.
So, where there is nominal religion, an outward profession of Christianity, but no internal regeneration and holiness, then there will be rejection of God’s will either deliberately and knowingly or habitually and constantly. It is possible, maybe probable, that many of those who embrace the new Episcopal religion that all love is of God and that God is the God of the outsider who welcomes people “just as they are” to be “what they are by orientation and nature” display a real case of bondage of the will – in this case to corrupt religion. For even if they have been baptized with water, they appear not to have been baptized with the Holy Spirit in regeneration and thereby to love God and hate sin.
Also, and perhaps more frightening, there is the real possibility that some who have been truly regenerated and illumined by the Holy Spirit and have begun a Christian life, have (for a variety of possible reasons) succumbed to the temptation of the world, the flesh and the devil and have embraced heresy, error, immorality and wickedness and done it all in the name of a “superior” and “enlightened” form of Episcopal religion. Further, as they have rejected the calls to return by grace to where they came from, so they have hardened their hearts and made it increasingly difficult to hear the word of grace and pardon any more. Such people then become devotees of that religion which meets the approval of their hardened hearts and enslaved wills.
How can one explain what has happened to the religion of the mainline denominations of the USA (and in Europe) over the last century or less, if one does not bring into the cultural/social/theological explanation this very (in biblical terms) common spiritual condition, which causes apostasy often and in many places. The bondage of the will and the hardening of the heart/mind are surely present among us – in all our hearts to some degree and (perhaps clearly) in the leadership of the ECUSA at national and diocesan levels, which presses on into more rebellion and apostasy, with its innovatory agenda, using whatever form of words and types of action necessary for this onward movement.
Against this form of corrupted religion, the use of political methods and strategies, the spending of huge sums of money and the employment of the latest technology and communications, will not avail, if the aim is to seek to cause hard hearts to be melted and softened by the sweet mercy of God and the bondage of wills released into freedom in grace by the action of the Holy Spirit. What is truly required, alongside the normal means of grace gracefully employed, is a total dedication to the ministry of petitionary and intercessory prayer – both for those whose hearts seem to be totally hardened and for those of us who, despite our desires not to be so, also suffer from a certain hardness of mind and heart.
What we must face up to is that even when there is prolonged, powerful and pure prayer offered to the Father in the Name of Jesus and in the Spirit, the ECUSA may remain in its selfish autonomy on the road it now travels on, the road of apostasy, rebellion and wickedness. Here celebration is not of the blood of Jesus which cleanses the repentant sinner, but of the supposed warm embrace of the inclusive Jesus who receives a person just as she/he is in order for him/her to remain so with divine help!
Isaiah preached and preached and preached; Isaiah loved and loved and loved, and also Isaiah prayed and prayed and prayed. God takes care of the future and all events in his providence; our duty and privilege is to be his faithful servants. So let us pray earnestly, and love sincerely and preach faithfully.
The Rev’d Dr Peter Toon April 19 2006 firstname.lastname@example.org
Do visit www.anglicansatprayer.org thanks
Thursday, April 20, 2006
“Revisionists” is a charge made daily in the Episcopal Church against those who support and propagate the new sexuality agenda by those who oppose that agenda (the blessing of homosexual partnerships). In the main, those who definitely oppose the revision in sexual practice and ethics by the General Convention represent no more than a tenth of the ECUSA and are connected to The American Anglican Council, The Anglican Communion Network, and The Anglican Communion Institute – with supporters from Anglican provinces overseas.
We need to be clear as to the revision that they oppose.
It is not the major revision in the doctrine and discipline of marriage that occurred in 1973 or the revised doctrine of marriage contained in the 1979 prayer book service of marriage. By this canon of 1973 and this service, the purpose of marriage was made to be primarily the mutual satisfaction of the man and woman; procreation was made an option even for healthy couples, and remarriage after divorce was made very easy. (To see the difference read the Preface to the Marriage Service in the English BCP 1662 and the Canadian BCP1962 and then read the preface to the 1979 prayer book service; also compare the canon as it was in 1946 to 1972 with what it became in 1973.)
It is the revision of the progressive doctrine and practice of marriage in the ECUSA from the 1970s (with a very high divorce and remarriage rate and a full embrace of the artificial birth control and a partial support of abortion [choice for women] ) in terms of making this 1970s doctrine more progressive and radical. That is, the present revision pursued by the General Convention is in the claiming for same-sex couples what is taken for granted by “heterosexual couples” – the right to sexual and personal fulfillment in a blessed relationship with the further right to have or adopt children as desired.
If the above is correct – even nearly correct -- then those who claim to be “orthodox” opposing “revisionism” are themselves “revisionists,” opposing a more radical form of “revisionism” in terms of sexual doctrine and practice.
So, when those who call themselves “orthodox” but are (as noted above) really “revisionist” claim that they stand for the authority of Scripture and the Lordship of Christ, they appear to mean something rather different than what Anglicans previous to the modern divorce and artificial birth-control era meant by this authority. And of course there is a different form of interpretation of Scripture in vogue now than was in place before the sexual revolution of the 1960s. Texts then meant one thing and now they appear to mean another!
Now if the matter of sexuality was the only problem area then perhaps what is stated above could be dismissed as exaggerated. However, the “orthodox” unashamedly proclaim their “revisionism” when it comes to other major areas as well. Let us note here prayer book revision, as a potent example. This was pursued by the Episcopal Church in the 1960s and 1970s and led to the 1979 prayer book, which replaced the BCP edition of 1928 (itself a gentle revision of the American BCP of 1789 & 1892).
