Monday, July 31, 2006

Sin and Human Rights

A meditation starter

It has always been difficult for human beings to admit that they have both a sinful nature and are actively sinners in God’s sight. This recognition and admittance have become that much harder in the West as the ideology of human rights has become more dominant in western society and culture.

The doctrine of Human Rights works on the assumption that human beings as living persons have dignity because of their humanity. Human rights, of which the primary one is the right to live and not be murdered, include such things as the right to food, clothing, shelter, education, just treatment under the law (with no discrimination in employment, by reason of sex, orientation, race or ethnicity), freedom of movement and choice and personal happiness. However, in many quarters personhood is seen to begin not at conception but when the foetus is looking like a baby, and it is deemed to end when a human being is in a permanent coma or has lost the use of all normal senses (thus abortion and euthanasia can be justified within a human rights framework).

When the prophets of Israel, Jesus the Messiah, and the apostle Paul proclaimed that each and every one of us without exception has a sinful nature and is a sinner before God, they were not aware of human rights ideology or language. However, had they been so they would have made it abundantly clear that in terms of human standing before God as the LORD, no one, Jew or Gentile, has any rights at all. Why? Because before God, the Creator and Judge, no human being can claim anything at all by right, for he is a dependent creature and is always so even if he has not sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The very best he can ever do in relation to God is to receive humbly by faith and in trust what God as the LORD, offers to him out of divine mercy and divine grace.

Now man as creature, and as sinful creature, has always found it extremely difficult by reason of pride to submit wholly and unconditionally to the Word of the living God. From the beginning of the biblical narrative to its end, many examples are to be found of human beings refusing to submit to God and trust in him – that is to trust as an infant trusts its mother unconditionally as it lies in her arms or at her breasts.

Our generation has the problem that to its own inner natural pride, born of a sinful nature (which makes submission to the holy and merciful LORD virtually impossible), there is added this ideology of human rights which often serves to strengthen inner pride. In fact it can cause “sinners” to think that instead of submitting to God in total consecration as “sinners” they can actually negotiate or set forth a kind of contract with God, the Lord, concerning their relation[ship] with heaven. This is amazing but common.

So there has been in most forms of American Christianity since the 1960s a gradual but real dumbing-down of the biblical doctrine of sin as both “fallen nature” and as active breaking of God’s Law by omission or commission. Modern man has pride in his many achievements in technology and medicine, travel and commerce, and so humility before God, and recognizing that in and of himself he has nothing to offer to his Creator and Judge but his sinfulness, is far from his mind and religion. Thus his religion – for he still wants to be religious – has to be changed and made less offensive, to take care of his pride and his rights and be attractive to him without requiring too much repentance, faith and humility. (This is one reason why so many Episcopalians prefer the Rite Two Services of the 1979 prayer book to the traditional services of the classic BCP [e.g. of 1662 or USA 1928], even when the latter are in so called contemporary language.)

The dumbing-down does not stop, however, with the softening of the doctrine of sin. It dares to rise up Mt Sinai and Mt Hermon and to seek to change the identity of God! That is, those features and attributes of the LORD, the Blessed, Holy and Undivided Trinity, which create the “old” doctrine of sin are changed, and God becomes the God of Pure Love who affirms everyone in their natural state, in their orientation, and in their present lifestyle. Thus Jesus also loses his “pure holiness” and becomes the loving Savior who seeks out and saves the outcast and affirms them as members of his kingdom.

The loss of belief in the transcendent holiness of God has meant the loss amongst human beings of “the fear of the Lord” which is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge before God in terms of a right relation with Him. In fact the emphasis on human rights has made moderns offer paraphrases of the Bible which incorporate basic human rights doctrine and also when using traditional translations to avoid large sections of the Bible (e.g. Romans 1 – 7) which seem impossibly outdated and irrelevant.

One advantage of using the traditional liturgies of Christendom is that they were created when the teaching of the Bible was taken seriously and when there was no ideology of human rights writ large in human society. Thus, for example, I can find no examples of human rights anywhere in the classic Anglican Book of Common Prayer (e.g. the edition of 1662); but I can find plenty in the 1979 prayer book and later official worship texts from The Episcopal Church. Human rights are at the center of the “Baptismal Covenant” so often trumpeted by Episcopalians.

One real problem we have in 2006 is that we breathe the air of human rights and this makes us naturally read the Bible through this ideology; and so we miss to a large extent what the Bible is saying to us about our standing before God. Only when we study seriously say Romans 1-3 do we get to see the vast difference between where we are and where the apostolic message was/is. Here we find that genuine biblical inclusivism is (a) that we are all guilty sinners and under the wrath of God; and (b) that, in Christ Jesus, God the Father offers to us in the Gospel the gift of everlasting salvation and that we receive by offering nothing to him but total trust.

Human rights have their place in a carefully presented system of Christian ethics (as the late Pope often explained) but they have none, none whatsoever, in the standing of human creatures before their holy and righteous Creator and Judge.

The Revd Dr Peter Toon July 31, 2006

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Nicaea II (787) - further points in response to questions

  1. This Council, as the previous six, was called by the Emperor – in this case to oppose iconoclasm; and it came to be regarded as the seventh Ecumenical Council by both the Orthodox Churches and the Roman Catholic Church.
  2. The doctrinal decree of this Council not only assumes the veneration of the Cross and the Gospel Book but also of the icons of our Lord, the BVM, angels and saints. To deny the duty of veneration is to be under the anathema (see Galatians 1: 8) – this is obviously a very serious matter.
  3. The veneration of icons of our Lord is related to and justified by the doctrine of Jesus as One Person, made known in two natures, divine and human, and specifically because of his truly becoming man.
  4. There is most certainly a development of doctrine involved in veneration of icons for it did not exist in the apostolic age or in the centuries immediately following the apostolic age; the question arises as to whether it was for its own time a healthy and/or necessary development, and if so, also, whether it remains so everywhere for all time.
  5. Veneration can so easily become idolatry and the latter can only be prevented by sound teaching and good examples. An ancient question remains: Is it pastorally viable always and everywhere?
  6. No official national or provincial Synod of the Church of England or any other Anglican Province has defined orthodox doctrine so as to include the doctrine and devotion required by Nicaea II.
  7. Official Anglican statements have consistently emphasized the doctrine of the first four Councils on The Trinity and the Person of Christ, and less consistently they have pointed to the Christological definitions of the fifth and sixth Councils.
  8. The plain sense of the historic Anglican Formularies, in particular The Thirty-Nine Articles, is to forbid the doctrine and devotion required by the doctrinal decree and anathemas of Nicaea II ( see Articles XXI, XXII, XXXIV). For Councils may and do err and the Scripture is the final authority for faith and morals in the Reformed Catholic Way.
  9. The second Homily in The Second Book of Homilies (see Article XXXV) specifically rejects veneration of icons and images.
  10. Notwithstanding the clear sense of the Reformed Catholic tradition of the Anglican Way, individual theologians (e.g., my former teacher Eric Mascall) and small Anglican groups ion the USA today (e.g., the Anglican Catholic Church and the Anglican Mission in America) have embraced the doctrinal decree of the seventh council, even (strangely) when they do not actually practice the veneration of icons and images of our Lord, the BVM, the angels and the saints. (Note that The Affirmation of St Louis of 1977 of Continuing Anglicans also requires commitment to the Seventh Council but not all Continuing Groups have made it part of their constitution or canon law.)
  11. Those who use The Anglican Missal (with its many additions to the BCP from the old Roman Missal) tend to embrace the seventh Council for justification for the intercession of saints and of the BVM found in the Missal.
  12. Some who define themselves as Anglo-Catholics often seem to think that they have to embrace the Seventh Council in order to be seen as genuine “Catholics” even though they have not studied the decree and anathemas of the Council.
  13. In the light of all this it is obvious that, at best, the doctrine and devotion required by the decree and anathemas of the seventh Council should not be made a part of required Anglican doctrine in the present and future, even as they have not been in the past. For Reformed Catholics such doctrine and devotion is, at best, an extra, not of the essence of the Anglican Way. And where it is seen as an extra then great difficulties arise as to how or if at all to embrace the official, historic Formularies.
So, in order to obtain the greatest acceptance and the greatest comprehension on the best principles, I suggest this type of basis for Anglican unity in the USA today:

We accept the doctrine of the Anglican Way as it is grounded in the holy Scriptures, and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures. In particular, we receive such doctrine as is to be found in the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordinal (as all three of these are printed in the English edition of 1662, the American edition of 1928 and the Canadian edition of 1962 of The Book of Common Prayer).

