Tuesday, May 30, 2006

On Loving God

Perhaps the insights of St Bernard of Clairvaux can help us. In his little book On the Love of God [De Diligendo Dei], he offers us a somewhat stylized scheme (to help us remember) of four stages in the growth in loving God; but the truth in it is profound and well worth pondering.
  1. Because we are sinful and imperfect creatures, the place where all of us begin is the loving of one’s self. However, in this position we will come to realize for all kinds of reasons, not least the good of human life together in community, that we must have some love for the neighbor. And, in seeking to fulfill this obligation, we will recognize that without God’s help we cannot really begin to live a meaningful life and care for our fellow human beings. Though we do not yet know this, the image of God in man is marred by sin and thus functions only imperfectly at this stage within us; but yet it is the means of inner awakening and desire for God the Father through Jesus Christ by the Holy Ghost, and so is central to our pilgrimage in love.
  2. As soon we begin to understand the need of God for the satisfactory conduct of our lives, then we will begin to love God. However, we shall be loving God not for God’s sake but for our own, for the help that we need and receive from God to live a reasonably satisfactory religious life. And, regrettably, this stage of loving God can be as far as we progress in the Christian life, even as we say our prayers, attend church and seek to keep God’s commandments.
  3. In loving God for what he as our Creator and Redeemer gives and provides, we may begin (through the influence of the divine means of grace) to see that God as the LORD is supremely lovable in his Trinity and Unity, in his Being, Nature, Attributes, Revelation, Reconciliation and Redemption. That is, he is supremely lovable not primarily for what he bestows, but for WHO he really is towards his creatures and for his amazing Beauty and Glory in his Undivided and Holy Trinity in Unity. In progressing to this state, we as baptized believers do not cease to love God for his blessings and gifts. Rather, there is joined to this basic loving a deeper loving which adores God for who he is as the LORD our God. It is a loving of the Father through the love of the Son and with the love provided by the Holy Ghost. And, it is never individualistic but always personal and within the koinonia, the fellowship, of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.
  4. The fourth stage, which cannot be wholly reached and experienced in this life, is when we love ourselves only for the sake of God. That is, we are free of all selfishness, and filled with the love of God both towards his creatures and specifically towards himself. And this profound depth, height and width of loving can only be fully known and experienced when the Christian is redeemed, that is when he is perfected and glorified in his resurrection body and a member of the heavenly society in the new Jerusalem. That is, when he is fully restored in the image and likeness of God, and being such, he is a perfectly appreciative of, as well as a channel of, the love of God and so he loves in the name of God, the Holy Trinity, what God loves. And he does so through, in and with Christ who is the perfect Image of God and the One Mediator between God and man.

One advantage, amongst others, of this scheme is that it integrates eros and agape, by seeing the latter as a fulfillment of the former. That is, it begins where each of us is at the beginning – outside the direct influence of the means of grace and traces our path into the ecstasy of being overwhelmed by the Love that in the Holy Spirit unites the Father and the Son.

The Revd Dr Peter Toon President of the Prayer Book Society of the USA.

Don’t trust in Princes [? Prince-Bishops/Primates ?]

A meditation from the Revd Dr Peter Toon

In Psalm 146 we hear:
O put not your trust in princes, nor in any child of man: for there is no help in them.
For when the breath of man goeth forth, he shall turn again to his earth: and all his thoughts shall perish (BCP 1662)

This may be translated from the Hebrew in contemporary English in this manner:

Trust not in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no security.
When his breath departs he returns to his land; on that day his projects perish.

Here in verses 3-4 of this “Halleluyah Psalm”, in the context of heartfelt praise of the LORD God of Israel [known as YHWH – Yahweh], the Hebrew poet contrasts the futility of human resources with the help and strength of the God of Jacob/Israel.

There is, of course, a proper sphere of life wherein it is right to trust in human beings – e.g., the baby lying in mother’s arms; the husband and wife living together; the people traveling in the taxi relying upon the skill and knowledge of the driver; the person on the operating table having confidence in the surgeon and medical team, and so on. However, in the case of adults, especially those who claim to believe “in God the Father almighty maker on heaven and earth…”, it is never right to trust in one or another human being totally, unreservedly and completely for the present and the future. For, after all, is not the best human being not only a creature but also a sinner?

Especially is this so when that which is in view is the doing of the will of the LORD God by the people of God – e.g., the returning to the keeping of his will, laws, statutes and ordinances from a wandering from them; or the recovery of the blessing and guidance of the LORD God after a period of rebellion and experience of his chastisement and judgment.

Not only in this Psalm 146 but often in the Psalter, we hear the call, “Put not your trust in Princes [human leaders].”

The human tendency in ancient society that was patriarchal was to trust natural and appointed leaders to get the tribe or people to the point where they needed to be and ought to be. And to trust them not simply as the agents of the LORD God, but as if they were capable, because of their God-given position, to achieve the goal themselves.

The human tendency within churches today in democratic society, where political thinking, maneuvering and action are dominant in all areas of public life, is to “trust” in the persons and methods that belong to, or become part of, ecclesiastical politics – for are not church synods conducted in much the same way as secular assemblies? That is, if a given group knows how to use the rules of order and to present resolutions and get the right persons on board, along with raising much money and having a good communications team, then it is believed that such has a good chance to achieve its aims.

No doubt, in modern denominations, one cannot escape from the political way of conducting business - after all, is not the ECUSA General Convention modeled on the USA Congress? Yet what one can do – and this is a massively difficult task for Americans whose mindset includes acting politically as the norm in church and society – is to learn to “Trust not in princes”, that is to trust in no man or human being or group thereof, as if he or they were ultimate Being, the One True and Living God.

To be more specific, in the present ECUSA situation, a word that may be heard – though it is a very quiet word – from the psalmists of heaven addressed to zealous Episcopalians who see themselves fighting the “revisionists” (progressive liberals) of the ECUSA is this --- TRUST NOT IN PRINCE-BISHOPS, NOR IN ARCHBISHOPS, PRESIDING BISHOPS AND PRIMATES.

In Psalm 146 the person who is counted as blessed by the Father in heaven is the man and woman, the congregation and the diocese, “whose help is in the God of Jacob” and “whose hope is the Most High, the LORD God.” That is, those who knowingly and deliberately are committed to and trust in the LORD God firstly and supremely.

The Holy Trinity may use in the days ahead the Primates as a whole, or the Primates of the Global South, in his sovereign providence as part of the reformation, regeneration and renewal of the Anglican Way in America. That is God’s choice and his alone. He does not need our advice or help in this matter for he is the LORD!

What the Father expects of us is to trust Him and Him alone as the LORD of heaven and earth, and to trust Him in the Name of His Beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church, and as the people who are indwelt, sanctified and guided by the Holy Spirit. To trust Him as the unique and holy Creator, Judge, Savior, and Redeemer.

By all means, let us do what we have to do within the political ordering of synods and conventions, but let us not put our trust in our ability to use or manipulate this system. Likewise, honor the Primates as is appropriate but let us not put our trust in their authority or their ability to change the Anglican system and communion.

TRUST IN THE LORD, THE HOLY TRINITY, AND TRUST IN HIM ALONE, for he alone, is truly worthy of our trust, as his forgiven, adopted children, being saved by grace and grace alone. And, after all, His love for the Church purchased by the blood of his Incarnate Son is infinitely greater than is ours.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Missional – is orthodox Liturgy intended to be “missional”?

