Tuesday, September 19, 2006

What keeps Continuing Anglicans from celebrating Truth in Unity and Unity based upon Truth?

Thoughts from a friend to friends in order to initiate prayerful activity

Since the Continuing Anglicans are known to be users of the last authentic edition of the American form of The Book of Common Prayer, since their total numbers in many small churches are known to be not all that much more than a couple of very large Baptist congregations, and since I am currently President of the Prayer Book Society, people ask me regularly questions about why the genuine “Continuers” do not either unite as one denomination or work together as a association or communion. Then, it is suggested, they could benefit from a greater number of spiritual gifts, engage in mission and evangelization more effectively, represent their stance more dynamically to the larger Anglican world, and generally be more productive for the glory of God.

When I express these views, more often than not, I get a defense of the right of each of the groups, which trace their origins to the 1977 St Louis Congress of Anglicans planning on leaving The Episcopal Church. In this defense, it is generally admitted that the aim of those present at St Louis was to form one, “pure” branch of the Anglican Way, and for it to be only in communion with those parts of the existing Anglican Communion at that time that were judged to be orthodox and not “apostate,” as were The Episcopal Church (TEC) and The Anglican Church of Canada (TACC), because they had ordained women as priests. However, the pragmatic American argument then usually follows, the argument that justifies the tremendous variety of denominations and groups within the American supermarket of religions. This put simply is : we have the right to organize ourselves in the best way that we think will promote the truth that we feel called to uphold.

However, it is well known that the divisions that soon occurred amongst those who left TEC & TACC via St Louis in 1977 were created by human weakness, frailty and pride, working through doctrinal and organizational factors. And, further, it should be admitted that far more money and energy have gone into both the maintenance of the fractured parts and justifications for their existence and autonomy, than has gone into efforts to seek to unite them, urging them to be led by the Holy Spirit into communion, cooperation and unity.

Let us pause for a moment. The very idea of “Common Prayer” used by all of them suggests a commonwealth, that is a society, group, community that is as a family, united and working together, getting over problems that inevitably arise through patience, understanding and kindness. And praying together!

More importantly, the very Scripture, read daily in the Offices and at Holy Communion, teaches that there is One Lord, One God, One Father, One Saviour, One household of God and of Faith, and so on. The New Testament looks for maintaining the truth in love, and truth with unity, truth in communion, and truth with grace. From the perspective of the teaching of Jesus and of his apostles there is no basis whatever of any kind for Christians of the same faith and practice to be organized in separation and often in opposition.

I think that it is clear that in the present crisis of The Anglican Way, the spotlight of the Word of God from the exalted Lord Christ is shining on all of us who are Anglicans. It is so easy for Continuers to continue to point to the errors and heresies of TEC & TACC; but perhaps they are now ready to be aware that the spotlight which shines on these Churches also shines on them, and in this light, they too are in need of repentance and renewal, holiness and charity. And in their case it is perhaps the more urgent for they make the loudest and most extensive claims to truth and orthodocy.

Let me draw to a close. If we wear the Anglican badge today and we live in the West, then we would be wise to see ourselves under the chastisement – perhaps the very judgment – of our Father in heaven. If we were now under his blessing then the situation both in the Provinces of the Anglican Communion and in the groups and jurisdictions outside would be very different – it would be looking more like the picture of the Church in the NT, e.g., in Ephesians.

Let us not doubt but that God our Father desires to revive his people and make them to shine as a light in the world for his glory and for the benefit of humanity. But God has to work with us, with human beings, and until we are ready then God may choose to withhold what he desires to pour out upon us.

When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain; or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive them and heal the land. (2 Chronicles 7:13-14)


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

Goodbye to Patriarchy despite the fact that it is endemic in the Bible!

And welcome to Egalitarianism because this is the will of Godself!

There is no doubt whatsoever that when the New Testament is read carefully and, as far as possible, within its own terms of reference that it is presents patriarchy as the norm in family and in church, as it was in the synagogue. The headship of the male, guided by the love of Christ, is declared. However, the patriarchy assumed and commended is a generous and compassionate patriarchy not oppressive and harsh (as patriarchy has often been in human society over the centuries).

The fact that the New Testament, and the Bible as a whole assumes that God’s will is patriarchy, is once again being recognized by biblical scholars. This comes after a long period in which all kinds of sophisticated attempts have been made to seek to show that there are within the Scriptures principles – even clear texts (e.g. Galatians 3:28) – which in fact not only allow but actually require equality of the sexes, and thus equality of entrance by women into the pastoral office and sharing in the headship of a family. Of course, there are still many around who have not caught up with the changing scene and think that the New Testament when read by sophisticated moderns does allow for women in pastoral and family headship. Eventually, however, these people (and they are a majority amongst the so-called “orthodox” in the C of E and in the ECUSA, for example) will have to face up to the fact that the only way to maintain the ordination of women is through a theology that actually removes or discounts the clear content of the Bible.

This said we now need to state that the fact that some biblical scholars and theologians are recognizing that what is taught and assumed in the Scriptures with respect to patriarchy is actually what traditional reading has long seen and recognized, does not mean that they, and those whom they represent and serve, are ceasing to believe in the right of a woman to be ordained as a pastor (deacon, priest or bishop). To avoid having to follow the obvious and literal, biblical requirement today, they have adopted simple ways around it. In doing so, it may be noted, they have totally changed the way in which the Scriptures can be considered as authoritative for faith and conduct in the Churches. Here are two ways:

(1) It is stated that the Bible is the human record of the first two phases of the experience of God and revelation, and that this recording in the 66 books is obviously affected by the cultural, social and linguistic context of those who did the writing. But God was not idle or absent after the death of the apostles. People over the centuries have continued to experience the divine in all kinds of different situations and contexts. And thus the books of God have continued to be written. Today, we do not experience God in the West from within a patriarchal family structure and thus we do not understand the divine word to be in favor of patriarchy at all. In fact, we experience God’s involvement with us in the progress of human rights, dignity, and self-worth in our society and so for us the entrance of qualified women into the ordained ministry is normal. And the fact that the Bible is patriarchal should not bother us at all, for we have been moved on away from any sense of guilt by the action of God in history and experience. (Something like this is taught in many of the seminaries of the mainline denominations.)

(2) It is claimed that God (not as we may think of Deity from within the “lens” of any culture or context; but God as the real Godself true to Godself) is in his/her nature and in relation to humankind not patriarchal at all, but wonderfully and luminously egalitarian. And we are witnessing this truth being revealed, grasped and put into operation more and more in our own post-modern times. There are hints of this egalitarianism in the (admittedly patriarchal) Bible; and what is discovered there (only in embryo and promise), now in the third millennium God is actually bringing into reality more and more as the years go by. We are in the “already present in part” but “not yet fully present in whole” of this Gospel egalitarianism; thus we can see the will of Godself being realized slowly in our midst. In saying this we should recognize that the temporary will of Godself has been to allow patriarchy – thus it is writ large in the Bible – until the time was ripe for the revelation of the fullness of truth, Gospel egalitarianism and equality. (Something like this is taught by John G. Stackhouse,Jr., who succeeded Dr J.I. Packer at Regent College - see his Finally Feminist ,Baker, 2005.)