Do visit

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

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Nicaea II 787, the Doctrinal Decree on Icons of the 7th Council

(People have asked me to say precisely what is the dogma on Icons. Here it is.)

It will be noticed that this Decree is not merely about what the Orthodox Christian in the late 8th century is to believe but also what he must practice to be orthodox. In other words what is required is both belief and practice, doctrine and veneration; and anything less (just belief, for example) is not acceptable. Further, it is assumed that the veneration of the Cross and the Gospel Book has been around much longer than the veneration of images.

After expressing agreement with the doctrinal definitions of the previous six councils on The Trinity and the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Decree continues:

We decree with full precision and care that, like the figure of the honoured and life-giving cross, the revered and holy images, whether painted or made of mosaic or of other suitable material, are to be exposed in the holy churches of God, on sacred instruments and vestments, on walls and panels, in houses and by public ways; these are the images of our Lord God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, and our Lady without blemish, the holy God-bearer, and of the revered angels and of any of the saintly holy men. The more frequently they are seen in representational art, the more are those who see them drawn to remember and long for those who serve as models, and to pay these images the tribute of salutation and respectful veneration. Certainly this is not the full adoration in accordance with out Faith, which is properly paid only to the divine nature, but it resembles that given to the figure of the honoured and life giving cross, and also to the holy books of the Gospels and to other sacred cult objects. Further, people are drawn to honour these images with the offering of incense and lights, as was piously established by ancient custom. Indeed the honour paid to an image traverses it, reaching the model; and he who venerates the image, venerates the person represented in that image.
Then come four anathemas:

If anyone does not confess that Christ our God can be represented in his humanity let him be anathema.

If anyone does not accept representation in art of Gospel/evangelical scenes, let him be anathema.

If anyone does not salute such representations as standing for the Lord and his saint, let him be anathema.

If anyone rejects any written or unwritten tradition of the church, let him be

For those who wish to look it up, much the same dogma is set forth by the Council of Trent in session 25 in the mid-sixteenth century.

Obviously those who really embrace this dogma must attend a church where the holy icons/images are present and where they can adore Jesus by offering reverence to his image, and they can call upon Mary and the Saints to pray for them, also by veneration of their images/icons. To embrace this dogma and not to include as a basic part of piety the veneration of icons and images is to be unfaithful to its requirements.

The Reformed Catholic teaching of the Church of England has always refused to make this dogma (be it from the 7th council or from the Council of Trent) part of the Christian Faith. Individual members and local parishes have embraced it; but it is not an official and required part of the Anglican Way either in Britain or anywhere else in the Anglican Communion of Churches. So it ought to be counted for Anglicans as what private judgment may allow but not what a whole province or jurisdiction should embrace and require. In terms of human logic and right thinking, it is impossible to hold both the dogma of the 7th Council and the doctrine of The Thirty-Nine Articles for they are opposed over this very matter of the legitimacy and required nature of veneration of icons and invocation of the BVM and Saints.

Peter Toon July 25, 2006

The Anglican Mission in America and the Seven Ecumenical Councils

An apology from Dr Peter Toon

I have to begin with an apology to my patient readers. I have given the impression, because I believed it to be the case, that it was the Anglo-Catholic wing of Anglicanism which alone embraced the doctrinal definitions and decrees of the Second Council of Nicea (787). Today I learned that the Anglican Mission in America also requires all its Ministers to be committed to these doctrines and this teaching.

I must confess that this has come as major shock to me. I find it hard to believe and still think that I must be misreading its documents or else reading ones that were drafts and have been superseded. I ask myself, How could I have been in ignorance of this when I count some AMiA folks as good friends? The answer is that I have interpreted the annual subscription made by AMiA Ministers wrongly. Here it is (and I heard some sixty or more of them publicly subscribe to it in January 2006 in Birmingham, Alabama).

In my ignorance I took – in traditional Anglican style – “the dogmatic definitions” of the Church to refer to the dogmas of the Trinity and the Person of Christ set forth in the first four Ecumenical Councils, with some further expansion of the latter in the fifth and sixth Councils. It never entered my head that this group of evangelical, mission-minded Anglicans intended also the seventh council. Indeed the commitment to the Thirty-Nine Articles and the BCP of 1662 seemed a sure and clear reason that only the first four Councils were really intended and so it never occurred to me that what was intended were the Seven Councils, including, amazingly, the Second of Nicea in 787. As many have shown, to be committed to the Articles means that one cannot receive the doctrine definitions of this Council and the reverse it also true – which is why some Anglo-Catholics reject The Articles.

Today I managed to get a copy of The Solemn Declaration of Principles of the AMiA (previously I could not download it) and it was in reading this that I came to see – may the Lord have mercy upon me for my foolishness in to seeing earlier -- that “the dogmatic definitions of the General Councils of the Undivided Church” meant those of the Seven Councils, and, thus included, amazingly, those of Nicea II.

In its Solemn Declaration of Principles the AMiA has the following:
Article III. Further Doctrinal Norms and Formularies

Section 1- The Undivided Church
With the ancient Church we affirm the three Ecumenical Creeds: the Nicene Creed, the Apostles Creed and Athanasius' Creed, and the dogmatic definitions of the first seven general councils (the last three being seen as the workings-out of the first four).

Section 2- The Formularies of the Church of England
a. The 1662 Book of Common Prayer and Ordinal
The theology set forth in the 1662 edition of the Book of Common Prayer and Ordinal shall be the theology to which alternative liturgical texts and forms will conform.
b. The 39 Articles of the Church of England
This Church subscribes to the teaching of the 39 Articles of Religion of the Church of England. These are to be interpreted, as ordered in the Declaration which prefaces them in the English Book of Common Prayer, "in the full and plain meaning thereof" and "in the literal and grammatical sense." Further, it is understood that there are places in the Articles (i.e. Art. 37) that assume past and present political structures in England which do not directly apply to this Church located as it is in North America.

Section 3- The Lambeth Quadrilateral
In consort with the Anglican Communion we affirm the 1886/1888 Quadrilateral as giving guidance for ecumenical dialogue, discussion and cooperation. The Quadrilateral is not in and of itself a sufficient statement of the teaching of this Church

It is of interest to note that it is claimed that the last Three of the Seven do in their doctrinal definitions simply develop or make clearer the content of the first Four. As a popular statement this is generally true. In the fifth and sixth Christology is the subject and the meaning of Christ Jesus as One Person made known in Two Natures is further clarified from the Definition supplied by the Fourth Council in 451 at Chalcedon.