Reflections from The Revd Dr Peter Toon

The word “missional” is much used by some persons within the Anglican Mission in America (AMiA) and in other Anglican congregations of an evangelistic and charismatic ethos. These persons are to be commended in that they wish to obey the Great Commission of the Lord Jesus Christ (as stated in Matthew 28: 16-20). However, they may be using a word in a too restrictive way! Please read on.

My Concise Oxford Dictionary certainly has the noun “mission” but not the word “missional” and so I have to guess what it means from the contexts in which it is used. (My spell-checker in the Word program also does not recognize “missional”.)

I take “mission” as used in the AMiA to mean “the vocation of a religious organization to spread its faith [the Christian Faith]”. Thus “missional” means to be turned towards, to be committed to, to be active and engaged in this vocation.

So when it is said, for example, within the AMiA that “the services in the classic editions of the authentic Book of Common Prayer [e.g., of 1662, 1928, 1962] are not missional,” the meaning here, as I understand it, is this: that they are not services which by their design and content are intended to be used [or are not suitable to be used] for what is called today evangelization or evangelistic mission. That is, for the initial proclamation of the Gospel to the atheist, agnostic, secular humanist, seeker after spirituality, devotee of eastern meditation, lapsed Catholic or Baptist, and the like.

Let us be very clear. By its very nature – whether it be from the sixteenth or the twentieth century – a “Book of Common Prayer” is a Book of Services which the people of God are to use when they meet together for Daily Worship (the Morning and Evening Offices), for weekly Eucharist (the Lord’s people at the Lord’s Table on the Lord’s Day), and for such events as Holy Baptism and Christian Burial. It is a Christian Prayer Book and all its prayers and all its materials presuppose that those who are using it are either baptized, communicant members, or are on their way to being so. It is not a book for the world but a book of and for the Church of God. It is a book for “insiders” not for “outsiders” although the latter are encouraged to look at it as often as they wish, even as they are also invited to read a good translation of the Holy Bible.

Thus its services are not intended to be evangelistic, proclaiming the Gospel of God the Father concerning His Son, Jesus Christ, to those who are outside the membership of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, be they Jews, Muslims or pagans. Rather they are the means used by those who have already embraced the Gospel and are maturing in the Faith.

To say this is not to say that the services of Morning and Evening Prayer cannot be adapted and made the basis for a service in which church members invite friends, neighbors and family members to come and experience an act of worship and to hear at its end an evangelistic sermon. (I myself have taken part in many such services when in the Church of England Ministry working in parishes and college chapels.) Also to say the above is not to say that we should not devise special forms of service for evangelistic use outside the normal services of the people of God. This has been done often especially in parish missions, and outreach programs, so-called.

The substantial point I am making is that generally speaking the Services in The Book of Common Prayer are for the people of God and their purpose is twofold –

(a) to provide the means whereby they can worship the LORD, the Holy Trinity, in spirit and in truth and in the beauty of holiness. To adore and worship God is the highest and purest vocation of man, and this vocation precedes the vocation to engage in mission. And to do this in mutual koinonia is a taste of heaven on earth;

(b) to provide the means of edification, for maturing in the knowledge and service of God. Services that are well constructed and contain godly doctrine (as those in the classic BCP) build up the people of God for their service of God in his Church and world and send them forth as pilgrims and sojourners on their way to heaven.

The people of God are to go out from these services as the “sent” people of God, sent by the Lord Christ empowered by His Spirit in “mission.”

Now “mission” as used in sacred Tradition, solidly based upon the Bible, is a very large concept. Doctors of the Church have spoken of the Missio Dei. By this phrase they mean the Mission which begins within the inner life of the Blessed Trinity and leads to and involves the Mission of the Son, descending from glory to this earth, becoming Incarnate by taking our human nature and making it his own, and his work of revelation, salvation and redemption in this world. Into this massive and glorious mission the Church is called as “a co-worker together with God” as it is indwelt and guided by the Holy Spirit; but it is always first and foremost the Mission of the Holy Trinity by whom the elect are being saved, sanctified and glorified and also by whom the whole cosmos is to be transfigured and regenerated.

In this theological and broad Biblical sense – and not in the restrictive “missional” sense of current times – the whole Liturgy both proclaims and serves the Missio Dei! In fact the biblical presentation of the work of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, is that of one great mission of descent and ascent, of revelation and illumination, of salvation and redemption, of sanctification and deification, of glory and doxology.

So The Book of Common Prayer in its authentic and classic editions is wonderfully associated with the Missio Dei, and those who use it aright and in godly sincerity (in its classic English or in a contemporary English form) and become co-workers together with God will be missional in the modern sense but engaged also in mission in the larger and thoroughly biblical sense!

Ascensiontide, 2006. visit www.anglicansatprayer.org

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Bishop Duncan on “The Windsor Report”

The Revd Dr Peter Toon, President of the Prayer Book Society

In his opinion-piece in the London Church Times on May 26, Bishop Robert Duncan of the ECUSA and of The Network rightly raised some serious questions about The Windsor Report of 2004 (from the commission that reported to the Archbishop of Canterbury on the development of doctrine and practice in sexuality in North America).

In my judgment, this Report has been received with too much approbation by most sections of the Anglican Family (often one suspects without serious study of it) and its recommendations are being treated by too many as of they had the character of divine commands – one exception to this general acceptance is the critical approach of the archdiocese of Sydney in Australia. One may even claim that none of the recommendations can be clearly demonstrated to be based wholly on Scriptural norms and principles, for they all appear to have the character of presenting unity as an end in itself and not unity in biblical, orthodox truth as the goal.

Bishop Duncan’s first point is that the Report does not adequately note the serious doctrinal errors that lay behind and underneath the recent sexual innovations. I have long said that the questions to ask in the ECUSA are these: Who is God? Who is Jesus? And What is salvation? On all three counts one finds that most if not all of those who promote and support the sexual innovations do not stand on the firm ground of orthodox, historical, biblical Trinitarian theism. As I demonstrate in my Episcopal Innovations 1960-2004, the recent sexual agenda did not come from nowhere! (visit www.anglicanmarketplace.com and www.episcopalian.org/pbs1928)

His second point is that there is no reflection on important areas such as the Sacrament of Holy Communion. Certainly, there is serious impairment and broken Eucharistic communion right now within the ECUSA and within the Anglican Family and while some of this is due to the innovation of the ordination of women, most of it is due to the advancement of the novel sexual agenda. But nothing on this!

The third point concerns adiaphora – those things in church life that are not essential, that are not required by Holy Scripture, but which may be and can be helpful for the worship of God and service of him in his church and world. He rightly makes the point that what were regarded as essentials, based solidly on Scripture, not too long ago, are now seen as not so and that what were regarded as secondary and non-essentials, or even errors, have been made into essentials. Nowhere is this better illustrated than in the exaltation of the so-called “baptismal covenant” with its commitment to “peace and justice” in the 1979 prayer book, into the position of being the litmus test for all worship, doctrine, ethics and ministry ( see the Blue Book for the 2006 General Convention for many examples). Herein lies the claimed basis for much of the new Episcopal religion of the ECUSA.

His fourth point relates to the raw or generous exercise of power by dominant groups in church life. We all know that power has been exercised in the ECUSA since the 1970s first to marginalize those who stood for the received religion of the PECUSA, and then more recently for those who do not accept women’s ordination, and even more recently for those who do not accept the ordination of actively gay persons and the blessing of same-sex persons. There has been little or no generosity by the progressive liberals of ECUSA since the 1970s towards those whom we may call traditional in faith and practice.