In revising a prayer book we may think of two types of revision:
What happened in 1789 when the BCP 1662 of England was adapted for use in the new country of the USA; what happened in 1892 when the 1789 edition was gentle revised; and what happened in 1928 when the 1892 edition was gently revised. In all three cases the revision was obviously and clearly the revision of one Book, the inherited Book of Common Prayer (first edition 1549). In publishing we are all familiar with revisions of a text to take care of changing circumstances and needs.
What happened in 1979 when the inherited Book of Common Prayer was actually set aside and put into the archives and a new type of Prayer Book, one with varied services and varied doctrines, was put in its place. [In other countries there were also new books produced like the 1979 American but they were called “A Book of Alternative Services” and the traditional Book of Common Prayer was left in place as the chief formulary of the Church.]
The vast majority of those who call themselves “orthodox” and oppose the progressive “revisionists” within the ECUSA are committed wholly to the 1979 Book as their Formulary and worship book. Thus here again they are “revisionists” in a real and extended sense for they agree with the liberal progressives in the rejection of the classic Anglican Way with its Formularies and they adopt the new Religion of the ECUSA as devised in the 1960s and 1970s where “the [new] law of praying is the law of believing.”
Thus the “orthodox” of the AAC and CAN and the ACI appear to be not merely “gentle revisionists” but actually “radical revisionists”; yet, let us be clear, they are not so progressively radical as are those who develop and support the new sexual agenda, who also often have radical revisionist doctrines of the basic articles of the Creed, including the identity of Jesus and of the Holy Trinity.
If further confirmation of this state of affairs (that the “orthodox” are “revisionist”) be desired, then it can be seen in the virtual wholesale adoption of women’s ordination by the “orthodox” (= radical revisionists). There is no doubt whatsoever that ordaining women was a very major change in the doctrine and practice of the ordained ministry in the Church of God. There is also no doubt that it entered the ECUSA because of the political pressures and activism of feminists, who organized and worked for it to occur. And there is no doubt that it entered on the basis of human rights not on the development by the Church from Holy Scripture alone of a new doctrine of the sacred Ministry. If ordaining women is a massive revision – and surely every sociologist accepts that it is – then here is a further aspect of the “orthodox” stance which makes them clearly to be “revisionists” and at odds with the major part of the Church of God (from RC through Orthodox to Southern Baptist).
I have no doubt but that both the progressively radical revisionists are sincere and also the “orthodox revisionists” are sincere, but, as we all know, we can be sincerely wrong.
I conclude that what the “orthodox” strive for is not “orthodoxy” but that form of revisionism with which they are content and which satisfies their constituency. Further, I conclude that when they speak of the authority of Scripture and the Lordship of Christ they mean that it applies to all things, except the revisions they have adopted.
It is also my judgment that the some (perhaps a majority) of those from abroad who support the “orthodox” do not realize just how deeply the same “orthodox” leaders and people are immersed in revisionism – for to mention one thing only, other provinces abroad have retained their orthodox Anglican Formularies as the standard of doctrine; indeed Nigeria has recently publicly gone out of its way to emphasize its commitment to them!
The whole of ECUSA is in a really complicated and messy situation!
Lord have mercy upon us all!
email@example.com visit www.anglicansatprayer.org
for more about the revisionism of the ECUSA, read EPSICOPAL INNOVATIONS, 1960-2004, available for download from www.episcopalian.org/pbs1928 and for purchase from www.anglicanmarketplace.com
The Rev’d Dr Peter Toon April 20, 2006
On April 18, 2006 the American Anglican Council released its comment on the important ECUSA Report, “One Baptism. One Hope in God’s Call,” out of which, after debate and politicking, the response of General Convention of June 2006 to the Anglican Communion will be framed. The critique of the content of this Report is clear, and most traditional Anglicans will surely agree with the general drift of the argument that what is being offered and proposed by ECUSA is not truly sufficient to show that the ECUSA is intent on being a biblically-based, orthodox province.
Where it is disappointing to the serious-minded, and here it joins the very recent pamphlet, “Equipping the Saints” from the American Anglican Council, is that it does not tell the whole truth – perhaps because it does not want to face up to the serious consequences of so doing.
The AAC is obviously right to state that there have been too many “revisionist” bishops and theologians since the 1960s within ECUSA who had propounded their novelties and heresies with freedom and often with acclamation. It is also correct to say that ECUSA has often acted in such ways as if these “revisionists” were proclaiming the true Gospel. For example, the AAC rightly states:
In order to understand the [ECUSA]Report and its significance, it is necessary to frame its historic context. For over 30 years before the 1998 Lambeth Conference, some in the Episcopal Church began embracing revisionist theology that challenged basic tenets of Christian faith, such as the divinity of Christ, the doctrine of the Trinity, the Virgin Birth, the reality of Christ’s Resurrection, and the authority of Scripture. This slippery slope of heterodoxy went largely unchallenged by ECUSA or the Anglican Communion. In the wake of postmodernism, which denies absolute truth and espouses relativism, and the sexual revolution, the Episcopal Church gradually undermined Scriptural and traditional teaching on marriage and morality,
particularly regarding sexuality.
Yes, what is stated here is substantially true. The AAC is also right, I think, to take a further step and see a weakness in The Windsor Report:
One of the weaknesses of the Windsor Report is that it did not address the House of Bishops’ failure to affirm B001 (the resolution considered during General Convention 2003 which upheld basic tenets of Christian teaching and the authority of Scripture). Dismissal of traditional teaching and practice on human sexuality is a direct result of ECUSA’s abandonment of Scriptural authority.