However, there is what seems to be a massive leap from the first four Councils to the Seventh, for in the Seventh we are into the justification of the veneration of icons and the cult of the BVM and the Saints. The connection is that part of the dogma of the Person of Christ which insists that he truly has a full and complete human nature. As far as I know no Anglican Province in the Anglican Communion has embraced the doctrinal definitions of the Seventh Council as official doctrine, and for obvious reasons. I cannot see how you can be a Reformed Catholic receiving The Anglican Formularies in their natural sense and meaning and also in the same breath as it were also embrace the doctrinal definitions of the Second Council of Nicea in their natural sense and meeting. One through Six with the Formularies Yes, but not Number Seven! (For a description of the Councils and their dogma see my book: Yesterday, Today and Forever. Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit in the Teaching of the Seven Ecumenical Councils, Preservation Press, 1996 (which is dedicated to Bishop Ackerman).

I do not know what to say! I can only assume in good faith that the AMiA Bishops and clergy have found a way to reconcile two positions that seem to me -- and to not a few others in the history of the Anglican Way -- to be non-reconcilable. Dr Peter Toon

Monday, July 24, 2006

The Affirmation of St Louis (1977), The Anglican Communion Network and The Anglican Way.

A discussion starter

Not since 1977-8 has there been such interest in the Affirmation of St Louis and its developed and expanded definition of the Anglican Way in terms of emphatic Anglo-Catholicism.

With the attempts by the Anglican Communion Network (at the request of the concerned Anglican Primates) in 2006 to unify the Anglican witness and jurisdictions in the USA, the question of basic commitments of the presently divided groups is acutely raised. And, it appears, that some of the leadership of The Network is prepared to move towards embracing those Continuing Anglicans, who hold to The Affirmation of St Louis, by adjusting its own doctrinal basis to accommodate this (provocative) 1977 statement of advanced “catholic” opinion.

Let us then examine this statement and its origins in relation to the historic Anglican Formularies.

Those Episcopalians from the USA and Anglicans from Canada, who met in St Louis in 1977 and signed The Affirmation, appear to have believed that the Episcopal Church of the USA and the Anglican Church of Canada had ceased to be orthodox Christian Churches; and thus secession from them was a duty before God. The immediate reason for the departure to form the Continuing Anglican Church was the adoption by both Churches of women as presbyters (priests); but, the bigger issues in the background concerned faith and morality as well, including the rejection of the received Book of Common Prayer (USA edition of 1928) in The Episcopal Church.

The signers state their commitment of seeking to maintain unity with the See of Canterbury (if Canterbury remains orthodox?), and, doctrinally, to the authoritative Scriptures, to the three Creeds (Apostles’, Nicene and Athanasian), to the dogma of the Seven Ecumenical Councils and to the doctrine and use of the Seven Sacraments. In terms of liturgy they express commitment to the 1928 edition of the BCP in the USA and to the 1962 edition in Canada. There is no specific mention of The Anglican Missal or other Missals; but, it is generally assumed that they are allowed through the words: “service books incorporating The Book of Common Prayer” in the paragraph on permitted variances.

When you compare the St Louis Statement with the Constitutions and Canon Law of virtually all of the Provinces of the Anglican Communion you notice that in The Affirmation there is no specific mention of The Ordinal and The Thirty-Nine Articles (which are separate books to the BCP but are normally bound with it, so that all three Anglican Formularies are usually within the same cover). The pew editions of the 1928 and 1962 editions, as they were in print in 1977, contained The Ordinal and The Articles. However, The Affirmation refers to neither and so it is not absolutely clear whether either or both were accepted.

Common sense would normally cause one to suppose that these two historic and classic Formularies of the Anglican Way would be taken for granted. However, other clear statements in The Affirmation tend to cast doubt on the matter, especially with reference to The Articles of Religion. It is however possible/probable that The Articles are dealt with in the paragraph called "The Use of Other Formulae", where can be read: "In affirming these [doctrinal] principles, we recognize that all Anglican statements of faith and liturgical formulae must be interpreted in accordance with them." And this means that for all practical purposes The Articles have lost their authority as a Formulary for they are read in the light of the seventh council.

A commitment to the doctrine of all the Seven Ecumenical Councils has been held as a private opinion by some anglo-catholics and high churchmen since the seventeenth century; but it has never been officially part of any Anglican confession of faith or constitution. The problem is obviously with the Seventh Council itself where the topic is no longer The Trinity or The Person of Christ but icons and images; the veneration of icons was approved and given a theological foundation. A similar doctrine was set forth eight or so centuries later by the Council of Trent in the sixteenth century. If The Articles are authoritative then the doctrine of the Seventh Council and the Council of Trent on icons and images and prayers to the saints cannot in any way at all be regarded as part of the Reformed Catholicism of the Anglican Way (see Article XXII and the Homily “On the Peril of Idolatry”, Article XXXV). At best the doctrinal decrees of this Council can be held as private judgment by Anglicans.

Further, commitment in The Affirmation to seven sacraments as in the teaching of the Council of Trent is specifically rejected by The Articles (see XXV), which teach that there are two real, dominical Sacraments and five commonly called sacraments which are not true sacraments. It is also rejected by the content of The Book of Common Prayer in any of its authorized editions, for here again there are only two Sacraments together with other rites that were previously in Roman Catholic dress called sacraments (e.g. Confirmation and Holy Matrimony).

To accept The Affirmation is to deny that the Anglican Way is the way of Reformed Catholicism, and thus to deny the testimony of all its standard divines, low and high church included.


It is difficult to come to clarity on the question of whether the Affirmers in 1977 saw themselves as Anglo-Catholics committed to historic Anglicanism (as set forth for example in The Canadian Solemn Declaration of 1893 and printed in the 1962 Canadian BCP), who allowed their private and cherished opinions to influence their description of the Anglican Way in a kind of reactionary pendulum flow, OR that leaving the two mainline Churches provided the Anglo-Catholic participants with the opportunity to reform Anglicanism in a Rome-ward or perhaps Orthodox-ward direction and they took this opportunity to do so, believing they were forging a new and better path for others after them to walk in. If the latter then, it would appear, they are making their impact in ways never envisaged in 2006 through the Common Cause partners of The Network!

Apparently for some Continuers today in the ACC, ACA, APA and APCK neither the doctrinal decrees of the Council of Trent nor the doctrine of The Articles should be considered confessional documents, but rather the doctrinal decrees of the first Seven Ecumenical Councils that are commonly recognized by Rome and the East, should be so regarded. This view allows Continuing Anglicanism to be both informed by the historical importance of the Articles and open to Roman Catholic (Tridentine) doctrine and liturgy as pious opinions, but not dogmas. The peculiarly English traditions of worship created in 1549 are central to this position in the Continuum, though some borrowing from Latin and Greek traditions is allowed when judged to be edifying to the English mind and spirit. This viewpoint is also said to be the reasonable trajectory of the "Caroline Divines." (The problem with this approach is that it is imaginary and it tends to create a form of religion which is that of a tiny minority alongside but not in with the fellowship of 80 millions of the Anglican Way in the Anglican Communion of Churches, and also not in with or part of historic Catholicism of East or West.)

Certainly all reasonable people accept that The Affirmation of St Louis goes beyond the normal statement of The Anglican Way and thus cannot be signed or accepted by those who are committed to the classic Anglican Formularies as they are presented, for example, in The Solemn Declaration of 1893 of Canada and in the Constitution of The Church of England, the Anglican Church of Nigeria, and in virtually all other Anglican provincial constitutions and presented in many editions of The Prayer Book of 1662 around the world.