Bishop Duncan’s fifth point may be connected to his first. He sees little indication that the recommendations of the Report are truly scripturally based and that they were arrived at by careful engagement with the same Holy Scripture. It may be claimed that they are in the best sense pragmatic and utilitarian, well meaning and well meant but below the high mark of sacred Scripture’s standards and based more on the best worldly-type of understanding and problem solving.

His conclusion is: “WHILE we wrestle with these questions, let me conclude by suggesting that the report provides only the beginning of a path toward which we could move together. If the North American Anglican leadership will adopt the suggested moratoria on same-sex blessings and ordinations; if those who participated in the New Hampshire consecration, such as the Most Revd Frank Griswold, remove themselves from the international councils of the Communion; and if there is an expression of deep regret about what transpired in Minneapolis - these actions will represent a movement in the right direction.”

Yes, he is right. But only as he rightly says “a movement in the right direction” for if they do the things he lists this is not a U-turn back to the full Orthodoxy of the Anglican Way or a digging again of the wells of Abraham to drink the pure water of Gods’ provision. It is merely the beginning and before them is a long and hard road to walk, in order to walk in the Light, with the Lord Jesus and in the Holy Spirit, towards the glory of the Father.

Let us pray that Bishop Duncan will be given great wisdom and courage to guide his movement aright in the months ahead. One thing is very clear – he has a very tough, even an impossible vocation in the present apostate state of much of western Anglicanism.

(do visit www.anglicansatprayer.org )

May 27, 2006

Friday, May 26, 2006


Reflections from the Rev’d Dr Peter Toon, President of the Prayer Book Society

Before each General Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church, there appears what has for a long time been called the Blue Book (although in 2006 it has a green cover). The current one contains Reports of the Committees, Commissions, Agencies and Boards of the General Convention of the ECUSA, which is scheduled to meet in Columbus, Ohio, June 13-21, 2006. This year its title is: come and grow, 2006. (all lower case)

Since the last General Convention in Minneapolis, Minnesota, three years ago, there has been unceasing talk and debate both in the USA and abroad about two of the decisions of that Convention – the blessing of same-sex partnerships and the ordaining/consecrating of a man as bishop living in such a relation. Not a few people have left the Episcopal Church over the issue and various overseas bishops and archbishops have declared themselves out of Eucharistic communion with the ECUSA because of it. Further, an official report, The Windsor Report, was commissioned by the Archbishop of Canterbury to look into the whole business and amongst it recommendations is the expressing of regret by the Convention for its advance into innovative sexual doctrine and practice.

So it seems that the whole world is watching to see whether or not the Convention does express regret and commit itself to restrain itself when it comes to innovation in Christian doctrine, ethics and liturgy in the present and future.

Now back to the Blue Book.

If you look through its large 460 pages of small print you will find no reports, studies, reflections or resolutions that deal with same-sex stuff or with the suitability of persons in same-sex partnerships to be made priests or bishops of the church. It appears on first sight that the subject is not important to the ECUSA at this time, even if it has been front-page news for the secular and religious press in the USA and around the world – including Muslim lands.

However, what it does have is a one page statement (page 407) under the heading: “An Interim Report of the Special Commission of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.” The purpose of this Commission is to help the ECUSA respond to the Windsor Report and other documents from the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates Meeting. Known as the SCECAC it has produced a preliminary Report, which is available on line and which is intended to guide the framing of resolutions concerning the relation of the ECUSA to the Anglican Communion in general and the Windsor Report in particular. By ECUSA standards it is a conservative report and if followed will cause the Convention to vote to do what is necessary to stay on acceptable terms within the Anglican Communion.

So, without the same-sex stuff, does the Blue Book present to us a Church that is “orthodox”? This is a question worth asking, for a lot of Episcopalians in the USA and Anglicans abroad appear to hold that if the ECUSA does a U-turn on its innovative sexuality stuff and returns to its former position before this was implemented, then it will be “orthodox” again.

One does not need a Ph D in English and another in Theology to see that what is presented in the Reports is very much a liberal, progressive agenda of a very liberal mainline USA denomination – except perhaps with reference to the Pension Program of the ECUSA which apparently works according to the highest principles of capitalism to bring rewards for ECUSA retirees.

The “Anglican and International Peace with Justice Commission Report “ (pages 73ff.) is very much a statement of “left-wing” political theory and aims which are dressed in “God-language.” And it is a salutary reminder that the commitment in the “baptismal covenant” of the 1979 prayer book to “peace and justice” was originally intended and remains a commitment to radical politics to seek to bring the secularized kingdom of God on earth now.

The “Liturgy and Music Report” (pages 130ff) has a series of proposals for new liturgy – providing “Rites as Related to Stages in Human Development” (including prayer before a first teenage-date!) and “Prayer and a Rite for Remembering the Departed.” In these, one is at the boundaries of what has been presented over the centuries as Anglican Prayer in the Anglican Way, for the basic assumptions of the prayers are often outside biblical revelation, and further the methods of addressing Deity do not apparently assume that the Recipient is the Triune LORD God of biblical theology. One may observe that Laity, whose prayer-life has been molded by their habitual use of traditional Liturgy, can pray ex tempore in more meaningful, theologically acceptable and reverent ways than is found in the content and forms of language of many of these prayers.

The Report from the “Committee on the Status of Women” (pp.347ff) reveals very clearly the radical agenda of the Episcopal Church in terms, for example, of the hatred of biblical headship ( called “patriarchalism”), the total commitment to inclusive and expanded language in addressing Deity contrary to biblical revelation and holy tradition, justice for women in terms of “reproductive health,” and full rights for women in the leadership of the Church (there are, we are told, 1700 full time women priests now and many part-time but there are few in positions of leadership). “When we take seriously the elevation of women to the fullness of humanity in God’s image, we believe the world will be a more peaceful and just place…”

One major theme in various reports is the absolute centrality of the Baptismal Covenant (found as the center-piece in the 1979 prayer book baptismal service). This is seen as fundamental to all that the ECUSA does at the local, diocesan and national level in terms of worship, mission and justice in church and world. It commits the ECUSA to a radical agenda, which interprets the Christian religion very much in terms of a movement within this world to bring improvements in living conditions, opportunities and rights for people everywhere. It is an agenda informed by the various liberation movements since the 1960s and by the great emphasis in the West upon rights and self-fulfillment, and God is adopted, as it were, to lead this revolution.

Judged by what is in the Blue Book, and without any reference to the whole sexual agenda which is absent from it, it is most difficult to see the ECUSA as an orthodox Church, built upon the revealed Truth given in Scripture, following the tradition of doctrine within the classic Anglican Formularies, worshipping the LORD God as the Holy Trinity and in spirit and in truth, and serving His kingdom – his heavenly kingdom – in this present evil age and secularist culture. Its official formulary, the 1979 Prayer Book, is being constantly added to through texts in “Enriching our Worship” and these additions cause the basis of Episcopalianism to become more radical and serve to take the ECUSA more obviously away from orthodox Anglican Faith and Worship - and, of course, this is where the current leadership wish it to go, for they see themselves as prophets and ambassadors of a new, post-modern form of religion!