Again, good people will agree.
However, where the AAC either does not see it, or is not telling the laity the whole truth, is in its total failure to recognize that the ECUSA legally and officially abandoned in the 1970s its received Anglican Religion by its doing three things, all inter-connected:
(a) changing the doctrine of marriage by the Canon of 1973 and by the service in the new prayer book of 1976/9; here the ECUSA lost its doctrine of Christian marriage and adopted a doctrine of marriage which may be Christian or sub-Christian;
(b) ditching the historic Standards of Worship, Doctrine and Discipline received in the historic BCP, Ordinal and 39 Articles of Religion, and putting in their place a “revisionist” alternative with an erroneous title – i.e., the varied services and varied doctrines of the 1979 prayer book (which is The Formulary of the ECUSA and with which apparently the AAC is wholly content) and calling it “The BCP”; and
(c) introducing the ideology of feminism into the Church through the changing of the language of faith and worship to satisfy inclusivism and through the Church being pressurized by the feminist movement to take women into the clergy – and again the AAC seems to accept this innovation as a scripturally required thing, when it is wholly opposed by the headship and patriarchal principles writ large in sacred Scripture and in holy Tradition.
In other words, there was a very major rejection in the 1970s of the authority of Scripture, as that had been understood for centuries in the Anglican Way, and also there was a very major rejection of Jesus as Lord of the family, of the church and of the ministry of the church. It was also in the 1970s that the rights of active homosexual persons were first pushed and debated in General Convention. But this innovation had to wait longer for acceptance by the majority.
In that the AAC says little or nothing about these mighty changes; in that its bishops have required the use of the 1979 prayer book as a Formulary and not always treated those well who desire to use the classic PECUSA Formulary & BCP (BCP 1928); and its bishops have worked seemingly happily within the new doctrine and (lack of) discipline of marriage (with the attendant acceptance of divorce and easy remarriage in church services), one has to say that this latest Commentary, as the latest Pamphlet, are VERY disappointing indeed.
When shall we hear from the AAC that the ECUSA went badly wrong in the 1970s and that in that decade was created the LEGAL foundation of both the revisionist theologies, liturgies, ethics, and the innovations in human sexuality. Surely this 1970s foundation has to be removed and a new one created, if there is to be any hope of the ECUSA being truly a biblically-based Church under Jesus the Lord.
The Revd Dr Peter Toon http://www.anglicansatprayer.org/
P.S. I do hope that in their kindness the leaders and senior members of the AAC will read my 64 page booklet, Episcopal Innovations 1960-2004, available in print or by downloading --- www.episcopalian.org/pbs1928 and http://www.anglicanmarketplace.com/
Friday, April 07, 2006
Yet any serious-minded, informed Episcopalian layman, desirous to be “orthodox” and to worship the Lord our God in the beauty of holiness in the best tradition of the Anglican Way will, I suspect, be VERY disappointed with the recently released second edition of “Equipping the Saints: A Crisis Resource for Anglican Laity,” first published in 2004 from the American Anglican Council.
Why VERY disappointing? Let me explain.
Not because what it presents is actually wrong. But because it avoids telling the more painful parts of the story and of painting in the dark colors of the picture to the laity. Put another way, it does not attempt to diagnose the serious disease and thus gives the impression that while there is a disease it is not of the very serious – even deadly – kind. (We may recall that much the same occurred with the introduction of the new prayer book in the 1970s – clergy leaders did not tell the whole truth about it and its contents, and eventually up to a million folks left the ECUSA after its introduction.)
In its survey of important and decisive events in the history of ECUSA, the pamphlet fails to note and underline three of the most significant, all of which illustrate the clear determination of the General Convention of this Church to depart from the received Anglican Way, historically known as Reformed Catholicism.
1. Though the claim is made in this document by the American Anglican Council that it is wholly committed to the biblically-based doctrine of marriage, it fails to state that the ECUSA, with its new marriage canon of 1973 and by the preface and content of its new marriage service of 1979, made this doctrine to be, at best, optional. In fact, it opened the door wide to very easy re-marriage of divorcees in church and taught that procreation is merely an option within marriage, and not part of what “one-flesh” means. This doctrine and discipline operates in AA Council/Network dioceses and parishes and a high percentage of the membership are divorced and remarried. The point being made here is that this real and unsolved problem with “heterosexual” marriages opens the door for the claims of those who promote “same-sex” partnerships as a matter of human justice and rights.
2. In the list of important events it is noted that a new prayer book came into use in 1979, and this is presented in such a way to give the impression that this was but a new edition of the one Book of Common Prayer, which had previously gone through gentle revisions (as in 1892 & 1928). In fact, it was not a new edition of an old book, but an entirely new book of varied services and varied doctrine and it replaced the classic book as the new standard of worship and doctrine in the ECUSA. Its adoption meant that the ECUSA had set aside the Religion it received from the Church of England in the seventeenth century and adopted a new religion – new prayer book, new ordination services and new catechism (new Formularies/Standards). This was revolutionary but nothing is said about it by the AA Council. This is amazing as also is the fact that many of the congregations associated with the AAC and Network use it, find little or no fault with it, and receive it as their Formulary. (A few only rightly use it as a book of alternative services and retain the classic BCP (1928) as their primary service book and formulary.) In so doing, whatever other statements they may make – as in this booklet – the majority declare that they have abandoned the historic, classical and biblically-based Reformed Catholic Faith of the Anglican Way in favor of “revisionism,” howbeit a less developed form than that of those who take the principles of the 1979 prayer book to its logical limits, the prophets of the new episcopalianism and of progressive liberalism.