The Network, it seems, faces a dilemma. If it embraces the Seventh Council and Seven Sacraments then it steps ahead of world Anglicanism and away from the historic Formularies of the Anglican Way. If it does not, then it will not apparently win the hearts of a very small group of Continuers for whom, it appears, the “extras” of the Affirmation count more than the solid center where they agree with the historic Reformed Catholicism of the Anglican Way.

A suggestion --- Let those of The Network, who actually hold to the historic Formularies, seek to persuade the Continuers to hold their cherished views as private opinion not required church doctrine; and then there can be real progress towards common witness and aims on the basis of unity on Scripture and classic Formularies.

The Rev’d Dr Peter Toon Trinity VI 2006

Sunday, July 23, 2006


(being an answer to various questions asked of Peter Toon in recent days by members of The Network)

The Anglican Communion Network of North America, embracing Episcopal and Anglican groups in the USA and Canada, is seeking to recover the classic Anglican Formularies both for its own integrity as an Anglican grouping, and also to be in line with the Provinces abroad from which It expects succor and support.

It is becoming clear to The Network leadership that:

(a) Provinces abroad are committed in their constitutions – and often in their weekly worship as well – to the same Formularies as the Church of England (which are the classic edition of The BCP of 1662, together with The Thirty-Nine Articles and The Ordinal, both printed with the Prayer Book in one volume).
(b) The Anglican Church of Canada despite is apostasy today is nevertheless committed in its Solemn Declaration of 1893 to precisely the same Formularies (this is printed in its 1962 edition of the BCP).
(c) The Episcopal Church of the USA abandoned the American version of these Formularies in 1976/79 and made what is “A Book of Varied Services with varied Doctrine” its Formulary, calling it, amazingly, “The BCP. This is to put it mildly, regrettable.
(d) Anglican leaders abroad who wish to support The Network are expecting It to place itself in the Anglican Way wholly and truly by recovering the Formularies as its doctrinal standard and guide.

However, The Network is faced with the question: Which edition of The Book of Common Prayer will become the norm? To conform precisely to provinces abroad it senses that it should state the authority of the classic edition of 1662 (as have done the AMiA and the REC). However, active members have used and do use both the Canadian revision of 1662 authorized by Synod in 1962, and the American version authorized by the General Convention of 1928. Both these editions are genuine editions of the ONE Book of Common Prayer and represent genuine minor developments from the 1662 base which are in doctrinal agreement with that base (and not like “The Anglican Missal” used by a few Anglo-Catholics and which is in clear contradiction to this base).

In particular, both the 1962 and 1928 editions have an extended Prayer of Consecration, which contains certain elements taken over from the earliest such Prayers in the eminent churches of the East (and which are named in the 1928 as “The Oblation” & “The Invocation”). These additional elements, with other additions and gentle revisions in these books – especially the 1962 – are much valued by most of those who actually use these editions today.

It would be wrong for those who use the 1928 & 1962 editions to have to give them up for they have been and are authentic editions of the ONE Book of Common Prayer from two provinces, produced when they were orthodox and respectful of the Formularies. They belong to living tradition.

Thus it seems best for The Network to commit itself to the ONE Book of Common Prayer in its major edition of 1662 (from which 150 or more translation have been made) as its base line; and then also to allow also the living editions in use in North America, the 1928 & the 1962 editions, as belonging to the Formularies. So I have suggested the following doctrinal basis for The Network to honor all, overseas and in Canada and America, and to conform to the classic Formularies. All three editions are exemplars of Reformed Catholicism in worship and doctrine.

We accept the doctrine of the Anglican Way as it is grounded in the holy Scriptures, and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures. In particular, we receive such doctrine as is to be found in the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordinal (as all three of these are printed in the English edition of 1662, the American edition of 1928 and the Canadian edition of 1962 of The Book of Common Prayer).

One final word is necessary and I am sorry that I have to mention it here. A very small portion of the Common Cause Partners in The Network are extreme Anglo-Catholics who embrace the Affirmation of St Louis of 1977 (which allows the use of the Anglican Missal, and denies the authority and teaching of The Thirty-Nine Articles, and also embraces the teaching on the veneration of icons and the intercession of the saints commended by the Second Council of Nicea in 787). These doctrines are NOT within the understanding of permissible doctrines of the classic Formularies and so they cannot be commended or allowed, if The Network is to be truly of the Anglican Way and truly Reformed Catholic. The few holding developed Anglo-Catholic commitments should hold them as personal opinions but they should not be required or approved doctrines by The Network as an ANGLICAN, Reformed Catholic, grouping. Trinity VI 2006

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Why the current fascination with the Dogma of the Seventh Ecumenical Council?

A discussion starter for the Network folks, strongly worded to aid thought!
By Peter Toon

All of a sudden, it seems, the dogma of the Seventh Council (Nicea II, A.D. 787) has become a live issue for Anglicans in the USA and Canada, who are looking to form new forms of union outside the Episcopal Church and Anglican Church of Canada, and in fellowship with Anglican provinces overseas. For reasons that are not clear to me or others I have asked, there seems to be a desire to include this dogma in the doctrinal agreements that will bind the various “orthodox” Anglican groups together as they seek acceptance from abroad. So let us delve further into this dogma.

If I were an Orthodox Catholic priest I would embrace the dogma, the doctrinal definition of the Seventh Ecumenical Council; likewise if I were a Roman Catholic priest I would embrace the doctrinal definition of the Seventh Ecumenical Council, together with the parallel dogma set forth by the Council of Trent. However (and this is a big “however”) I hope that I would make tremendous efforts in explaining to my flock the basis of the dogma of icons and, further, that I would carefully distinguish for them the distinction between reverence/veneration and adoration shown to an icon for this is most important.

Further, I can see that those who call themselves Anglicans and have abandoned the authority of the classic Formularies (Articles of Religion, classic BCP & Ordinal) in order to use the Anglican Missal for “mass” have a need to embrace the Seventh Council in order to justify their abandonment of Reformed Catholicism and their embrace of a kind of half-way house between the classic Anglican Way and Roman Catholicism of the Tridentine period. It is generally the case that the use of the Missal is accompanied by the practical if not the fervent rejection of the Thirty-Nine Articles – as in The Affirmation of St Louis of 1977.

And also I can see that those who have embraced the 1979 ECUSA Prayer Book (and have thereby also rejected the historic Formularies), and also see themselves as true Anglo-Catholics in doctrine and devotion, can easily say that they embrace the Seventh Council to justify their doctrine and devotions, because the 1979 book is itself a mixture of doctrines and varied services and has no real standard of doctrine to forbid them.

Added to all this I can see that Anglo-Catholics who do not wish to go to Rome or Orthodoxy, and who want to have as much of traditional devotion as possible, will make big efforts to justify such devotion by the teaching of the Seventh Council and also, at the same time,will seek to make it acceptable within the Anglican Way by a variety of historical and theological arguments (see e.g., as various scholars like Fr Mason have done).

Yet for those who are Reformed Catholic, truly committed to the Anglican Way, and Anglicans in the normal sense, to embrace the doctrinal definition of the Seventh Council is not possible or permissible – not because it is plainly wrong and not because it does not possess logical symmetry; but, because it cannot be proved from Scripture by any straightforward type of exegesis and interpretation. It is a definition that builds upon certain dogma set forth by earlier Councils and it is logically related to it; but nevertheless it is not clearly a doctrine that can be proved from the plain meaning and content of Holy Scripture. It is a development of doctrine which when tested by the principles of Biblical interpretation set forth in The Articles of Religion cannot be justified in any way whatsoever. Further, even if could be so proved as being not contrary to Scriptural teaching, then there is the massive pastoral problem of it being difficult, to say the least, to distinguish pastorally in devotion to an icon between reverence and adoration. Idolatry lurks dangerously near this. This is why it has never been embraced by the Church of England or any province of the Anglican Communion. The Anglican Way has generally admitted the truth of the doctrinal definitions of the first four Councils because they can be shown to be in harmony with Scriptural truth; but for others Councils there is to say the least caution, and in relation to the Seventh, much caution (See Articles VI, XX, XXI, XXII, XXXIV).