I can see down the road the situation where all who take the Bible seriously as the Word of God written (be they Orthodox, RC, Anglican or whatever) will accept that male headship and generous and gracious patriarchy are God’s will for the church and family. At the same time, those who decide to hold on to the right of women to exercise headship will more and more begin to see the Bible as only the first part of a long and continuing self-Revelation by Godself and they will want to follow the teaching in the latest chapters rather than the first two or so (that is they will see God as speaking to them through modern experience, especially in the enlightened West)!

Certainly little seems to stand still these days!

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

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Twins from God, TRUTH & UNITY, permanently joined

A short essay to assist meditation and inform attitude

What I am going to cite below can only be fully appreciated if one (a) first recalls the content of Jesus’ last Discourse and Prayer in the upper room (John 14-17) for the oneness of his disciples; (b) then reads The Letter to the Ephesians and gains a sense of the unity in truth and truth in unity presented therein as inextricably belonging to the nature of the Church in its relation to Jesus Christ, the exalted Head; and (c) really appreciates the divine requirement for Christians to live together “maintaining the unity of the Spirit in the bonds of peace.” Here is the quotation.

“Truth and unity are twins that cannot be placed in lexical order. They have been joined at conception. One does not precede the other. For this reason, space must be created [in the contemporary Church situation] in which both these twins can survive and flourish. Two things are necessary for the creation of this space. One focuses on what Victor Turner once described as communitas, those beliefs, practices, gifts and powers of soul that give sweetness to common life and allow the participants to live peacefully with their neighbors’ idiosyncrasies and rough edges. The other focuses on what Turner called “structure” – those political mechanisms that help us to order life together so that our gifts are fully realized and our aggressions peacefully contained.” [E. Radner & P. Turner, The Fate of Communion, The Agony of Anglicanism…, Eerdmans 2006]

There is no doubt that while we may agree in the abstract, and in theory, with the substantial point being made here, in practice we Anglicans do not usually walk in this way – at least not in recent times. What we often manage to get involved in, when there are real problems and crises in our own church or denomination, is either (i) the pursuit of what think is propositional truth, to the abandonment or loss of practical unity, or (ii) pursuit of formal unity, to the loss of common truth. It seems that we lack patience (usually thinking that we have waited long enough for what we think is right) and that we cannot bear the thought of living alongside others whom we find it hard, or even impossible, to affirm as fellow travelers to the heavenly City. Thus we rush into (what may be with hindsight called) precipitate action. One only has to open the Phone Book and go to “Churches” in the Yellow Pages to see the very long List of the ecclesiastical results of the rush to separate (and the lack of patience to negotiate and find common ground in former united denominations).

Over the last thirty years, the List in the Yellow Pages has been accumulating a growing number of varied and diverse “Episcopalian” and “Anglican” titles and names. The ultimate reason (but not the presenting reasons) for this is the failure of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the USA from the 1960s to believe, teach and confess, as well as practically to know, that
“truth and unity are twins that have been joined since birth” and that this is how the Lord of the Church would have it. The way in which the leadership of The Episcopal Church introduced liturgical change, the ordination of women, and other innovations from the late 1960s lacked all sense of a concern for truth with unity and unity with truth. Prominent was the passion to get done what the elite wanted done and which they believed was credible and relevant to the new age. There was little sense of getting everyone on board in cooperation and making genuine space for all churchmanships and valid theologies. There was also little sense of waiting for fellow Provinces in the Anglican Communion to catch up with the advanced thinking within the PECUSA.

But, if we are honest, we must also be aware that the exit of those who did not accept the innovations, first in the late 1970s, and then sporadically since then right up to yesterday, may be described as a passionate pursuit of truth (of one kind or another), usually with a significant failure to recognize that truth (as it is in Jesus, the Lord) can only exist where there is unity (in the Spirit of the same exalted Lord). As may be noted by study of the various groups of Anglicans and Episcopalians now outside The Episcopal Church, once they had left The Episcopal Church they found it very difficult indeed to maintain unity amongst themselves, for they were subject to continuing centrifugal powers and processes both from within their own persons and units and from the general culture.

Experience teaches that when truth is pursued alone then the opposite of unity usually accompanies it, sooner or later. Thus, regrettably and sadly, there is not one Continuing Anglican Church now in North America but several, indeed many, and few of them are even in active cooperation with each other.

Truth in Christianity may be reduced to propositions that are true – such as “Jesus is One Person, made known in two natures, divine and human”. Such forms of truth are necessary and often good. Yet Truth is first and foremost dynamic, that is, it is the living Lord Jesus Christ himself. Did he not say, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life?” Truth from God to man is contained in one Lord Jesus Christ and everything in him and about him. Thus all who are truly united to Him by the Holy Spirit, and through Him to the Father, and are thereby really in His mystical Body, are united as members one of another both now and for evermore. They know the Truth and by the Truth they are set free from the guilt and power of sin into new and abundant everlasting life. Truth and Unity are as one before God, and in His Revelation and Gift, because they are perfectly and inextricably united in the Person of the Incarnate Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, the crucified and exalted Saviour – who shall come again in glory to consummate the Father’s purpose for the unity of the human race, after he has exercised the divine judgment.

The Anglican Way is of course only that of a global “denomination,” a named part of the One Church of God. Yet what God intends for the whole Church, he must surely intend for each part. So Truth with Unity and Unity with Truth in the One Lord Jesus Christ belong together throughout the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, and those who claim to be members of His Body and walking in the Anglican Way ought to be more than ready and willing to seek on earth Truth with Unity within their denomination, in their pilgrimage to the heavenly City, where everlastingly the Two (Truth and Unity) will be luminously visible and gloriously joined.

Almighty and everlasting God, give unto us the increase of faith, hope and charity; and, that we may obtain that which thou dost promise, make us to love that which thou dost command; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


September 17, 2006. Peter Toon.

Anglicans in North America – divided and perplexed!

Have they lost the ability to see and comprehend implications of the Christian Faith?

Perhaps the most difficult place in the whole world to be a Christian in is the United States of America, the land of “the free” and the home of “the brave.” Perhaps also the most difficult place in the whole world to know where to find the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church of God is in the same “land of liberty and of democracy.”

Why? There are various reasons and here are a few: there are so many persons and groups claiming to present and offer authentic Christianity that it is very difficult to know how to choose; many forms of American Christianity are tied to party, political theory of the right, left or center in terms of their expression of the practical content of the Christian life with the result that the secularization and politicization of religion are overwhelming; so often there is an uncritical conflation and equation by Christian groups of the “secular” freedom and liberty so highly prized by the American “dream” with the “Gospel freedom” of which St Paul so passionately speaks in his Letter to the Galatians; and it is not always clear that opposition to Christianity by modern American secular humanists is actually against Christ as the Lord & Savior, or against cultural, social and political wrappings around the Christian Faith.