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

Reminding ourselves of what the Windsor Report requires of ECUSA

The Windsor Report of 2004 is not Holy Scripture and it is not the Declaration of an Ecumenical Council, but its recommendations are being treated as if they had dropped directly from heaven. In reality, it is only the hurried work of an Anglican Commission/Working Party; but, it has been given unique status by being received and commended by three of the so-called “Instruments of Unity” of the Anglican family of provinces – Canterbury, ACC & Primates’ Meeting. Its approach to unity within the Anglican family of provinces seems to be that of unity for unity’s sake and unity for old-time sake – for it is unlikely that unity for truth’s sake (unity based on revealed truth) is possible now or in the near future.

For the Episcopal Church of the USA what the Report recommends that it does has become what the Anglican Communion of Churches/Provinces is now expecting it will do – and if it does not, then this will be seen as a sign that the ECUSA is intent on walking alone, bearing the Anglican name but walking on its own self-created path.

It is in section D of the Report that what is required of the ECUSA is presented. It is noted that “the Episcopal Church has caused deep offence to many faithful Anglican Christians both in its own church and in other parts of the Communion” (section 127) by consecrating Gene Robinson. And it is stated, “Mindful of the hurt and offence that have resulted from recent events (in ECUSA), and yet also mindful of the imperatives of Communion – the repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation enjoined on us by Christ - ….we recommend:

the Episcopal Church (USA) be invited to express its regret that the proper constraints of the bonds of affection were breached in the events surrounding the election and consecration of a bishop for the See of New Hampshire, and for the consequences that followed, and that such an expression of regret would represent the desire of the Episcopal Church (USA) to remain within the Communion.
Pending such expression of regret, those who took part as consecrators of Gene Robinson should be invited to consider in all conscience whether they should with draw themselves from representative functions in the Anglican Communion…..
The Episcopal Church (USA) be invited to effect a moratorium on the election and consent to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate who is living in a same gender union until some new consensus in the Anglican Communion emerges. [section 134]

(Already in statements from the House of Bishops and within official papers produced for the upcoming General Convention, “regret” has been expressed, and it is highly likely that – if only in a carefully crafted political form – regret will be expressed by the General Convention for the “harm and trouble” it caused by its hasty move to agree to the consecration of Gene Robinson. Further, in the recent elections in California, the electing of a “gay” man to be consecrated bishop was avoided. Thus it would appear most likely that the ECUSA will be seen – at least by the provinces of the North or West - as a full member of the Anglican Communion after the June 06 General Convention. )

With respect to the matter of blessing same-sex partnerships the Report states: “Because of the serious repercussions in the Communion, we call for a moratorium on all such public Rites and recommend that bishops who have authorized such rites in the United States and Canada be invited to express regret that the proper constraints of the bonds of affection were breached by such authorization” (section 144) It is to be noted that there are reports from various dioceses that such Rites have continued and are being done in a semi-public manner.

However, the Episcopal Church took up the request made in the Report (section 135) to explain, from within the sources of authority – scripture, apostolic tradition and reasoned reflection – how it justified a person living in a same-sex union as eligible for leading the flock of Christ. It published To Set Our Hope on Christ. A Response to the Invitation of the Windsor Report, #135 and presented it to the Anglican Consultative Council meeting in England in mid 2005. If this truly represents the mind of the leadership of the ECUSA, then it believes that there has been a major development of doctrine in the church in recent decades. It is this -- that there can be holiness displayed in same-sex unions and that persons in them within that holiness can be – indeed should be – pastors of the flock of Christ. This novel doctrine sets the ECUSA apart from all orthodox Christian Churches.

With respect to caring for dissenting groups within dioceses the Report states: “In only those situations where there has been an extreme breach of trust, and as a last resort, we commend a conditional and temporary provision of delegated pastoral oversight for those who are dissenting. This oversight must be sufficient to provide a credible degree of security on the part of the alienated community, so that they do not feel at the mercy of a potentially hostile leadership….” (section 151) Apparently this is being done reasonably satisfactorily in some places and not at all in others. Thus the exodus of 75 or more congregations or parts thereof in recent months from the ECUSA to exile and care from an overseas bishop.

In summary:

Since the Report does not make demands based upon the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ but on the basis of “bonds of affection” and unity amongst old-time friends and partners, it is relatively easy for the ECUSA to fulfill them. It can do so either in a sincere secular spirit of regret for causing major problems (after all this kind of regret is expressed daily in the world); or it can use its political skills to dress up its apparent regret in sentimental words and biblical citations (a skill it has developed in recent times).

What seems to be abundantly clear is that there remains in the leadership of the ECUSA a vocal and determined group who see a prophetic duty to their Deity (the God of process theology or of panentheism?) to advance his/her/its cause by responding to the revelation which he/she/it has provided through contemporary Experience. This group is ready and willing to slow down, to take a detour, even to halt for a while, in order to maintain its position in the Anglican Communion, where, after all, its missionary work is to be done. It has a vocation from its Deity to share his/her/its message of liberation with as many as possible, and in the growing context of human rights propaganda, the fields are possibly ready for harvesting.

To express Regret is relatively easy. Slowing down and taking a rest are also relatively easy.

Repentance before God, the Holy Trinity, and faithful submission to his statutes, laws and ordinances, as he is worshipped in spirit and in truth, are difficult – very much so – and perhaps too difficult for the ECUSA at this time in its history. But the Lord our God is the Almighty LORD and we must not seek to restrict what he can and may do.

So – tentatively I write - expect a majority vote in terms of expressing regret and conforming to the requirements of the Report. Only God will know, however, how sincere and deep, is the regret. And then the Anglican Communion will continue to pursue – certainly in the North & West – unity for old times sake or for unity’s sake itself. And this latter may be that which leads to no unity, to schism within this Family.

The Revd Dr Peter Toon do visit www.anglicansatprayer.org

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Great Forty Days: From Easter Day to Ascension Day

Thoughts for Ascension Day from Dr Peter Toon

Jesus rose from the dead on Easter Sunday – not merely a spiritual resurrection but a truly bodily resurrection, that was very much more than resuscitation.

For Forty Days on various occasions and places he appeared to his apostles and disciples until his last appearance recorded in Acts 1, which was also his marvelous Ascension into heaven.

For ten days afterwards the apostles and disciples waited for the Gift promised by the Lord Jesus – the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, coming from the Father in the Name of the Lord Jesus, bearing his gifts and virtues for his Church.

So fifty days from Easter Day, at the Jewish Feast of Pentecost, and called Whit-Sunday by the western Church, the awaiting disciples received the Gift from above, the descent of the Holy Spirit (see Acts 2).And from this day the message of salvation in and by Christ was proclaimed in Jerusalem and throughout the surrounding world.

By his Ascension, the resurrected Jesus was exalted by the Father to his right hand on high and crowned as the Lord of lords and King of kings.

In his ascent and exaltation, the Lord Jesus did not lose or shed his human nature and body. He entered heaven – the sphere where the angels and archangels worshiped the Holy Trinity -- with his full humanity, now in a immortalized and glorified form, yet humanity still. And heaven was transformed by his arrival and session at the Father’s right hand. For now, as belonging fully and uniquely to the Second Person of the Trinity, humanity was in heaven and the Lord Jesus, as the One Person made known in two natures (divine and human) became the One Mediator between God and man. Within the Triune Life of the Holy Trinity was glorified human nature! An amazing thought and truth.