The doctrinal definitions from Nicea II are found in various collections of texts – I have before me Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, ed Norman P.Tanner, S.J. 1990 in Greek, Latin and English. There are various books on the Ecumenical Councils – I have before me my own book: Peter Toon, Yesterday, Today and Forever: Jesus Christ and the Holy Trinity in the Teaching of the Seven Ecumenical Councils, 1996

After giving a translation of the Greek text, I summarized the doctrinal decree concerning images and icons of Christ, Mary and the apostles and saints in this way:

1. The offering of adoration (latreia) to any created person or thing is idolatry and forbidden by God.
2. The sacred pictures, the icons, are to be given veneration (proskunesis) not adoration according to tradition.
3. The icons are useful for instruction in the Faith.
4. The icons are required to preserve the truth that Jesus Christ is a real Person with true manhood and he was not merely a fantasy, theory or idea.
5. The veneration given to the icon passes on to the person represented, human or angelic, whom the icon represents.
6. The Lord Jesus Christ is truly God and truly Man. In his Godhead he is uncircumscribed, but in his Manhood he is limited and thus may be portrayed in painting, mosaic or other suitable material

Every time that I read the text of the Seventh Council I am impressed by its clarity and logical power. But what is exceedingly clear to me are the following things: (a) to venerate icons is absolutely not necessary to salvation or to living faithfully as a disciple of Jesus – after all none of the apostles venerated icons and neither did the Early Christians for several long centuries; (b) to venerate icons can so easily get near to breaking the first table of the Law, the Ten Commandments as one of the Homilies in The Book of Homilies demonstrates; (c) there is no way that one can – starting from Scripture alone – get anywhere near to the doctrine of the veneration of icons – as The Articles and The Homilies make clear ; (d) once you allow the veneration of icons you have also practically opened the door to not only the asking of the saints to pray for us but also to actually praying to the saints themselves ( as in many prayers in the Anglican Missal -- and clearly this is wholly contrary to the doctrine of the Formularies and in the classic BCP).

If the doctrinal definition of the Seventh Council is embraced by an Anglican group then that group cannot any longer be Reformed Catholic for it has denied the doctrine of the supremacy and sufficiency of Scripture (quote articles). It has moved as a spoke sticking out through the rim of the wheel into a kind of no-man’s land, which is not Anglican or anything else specifically!

Now it may be possible to show and prove that the Anglican Way as Reformed Catholic is wrong; if so, we all need to move out of it to another more sure and stable Way and stop the pretence. On the other hand, if it is still a viable form and jurisdiction of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church with its own vocation for its 80 million members in the totality of God’s will;, then it is as the way of Reformed Catholicism not semi-Roman Catholicism or semi-Orthodox Catholicism. It is Reformed Catholic and not medieval Catholic or Eastern Catholic because of its particular submission to the Scriptures and through them to the Lord of the Scriptures, the Word made flesh, who speaks through the Word written and who thus judges tradition that contradicts the plain teaching of the Holy Bible.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Proposed Doctrine for the Network: Can it be improved? YES, very much so.

The Common Cause Partners of the Anglican Communion Network are being asked to adopt the doctrinal statement printed below at its meeting at the beginning of August 2006.

“Proposed Theological Statement of the Common Cause Partners

We, the representatives of the Common Cause Partners, do declare we believe the following affirmations and commentary to contain the chief elements of Anglican Reformed Catholicism, and to be essential for membership.

1) We receive the Canonical Books of the Old and New Testaments of the Holy Scripture as the inspired Word of God containing all things necessary for salvation, and as the final authority and unchangeable standard for Christian faith and life.
2) We confess the historic faith of the Undivided Church as declared in the Catholic Creeds.
3) We believe the teaching of the Seven Ecumenical Councils in so far as they are agreeable to the Holy Scriptures, and have been held by all, everywhere, at all times. 4) We hold the two sacraments of the Gospel to be ordained by Christ Himself, Baptism and the Supper of the Lord, and to be administered with unfailing use of Christ’s words of Institution and of the elements ordained by Him.
5) We accept the 1549 through the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and its ordinal as the foundation for Anglican worship and the standard for doctrine and discipline.
6) We believe the godly Historic Episcopate to be necessary for the full being of the Church.
7) We affirm the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion as foundational for authentic Anglican belief and practice and as correctives to doctrinal abuses.”

* * *
I offer below some comments upon it from the perspective of the famous Canon A5 in the Canon Law of the Church of England, the mother Church of the Anglican family:

The doctrine of the Church of England is grounded in the holy Scriptures, and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures. In particular such doctrine is to be found in the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordinal.
This indicates that the Anglican Way is at heart a particular way of reading, interpreting and receiving the truths of Holy Scripture as the Word of God written. The use of the ancient Creeds and the Formularies is part of this process of hearing and doing, believing and worshipping, according to what God declares to his people through his Word written.

Personally I cannot see why this Canon in and of itself (slightly edited) is not sufficient as the basis for a working unity for this mixed group of charismatics, evangelicals, anglo-catholics and evangelical high churchmen. There are problems of internal lack of coherence in the above proposed Statement and there are positions stated which self-respecting educated Evangelical Anglicans cannot accept, and below I shall indicate some of them.


If, following the C of E Canon, carefully reads the Thirty-Nine Articles, one will get a full and clear statement of the authority and sufficiency of the Scriptures for instructing us in the way of salvation and godliness. One will also learn what are the Catholic Creeds and why they are accepted in the Church in relation to the Bible. And the same goes for the two Dominical Sacraments. (See also the Catechism in the BCP)

At the same time one will learn that Councils may err and so one will not accept automatically the teaching of “the Seven Ecumenical Councils.” And this is especially important with regard to the seventh, the Second Council of Nicea, whose teaching on the veneration of icons is effectively rejected by the Articles and specifically by the Book of Homilies to which Article XXXV points. The historic Anglican Way has always affirmed four general councils and stopped at that – leaving to the area of discretion by local churches whether to affirm more. (In this regard the Affirmation of St Louis set forth by Anglo-catholic Continuers in 1977 went way past any previous official, provincial or Lambeth Conference Anglican statement in relation to the Councils by making 7 councils and their teaching mandatory – a big mistake.)

Further, if one reads the Articles and the Ordinal together then one will not be able to say on the basis of them (or by direct deduction from the New Testament) that the historic Episcopate is necessary for the full being of the Church. This statement is an Anglo-Catholic doctrine and belongs, I think, to the distinctions between the Episcopate seen as the bene esse (of the well being) or the plene esse (of the fullness of being) or the esse (of the necessary being). Anglicans have held varied doctrines of the relation of the Episcopate to the Church and it is not clear what is being claimed by the English expression, “full being” here. Whatever is claimed it excludes the majority of Anglicans since 1549 who have recognized other Churches (Lutheran, Presbyterian etc) as genuine churches with genuine presbyters, even if lacking the good thing of the Episcopate.