3. Nothing whatsoever is said about the major innovation introduced into the ECUSA first illegally and then officially in the 1970s of the ordaining of women as deacons, presbyters and bishops. Anyone who studies how this happened cannot but be impressed by the fact that it entered because of powerful feminist pressure to gain equal rights and opportunities for women in the church’s employment opportunities. Of course, attempts were made to justify it from Scripture but this proved difficult, as also it had been when seeking to justify easy remarriage of divorcees in church. But the point is that this innovation most certainly energized the advocates of same-sex blessings and they too pressed the more urgently for their rights (often using powerful emotive testimonies at Gen Conv.).
What these three and other innovations (e.g., same-sex blessings) point to is the abandoning of the received Reformed Catholicism of the Anglican Way, and at a deeper level, the abandoning of God’s order for creation, marriage, and his Church. In that the American Anglican Council does not name these innovations and also encourages the acceptance and use of the 1979 Prayer Book which is the Formulary associated with them, one must truly have the worry that its leadership is not ready to make known to the laity what is the real depth of the problem, what is the extent of the disease, and thus what is the magnitude of the healing required from the God of all grace with whom all things are possible.
Therefore, to get the ECUSA’s General Convention of June 2006 to do a U-turn of some kind on same-sex matters will not really be to have addressed the real apostasy of the ECUSA which began most seriously in the 1970s. For the real story is that this is not a battle of orthodox versus revisionist in ECUSA as such; rather it is a call for ALL revisionists, of the intense and of the mild kind, to seek the old paths and walk therein (Jeremiah 6:16).
Here it may be added that the Report prepared by a theological commission for General Convention, One Baptism, One Hope in God’s Call, published on April 7 does actually call for virtually everything that the AAC and the Network has been asking for and it does it from the middle ground of the ECUSA (those who have been surprised and shocked by the universal condemnation of actions of the Gen Con of 2003). This Report may be called “mild revisionism” and such it appears is what the Anglican Communion is ready to accept as a basis for communion together in Christ. Whether it will get approved by the Gen Con is another matter for the forces of radical progressive religion are already planning its defeat.
But back to where we were. The laity were not told the whole truth in the 1970s about the massive changes in the worship, doctrine and discipline of the ECUSA. Let us not repeat the same mistake in 2006 despite the Report for Convention and the Pamphlet from the AAC. Let us be honest about the full nature of the revisionism in the ECUSA of which the same-sex agenda is merely the latest manifestation.
Do please visit www.anglicansatprayer.org for inspiration to pray for true renewal.
For a description of the major innovations of the ECUSA, read the 64 page booklet, Episcopal Innovations 1960-2004, published by the Prayer Book Society of the USA, and available to purchase at www.anglicanmarketplace.com and for download from www.episcopalian.org/pbs1928
The Revd Dr Peter Toon Lent 2006
I begin with two affirmations. 1. The Anglican Way has very much been comprehensive in terms of churchmanship for a long time, and especially since the rise of the anglo-catholic school in the mid-nineteenth century; & 2. The religion of the Anglican Way was, and remains, Reformed Catholicism, and if it ceases to be so, it has lost its purpose in existing.
It was not always clear that Anglo-Catholicism, which began as the Tractarian Movement in 1833, would be an accepted part of the Church of England, for it was first of all perceived as challenging the received position held by all – high churchmen, low churchmen, evangelicals, and latitudinarians – since the settlement of 1662 that the religion of the Church of England was Reformed Catholicism.
The C of E confessed that it was by divine appointment and providence the Catholic Church in and of England; but, at the same time, it stated that it did not share all of the religion of the Roman Catholic Church. It held that in the Reformation it had gone through a period of substantial change in doctrine, worship and discipline (as guided by holy Scripture and the example of the Fathers), and the result was a reformed version of medieval Catholicism – thus the name, Reformed Catholicism. Further, it held that the Church of Rome had sought only to perfect and develop medieval Catholicism.
The new anglo-catholic party in the Church of England, and then overseas, seemed to challenge the very basis of the Anglican Way as Reformed Catholicism by its revival of medieval ceremonial and ritual (via what it saw in contemporary Roman Catholicism in Europe). The extremists of this party sometimes wrote and spoke as if the Reformation was a mistake and the Church of England was built upon a huge error. Thus not a few of its ardent members went to Rome. However, those who followed such as Pusey, Liddon and Keble were able to retain their commitment to the Formularies of the Church of England by giving to them the most generous explanation of Reformed Catholicism (see the anglo-catholic commentaries on the BCP and the Articles of Religion) and, importantly, of adorning this religion with all kinds of ceremonial, ritual, music and vestments. (Not of little of the latter has rubbed off, as it were, on to others in modern times - thus gowned choirs, clergy vestments etc. worn by evangelicals!)
Therefore it was possible and most common right up to the last third of the twentieth century to speak of the comprehensivess of the Reformed Catholicism of the member Churches of the Anglican Communion. At the center of the wheel was the spoke – the Scriptures, Creeds and Formularies – and then there were the spokes representing the various schools, parties, churchmanships, and interpretations of the foundational doctrine, and finally there was the limit, the rim of the wheel. That is there was a definite place and point where the spokes stopped and where churchmanship ended. And, generally speaking, all accepted this limit as being part of what it was to be an Anglican Christian.