It is in this situation of the competitive supermarket of American religions, and the unclear lines between religious and secular, church and society, that Anglicans/Episcopalians, as one tribe/extended family, are having their own severe testing and crisis of identity, faith and morals (even as are others like Lutherans and Methodists).

If we look to the New Testament for guidance, we find that it does not address, does not even contemplate, what is absolutely normal for Americans – the existence of denominations, of competition between them, and further the existence within denominations of competitive sub-divisions, along with a massive number of congregationally based units and groupings.

Certainly the New Testament addresses divisive actions and teaching, tensions, bad leadership, sinful and immoral actions within churches but in the apostolic age you were either in the Body of Christ, preparing to enter the Body of Christ, or suspended for disciplinary reasons from the Body of Christ. So we have always to remember that when using the New Testament for calls for unity in faith, hope and love in one of our modern denominational churches or congregations we are using the New Testament in a way that is not wholly in accord with its own context, principles and content – for it assumes and looks for the unity of all Christians in one geographical area in one congregation or in several congregations which are all in fellowship with each other in that area. This solemn fact should not put us off or deter us from using the New Testament as Word of God to the “Church” today; but surely it calls us to do so with reverence, wisdom and care, and NEVER with denominational triumphalism.

Of course, in a denominational congregation and between churches in one denomination there ought to be true Christian faith and practice – and further there ought to be the continuing recognition that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Savior and Head of the whole Body and that any one denomination is not that whole Body. (Of course the R C Church claims to be so and so do the Orthodox Churches as a Group; but, however weighty their claims by reason of antiquity and continuing in space and time are, the fact remains that alongside and around them are millions of professing Christians in “denominations” which also claim to be “Christian.”)

If we do look at the present state of the Anglican Way in North America within this perspective (of the religious supermarket of competition and differences against the background of the One Church proclaimed by the NT) ,then we see not only The Episcopal Church (itself divided into factions) but also many spin-offs or schism from it during the last 150 years or so – from the Reformed Episcopal Church, through the Continuing Churches (late 1970s and into 1980s), and the Anglican Mission in America (1990s), to the 80 or more congregations currently affiliated with a large variety of overseas bishops. And to all this we have to add missionary Anglican dioceses/ networks founded from Nigeria and India. Here we have “one extended family” where brothers and sisters, cousins and half-cousins, adopted brothers, sisters an cousins, do not ever meet as a whole tribe, often shut each other our, but do have some minimal coming together of sub-groups (which we may term small nuclear families). In fact, the whole extended family or tribe shows the same characteristics of division and competition as the warring sects and denominations within the one religious supermarket of the USA.

And (from the viewpoint of the archangels above) the massive tragedy is that for most of us this situation is normal and we do not worry about it in the least – or maybe only challenged to do so by an over-enthusiastic preacher; and it is normal for us because we have become habituated to view the whole Church and the small branch we call Anglican through the prism of the religious liberty and competitive supermarket in which we live and breathe within the “land of the free.”

Perhaps after self-examination, some of us may be ready to hear the Word of God addressing us from the pages of the Old Testament, coming on the wings of the Holy Spirit. God chose and loved his covenant people but they rebelled against him so often. So there is more in the OT books about the apostasy of the covenant people than of their obedience and faithfulness. Often they were under the chastisement and judgment of their covenant LORD who, because he actually loved them with an everlasting love, withdrew his blessings and sent his judgments (famine, plague, drought, invaders, civil war etc). And this situation was only reversed when they heard his call to repentance and turned to him in obedient faith/faithfullness.

In terms of the Anglican Way, may we say that what is happening to all the parts of the extended family and tribe we call Anglican/Episcopalian is that they are experiencing the chastisement – probably also the judgment – of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is seen not only in their seemingly permanent dividedness but also in their pride and all those sins of “the flesh” that St Paul lists often (see e.g. Galatians 5:16-26). Of course, within this situation there are some holy people who are seeking to do what is right and acceptable before God and they feel intensely the pain of it all and are often bewildered and cry out in pain. But, there are probably too many who do not recognize the chastisement upon them from heaven, and carry on in their “Americanized” mindset and policies as if the divisions were approved and required by God himself – for after all they are part of the way that things just are in the “land of the brave.”

May I suggest that to think that the judgment of the LORD is only upon those who have brought into the “tribe” major innovations in doctrine and morals (the ECUSA leadership) is to miss the whole point of the OT teaching. The chastisement is upon all the people and even the godly receive it. But the truly godly and innocent are few; all of us with few exceptions have contributed to the malaise and sickness of the Anglican way, if not by sins of commission then by sins of omission (e.g. laity have funded erring clergy for decades and also funded seminaries where error reigned in the ECUSA; further, outside ECUSA they have funded small continuing jurisdictions in separation from others and from brothers and sisters of life mine; many who call themselves biblical and orthodox are very selective in what they take from the Bible and from orthodoxy etc.) .

[In fact, too many of us have behaved, and continue to behave, as if we hold the extreme Protestant doctrine of the Church which has long justified denominationalism, sectarianism and competition – that the real Church of God is invisible and is with Christ in the heavens; that one becomes a member through individual regeneration and faith through direct access; and that in comparison visible churches on earth are mixed in membership and through useful are insignificant, for the real Body of Christ is not visible but unseen and invisible.]

As with Israel and Judah of old, so with us – (is the Lord saying?) until we hear and receive the word of judgment, and seek to amend our ways and unite as the people of God, then we may expect the chastisement to continue upon North American Anglicans (despite whatever is done by Primates overseas and by political machinations within the U.S.A. or Canada). Here is what the LORD once said to King Solomon:

When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain; or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive them and heal the land. (2 Chronicles 7:13-14

In his penetrating critique of The Virginia Report and The Windsor Report in The Fate of Communion (Radner & Turner, Eerdmans 2006), Philip Turner has shown that – even at the highest level of reflection -- there is a serious tendency to view the problems of the Anglican Communion without reference to the message of both OT & NT that human sinfulness, pride, idolatry, divisiveness and the like are the major causes of our current predicaments – and that failures in good manners and exercising worldly virtues are very secondary in comparison. I recommend this book for study by the serious-minded for, while it is not easy reading, it can be very rewarding reading, in pointing to the fact that Truth without Unity is hardly real Truth in divine terms.

Please use some of the prayers provided at www.anglicansatprayer.org

Dr Peter Toon September 18, 2006

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Continuers, Covenant and Co-operation

A proposal from two editors – Auburn Traycik of The Christian Challenge and Peter Toon of The Mandate – addressed to orthodox, continuing Anglicans in North America.