Then in regard to the statement about The Book of Common Prayer. It is the 1662 edition that is in the Constitutions of the majority of the Anglican Provinces and this Book has been translated into 150 languages or more. (Go to provinces like Uganda and see it used each Sunday and find it written into the Constitution.) No official province of the Anglican Communion authorizes the 1549 or the 1552 or the 1559 or the 1604 editions. A very small continuing group here or there may authorize the 1549.

Further, the 1662 was adapted for use in the Republic of the USA in 1789 (and gently edited in 1892 and then again in 1928) and also it was gently edited in Canada in 1918 and then again in 1960/62. Thus the living editions of the ONE BOOK of Common Prayer for the Common Cause groups are the 1662 (used in many countries), the 1928 and the 1962. These are the editions to cite, not those of 1549, 1552, 1559 & 1604!

So, in order to obtain the greatest acceptance and the greatest comprehension on the best principles, I suggest that the above Statement be set aside and in its place the C of E Canon adapted as follows:
We accept the doctrine of the Anglican Way as it is grounded in the holy Scriptures, and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures. In particular, we receive such doctrine as is to be found in the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordinal (as all three of these are printed in the English edition of 1662, the American edition of 1928 and the Canadian edition of 1962 of The Book of Common Prayer).

The Revd Dr Peter Toon July 17, 2006

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Bishops – would we be better off without them? Something to think about!

Perhaps the golden age of the Anglican Way in America was the period when the Church of England existed in the British colonies, when there were no Bishops present to ordain, confirm and teach, and when there was only One Prayer Book.

In 2006 the Anglican Way, with its varied streams and tributaries, has a veritable glut of Bishops in the USA. Of these, the latest is an ECUSA rector appointed to be the Bishop of those local churches in the USA which see themselves as exiles from the Anglican Church of Nigeria. There are over two hundred Bishops in The Episcopal Church and there are well over a hundred in the various Anglican groups outside this Church, but, apparently, not one from these could be found to be the Shepherd of these few congregations.

Whatever else the Episcopate has been seen as existing for, one important function has been that of being the symbol of the unity of the Church through space and time. So there have been claims of an apostolic succession in persons and doctrine through time, together with unity of the Church across space through the collegiality of bishops.

However, what we see in The Episcopal Church in 2006 is a college of Bishops which has been the promoter of a continual variety of innovations that have undermined orthodox faith and worship, biblical morality, and traditional discipline and order. Instead of being a guardian of the Faith and an opponent of heresy and immorality, the House of Bishops has been since the 1960s, and continues to be into late 2006, the promoter of apostasy (even if only by majority votes). ECUSA Bishops cannot and do not symbolize the unity of Christ’s Church but its perilous state in North America.

And, what we see in and amongst the great variety of tiny Anglican groups outside The Episcopal Church is also worrying. Here are Bishops who desire to preserve orthodoxy and who live sacrificially, but who by the very fact of their numbers and their competitive relations are not, by any stretching of the imagination, signs of the unity of the Church in space and time. In fact, the only way to justify the abundance of so many small jurisdictions with so many Bishops is on the basis of old-fashioned, full-blooded evangelical Protestant principles. That is, the true Church is invisible and it is the invisible Church which is one, holy, apostolic and universal. So at the local level it does not matter if there are competitive denominations, if there are different churches on the one street seeking members, and if there are Bishops with overlapping jurisdictions, for the visible churches are not the true Church – the true Church is invisible and has members in most of the visible churches.

It would seem that the Anglican Way in North America would be better off if (a) the House of Bishops of the ECUSA as a body resigned en masse and asked the African Primates to find twenty or thirty men to replace them, and if (b) all the Bishops in the small Continuing Anglican groups resigned en masse and asked the African Primates to find ten good men to look after all the groups and to bring them into a federation of churches as a preparation for unifying the whole.

One can do without Bishops for a long time and it would be good in the USA to be without them for a year or two at least, while the arrangements are made from Africa (or Asia, or both) to send Shepherds to the confused and dispersed flock.

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

Women Bishops debate


Women Bishops debate

Jul 8, 2006

Whilst remaining opposed to the ordination of women to the priesthood and the episcopate, Forward in Faith welcomes the clarity which results from the motion, in the name of the Archbishop of York, which was agreed by the General Synod today. There is now much work to be done in preparing legislation which will give practical effect to that decision. Forward in Faith pledges itself to play a lively part in the discussions which will ensue. It remains to be seen whether it is possible to meet the demands of those in favour of this innovation whilst honouring the oft-repeated assurances of an honoured place within the Church for those who cannot in conscience accept it.

The motion, moved by the Archbishop of York, was passed unamended as follows:

‘That this Synod welcome and affirm the view of the majority of the House of Bishops that admitting women to the episcopate in the Church of England is consonant with the faith of the Church as the Church of England has received it and would be a proper development in proclaiming afresh in this generation the grace and truth of Christ.’

Bishops Clergy Laity
Ayes 31 134 123
Noes 9 42 68

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Sharing an experience, not to complain but to invite understanding

In the continuing crisis of the Anglican Way in 2006 in North America, the following information may add a little light to the understanding of the roots of this crisis.

What follows is a summary of how, in general terms, over the last three decades, the leaders of the Prayer Book Society of the USA have experienced opposition in the ECUSA as those who commend and defend, for the sake of the Lordship of Christ and the final authority of Scripture in the Church, the biblically-based doctrines of the classic Book of Common Prayer, Ordinal and Articles of Religion (editions of 1662 & 1928; Canada 1962).

  1. When they have asked (as nicely as possible) for permission to use the 1928 BCP instead of the 1979 Prayer Book either from a General Convention Commission or from a local Bishop, they have usually been treated as either odd or a nuisance, or both. Then also they have been black listed and not considered for important committees or for promotion.
  2. If they went a step further and explained in print and in talks that the 1979 Book is in content “A Book of Alternative Services” and ought to have been so called, with the classic Book of Common Prayer (edition of 1928) left in place in the Church (as it was in the C of E & Canada), then they incited wrath and opposition – however carefully they stated it – and were treated as outcasts and aliens. Kindly intentioned persons told them to go easy on this topic and to try not to mention it again if they did not want to be persecuted.
  3. If they went yet another step and also explained that there is no justification in Scripture, God’s created order, the Ordinal or Tradition for ordaining and consecrating women, then they were regarded as non-persons, not acceptable in either liberal churches or even in most so-called “orthodox” churches. Again kindly intentioned persons advised them not to mention this topic except amongst friends for it gets people upset or angry.
  4. If they went one more step and suggested that the marriage canon of 1973 ought to be revoked and previous disciplinary canons on marriage recovered to replace it, and if they also suggested that the doctrine of one flesh includes the duty to procreate (all other things being equal) and that this doctrine ought to be in the marriage service (as it is in the 1662), then they were heading for execution. Again, kindly friends told them that the divorce culture and serial monogamy are here to stay in the church and they had better just get used to divorced and remarried clergy as the norm and work slowly for lessening the number.
  5. However, If they also declared that practice of homosexual behavior and the blessing of homosexual couples are contrary to God’s will, then they got less opposition for here they received the approval of the evangelicals, charismatics and other conservative churchpeople.


There has always been from the 1780s within The Episcopal Church a strong Latitudinarian element. In the 1970s, as the winds of change from the 1960s blew at full blast, it seems that there was an especially arrogant mindset present in the now dominant Latitudinarian element. Its enlightened members believed that they could do whatever they wanted, if they could get it through on a vote, and as long as they could find some justification for it in such sources as the liturgical movement, recent Biblical criticism, recent theology from Europe and the USA (Tillich etc), social science, psychology and the Ecumenical Movement.