BUT, after the liberating effect of the 1960s, the advent of the human rights and the therapeutic movements, the so-called liturgical renewal, and the general liberalizing of culture and society in the West, the Anglican wheel began falling part. Attempts were made to change the hub and the rim in order to allow new and radical forms of churchmanship.
For example, at the liberal end of things, the Episcopal Church threw away the hub and replaced it with a new one in 1979. Other provinces followed a couple of decades later. In contrast, at the conservative end, in the Continuing Church Movement, an attempt has been made to add new parts to the Hub, including five new sacraments and the dogma of the Seventh Ecumenical Council, thus making it no longer Reformed Catholicism.
Looking back over the last fifty years we may say that from Anglo-Catholicism has come Affirming Catholicism (keeping the vestments but with women as priests) and Romanist-Catholicism (using Roman liturgy as Anglicans). From Conservative Evangelicalism has come Open Evangelicalism and Generic Evangelicalism (guided by the nature of evangelicalism generally). From Latitudinarianism has emerged various types of progressive liberal churchmanships. The charismatic movement from the 1970s sometimes got out of control, and liturgy went out of the window. And so on.
For the future, it is difficult to see what can unite the Anglican Movement if it is not the old wheel, cleaned up, polished and strengthened. The so-called “Instruments of Unity” may help and the proposed binding covenant of the Windsor Report may give support, but nothing less than the center of the wheel needs to be recovered and restored.
Meanwhile, let those who desire the majesty and authority of Rome cross the Tiber; let those who desire the glory of the Divine Liturgy and the kissing of icons depart for Constantinople; let those who admire the nonconformity of popular evangelicalism hasten to one of the many forms thereof; let chose who wish to choose their own religion and its content set up their own denomination; and let those who want to follow the way that progressive liberalism points create their own churches where they can experiment at leisure with innovations and their consequences.
Until the Lord of glory returns to judge the world when he will surely bring into real and practical unity all churches into the ONE holy, Catholic Church, let those who intend to be and remain Anglicans determine to be Reformed Catholics, with its genuine solid center and its real limits but also with its genuine comprehensiveness in terms of churchmanship. Right now the Anglican Way is more under attack from those within it but not of it, than it is from the outside!
To this end, I believe it will be fruitful for modern Anglicans seriously to study the classic Formularies – the BCP, the Ordinal & the Articles – to see what is the actual hub of the Anglican wheel.
To help with this may I commend two CD’s containing important books in digital form – 1. Twelve commentaries on the Articles – high-church, low-church & anglo-catholic. 2. Six commentaries on the BCP – again with varied top-class authorship. $20.00 each. Both from www.anglicanmarketplace.com or 1-800-727-1928.
Also, may I also dare to suggest that you watch/listen to four lectures on “Doctrine as Doxology” on the Formularies/ the Hub I gave in Lent in the mother church of the charismatic movement in the ECUSA – St Luke’s Seattle – which are available on DVD, CD and Cassette. See below.
Four cassette tapes of one hour each, $20.00 postage paid from St Luke’s Church (Episcopal), 5710, 22nd Ave NW., SEATTLE WA 98107. (206 784 3119)
Please send check with order and make it payable to the church.
Two DVD presentations or Two CD’s also $20.00 postage paid from www.reason-for-hope.com (Norlynn Audio Visual Services, 1858 Beaulynn Place, North Vancouver, BC, Canada V7J 2T1 Pay at the website in security – firstname.lastname@example.org)
Finally, may I suggest you visit www.anglicansatprayer.org and join in the work of intercession for unity in the Anglican Way in these time of pain and crisis.
The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon MA., D.Phil (Oxford)
Wednesday, April 05, 2006
The relation of God to his elect people, be it under the Mosaic or the New Covenant, is one wherein he is the LORD and sets the terms and conditions. This does not mean – as in a modern contract – that he is the Major Partner in a situation where the minor partner has negotiating rights. The truth of the matter is that God, the LORD, establishes the covenant and creates all its parts, including the response required by his chosen people.
Therefore what the LORD God said to the people of Israel, when they failed to fulfill their basic duties in the covenant is also what he says to the modern church, when it also fails to keep the terms of the covenant of grace.
Through Jeremiah, the prophet, the LORD God spoke with powerful and tender clarity:
Thus says the LORD: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.”
Today, through the Scriptures, as God’s Word written, the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, says the same thing to the church.
Regrettably, and disastrously, we learn that in Jeremiah’s time: They [the covenant people of God] said, “We will not walk in it.” (6:16) Let us fervently pray that our response today will be the very opposite of Israel’s.
In this text, the LORD our God requires of his people three basic duties which are presented as commands. They are:
To stand by the roads and look [at the signposts],
To ask for the ancient (but not obsolete) paths,
To walk in the good way.
The picture we need to have in mind to grasp these commands is that of travelers reaching a point in their journey where there are several possible roads that they can walk on and they have to make a choice.
First of all, they are to stand at the place where the roads all begin. That is, they are to stop moving and come to a standstill. Then they are to look carefully at, or to gaze upon, the guideposts and signposts that are provided for each of the roads. Certainly they should seek to avoid ending up in a wilderness or at the top of a precipice.
Secondly, they are to make inquiry concerning which of the routes is “the ancient paths”, the well tried and sure road to the destination.
Thirdly, having made the observations and done the thinking, they are to walk in “the good way” which they have determined is the road of the “ancient paths.”
The result of so doing will be that they will find rest for their souls both on this journey and at its end.