Previously the angelic hosts and choirs alone praised and magnified the Holy Trinity with their, “Holy, Holy, Holy,” but now joined to them was the human voice of the exalted Priest, Son of Man and Mediator. And through, in, by, and with him came also from now onwards a constant procession of redeemed and sanctified human beings, first the saints from the Israel of the Old Covenant and then the martyrs and saints of the Church of the New Covenant. So now in heaven the heavenly choir has both angelic and human voices and all joyfully sing to the one glory of the one God, who is the Blessed, Holy and Undivided Trinity.

Let us rejoice and be exceedingly glad that Heaven was eternally changed, was marvelously developed and expanded, through the Arrival and Coronation of Jesus, Messiah, Savior and Lord. It is now the most holy sphere and place whose entry is “through Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life” and in this place “there are many mansions” for the multitude of redeemed human beings.

So we ask: Why, O Why is the Festival of the Ascension so neglected today! It is the Festival without which the other Festivals cannot fulfill their meaning and purpose. For unless the Lord Jesus is exalted into heaven, there is no salvation, redemption, and beatification for human sinners whom he came to save.

Let us not talk of “the great fifty days” as do modern progressive liturgists and the clergy they have influenced, for this regrettably has become usually a way of neglecting or downplaying the Festival of the Ascension. Rather let us talk of FORTY plus TEN days so that we distinguish in the Christian Year the difference between the period from Easter to Ascension from that of Ascension to Whit-Sunday (Pentecost)!

Jesus is risen from the dead. Alleluia.
Jesus is exalted to the Father’s right hand. Alleluia.
Jesus has transformed heaven. Alleluia.
The Father sends the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, in Jesus’ Name. Alleluia.
Jesus will come to judge the living and the dead at the end of the age. Alleluia.

The Eve of Ascension Day 2006

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

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Do not be surprised if we witness the full flowering of the ECUSA Marriage Canon of 1973 and its Marriage Service of 1979 at Columbus Ohio in June '06

The Revd Dr Peter Toon

There are clear connections between the doctrinal innovations pursued and then passed by the Episcopal Church’s General Convention every three years, from 1973 to 2003. And, concerning sexuality, I have to say with regret that the “orthodox” party has not admitted sufficiently clearly and humbly that there is a most clear connection between “same-sex relations blessed by the church” and the new doctrine of marriage adopted by the ECUSA immediately after the sexual revolution of the 1960s. In 1973 the ECUSA changed its doctrine of marriage by changing its canon law and then set forth this new understanding of matrimony in its marriage service within its official Prayer Book of 1979. In brief, the purpose of marriage was said to be in the mutual relation of the man and woman and the procreation of children was presented as optional and not a requirement of the Lord. In other words, the received teaching of the Church of man and woman united as one flesh for procreation and nurturing a family was made optional, as was the understanding that marriage is for life, “until death do us part.”

Thus the ECUSA has been the sphere since the 1970s in which there has been the blessing of many couples involved in serial monogamy and also of couples who in marrying, though of childbearing age, did not intend to have children (but yet intended to have a sexual relation relying on artificial birth control and for personal enjoyment and fulfillment).

This novel situation is taken for granted in the ECUSA where now whether or not one is divorced and remarried is not a question asked if one is standing for church office or seeking ordination. And there is little or no difference apparently between the liberal progressives and the conservatives on this matter.

In this context of human rights and therapeutic descriptions of human life, the activist homosexual groups in the ECUSA have been pointing out for a long time just how far the ECUSA has moved from the historic moral and canon law position of the traditional Anglican Way, and just how much the plain teaching of Scripture has been set aside or interpreted to make it speak a modern rights doctrine.

Now in 2006 and in one stroke both the agenda of the homosexual groups and the erroneous doctrine of the 1973 Canon and the 1979 marriage service (see its preface) have come together in a resolution from the diocese of Newark to be debated (most probably) at the General Convention in mid-June.

This resolution, as reported by David Virtue (http://www.virtueonline.org/) simply requests that the marriage service of the 1979 book be used for same sex couples (where civil law permits) and that within it man/woman or husband/wife be simply changed to two persons. For example,

"We, A.B. and C.D., desiring to receive the blessing of Holy Matrimony in the Church, do solemnly declare that we hold marriage to be a lifelong union of [husband and wife deleted]) two persons as it is set forth in the Book of Common Prayer.

"We believe that the union of [husband and wife deleted] two persons, in heart, body, and mind, is intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity; and, when it is God's will, for the procreation of children and their nurture in the knowledge and love of the Lord."

And the resolution will be: "Resolved, the House of _______ concurring, That this 75th General Convention authorizes use of the rites for Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage and The Blessing of a Civil Marriage in 'the Book of Common Prayer (1979)' for same-sex couples in those civil jurisdictions that permit same-sex marriage, and further authorizes modification of gender references in the rites to accommodate such marriages."

Dr Crew, a prominent Episcopalian and a leader of the homosexual lobby, of Newark explained: "This does not constitute a revision of the Prayer Book but would instead be simply an adaptation. It would be similar to the allowance of the use of feminine terms in the rite for the Ordering of Deacons in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. Women were ordained to the diaconate beginning in 1968 despite the language of the 1928 text which was exclusively male (both in the rite itself and in the rubrics and preface), which language was not modified until the authorization of the current Book of Common Prayer in 1979."

In my booklet, Episcopal Innovations 1960-2004 (2006, from http://www.anglicanmarketplace.com/ or from 1-800-727-1928), I sought to show how that major changes were made in the religion of the Protestant Episcopal Church beginning in the 1960s, and that the results of them were not always immediately obvious. This proposed use of the marriage service for same-sex couples after minimal modification is a powerful reminder of just how far the Episcopal Church changed the doctrine of marriage from Holy Matrimony to Marriage-as-you-like-it in the 1970s, when therapy and human rights blazed the trail for innovation.

Those who actively oppose the present homosexual agenda of the Episcopal Church and of the Diocese of New Westminster in Canada need, I suggest, most carefully to ask themselves whether they need to put their whole energy into the restoration of Christian marriage, as its purposes under God are set forth with such clarity in the Preface to the Marriage Service in both the 1662 English and the 1962 Canadian editions of the classic Book of Common Prayer. Those who claim to be orthodox cannot honestly oppose the homosexual agenda if their own doctrine of marriage owes more to (a) the sexual revolution, the availability of artificial birth control and the modern therapeutic sense of self-gratification and self-fulfillment in sexual relations, than to (b) the New Testament, the moral theology of the Church and the service of matrimony in the classic editions of The Book of Common Prayer.

In fact the best way to oppose the innovatory sexual agenda of the LesBiGay lobby in the ECUSA is not in the first place writing and speaking against that Lobby and its teachings; but, recovering and renewing Christian marriage, Holy Matrimony, in the Anglican Way in the West, especially in the USA and Canada. To do the latter will please God and make the angels rejoice but it will be a thousand times harder than opposing the sexual revolution from the LesBiGay agenda.

May 23, 2006 Ember Day

From Common Prayer then to Instruments then to Covenant and to what next?

Suggestions to improve Anglican self-understanding.

Seemingly, all of a sudden in 2006, Anglicans are talking about making a Covenant to bind together all the Provinces, with all their dioceses, with all their parishes and amidst all the variety of liturgies, churchmanships and doctrines. One Covenant for 75,000 000 Anglicans.

1 Not too long ago -- a time when I can remember -- what was generally believed bound together the Anglican national and provincial churches across the world was the use of one or another edition of The Book of Common Prayer (1662 in England and various dates elsewhere) in English and other languages. Anglicans were the people of Common Prayer and wherever one went in the world until the 1970s one could count of finding Common Prayer in use where Anglicans were found.