We recall that the received doctrine of marriage was changed by the ECUSA in 1973, the doctrine of the Ministry was changed in 1976, and the historic Formularies were cast into the archives in 1979 to be replaced by a Liturgy based on a mixture of traditionalism and liberal theology and ethics. This was also the decade which saw the beginnings of the rapid advance of the LesBiGay agenda in the ECUSA.

A Church that advanced so far in the 1970s in secular religion, and has continued in the same spirit and direction since then, cannot be expected to tolerate any who challenge its right to ditch the classic Formularies, change both the doctrine of the Ministry and of holy matrimony, and approve homosexual practice.

YET, amazingly, there is still a minority within the ECUSA, a small one, but really there, which clings to the Bible, the classic Formularies, and to biblically based doctrine and ethics. There are still bishops who tolerate such folks – if they pay their financial assessment in full! The tiny minority has survived for forty years and who knows, it may survive another forty and gain converts as it does.

If a new Province X within The Episcopal Church is created for “the orthodox” it may even set the standards for all who enter it.

Looking back we can see that the seeds planted by the Episcopal Church, when it began the abandonment of its commitment to Holy Scripture and the historic Formularies in the early 1970s, bore much fruit at its latest General Convention in 2006. And the taste of this fruit has horrified many at home and abroad - including those who (to put it kindly) have claimed to be fully orthodox but have had little or no time for the doctrinal position of the Prayer Book Society, or for its call to re-instate the historic Formularies (the classic BCP, Ordinal and Articles) and make the 1979 Book a “Book of Alternative Services.”

God works in mysterious ways to perform his wonders amongst us. A minor one of these is perhaps the survival of The Prayer Book Society, born in 1971, often bitterly opposed by liberals and conservatives, and very much alive today, with a growing number of Anglicans / Episcopalians in the USA, and Bishops abroad, taking notice of its message.

Historical note: The Society for the Preservation of The Book of Common Prayer was founded in Tennessee (at Vanderbilt University and The University of the South) as learned and godly men saw the writing on the wall, the impending loss of the Reformed Catholic Faith of the Protestant Episcopal Church. Now called The Prayer Book Society of the USA it is alive and well, serving parishes and members of the ECUSA and Continuing Anglican jurisdictions in the USA and abroad. Visit There are sister societies in England, Canada and Australia.

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

Monday, July 03, 2006

CD-PDF Books from the Prayer Book Society

Irene C. Teas

A few years ago the Prayer Book Society began offering selected books on CDs that, having been scanned to PDF format, can be read on a computer screen and whose pages can be printed as desired. Why should you own and read these books? Because they provide education as to what comprises the Anglican Way, answer many “why” and “how to” questions, and give you material by which you can enrich your daily and Sunday worship services.

The first book that we did on CD was The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, by Richard Hooker (the Keble edition in 8 volumes). This is a bedrock work in defense of the organization and the Common Prayer worship of the Church of England, which is the heritage of all Anglicans.

Then we produced Anglicanism; the thought and practice of the Church of England, edited by P. E. More and F. L. Cross. This is an anthology of excerpts from prominent Anglicans of the 17th century. Particularly valuable are two essays at the beginning which clearly explain what the genuine Anglican Way is to this day.

It is only logical that the Prayer Book Society would bring forth books on its reason for existence, the Book of Common Prayer, so next came two CDs containing such books.

The first of these two was The Book of Common Prayer: Six Commentaries. Originally it had been Blunt’s Annotated Book of Common Prayer separately, and later Five Commentaries, but these were subsequently put together on a single CD of Six Commentaries as offered now.

Because the faithful editions of the Book of Common Prayer derive most of their content from the 1662 edition, the books on this CD are great references for later editions as well – and I can’t emphasize that point strongly enough! The four commentaries on the 1662 edition are Annotated Book of Common Prayer, by J. H. Blunt; The Prayer-Book, Its History, Language, and Contents, by E. Daniel (23rd ed.); The Teacher’s Prayer Book..., by A. Barry (16th ed.); and The Tutorial Prayer Book..., edited by C. Neil and J. M. Willoughby. On the Book of Common Prayer 1928 there are two commentaries: The American Prayer Book..., by E. L. Parsons and B. H. Jones (to me the Glossary at the back is the best part); and The Oxford American Prayer Book Commentary, by M. H. Shepherd.

Our second CD on the Book of Common Prayer is The Book of Common Prayer – Its History, Use, and Terms. The history book is A New History of the Book of Common Prayer... by F. Procter, revised by W. H. Frere, formerly a required textbook for clergy. The “use” book is Liturgy and Worship, a Companion to the Prayer Books of the Anglican Communion, edited by W. K. Lowther Clarke. This is a collection of contributed essays under the headings of “Historical”, “The Prayer Book Services: Their Sources and Rationale”, and “Supplementary Essays”. Subjects run from synagogue worship to prayer book translations – with plenty of details. The “terms” book is The Prayer Book Dictionary, a large reference book edited by G. Harford and M. Stevenson.

Sometimes it has been complained that the Book of Common Prayer lacks prayers for special occasions or circumstances. The Prayer Book Society has therefore made a CD containing twelve collections of prayers under the simple title of Collects & Prayers. One or two of these collections have official approval for use in the Church of England. Others contain prayers that have been found useful by the clergymen who gathered them together. A few are compiled by laymen who maintained the classic style of the Book of Common Prayer.

What would the Anglican Way be without its Formularies, one of which is the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion? It seems to me that the decline of the church in recent decades coincided with the time that the Articles, our guidelines, were abandoned. While the above CDs were being produced, I was concurrently, over several years, scanning the dozen books on our CD The Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion. The titles are too long to itemize here, but perhaps you will recognize some of the authors: Bicknell, Boultbee, Browne, Burnet, Gibson, Green, Hardwick, Litton, Maclear and Williams, Rogers, Thomas, and Wilson and Templeton. Here you can compare and weigh various views on specific points in “the 39”, which is a good thing to do to round out your own thinking.

Our latest offering coming out this fall is A Special Anglican Trilogy. It contains (1) The Liturgy Compared with the Bible, by H. I. Bailey, which shows how phrases in the Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal are connected to Scripture; (2) A Plain Commentary on the Four Holy Gospels..., by J. W. Burgon, 2d American edition, written as a devotional but useful as well as a sermon resource; and (3) An Exposition of the Creed, by J. Pearson, 6th edition, an in-depth classic on the Apostles’ Creed.

You will find these CDs listed on the order form in past issues of the Mandate magazine, and they are listed online at the Anglican Marketplace,

Happy reading and learning to all!

Sunday, July 02, 2006

What happened to Christian Marriage in the 1979 BCP?

If you support Christian Marriage, and you want to be sure you begin with one, don’t use the 1979 Marriage Service!

Recently advocates of homosexual, covenanted same-sex partnerships have been explaining that the Marriage Service in the 1979 Prayer Book only needs minor adjustments to be used for a “marriage-service” involving two persons of the same “gender” (or, as I would say, “sex’). I think that they are right in their claim and interpretation, though wrong in what they desire. If this surprises you, read on please.

The Service in the 1979 Book was produced in the aftermath of the 1960s and the sexual revolution begun then. Also it was produced at the height of the feminist movement, in the context of a divorce culture, when artificial birth control was commonly used, and where self-fulfillment was a high priority for many entering marriage. In fact in 1973 The Episcopal Church had changed its rules (canon law) on marriage, abandoning the disciplinary canons and introducing pastoral ones (i.e., to allow for the marriage of divorcees easily) and its new Prayer Book Service had to reflect this changed situation.