We sent this message primarily to those whom we know as the real Continuing Anglicans, who trace their origins via the St Louis Gathering in 1977 to the orthodox Anglican Way, as that had been known in the Anglican Church of Canada and in the Protestant Episcopal Church of the USA. However, we hope that others who have left these two Churches also to become Continuing Anglicans will prayerfully consider what we suggest.

On September 16, 2006, Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, sent out a pastoral letter to the Archbishops and Presiding Bishops of the Anglican Communion of Churches. In it he stated that, as request by the Primates themselves, he had asked Archbishop Drexel Gomez of The Bahamas to chair a committee to draft a Covenant. The purpose of the Covenant is to bring together in basic doctrine, liturgy, morals and polity those Provinces, which will be, in the future, members of the “renewed” Anglican Communion ( and which may or may not be the same as those 38 Provinces which are the current members). [For the origins of the need for a Covenant see The Windsor Report of 2004.]

We believe that in the process of creating this Covenant, there is a unique opportunity for the genuine, orthodox Continuing Anglicans to make a solid and serious contribution to debate and dialogue within the Anglican Family worldwide and also in the present Anglican Communion (some of whose provinces and dioceses still confess the Anglican Way in the same traditional style as do the Continuing Anglicans).

Our suggestion is simple but we believe profound:

• that each of the several jurisdictions, which traces its ancestry back to the exodus of 1977 via St Louis, nominate a couple of persons, one clergy one laity;

• that the two from each jurisdiction join together to form a working party to draft a Covenant for submission to the committee headed by Archbishop Gomez;

• that the initial meeting be under the good auspices of The Christian Challenge in Washington D.C., where a chairman and secretary can be appointed and the work begin;

• that in order to get this started that each jurisdiction contact Auburn Traycik at Christian Challenge (ATraycik@aol.com) and that she uses her knowledge of Washington,the Continuing Churches and persons therein to facilitate the first meeting.

• That Peter Toon be used as a contact person to advise what kind of shape, style and size of document [not content!] is required, and is likely to gain the best reading/hearing.

We see this suggestion as in the providence of God achieving good ends – e.g., the provision on The Table at the centre of the Anglican Family of a fully orthodox, traditional Anglican statement of what truly is the basis, content and genius of the Anglican Way; greater cooperation between orthodox groups that have, through varied circumstances, walked apart in recent decades; and a renewal of mind and purpose for those who engage in this enterprise and which they can share with others in their churches. We cannot see anything negative arising from this way forward; rather, we believe, it is an open door being provided for Continuing Anglicans to share what God has given them with others around the globe.

To discuss this further, please call Mrs Traycik at the Office of Christian Challenge in Washington, DC.

Also, please commend this proposal to the Lord in prayer for his guidance.

Auburn Traycik and Peter Toon September 17, 2006

Friday, September 15, 2006

ABLUTIONS – when should they be done – according to the classic BCP?

A dialogue Starter!

Although there is absolutely no rubric requiring it in the various editions of the authentic Book of Common Prayer, it would seem that today most Celebrants at “The Order for Holy Communion” perform what are usually called “the ablutions” immediately after the completion of the distribution of Holy Communion to the assembled flock.

In fact the classic edition of The Book of Common Prayer (1662) has this rubric at the end of the Service:

And if any of the Bread and Wine remain unconsecrated, the Curate shall have it to his own use; but if any remain of that which was consecrated, it shall not be carried out of the Church, but the Priest, and such other of the communicants as he shall then call unto him, shall, immediately after the Blessing, reverently eat and drink the same.

And before this there is another rubric printed after the Words of Administration in the Service and this reads:

When all have communicated, the Minister shall return to the Lord’s Table, and reverently place upon it what remaineth of the consecrated Elements, covering the same with a fair linen cloth.

So the picture is clear. Any consecrated Bread and Wine remaining after the Administration is placed on the Holy Table and covered with a linen cloth. After the Blessing, the cloth is removed and the Bread and Wine are reverently consumed (presumably before the congregation leaves). And we may note in passing that this Anglican style differs from the medieval and Tridentine Roman style, for the latter require reverent and careful ablutions immediately after Communion.

Let us now turn to the latest, authentic, American edition of The Book of Common Prayer, that of 1928. Immediately after Communion, this has exactly the same rubric as the edition of 1662 – cover Elements on Holy Table. Likewise it has the same requirement for the reverent consumption of the Elements after the Blessing.

Finally, let us turn to the last, authentic Canadian edition of The Book of Common Prayer, that of 1962. This is a little different from the editions of 1662 and 1928. Here there is no rubric after the Administration but after the Blessing there is this rubric:

If any of the consecrated Bread and Wine remain,, the Priest and other Communicants shall reverently eat and drink the same, either when all have communicated, or immediately after the Blessing. In the latter case, immediately the Communion the Priest shall reverently place the same upon the holy Table, and cover them with a fair linen cloth.

Here we find both the possibility of the continuation of the practice of ablutions after the Blessing or the novel practice of immediately after the Administration and thus before the final prayers and Blessing.

What has happened to allow the ablutions in a new place for the Reformed Catholicism of the Anglican Way? Is it that doing it after the Blessing holds up the exit of the congregation? Hardly so, because often a hymn is sung and the absolutions can easily be done at the beginning of the hymn and before the processional. No! The obvious answer is the influence of the Anglo-Catholic movement, which emphasized the “real presence” of Christ in the Sacrament (often in the form of transubstantiation) and thus (like medieval Catholicism and Roman Catholicism) emphasized the need to eat and drink every morsel and every drop that remained on paten and in chalice. Thus the great importance of the ablutions themselves as a priestly and diaconal act, and their taking place immediately after the last person had been communicated (to make sure there was no possibility of loss or accident or misuse). The traditional way of Reformed Catholicism insisted (as the words indicate) on reverence and respect, on dignity and carefulness, but it did not work with a doctrine of the objective, permanent presence of Christ in, with or through the Elements.

Today whether Celebrants use the classic BCP Order for Holy Communion or “The Holy Eucharist” of modern service books, they all with very few exceptions do the ablutions after the Administration. However, this is to be seen as the triumph of Anglo-catholic practice not doctrine in most places, even as modern, liberal Anglican churches have accepted what were formerly Anglo-Catholic innovations (e.g. gowned choirs, stations of the cross and calling clergy “father”). This said, it would probably be a good thing for those who see themselves as traditional Anglicans, committed to the Bible and the Anglican Formularies, to recover the traditional practice of doing the ablutions after the Blessing and thereby professing a high view of the Sacrament but in a Reformed Catholic way. This is especially the case if they use either the BCP 1662 or BCP 1928 as these make no provision for ablutions after the Administration.

In fact, the consuming of the Elements at the very end may be seen theologically as stating that the Sacrament is not completed until the prayers after Communion are offered and the Blessing of God (which includes the giving of the Peace of the Lord) is given.