Of course, there was also a common Ministry, all ordained from the Ordinal attached to the BCP of 1662. And there were bonds of affection towards the Mother Church in England and between members. However, the practical, uniting reality was the use of the BCP.

2. Then, in the 1970s the rush to produce forms of alternative services for worship began and most of the provinces in the North/West had a decade of trial use until they each produced a book of such services. And, in the main, not too wise bishops tried to get all parishes to use these. However, they were not identical, for each province managed in the name of innovation and change to produce a similar but different new book of prayer for public worship. So whereas there had been a general uniformity in content (if not in churchmanship) before 1970 from the 1970s onwards there was variety and much of it in both structure and content of services of worship.

So unity had to be sought somewhere else and, in this period, talk of “the instruments of unity” became increasingly the inspired word from the hierarchy, who, wishing to preserve unity in and amongst Anglican provinces, had to find something to replace Common Prayer as the sign and glue of unity. The “instruments” recognized or created were the See of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference of Anglican Bishops (meeting every ten years), the Anglican Consultative Council (meeting every two or three years) and the Primates’ [Archbishops’] Meeting (now every year). It was believed that different provinces, but with bonds of affection and a common heritage, could be held together through these personal means of conversation, debate and advice. However, it was known from the beginning, and became increasingly clear as the 1990s dawned, that the “instruments” had no real authority or power and they could only influence by moral persuasion.

The ordination of women, first as deacons, then as presbyters and then as bishops, brought tremendous tension and division between and within provinces, and the “Instruments” sought hard to find ways to keep everyone in the same boat, within the one fellowship. However, with the advent of the new sexual doctrine and practice (e.g., the blessing of same-sex partners and the ordaining of persons in such arrangements), the “Instruments” were fully stretched and even stretched beyond their capabilities, for they can only advise and cannot require a given Province or diocese to come to heel. Thus the Anglican Communion is on the verge of explicit division, between the progressives (found especially in ECUSA) and the traditionalists (found especially in the provinces of Africa and Asia).

3. So the new hope for keeping everyone together – even the progressives and the traditionalists – is by means of an “Anglican Covenant”. That is a form of words, carefully created by ecclesiastical lawyers, to which each and every province commits itself, and by which it promises not to introduce any major innovation in doctrine and ethics without long and careful consultation with all. To produce such a Covenant, that is agreeable as a starter to the present “Instruments” and then is approved by the Synods of thirty-eight provinces is a tall order indeed; but that is where the present leadership of the Anglican Churches are seemingly heading, hoping for the best in this most difficult and demanding – maybe impossible – goal.


Common Prayer bound together Anglicans from the sixteenth to the twentieth century; the Instruments of Unity helped to preserve unity for two decades or so; and Anglican Covenant is seemingly the only hope for the future!

Common Prayer did not fail; it was actively pushed aside in much of the North or West or the Anglican Communion in the 1970s. The Instruments have only ever worked very minimally because they are set in the context of autonomous, self-governing provinces and their authority is only at best moral and rational. If ever a Covenant is devised and approved by all, then the Anglican Communion will have reached a stage – where some of its members want it to be now – and that is of pursuing unity for unity’s sake and not unity for truth’s sake.

In contrast to all this, the large Province of Nigeria has set its own course from 2005 as based upon the classic Anglican basis – that is on the Formularies, the BCP 1662, with its Ordinal and Articles of Religion. Maybe others will follow for that is where Anglicans everywhere used to be!

The Revd Dr Peter Toon www.anglicansatprayer.org May 22, 2006

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Praying in Jesus’ Name – is this the way to pray for participants in the General Convention?

If Christian prayer is going to be heard by the Father in heaven, it must – for there is no other way – be offered in the Name of Jesus, the exalted Messiah of Israel, who is also the Lord of all. For he is the One Mediator between God and Man and he is the glorified High Priest, who ever lives to make intercession for the people of God.

If prayer is going to move mountains (either metaphorical or real), it will be prayer that proceeds from faith/faithfulness and is sent humbly and reverently to the Father Almighty, in the name of his only-begotten Son, the Incarnate Word, who is the Lord Jesus Christ.

If prayer is really and truly directed to Our Father in heaven, and is to be heard and answered by him, it is not only to be offered and sent “in Jesus’ Name,” but also is to be from Christian believers who are engaged in the work given them to do by the same Jesus, the Head of the Church.

The words, “In Jesus’ Name,” are not a kind of magic spell that is uttered at the end of any prayer, a prayer that we may have put together hastily or carelessly or even that we have composed carefully.

Prayers “in the name of the Lord Jesus” are prayers from deep in the souls (mind/heart/will) of those who are the committed servants, disciples and representatives of the Lord Jesus Christ and they are thus intended to be in their attitude and content according to his will, and for the achievement of his purposes and designs, and his alone.

Here are some of the important statements of Jesus concerning prayer, statements made in The Upper Room just before his arrest and crucifixion.

Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me for anything in my name, I will do it. (John 14:13-14)

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. (15:16)

Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you…Ask, and you will receive that your joy may be full. (16:23-24)

To ask in Jesus’ name is then to ask as his representative, while going about his business -- whilst knowing both that he is the One Mediator between the Father and man and that his will as the Lord of the Church is perfect.

This is surely what Jesus himself means when he speaks of himself as having come in his Father’s Name (“I have come in my Father’s name and you do not receive me” – John 5: 43; “The works that I do in the Father’s Name bear witness about me” – John 10:25). Jesus spoke and acted as the Father’s representative as he did his will. And the same kind of meaning is there when Jesus says, “The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things….” (John 14:26) The Holy Spirit is the Representative of the Lord Jesus, bringing his virtues, characteristics and graces.

And in the Acts of the Apostles we read that the Apostles, united in mission with their heavenly Lord, performed miracles in Jesus’ name (Acts 3:6 &16; 4:10; 16:18).

Now turning to prayer as it is commonly offered in our churches. The evidence appears to suggest that some of us seem to be under the impression that we can offer just about any kind of prayer to God as long as we end it with the formula, “in Jesus’ name, Amen,” for then, it is held, it is a valid prayer, and will be heard and answered by the Father. In a sense, and most regrettably, the kind of extempore prayer encouraged in many circles these days leads people to think and speak in this kind of way – to the detriment of true piety and godliness.

It is most important to recognize and to grasp, as has already been suggested above, that there is a wealth and a depth of meaning in the three words “in Jesus’ Name” or in the five words, “in the Name of Jesus.” In fact, it may be stated, on the basis of what the Lord Jesus is recorded in the Gospel of St John as having taught about prayer (see especially chapters 14-17), that few of us seem to have grasped what praying to the Father in the Name of Jesus really means, contains and requires.

In fact, it may be justly claimed that only those whose lives are truly those of disciples and servants of the Lord Jesus; only those who are wholly submitted to his teaching and his will; only those who desire to think his thoughts and do what is pleasing to him; and only those who are daily engaged as his representatives and ambassadors – only they are in a position to pray in the name of Jesus to his Father in heaven and, as they do, expect their prayers to be heard and to be answered.

So we ought not to think of the phrase, “In Jesus Name ” as the preferred or even superior way of sending requests to heaven. Instead we should regard it the one and only way of godliness, for it is the approach to the Father that those who have passed through the narrow gate and walk in the narrow way unto “life” offer, for they are the ones who are walking in the Spirit in obedience to the Lord Jesus.