Now to the application of this word of the Lord to the Church of God, and particularly to the present condition of the mainline church known as The Episcopal Church of the U.S.A. [ECUSA]. This Church is certainly at the crossroads in that it has to make very serious decisions in June 2006 at its General Convention as to where it will walk in the years ahead. Recently, it has been walking away from, and out of step with, sister provinces in the Anglican Communion of Churches. In fact it appears to be desirous of rushing into the wilderness of even heading to leap over the precipice.
God the Father in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Holy Spirit calls out to this body, and especially to its leadership (bishops, clergy and laity), with tenderness and urgency. He does so both directly speaking to the consciences of Episcopalians and also indirectly through the Many messages from overseas bishops:
- Come to a standstill and ponder what you have become through your innovations of doctrine, worship and discipline and where you are heading if you do not change your course.
- Take a every serious look, examine most carefully, the biblically-rooted Anglican Way of Reformed Catholicism, which is your heritage and which you have been consistently setting aside for last forty years.
- Choose the good way, the way that has always been seen as good by faithful Christians through the centuries; that is, the way that is based truly upon the holy Scriptures as God’s Word written and which worships the Father through the Son and with the Holy Spirit in the beauty of holiness. This is not a dead, unthinking conservatism but a dynamic, traditional faith.
- If you truly choose, beseeching God’s help, to forsake the broad way that leads to destruction and to enter the narrow way which leads to life, then you will truly find “rest for your souls.” You will know what it is to be at peace with God, in a right relation to him and living in union with him daily as you do his will, and as you move to the final and eternal rest of the people of God.
And the final word that the Father through the Son is graciously communicating to Episcopalians is filled with poignant grace: “Do the very opposite of what ancient Israel did! Do not say with pride and arrogance, ‘We will not walk in the old paths;’ but say, ‘By thy help, O God, we shall walk together in those old and holy paths’ which have been hallowed by thy Son.”
In the light of all this, the best that any pilgrim and sojourner in this world can do is to engage in fervent, intercessory prayer for this people known as Episcopalians that their stubborn wills, moved by new and holy resolutions in their minds and by new and holy affections in their hearts, shall choose to walk in the way that is pleasing to the Blessed, Holy and Undivided Trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon MA., D.Phil (Oxford)
Monday, April 03, 2006
Composing Prayers to assist the faithful in their cries to heaven for the Renewal of the Anglican Way in America
The only way to begin to heal the sick family and bring order into the household that all can certainly agree upon right now is the ministry of petitionary and intercessory prayer, in the context of doxology and thanksgiving. For all genuine Episcopalians and Anglicans pray to the Father through the Incarnate Son and with the Holy Spirit and look to the Blessed, Holy and Undivided Trinity to grant them salvation and make them children of God.
Please visit http://www.anglicansatprayer.org/
We set up this website to be a means of encouraging Anglicans to pray one for another and for the renewal of the Anglican Way through the present time of crisis.
Already there are many collects/prayers in both traditional and contemporary English which are petitions to Almighty God for the cleansing, reform and renewal of the Church. Then there are several bidding prayers, litanies, meditations and a contemporary rendering of the Order for Holy Communion from the BCP 1662.
We are looking to add suitable prayers in all these areas and we invite you to submit one or two for consideration. Where it is necessary we shall convert the traditional into contemporary language (and vice versa) for you. Our aim is to have genuine prayers but of a good – even excellent – standard for we are addressing the God whose nature is the perfection of love, righteousness and holiness.
Send your draft prayers to email@example.com
No composer of prayers will be named for this could take away from the usefulness of the prayer as a means of approaching God.
May we all be given the spirit and commitment of petitionary and intercessory prayer for the peace and health of Zion.
Passion Sunday, 2006.
The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon MA., D.Phil (Oxford)
I often ponder why it is that some of the “orthodox” Primates of the Global S0uth happily support the ordaining of women in their own dioceses and provinces, and – in the case of the Primate of Rwanda – authorize the same in the Anglican Coalition in Canada (the sister network of the Anglican Mission in America).
I suspect that it has – at this stage – little do with human rights and much to do with the fact that certain women are seen to have ministerial gifts and do exercise them to the salvation of souls and the edification of the faithful. So they are ordained as a recognition of what God has done in them and does through them, and in context where tribal society has no rules which exclude women from certain roles.
(And we may recall this was also the basis of the ordination of women in Pentecostal circles many years before the human rights movement affected the mainline churches. Further, we may recall that women missionaries had set examples in Africa from the nineteenth century through to the late twentieth century of doing much more and having greater responsibility in the missionary than the home church.)
Patriarchy in African Churches is seen as belonging to the Bishop as “Father in God” (see the Ordinal in the classic BCP) not to the Presbyter; and the fullness of “Father in God” is seen as belonging to the Archbishop or Primate, who, like the tribal chief, is always to be a man and to have real authority. (One sees this generous but real patriarchy at work, for example, in the way in which the group of African Primates gives instructions and judgments to the AMiA and to the ACinCanada. They expect that their word will be “law” and will be carried out joyfully and wholly by their assisting bishops and presbyters in the USA & Canada.)
Only in Southern Africa has the human rights movement in general, with the feminist movement in particular, had a major impact on the doctrine and practice of the Church, and so in South Africa the Anglican Church usually adopts views which are parallel to those in the Western Churches in North America and Europe, and uses human rights’ language, as if it were the language of Christian morality.