The easiest way for anyone to see how what was once named “God’s holy ordinance” has been devalued in the Episcopal Church is by beginning with the Book of Common Prayer in its 1662 edition, and moving on to its American 1928 edition, and then moving to the innovatory 1979 Book and making comparisons.

I leave my reader to do the full examination but let me indicate what to look for.

1. In the Preface look for what is stated to be the doctrine of marriage. Notice a diminution from 1662 to 1928 and then notice a different ethos altogether in 1979.
2. In the vows made by each person, notice whether there are any significant differences between what one promises and what the other promises – again starting with 1662 and going via 1928 to the 1979 Book. That is, is the distinction between male and female there clearly in what they promise one to the other?
3. In the Collects and Prayers notice what doctrines are implied – and note that the notion of procreation being “if it be thy will” found in both 1928 and 1979 is not in 1662 or the C of E 1928 edition.
4. Examine whether the Dominical and Apostolic teaching on marriage is embedded in the different services and to what degree? (Matthew 19:3-15; Mark 10:2-16; 1 Peter 3:1-6; Ephesians 5:21-33; 1 Corinthians 7:10-17).

My own conclusion is that unless the 1979 service is dramatically revised and made to conform to the teaching of the Lord and his Apostles and towards the text of the classic service in the BCP 1662, then it is less than an appropriate rite for use by betrothed couples, who are repentant sinners and who believe on, and desire to serve, the Lord Jesus Christ.

In fact the existence of this 1979 Marriage Service with its implied support for both serial monogamy and for unions in which procreation is refused or minimized through artificial birth control and for achieving self-fulfillment has been a major factor that has helped to move along the agenda of the LesBiGay activists. In fact those who use the 1979 Marriage Service without amendment probably have no right at all to say anything about the demands of the LesBiGay Episcopalians for they too are denying the ordinances of the Lord which state that “the two shall become one flesh.”

For those who decide or desire to use the classic 1662 Service but who want to use contemporary English, then they can – contact me.

Notice that on pages 435-6 of the 1979 Book general provision is made for a marriage either in “you” form or “thou” form and it would appear that the 1662 Service or the 1928 Service or the Canadian 1962 (BCP) Service could be used in either language form within these rubrics.

We look to the Continuing Anglican jurisdictions and the dioceses and jurisdictions within the Anglican Communion Network to recover, proclaim and support the Christian doctrine of marriage in the Anglican Rite which they use, the teaching they give and in their spiritual and pastoral care.

The Revd Dr Peter Toon July 1, 2006

P.S. Click here for a file that I wrote ten years ago on the topic of holy matrimony for publication in the magazines of Forward in Faith USA and The Prayer Book Society USA. I fear that what I have been saying regularly over the decade has been heeded by few! Yet I continue in the hope that seeds are being sown which will grow into a renewed doctrine of marriage.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Watch out! The classic Formularies are returning!

A Reflection from the President of the Prayer Book Society of the USA

Many Anglicans believe that The Book of Common Prayer was first published in 1549, reissued in 1552, and then, in succeeding editions (as authorized by English monarchs beginning with the reign of Elizabeth I) has been used continually in English churches. Regrettably this belief is not wholly accurate even though it is substantially true,

From 1559 through to 1645, in the reigns of Elizabeth I, James I and Charles I, The Book of Common Prayer was used weekly, often daily, in the cathedrals, churches and chapels of England and Wales. Then from 1645 to 1660 under the Long Parliament and then of the Protectorate (Oliver Cromwell and his son) The Book of Common Prayer was a forbidden Liturgy. With the restoration of Charles II as King in 1660, The Book of Common Prayer was restored and thus the edition of the Prayer Book of 1662 became the standard edition that went all over the world with the British Empire and with those sent as missionaries by the various missionary societies of the Church.

Not all the clergy of the Church of England in place in 1660 were prepared to accept the use of the Prayer Book. Thus from 1660 to 1662 there was an exodus of nearly 2000 clergy, who, together with the laity who followed them and maintained them, formed what has been called Protestant Nonconformity and Dissent – Congregationalists, Baptists, and Presbyterians.

The point I am making here is that England in the middelof the seventeenth century provides an example of a Church that (a) rejects the classic Book of Common Prayer; for fifteen or so years, and (b) experiments with various kinds of Puritan forms of services, where there was little if any formal liturgy; and then (a) restores the very Book (in a slightly edited form) that it had used from 1559 to 1645.

And now I ask my reader to recall that from the seventeenth century through to the 1970s, the Anglican or Episcopal parishes of the USA used The Book of Common Prayer – first in the 1662 edition and then, after Independence, in the American revisions of 1789, 1892 and 1928 (while over the border at the north the Canadians also used the same 1662 BCP, as also did the West Indians south of Florida.)

Secondly, I ask my reader to recall that from from 1979 the Protestant Episcopal Church of the USA, by the decision of its General Convention, ceased officially to use The Book of Common Prayer, as received in this Church and the Anglican Way. This Church replaced it with a book of the same name but of a very different content, structure and doctrine. The classic Book of Common Prayer (1662, 1789, 1892 & 1928 editions) was placed in the archives and a “Book of Varied Services” with varied doctrines was made the Prayer Book and Formulary of the Church. Interestingly, Books similar to the American Book were called “Alternative Service Book” and “Book of Alternative Services” in England and Canada, and in both places the classic Prayer Book was retained with its historic title.

This official absence of The Book of Common Prayer in The Episcopal Church has now lasted for nearly thirty years, nearly twice as long as the period it was absent from the Church of England. This is an immense tragedy for the Church and the nation. Happily it has been kept in continual use by a small number of churches both inside and outside The Episcopal Church, and Oxford University Press has kept it in print, while the Prayer Book Society of the USA has reprinted The Altar Edition, first issued by Oxford University Press.

It is true, I think, to claim that the majority in England in 1660-1662 wanted to see the recovery of the use of the classic Prayer Book in their parishes and cathedrals. Regrettably, and in contrast, only a minority in The Episcopal Church desire to see a recovery of the classic Prayer Book, even if only as a doctrinal Formulary which need not be used. The truth of the matter is that the majority of Episcopalians wish to keep the historic Prayer Book in the archives securely locked up because they have rejected the form of Christian Faith, Morality and Order that it represents.

However, that minority within the Episcopal Church represented by The Anglican Communion Network and related groups (e.g. The American Anglican Council) is showing signs (as part of its desire to be accepted by and acceptable to the majority of the member churches of the Anglican Communion) of a desire and readiness to recover the historic Formularies as its secondary standards of Faith, with Holy Scripture as the chief foundation. There is slow but increasing recognition that The Episcopal Church made a major mistake when it called its “Book of varied Services” by the title of “The Book of Common Prayer”, as if it were another edition of the one, classic Prayer Book of the Anglican Way.

The recovery of the classic Book of Common Prayer, the Ordinal and the Articles of Religion (all found in the latest American edition of the real Prayer Book, 1928, as in all previous editions). together with a carefully prepared contemporary language version of them (maintaining the same structure, content and doctrine) are gradually being seen as what is needed to be both a sign of commitment to the true Anglican/Episcopal Way and of desire for internal unity in Rite and Doctrine. Such a standard of worship and doctrine and ministry would suffice for both traditionalists and modern evangelical and charismatic types, for it would be available in two forms (traditional and contemporary) but have one basic content and doctrine. The Anglican Mission in America, with the Prayer Book Society, are pioneering in this task of making available the historic Prayer Book in its classic form and also in a contemporary language form which preserves the doctrine and structure.

Let us be honest. The Anglican Way without its Formularies is not the Anglican Way but some other way!

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