Prayer and General Convention:

What has all this reflection on the “routing” and character of true prayer to do with the present concerns of Episcopalians who are “praying” for the upcoming General Convention of the Episcopal Church in June? And especially for those who fervently desire the Convention to engage in a U-turn in sexual morals and practice?

First of all, it makes the important point that for petition and intercession, for supplications and beseechings, to be received in heaven by the Father Almighty, they have to pass through Jesus, the exalted Prophet, Priest and King. He is the One and only Mediator and he cannot be bypassed or avoided or negated! It is not by accident that the vast majority of prayers and collects used in the Church over the centuries have ended, “through Jesus Christ the Lord.”

Secondly, it makes the point that only those prayers, which proceed from baptized believers who are truly committed and consecrated to the service of the Lord Jesus and thus know his will, shall be heard by the Father, for Christ’s sake.

Thirdly, it suggests that much fervent prayer, as well as much ephemeral prayer, will not be heard in the realms above, because it is in its content and aim not within the known will and purpose of the Lord Jesus – even though it is concluded with the words, “in Jesus’ Name. Amen.”

All this is a way of stating that truly to pray “in Jesus’ Name” is a part of a godly life and cannot be manufactured or put into place simply when facing a crisis, only to cease when the crisis is ended. Praying in Jesus’ Name is habitual for an individual committed Christian, who is seeking to be his Lord’s ambassador and servant, even as it is also habitual for a congregation that is seeking to worship the Lord our God in the beauty of holiness.

The apostasy that the General Convention has caused to occur within the Episcopal Church since the 1970s occurred primarily because the membership ceased really and truly to pray “in Jesus’ Name” even though parallel phrases were used in a liturgical form. And it ceased to pray thus because it was not living in such a way as to believe, adorn and propagate the Gospel of the Lord Jesus.

For the ECUSA to change in ways that are noted as significant in heaven, there has to be throughout its now diminished membership the recovery of truly praying “in Jesus’ Name,” and this of course will only occur when there are growing numbers of renewed lives of consecrated discipleship of the same Lord Jesus.

Peter Toon May 16, 2006

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Controversy as necessary and good, even in 2006

Considerations to produce better considerations.

In any kind of debate, from political to theological, the issues ought not to be the characters and personalities of persons involved but their policies, teachings, public statements, and the like.

Regrettably, it is often the case that in politics, both in advertising and in public discussion, it is not policies that are attacked but the persons who hold them. For the general public to know what are the issues and what are the policies, they need to read and hear clear statements from the political parties, both as to what is the policy advocated and how it differs from other possibilities. Simply attacking the character of a person who holds a view that is rejected and opposed does not help the moral ethos of a nation or give to politics a good name. However, it may give what seems a quick victory!

In the Church over the centuries, there have been many controversies with intense theological debate, mostly in writing but also sometimes in synods and councils. And the Church has found that debate and controversy are one major way, used by the Divine Providence, to help the Church as a whole to come to the point of being clear as to its teaching on a given point and then to state it in the best way available. Every dogma and every major doctrine in the Church, including the dogma of the Trinity and the Person of Jesus Christ, have only been defined and approved after intense debate and often heated controversy. In this dynamic process, the Church has had to pronounce that certain persons holding certain errors are heretics and are to be excluded from the active fellowship of the Church.

Regrettably, there are those today in the Anglican Way today who, while claiming the title of “orthodox”, believe that to engage in controversy is both not necessary and is also uncharitable, especially if it is directed against those who believe themselves to be “the orthodox” by others who also see themselves as “orthodox” but in a slightly different way. To speak and write against the liberal, revisionist, progressive views of the Episcopal humanists, who have dominated the agenda of the General Convention recently ,is deemed acceptable even good, by them; but, to make any criticism of the theological agenda of those who see themselves as “the orthodox,” who believe themselves to be leading the opposition to the “radical revisionists,” is seen as letting the side down.

To be specific, here is an example of the kind of thing being considered. Let us suppose that the “orthodox” in the ECUSA, through their voluntary organizations and networks, proclaim and teach that the specific thing wrong with the ECUSA is its adoption of a major innovation in sexual relations which is totally contrary to scriptural truth. And that if the ECUSA will truly set this aside and return to where it was several years ago, and also do what is necessary to maintain its place within the Anglican Communion, then it can be considered an “orthodox” Church again. Then let us suppose that a minority of “the orthodox” believe that the apostasy of the ECUSA is much deeper and wider than its recent innovation in sexual ethics and practice; indeed, it is something that goes back to the revolutionary 1960s and was put in place during the 1970s – including the abandoning of the historic Anglican standards of worship, doctrine and discipline, together with a major change in the doctrine and purpose of marriage.

Is this minority within the “orthodox” camp to keep quiet, or is it, in a reasonable, careful, and clear way to seek to make known what it believes is the fuller story? Or is it to stand by while the short story is told and thereby the laity especially is left believing that the problem and crisis are not as severe and deeply grounded as they in fact are? Is it to keep quiet and allow what it sees as an imperfect and incomplete diagnosis to be proclaimed as the whole truth? And it if is the Prayer Book Society, which has been consistently stating certain interpretations of the apostasy of ECUSA since 1971 (thirty five years!), and which believes its message needs to be heard especially in 2006, is it to keep quiet?

There are probably several reasons for this belief amongst the “orthodox” that their positions should not be subjected to theological critique by their fellow believers, who like them earnestly wish to see the renewal of the Anglican Way. One may be that an army divided cannot fight well. Another may be that the chosen strategy is to deal with one issue at a time and so first it is homosexuality; then it can perhaps be marriage (dealing with the high divorce and remarriage rate amongst clergy and laity) and then it can be perhaps the creating of an orthodox Prayer Book and Formularies (for the 1979 Prayer Book is a root cause of many of the ills and errors of the ECUSA), and so on. Yet another may be that it is considered as improper and against “love” to criticize the views of friends at all. And no doubt there are other views.

In response, what is worth serious consideration is the following:

(a) theological debate and controversy have been the primary means amongst the orthodox over the centuries of bringing clarity concerning doctrinal and ethical truth, and there is every reason to believe that it is a primary means today even for Anglicans aspiring to be “orthodox.”

(b) Any theological critique to be profitable has to be against doctrines, policies and statements and NOT against persons.

(c) That theological debate and critique are ideally addressed to the mind, that is to persons as if they are only minds, so that the response can be rational and reasonable, and thus from mind to mind. If the debate is engaged in at the emotional level by one side or the other, or by both, where feelings get hurt, then it will be totally unprofitable.

We do need to bear in mind that the most commonly used verb in America is “I feel” and that because of the pervasive influence of the therapeutic view of life, many people find it hard to receive anything in the mind for careful consideration without their emotions getting fired up, for they think through their feelings! But a healthy church and a healthy reform movement is one that is characterized by debate and controversy, based on issues and doctrines, and addressed to Christian minds in the search for common ground and then for truth. We need more healthy debate based on careful study and on a passion for God’s truth and the unity of Christ’s Church.

May 10 2006 drpetertoon@yahoo.com

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

“Peace and Justice” & the Agenda of ECUSA

Perhaps the most important phrase within the 1979 prayer book of the Episcopal Church is “peace and justice.” That is, it is crucially important as stating the basis for the practical outworking of the new Episcopal religion, conceived in the 1960s, given form and substance in the 1970s, and made practical in the 1980s & 1990s.