As far as I can tell, the provinces in the Global South which allow the ordination of women (but do not mandate it) are not self-consciously affected by the human rights agenda which demands that women be fully equal to men, including job opportunities in the church. Yet this does not mean that they are not affected by such propaganda for they do have access to mini-TVs and radios which bring them news from all over the world. What this may mean is that they are not self-consciously saying – “Woman and man are equal before God and have equal rights in his world and therefore the Christian Bible must (if read aright) really teach that women should be pastors of the flock of Christ” – but that this message is there in the background, in the air breathed, and it may be making it easier for Provinces in the Global South to allow the ordination of women.
All this said, the question arises: Will the ordination of women become in the Global South – as it has done so clearly in the West/North – an open door through which further claims on the basis of human rights come rushing in? My thought is that maybe not in this decade but possibly in the next in some provinces! However, where there is an Islamic context, few “advances” in human rights claims in the churches will occur in the near future.
In Europe and America, there is very little doubt but that it was the pressure of active feminists (male and female) which was the immediate cause for the main-line Churches to move to ordain women. This has been well documented and is doubted by few. (See e.g., Mark Chaves, Ordaining Women, Harvard University Press, 1997) Theological reasons were given to support what was demanded and then achieved on the basis of human rights doctrines. Biblical exegesis was brought into service of this cause but generally it did violence to the basic meaning of the texts and the analogy of faith for the Bible is irreducibly patriarchal! However, stating this does not negate the fact that many women really and truly have believed, and been encouraged to believe by others, that God was calling them to a presbyterate ministry, and further, in that ministry they have done and continue to do real good pastorally. God is gracious and often is pleased to bless that which is contrary to his Order for his Church.
Because the ordaining of women was clearly an acceptance of human rights in and by the mainline churches, it is both to be linked to other examples of the influence of human rights (e.g., the right to re-marriage in church by divorcees) and further, with them, to setting the mindset where other more examples of human rights claims were seen as required by a progressively liberal church doctrine. (All this has often based on Process Theology where God is presented as in process and thus changing and so the Church has to discern where the change is and go with it!)
It is very clear that the demands and claims of the LesBiGay lobby have worked on and from the stage of Christianized human rights doctrines which were used to cause the entry of theological and practical innovations in church life from the 1960s onwards. It has taken longer for “homosexual rights” to be generally accepted than rights for “heterosexuals” and for women in the mainline churches simply because there is a greater social and cultural resistance to overcome when the topic is what used to be called “sodomy.” (See further for the details my Episcopal Innovations, 1960-2004, from www.anglicanmarketplace.com or 1-800-PBS-1928)
However, it is reasonably clear that the same kind of biblical exegesis and interpretation which has been used to justify the right to remarriage in church and the right of a woman to be a presbyter is that which is used by the advocates of convenanted same-sex partnerships. In the West, it is therefore most likely, in the ethos of human rights which dominates life in general, that a church which changes its received doctrine on marriage and male “headship” is wide open to changing its doctrine on same-sex activities and relationships. It has no leg to stand on to stop at one point or another!
In Africa, especially where there remains strong tribal feeling and where there is the competitive pressure of Islam, the likelihood of the churches which ordain women moving rapidly to blessing same-sex unions is highly unlikely in the immediate future. Yet the human rights ethos and agenda is a very powerful one and no-one has yet clearly shown where are the brakes to apply in order to slow it down. Further, since the Western mainline churches have changed their received ways of biblical interpretation and exegesis because of human rights pressures, it is difficult to know where this approach will lead and what it will justify!
One final point. I worry that the conservative Primates of the Global South do not fully realize just how influential and powerful has been and is the human rights agenda/ ethos in Europe and America, and thus they do not full see that their support of women’s ordination (or their non-opposition to it) is actually contributing in ways that are not too far below the surface to the erosion of the very Faith which they want to maintain and support! Again, not because women are evil and men are good, but because to ordain women is to set aside God’s will in creation and in the new covenant that man is male and female, in that order.
The Rev’d Dr Peter Toon April 2, 2006
Thousands wait with baited breath to see what will occur at the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in mid-June 2006.
Within the small but active Anglican Communion Network of ECUSA-based dioceses and parishes, it is commonly asserted that, if there is no real and obvious U-turn on matters relating to sexuality by the General Convention in June 2006, then the plan of the Network is certainly NOT to depart (and become, for example, like the AMiA) but to stay in place with the claim, “We have not left the ECUSA, the ECUSA [as an institution] has left the Anglican Communion.” And “We are the orthodox and they are the revisionists.”
The cry, “We have not left them; they have left the real ECUSA/the Anglican Communion” is not new. Members of the Prayer Book Society used it when they kept on using the classic, received, historic Book of Common Prayer (1549-1928) of PECUSA after 1979 when a book with the title “The BCP” (but in reality a book of varied services and doctrines, like the English ASB and Canadian BAS) was made the official prayer book of ECUSA. It was also made within the Episcopal Synod in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Making this claim has both advantages and weaknesses as a mindset and a slogan. Here are some of them.
- It claims the higher ground by stating that the “enemy”, the majority of ECUSA, has left behind the true religion of the denomination, going in search of a more progressive, liberal religion. While the majority has moved on, so the minority has stayed put and thus can expect support from other provinces of the Anglican Communion.
- It offers to the Anglican Communion, through its various instruments of unity (Archbishop of Canterbury; Lambeth Conference of Bishops, Anglican Consultative Council and Primates’ Meeting) the opportunity – in the short or long term – to make it clear by action or inaction that the real Anglican Province in the USA is that represented by the Network and the real Primate is Bishop Bob Duncan. This way the Network does nothing but waits for others to act, and if they do move in a positive way then the REC, APA and AMiA (for example), as common cause partners, can become part of the new unit as a province of the Communion.