(Added note. Apparently, the classic BCP does not envisage the Sacrament being taken from the congregation immediately at the end of the Service to the sick and shut-ins. When the Sacrament is administered to the Sick it is by means of a new Consecration. Further, the classic BCP does not envisage reservation of the Sacrament for later use in a Deacon’s “Mass” or for adoration. In contrast the 1979 Prayer Book – see pages 408-9, 275 & 282 -- makes provision for a full range of Anglo-Catholic practices [though not doctrine?] and this is probably why it is so highly favored above the classic BCP by e.g., the “Catholic” Bishop and Diocese of Fort Worth in the ECUSA.)

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

Below is a clear and strongly worded statement from one of your anonymous readers, recently posted by you to your LIST. It is strong on “truth” claims for the Continuing Anglican Movement but very weak on “unity” claims. As you know no-one has stated more clearly the innovations of the Episcopal Church than have I in EPISCOPAL INNOVATIONS 1960-2004 but at the same time I long to see more attempts at dialogue and cooperation amongst well-intentioned and biblically based Anglicans. Here is the strong statement:

“The whole reason for creation of the "continuing Church movement" was opposition to and rejection of the innovations made by the ECUSA circa 1976-79. Since nothing has changed for the better (in fact has only worsened) in what is now The Episcopal Church (TEC), there is absolutely no justification whatsoever for anything other than a continuing condemnation of TEC. Other English-speaking manifestations in England, Canada, Scotland, Ireland, most of Australia, most of New Zealand, and most of South Africa, which are equally apostate/heretical to TEC are also worthy of such condemnation.

The only "sell-outs" among the continuing Churches have been the REC and the APA who have embraced the ACN (tied inextricably to TEC) "common cause" fluke in hopes of gaining favored treatment when the long-promised "orthodox Anglican province" is created in the U.S. The other continuing Churches have "held the line" against TEC apostasy and heresy for nearly thirty years now and have no reason to justify changing that policy today. (By the way, the AMiA is also a "common cause" partner with the ACN).”

May I suggest that, though there is the Traditional Anglican Communion, it by no means embraces all who left the Churches of the Anglican Communion – in fact in the USA only a minority of Continuers are in the TAC and further a majority of the laity within TAC itself in the USA is apparently opposed to the present Rome-ward direction of the Archbishop and Episcopate.

May I also suggest that if there were more real and visible unity within the varied jurisdictions of the Continuing Movement in North America, and if that united movement would them enter into dialogue with those Anglicans whom they judge to be less orthodox (e.g. Network & Common Cause) then perhaps a real move forward in unity and truth could be achieved by God’s help. Is not this what the Lord Jesus wants? Does he delight to see all the competitive jurisdictions, who differ on (from heaven’s view) matters that are at heart often expressions of human fallen-ness and pride?

I call upon your anonymous writer to work for cooperation amongst those of like mind. Communion and unity amongst all those who both use the classical BCP and do not ordain women….such will be a good and noble exercise

Thank you for this space.

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

Setting the Frame of Reference in Anglican Debate: Praying one for another and seeking mutual understanding

None of us looks at persons, events and things outside ourselves as a totally objective viewer. We look with one or another frame of reference and we see and interpret through this frame of reference. This is why two people can look at the very same thing/event and apparently see different things/realities therein – and daily politics is filled with such examples. It is not really a matter of honesty or dishonesty in question, but rather looking through different mindsets/spectacles and interpreting according to their structure.

There are major differences between the basic frame of reference of the Republican Party and the Democratic Party; and then within each Party there are varied frames of reference within the larger frame if reference. Again this is observable daily in US politics if one takes a little time to hear and ponder.

Now it is possible that we can change our frame of reference/mindset/spectacles/ way of seeing and interpreting through a conversion of mind or heart, which may come through reading, study, dialogue, felt experience, shock or some other circumstance, or a combination of causes. But, the fact of the matter is that for most of us for most of the time what we call our common sense is simply the operation of the one or more frames of reference within our mindset and perception. And this is so much part of us that we take it for granted unless we are made aware of it through perhaps painful self-examination or the perceptive observations of others that we are prepared to hear and receive.

What happens generally in terms of social, political, and cultural life, also occurs in religious life. We think and perceive and act through frames of reference. Let me illustrate this with reference to the way Episcopalians or Anglicans see aspects of the present crisis within the Anglican Family of Churches. Here are three frames of reference, from amongst many.

(a) Catholic truth at all costs mindset. If a primary frame of reference in the mind is that Catholic truth and order must always take first place, and that this truth requires absolutely that only men are to be in the ordained Ministry, then I will not be in favor of any kind of cooperation or fellowship with those fellow Anglicans who recite and believe the same Creed but who think that ordaining women is encouraged by Scriptural principles. Further, I shall not even want to know those who bless same-sex couples and ordain active homosexual persons.
(b) Jesus is the inclusive Savior mindset. If Jesus is seen in terms of the ideals of modern human rights, human dignity and human realization and fulfillment teaching, then I will welcome him as the One who seeks and finds, to affirm and bless, all who are on the outside or perimeters of society. I will affirm him as the embodiment of Love, and I will proclaim that God is Love and love in action is actually God in action. So the Church, following its Exemplar, Jesus, is to gather and affirm to the fullest the marginalized of today, especially right now the Lesbian, Bi-sexual and Gay persons, who await their full rights and dignity in society and church.
(c) Biblical authority but tempered by modern insights mindset. If Jesus is seen in New Testament terms as the Savior from sin and the Lord of the Church and our lives, (but at the same time the gracious patriarchalism/headship of the male, which is clearly within the written Word of Scripture, is seen as culturally conditioned and not applicable today), then I claim to be orthodox and biblically based and approve (heartily or reluctantly) such modern innovations as ordaining (orthodox) women and allowing re-marriage of divorced, sincere Christians in church, and the ordination and deployment of divorced and remarried clergy in the churches.

We may say that (a) is found amongst strict Continuing Churches, who prefer to stay outside the Anglican Communion altogether and have their own small, inward-looking jurisdictions, which may or may not co-operate now and then with each other. We may say that (b) is found in the radical progressives who dominate the membership of the General Convention and who believe that God has given them a prophetic role, which may include fracturing the Anglican Communion permanently. And we may say that (c) represents the leadership of the Anglican Communion Network in the Episcopal Church, where there is a desire for orthodoxy and international acceptance by the Anglican Communion but without losing certain fruit of modernity.

When you examine a real person – you or I – you will most probably find that he or she has not one frame of reference only but several; maybe one for family life, one for business life, one for politics, and one for religion but that there is one of these which is dominant (e.g., a kind of hierarchical model or a kind of democratic model).

If there is any value in what is stated above, and I hope that there is, then this probably means that the best way forward to create mutual Anglican understanding (before there is any talk of impaired or full communion) is to be prepared to talk about the frames of reference through which we exercise our “common sense”, look at others and perceive our duty in the Anglican Way.