Most people know that one of the great expressions and cries that summed up the revolutionary spirit of the 1960s, a massive era of change in American society, culture, and religion, was “peace and justice.”

The “peace” referred not to that “peace which passes all understanding” which the Spirit of Christ creates in the soul, but peace as the aim of political and social action, peace between nations, peace between classes in a given society, peace not war, peace as a program of politics, and peace as a lifestyle of “free” living in harmony with the created order and with the universal-soul deep inside oneself.

The “justice” was not that which God required in ancient Israel, the justice wherein man obeyed God’s laws and acted towards God and his neighbor justly. It was not that justifying righteousness of Christ whereby sinners are placed in a right relation with God the Father for salvation from sin and holiness of living. No, it was justice in basic secular terms, justice based on humanism, on the centrality and dignity of human beings and their natural, civil and human rights. Thus it related to bringing radical changes in society, and in the church as a society within the larger society. It was expressed in liberation movements.

In the Baptismal Service in the 1970 prayer book, and specifically within what is called “the baptismal covenant,” all who are to be baptized – and all who renew their baptismal vows or promises – commit themselves “to strive for peace and justice among all peoples, and respect the dignity of every human being.” This kind of commitment was new for baptismal services as they had existed in the Catholic and Anglican traditions.

Since this service was created in the early 1970s, and since it was created by theological liberals, the balance of probability is that the meaning of this commitment is to be sought not in a careful study of the meaning of the words “peace” and “justice” in the Hebrew and Greek Testaments of the Bible. Rather, it is to be sought in the general ethos of the late 1960s and early 1970s, which bring us into a modern left of center political meaning, as outlined above.

That it has this political meaning is further suggested by the fact that the liberal elite of the General Convention used this phrase and others from the Baptismal Covenant as the themes for General Conventions in the 1980s and 1990s. Then there is the further point that the Liturgical Commission insisted that the 1979 Baptismal Service must always be used even in churches where the bishop had given permission for use of the classic BCP 1928. This “Covenant” wherein God and human beings make a contract to work together for peace and justice is at the heart of the Episcopal Religion that was conceived in the 1960s.

The 1960s meaning fits well with the actual agenda and concerns of the dominant groups in the General Convention throughout the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. There was commitment to civil rights, to anti-war groups and programs, to human rights for the divorced in terms of remarriage in church, to abortion rights for women, to artificial birth control and family planning for all who desired it, to ecology and green issues, to the ordination of women, to the use of language for God and humankind that was just in terms of women’s feelings, to the rights of homosexual, bi-sexual and Lesbian persons to express their orientation and be accepted as full members of the church, and so on. The Gospel as presented was good news from “God” for this world concerning its improvement and its being blessed as “God” and humanity cooperated. The ordained Ministry existed for purposes of managing the flock and counseling those who needed self-affirmation and help. And the Church as church had little or nothing to proclaim about membership of the heavenly Jerusalem and that the baptized are/ought to be aliens in this world and pilgrims on their way to the next, the heaven above. Indeed its practical theology became “Love is God,” that is, all loving action and deeds done in the pursuit of peace and justice express Love and this Love is God.

And, of course, the Prayer Book of this new Episcopal Religion of peace and justice is that of 1979, together with the further smaller sets of services published in the 1990s. In using them those who pursue peace and justice feel at home for the major traditional themes of the Bible are presented only weakly, even erroneously, in this collection of prayer books. At all costs the use of the classic Prayer Book, the true Book of Common Prayer, must be avoided for in that book in all its authentic editions, the Majesty of God and his holiness and righteousness are presented as the basis of his mercy and grace and man is portrayed as possessing the divine image in a distorted way and thus in need of divine healing and salvation through Christ Jesus. And redemption and salvation is out of this world into the world and age to come; and living in this world baptized Christians are to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world as they are also pilgrims heading for the heavenly Jerusalem.

The ECUSA is still taken up with the theme of peace and justice and its religion is very much a this-worldly phenomenon for it seems to know little of the Jerusalem which is above and which is the mother of all true believers, but to be involved much in programs and agendas which give “God” names and backing to social, economic, cultural and political concerns of those who are known as “liberal” in society in general.

To have any hope of real salvation the ECUSA needs to discover the real PEACE of the Gospel of Peace, the Peace of which the angels sang at the birth of the Messiah. Further, it needs to discover that JUSTICE which so thrilled the mind and heart of St Paul as he described and proclaimed it in his Letter to the Roman Church. To do so it will have to give up the Baptismal Covenant and recover its real, historic Prayer Book – whether that Book remains in its classic, traditional English or is rendered into an equivalent contemporary form of English.

May 8 2006 visit www.anglicansatprayer.org

Fire in the soul during Meditating, Musing & Praying.

A favorite text used over the centuries by godly people to describe the experience of prayerful meditation before the Lord with his Word was:

“My heart was hot within me, and while I was thus musing the fire kindled: and at the last I spake with my tongue, ‘LORD let me know mine end…’” [Psalm 39:3, from The Book of Common Prayer, 1662, cf. the KJV]

This translation has a distinct relation to the Vulgate [Latin] version of the Psalm used in medieval and early modern Europe in thousands of monasteries, convents and churches.

Why did this particular text seem to describe the felt experience of those who, in what was called the lectio divina, spent time in quiet before the Lord to ponder and pray over what they had heard/read in and memorized from the lectio continua [the continuous reading of the Bible and chanting of the Psalter] of the daily routine of the offices?

To answer to the question requires that we enter the internal description of what those seriously committed to daily meditation believed they were doing.

First of all, they placed themselves in the presence of God, confessed their sins and asked for grace and inspiration. Then from memory (perhaps assisted by the reading of a text) they recalled some particular Word of the Lord heard and read earlier. Using their powers of imagination, they pictured the original scene from which the Word came. At the same time with their reason and intellect they sought to understand it by approaching it from various angles and with differing questions. Then they sought by the truths of the Word of God to raise their affections – their desire, hope, love, and joy – towards God the Father through Jesus Christ. Here they often experienced the inner warmth, glow, of the witness of the Holy Spirit with their spirit. That is, the fire kindled as they mused and raised their souls towards God. And with the fire kindled and the heart warmed, their will was directed aright and they were prepared to make resolutions and commitments to the Lord and engage in genuine prayer.

The underlying belief was this: the whole soul has been and remains affected by the disease of sin and this is seen most clearly in the affections and the will, together with the imagination. Thus in meditation, the whole soul (memory, intellect, imagination, affections and will) is to be engaged in the presence of God with this Word; further, for there to be the real possibility of engagement with God and his truth, the raising of the affections has to proceed from consideration of, and pondering over, the Word and Truth of God.

The rule was not to being with the affections since, for most people, the emotions can be as wild horses and not easily controllable! They need to informed, warmed and guided by the Word of the Lord before directed to embrace the Lord.

“While I was thus musing [considering, reflecting and thinking about God’s revealed Word] the fire kindled” and I was alive before God, ready to converse with him!

Only when the whole soul is joined through its spirit, by the Holy Spirit, to the Father through the One Mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ, can there be real and truly communion, praise, and petitionary and intercessory prayer.

And what is true for the individual Christian believer is also true for a group which has come together to engage in intercessory prayer.

[for more details of meditation read the five pieces on Meditation in The Mandate for September 2005, available on line at http://www.episcopalian.org/pbs1928/PBArchive.htm (scroll down the page to the links for back issues of The Mandate)]

Peter Toon