- It gives to the Primates of the Global South the immediate opportunity to declare their solidarity with the Network and to declare they are not in any form of communion with the majority of ECUSA.
- It keeps all the salary, pension and health insurance benefits intact for the Network bishops and clergy.
- It probably also preserves the use of churches and graveyards, to which the laity have many special ties, intact.
- It saves all the messiness of moving out and creating a new entity. It is thus comforting to laity and clergy.
Weaknesses or Disadvantages:
- It makes the Network bishops and leadership to be persons without courage for they appear to be simply taking a stand and then leaving others to make and do the difficult and demanding decisions. They simply sit and wait, and meanwhile do not declare themselves out of communion with those whom they describe as “revisionist” and thus do not invite problems.
- It identifies the Network wholly with the religion of ECUSA before the advent of the innovatory sexuality agenda (say the religion of ECUSA before 2000). That is, it commits the Network (at least for the present) to the revisionist religion introduced systematically in the ECUSA from 1970 through to the end of the century – for the details see the 64 page booklet Episcopal Innovations, 1960-2004 (2006).
- It casts serious doubts on the theological and moral decisions taken from the late 1970s by those traditional Episcopalians (e.g., Continuing Anglicans, AMiA and so on) who left the ECUSA, not because of the modern sexual agenda, but because of other, more serious innovations like the rejection of the historic Formularies in 1976 & 1979, the ordination of women in response to the pressures of the feminist movement, the absorption of the divorce culture with easy re-marriage in church, and so on.
The point needs to be made and considered that the Network is right now not the primary loyalty of its ECUSA-based bishops and parishes. It is a secondary, voluntary association with self-imposed rules and discipline – as was the Episcopal Synod which promised much and delivered little in the early 1990s. The primary legal and ecclesial commitment of the ECUSA bishops and clergy in the Network is to the Church whose leaders they call “revisionist” and which we know as the ECUSA. Their whole standing and accreditation comes from the fact and reality of the ECUSA as a legal denomination. They all seem content to call themselves “Episcopalians” and “Episcopal” clergy and so they should for the ECUSA is still a respectable ship to sail in and work from.
However, what they seem not to recognize sufficiently clearly is that it is the ECUSA as an Institution through its General Convention, Executive Council and House of Bishops that is (by classical Anglican standards) revisionist and apostate. They are all part of this entity even if they stay away from meetings; and, further, and most significantly, since they accept most of the revisionist agenda and innovations from 1970 to 2004, they are themselves truly revisionist, even though they all protest against the sexuality innovations and a very small number of them protest against women as bishops (and also in some cases women as priests).
This point may be illustrated by asking these sample questions which all point to revisionism in doctrine and discipline:
Which Network bishop has publicly stated that he will not abide by the Marriage Canon of 1973 and the doctrine of Marriage in the Marriage Service of the 1979 prayer book but will seek to keep to the earlier canon of marriage in order to uphold a real doctrine of marriage?
Which Network bishop has publicly stated that the title of the 1979 prayer book is false and what the ECUSA ought to have done (moral duty) was to call the 1979 book by such a name as “A Book of Alternative Services” and thus keep in place the classic BCP in its latest US edition of 1928 – as did other provinces?
Which Network bishop has publicly stated that the repudiation of the classic Formularies (historic BCP, Articles of Religion and Ordinal) in the 1970s by the ECUSA and the adoption of new ones (i.e. whatever is contained in the 1979 book) was a most serious departure from historic Anglicanism and a rejection of Reformed Catholicism as the Anglican Way?
With regret, I have to say that the writing on the wall suggests that the Network, like the Episcopal Synod before it, has a bark that is worse than its bite. Or, that it makes claims of “orthodoxy” that are not verifiable in the reality of the nature and history of the Episcopal Church in last century and this!
I dare to suggest to Network members that it is not enough to proclaim positively that Christ is Lord, that the Scriptures are authoritative and that the Creeds are true, and, negatively that the ECUSA’s innovations in sexual doctrine and practice are immoral and that those who support them are “revisionist”. This confession is true but VERY insufficient for Anglicans.
What is required by the Network in order rightly to lead in renewal is to accept the fullness of the Reformed Catholic Faith which is the Anglican Way and which requires (a) the adoption of the historic and classic Formularies under the authority of the Holy Scriptures; and (b) the repudiation of the major innovations of ECUSA since 1970. Right now the doctrine of the ECUSA-based Network clergy and laity is by canon law clearly in the 1979 book – a book of varied services and doctrines – and not in the historic and classic Formularies, for the ECUSA has repudiated these.
I suggest that this real U-turn, which demands holy wisdom and courage from the ECUSA-based bishops and clergy, can only be approached in the spirit of submissive and fervent prayer – please visit http://www.anglicansatprayer.org/ for further suggestions.
I realize that in writing these lines I represent a very small minority of committed Episcopalians/Anglicans in the USA, but I would be most gratified to be shown clearly and really where I am wrong in my evaluation of what has occurred within the ECUSA since the 1960s (with of course roots into earlier periods). Please read EPISCOPAL INNOVATIONS 1960-2004 and tell me – available from http://www.anglicanmarketplace.com/ or from 1-800-PBS-1928, or by pdf from www.episcopalian.org/pbs1928
Thank you for considering these matters.
The Revd Dr Peter Toon firstname.lastname@example.org