Right now (a) and (c) could be, and maybe should be, talking for both claim the same foundation in Scripture and Creed, as well as the one and the same Anglican heritage. Both will most surely benefit from the sincere and patient sharing of their frames of reference. For the time being, however, sharing between (a) and (b) and even (b) and (c) would not be profitable, for the air temperature is too hot -- but maybe a little down the road it would be OK to begin!

And when we meet, let us forget about the common Episcopal thing of having “the Eucharist” (which can be divisive, because of lack of common agreement as to what is a proper rite and who is a proper celebrant and whether there is as yet true communion); better simply to hear a portion of Holy Scripture and a general prayer for the help of God to hear one another. Then to talk in an orderly, careful and respectful way!

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

Thursday, September 14, 2006

A fresh look at The St Louis Affirmation of 1977 of Continuing Anglicans

A vocation for the Continuers in working for unity without relinquishing truth

Many of those who left The Episcopal Church in 1977 to form what it was hoped would be The [one and true] Continuing Anglican Church in North America met in St Louis in 1977 and eventually signed “The Affirmation of St Louis.” Those who drafted this (and they included the English priest Dr Truman) clearly intended that it be not a generally acceptable Anglican Statement which traditional evangelicals and traditional anglo-catholics with others could ALL sign. They intended that it be clearly only an anglo-catholic statement and at the same time prepare the way for possible union of this emerging Continuing Church with either Rome or Orthodoxy.

Why do I make this claim? For two reasons. The first is that this is what some of those present have stated to be the case. And the second is that the internal content of The Affirmation points in this direction.

In several significant ways The Affirmation goes well past the general confessional and liturgical stance of the Anglican Way as stated in the historic Formularies and in the Constitutions of the member Provinces of the Anglican Communion of Churches. For example:

It refers to Seven Sacraments without qualification and thereby speaks in what may be called in shorthand “Roman Catholic style.” The Articles of Religion refer to two Dominical Sacraments and to five ceremonies commonly called sacraments.

It requires the doctrinal decrees of Seven Ecumenical Councils even as do the Orthodox Churches. Yet nowhere is this requirement made in any Anglican Formularies or Constitutions of the Anglican Communion of Churches.

It sets forth a very high doctrine of the Episcopate which is not found in the Formularies and is a distinctively Anglo-Catholic way of describing it (e.g., of being of the esse not bene esse or even plene esse of the Church).

Of course everything that went beyond the Formularies in The Affirmation had been previously stated by individual Anglo-Catholic theologians and at one or another of the Anglo-Catholic Congresses earlier in the century. And that is exactly the point – The Affirmation is a distinctively Anglo-Catholic document. If we see it as such then we can rightly value it.

Why did the drafters choose to go in this direction and knowingly exclude traditional Evangelicals and “Prayer Book Catholics? The answer is that they looked into the future and envisaged the possibility of re-union of the Anglican Way with the Roman or the Orthodox Way and so they wanted to make clear to themselves and those in Rome and Constantinople their “Catholic” aspirations.

However, they do keep open for the interim the real possibility of the new Continuing Church being in communion with the See of Canterbury and other Provinces of the Communion than Canada and the USA. They stated:

We affirm our continued relations of communion with the See of Canterbury and all faithful parts of the Anglican Communion. WHEREFORE, with a firm trust in Divine Providence, and before Almighty God and all the company of heaven, we solemnly affirm, covenant and declare that we, lawful and faithful members of the Anglican and Episcopal Churches, shall now and hereafter continue and be the unified continuing Anglican Church in North America, in true and valid succession thereto.

This statement, standing alone, could [just about] be a statement of 2006 made by the Common Cause Partners of the Anglican Communion Network! As far as I know the aspiration of 1977 for participation in the Anglican Communion has not yet been realized.

I want to suggest – and expect to be misunderstood or pilloried for so doing! – that in the present crisis of the Anglican Communion of Churches (which will surely last at least up to and through the Lambeth Conference of July 2008) there is an open door at least for a couple of years for the Continuing Anglicans (as they presently exist in the APCK, ACC, ACA, APA, UEC, TAC etc.) to re-engage in dialogue with members both of the Anglican Communion and such other bodies as the REC, EMC and so on. There are gifts and insights which the Continuers from 1977 have, and which can be fruitfully shared in dialogue and discussion with their fellow Anglicans – despite the fact that some of the latter have ordained women and use the “heretical” 1979 prayer book of ECUSA. As “Catholics,” the Continuers obviously prize the Unity of the One Church of God and they obviously desire Truth with Unity: that is PRESERVING UNITY AND COMMUNION WITHOUT RELINQUISHING TRUTH.

Let me close by observing that one never knows where genuine dialogue in a Christian spirit will lead! Therefore, this dialogue is worth working and praying for.

“Lord Jesus Christ, Head of the Body, whose will it is that thy faithful people be united through the Gospel and for holiness in the One Body, inspire all baptized Anglicans to find ways to talk one with another in the bonds of peace, and in search of truth and love of the brethren. Amen"

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

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Has Anglican POLITY changed over the last thirty years? Is the former Anglican Family of Churches becoming unrecognizable?

Let us begin by asking a series of related questions:

Is it the case that the Anglican Family of Churches was simply a Communion of autonomous Churches (yet exercising restraint) until the latter part of the twentieth century when the polity quickly developed and became Conciliar?

Was there simply a Communion of autonomous Churches/Provinces bound by bonds of affection, history, liturgy and doctrine, which due to internal and external forces, moved towards a Conciliar polity from the 1980s or so?

Is it now the case that Anglican Polity (the way in which the Anglican Churches of the world relate to one another organizationally) is basically Conciliar (retaining autonomy locally but looking to international meetings of bishops, representatives or delegates, and Primates as well as the See of Canterbury for direction and guidance) in real terms?

And is it also the case that while all the member National Churches or Provinces are in a legal sense autonomous, the majority is seeking to act as though it is also interdependent?

Further, it is also the case that most National Churches or Provinces in the present Anglican Family are willing to change their constitutions and ways of making decisions to build into their common life the reality of interdependence as a real qualifier of present autonomy (e.g., by modifying constitution and canon law and by restraint on liberty and through mutual subjection on major matters)?

In short, is there a development taking place within the Anglican Family around the world and is this towards a Conciliar polity requiring interdependence and mutual subjection on major matters that affect all, by each and every National Church/Province?

Putting it a different way, Will the importance and the influence of the “Instruments of Unity” [ the See of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference of Bishops, the Anglican Consultative Council (lay & clerical) and the Primates’ Meeting] continue to grow so that each National Church/Province becomes accustomed to following their advice and guidance on major matters?
And will the See of Canterbury, surrounded by a council of advice, become the focus of the unity of the Anglican Churches of the world?

It is well known that after the creation of the United States of America, the Anglican Churches of the former colonies united to become The Protestant Episcopal Church of the USA and in so doing sought the approval of the English Archbishops for the revised Book of Common Prayer (1789), for it wished to be in full Communion with the mother Church. Further, this newly organized Church made sure that its Bishops were fully accepted by the same Church of England.

It is also well known that the original impulse for the creation of what became known as the Lambeth CONFERENCE of Bishops in the nineteenth century was for a SYNOD of Bishops to act on behalf of the churches in the colonies of the British Empire.

The point is that, as the Church of England moved overseas with the British Empire, churches were founded and grew, and the latter felt the need for (a) a continued relation to the mother Church – usually via the See of Canterbury, and (b) their right and ability to make decisions for themselves in their own situations. And just as the British Commonwealth of Nations was formed to keep together the former colonies (now independent nations) together in a friendly and purposeful way in the second half of the twentieth century, so the Anglican Communion of Churches came into being as a way of keeping together the Churches planted from England (directly or indirectly) which had become autonomous Churches/Provinces. And neither the British Commonwealth nor the Anglican Communion had more than a minimal secretariat at the center for the purpose of sharing information and lubricating relations.

While the ideal of the British Commonwealth has become less important to its member states, the ideal of the Anglican Communion of Churches, as both an ideal and a means of providing ecclesial recognition and authenticity, has grown in recent decades.

In fact, part of the general desire for the strengthening of the ties, which bind together the Anglican Family of Churches around the globe, has arisen because of the arrival of modern religious innovations, adopted by some member Provinces, but rejected or partially so by others. These innovations are much related to developments in western culture and initially were divisive and in many ways remain so; but, they have had the effect positively of arousing much effort to create ways and means of dealing with them, and, in so doing, bringing into closer relation and cooperation the majority of the Provinces.

The innovations arise from a new reading of the classic biblical texts, which speak of the creation of man in the image of God as male and female and of the relation of man and woman in matrimony, in household and in church. And they occur because the Liturgies containing these texts interpreted in the traditional way have been set aside by some western Provinces in favor of new liturgies (see e.g., the removal of the doctrine of headship of the male from the marriage service and from the ordination services and catechisms in the new books of alternative services). So primarily in the West/North of the Anglican Family of Churches there has been since the 1970s the increasing ordination of women – initially as deacons and then as priests and bishops (but only today in Canada and USA are there female bishops). This innovation has been followed in North America and elsewhere by the blessing of same-sex couples and the ordination of persons in such partnerships. Both these innovations have brought great stress but the latter has created what seems at time uncontrollable centrifugal pressure!

So in 2006 there is great energy in thought, consultation and prayer being expended by the majority to find ways truly to make the Anglican Family of Churches a real Communion of Churches, even if its membership will decline through the loss of several Provinces (which regard their autonomy and right to innovate greater then their duty to be interdependent and to move at the same pace as others in terms of major changes).

If the Lambeth Conference occurs in 2008, its membership will be a major indicator of the future size, nature and characteristics of the Anglican Family of Churches? And its decisions will indicate whether there is to be a genuine Anglican Communion of Churches after 2008. If there is to be such then we can be reasonably sure that it will of necessity, if only in a partial way, have to be Conciliar in Polity in order to be interdependent in practical reality!

So until this Conference actually meets, there is going to be much activity, confusion, debate, controversy and division along with much effort to create unity and to lubricate the means of communication and relations. And primarily, those of good heart will be much in prayer for God to bring truth with unity and unity with truth to this Family of Churches (visit http://www.anglicansatprayer.org/ )!

Dr Peter Toon September 13, 2006

P.S. Perhaps the present crisis within the Anglican Family will allow the separated “cousins” and “extended family” (the Continuing Anglicans) to work prayerfully and creatively to bring their resources and experience to bear, and to lead to the beginnings of new and positive relations with the larger Anglican Family from which they departed in times past (for good reasons). True Reconciliation in families is a beautiful thing.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Why Study Ephesians This Fall?

Why has THE EPISTLE TO THE EPHESIANS become so important to Anglicans? And why should we prayerfully study it this Fall in our parishes?

With six short chapters, the Epistle [of Paul] to the Ephesians has been the focus of much attention in the last few years by some of the “leadership” of the Anglican Communion of Churches.

Why the attention? Apparently because of its clear teaching on the vocation of the Church to unity and communion. The background in the Anglican family is that there have been tensions and stresses in the relations of dioceses one to another within provinces and then also between provinces. The presenting problems in chronological order were the ordination of women as deacons, priests and bishops; the blessing of same-sex couples; and the ordaining of actively homosexual persons in same-sex partnerships.

So, the New Testament was searched to find a short and easily accessed portion to describe, emphasize and call for unity in real fellowship in the Spirit – and somehow (I do not know exactly when and how) the Letter to the Ephesians was chosen.

Here I commend the slow reading of the Epistle to my readers, asking them to note just how much the unity of the Church of Christ is emphasized, and, with this, the solemn duty of all baptized Christians to make this unity practical and real in the life of the congregation of Christ’s flock. It also addresses what are these days called “sexual relations” and does so in the light of the “marriage” of Christ Jesus and his Bride, the Church – again a word that American Anglicans need to hear.

If we now leave the New Testament for a moment and turn to the reports from Anglican Commissions in recent years, three stand out as being of importance, not necessarily because their content is of consistently high quality, but rather because they have been given such weight and prestige within the family of Anglican Churches. The reports are The Eames Commission Report (TER) of 1994; The Virginia Report (TVR) of 1998 and The Windsor Report (TWR) of 2004.

TVR (as had done TER) seeks to ground the (cherished) unity in diversity of the Churches of the Anglican Family in the communion (koinonia) of the Three Persons within the Undivided Trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

And TWR begins its discussion of communion from the content of the Letter to the Ephesians, with help from related material in 1 Corinthians. As TWR has become so central to debates and discussion within the Anglican Family (note such expressions as “Windsor process” and “Windsor compliant” commonly in use in 2006) so the importance of The Letter to the Ephesians has also developed as a basis for thinking of the nature of the communion (koinonia, fellowship) which was believed to exist in the past and it is hoped will once again exist in the future.

There is an excellent summary and critique of both TVR and TWR by Philip Turner in the book that he co-authored with Ephraim Radner and entitled, The Fate of Communion. The Agony of Anglicanism and the Future of a Global Church (Eerdmans, 2006). I commend this to my readers. In my own, Reforming Forwards? The process of reception and the consecration of women as bishops (London, The Latimer Trust 2004, www.latimertrust.org ) I also offered a critique of the use of the “model” of The Trinity by TVR and TER for establishing the unity in diversity of the Anglican Communion of Churches. In fact, I believed then and I more clearly believe now that this method is truly a non-starter and has an aspect of arrogance and irreverence to it, for the eternal communion in holy love of the Three Persons is something we can only begin to imagine, let alone seek to imitate. I was glad to see that TWR did not utilize it, but went to the Word of God written, the New Testament and one of its books.

I do also believe that there is great potential in a careful reading, exegesis and practical interpretation of the Letter to the Ephesians in order to allow the churches to be addressed by a word from the exalted Lord Jesus Christ to his whole Church -- and in this case to the small part of it we know as the provinces of the Anglican Family. And I believe that Dr Turner, in the chapters referred to above, has begun to hear and communicate that word from heaven and that he and I, with all Anglicans, need to hear and obey. We shall all have to be ready not only to travel up the holy hill of idealism to see our unity in the Spirit in union with the exalted Lord Christ, but also to descend into the valley of humility and subjection one to another, in order to realize that there is great pain and cost involved in the moving towards real and practical unity. We need to be inspired by vision but also humbled by the mighty hand of God, and the Word of the Lord in Ephesians can do all this and more for us.

It would be good if all churches and parishes in The Episcopal Church and jurisdictions alongside it that seek to be “Windsor compliant” took the Letter to the Ephesians as the basis for parish study this Fall – or next Lent -- and sought to hear not only its comforting, enlightening and encouraging words, but also its calls for genuine repentance, amendment of life and holiness individually and corporately.

This approach may create the beginnings of the frame of mind and attitude of heart that are necessary to work for and live within true communion – a genuine unity with comprehensiveness in churchmanship and with a strong common center and real fellowship between all members. Certainly prayerful study of such a Letter by the providential guidance and mercy of God will do much good.

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

Patriotism and the American Prayer Book

A call for loyalty to the classic BCP tradition of the American Republic

Absolute loyalty of the baptized Christian is to be given to the Lord Jesus Christ and to Zion, city of our God, the Heavenly Jerusalem, which is the mother of the baptized (Galatians 4:26ff.). Subordinate to this, and always guided by the primary commitment to Christ the Lord, there is a limited loyalty to the country of one’s citizenship. This latter cannot be more than limited because Christians are aliens and pilgrims on earth, on their way through this evil age to the kingdom of God (1 Peter 2:9-12). In this frame of reference there is place for patriotism but hardly for nationalism.

Patriotism includes affirming all that is good in one’s country, working for its moral, spiritual and cultural improvement, and defending it when attacked. But it always means realizing that one’s country must never become an idol and its political freedom should never be interpreted as “freedom in Christ”(see Galatians 5:1 and the whole doctrine of freedom in that Epistle)!

Belonging both to the cultural heritage and to the Christian (Anglican heritage) of the U.S.A. is The Book of Common Prayer. In its 1662 edition it was used in the thirteen colonies for over a century, and then in its American edition it was used from 1789 (via gentle revision in 1892 & 1928) until 1979 in The Episcopal Church (TEC) – and since then in the Continuing Anglican jurisdictions outside TEC and also in maybe 100 [rebellious!] parishes within TEC.

Not only was the use of this Prayer Book in its early editions in the sixteenth century a major influence on the development of the English language, but it was also a major influence on the way people learned to address God in prayer. The American edition of it (1789) is part of American cultural history and it reflects a limited form of patriotism which is able to live under the Lordship of Christ. This is seen in the prayers for those in authority in the Republic of the U.S.A. and in its adoption of the major holidays of the Republic as signs of God’s providence and care.

Once we allow these basic facts to sink in to our thinking processes and become part of our mental frame of reference then we may regret that there seems to be a tendency amongst those who want to unite as orthodox Anglicans (and coming together, for example, under “The Anglican Communion Network and its affiliated Common Cause) to bypass this important cultural heritage and godly patriotism. That is, they seem to want to go directly back to the edition of The Prayer Book which was in use in the Colonial Period and still is in use in England and much of Africa today – the BCP (1662) -- and seemingly act as though there had been no American form of this Book over 200 years.

Now, without a doubt, the most important edition of The Book of Common Prayer is that of 1662 (which has been rendered into 150 plus languages). However, this was adapted for the Republic in 1789 by Americans and (at the request of the American Anglican Church – PECUSA) this edition was approved by the English Bishops as the basis for communion between the old and the new Church. The whole history of TEC (from 1789-1979) has been in relation to this American form of the one Book of Common Prayer.

One reason for going back to the very influential 1662 edition is because of its universal use and authority in the Anglican family. This one can understand and applaud. But why, in recalling it, cannot the 1789 revision for the Republic be also recalled and be part of the Tradition of the Anglican Way to be revived in 2006. After all the two are two editions on ONE book! Let them stand together (and with the Canadian form of 1662, the edition of 1962).

I fear, however, (and I hope I am wrong) that there may be an unstated reason for the seeming avoidance of reference to the American BCP (1789/1892/1928 and still printed and published by Oxford University Press and Anglican Parishes Association). It is this. TEC in 1976 and 1979, in its spirit of liberal progressive revolution (generated in the 1960s and fed from a variety of religious and social forces), sent off to the archives in a cavalier way this American edition of The Book of Common Prayer and put in its place a Book of Varied Services with mixed doctrine and had the audacity to call it “The BCP” as it if were a gentle revision of the received BCP! For many TEC Bishops and clergy this act of rejecting the Anglican Way as received is a topic they do not care to remember or talk about.

Thus to include positive reference to the genuine American edition of the one BCP means the awakening of not only painful memories but, if honesty reigns, of confessing corporate rebellion and apostasy by the General Convention in 1976 & 1979. Its new book should have been “A Book of Alternative Services” to the already in existence Book of Common Prayer!

True patriotism by American Anglicans surely includes the honoring and affirming of the tradition of Common Prayer in the Republic of the U.S.A. Further, the recovery of the fullness of the Anglican Way for Americans includes not only recovering the classic Formularies (BCP 1662, Ordinal 1662 and Articles of Religion 1662) but also the genuine Common Prayer tradition in the U.S.A. since 1789! – and in this recovery there surely must be repentance and godly sorry for the rejection of this Tradition since 1979 by TEC and by not a few members of The Network as well. At least the 1979 Prayer Book should be treated – in true American patriotic tradition – as the American Book of Alternative Services, for that is precisely what it is when one takes the bird’s eye view.

* * *
Below I print a discussion piece that I wrote in the summer of 2005 in response to questions about singing the National Anthem within The Order for Holy Communion. Its content may help to focus more the difference between godly patriotism appropriate for Christians and secular patriotism which is whipped up by secular-minded leaders.

Patriotism, Divine Worship & Citizenship of the heavenly Jerusalem
A discussion starter from Peter Toon

Let me begin by talking about Britain, which I know well.

In the Church of England, which is an established Church, there is in all the Sunday services the possibility of appropriate prayer [and in the classic BCP it is a requirement] for the Monarch (Queen Elizabeth II) and the royal family. The reason for this inclusion is that the Monarch not only rules the nation as Queen in Parliament but that also in England alone she is the Supreme Governor of the National Church. All Bishops are appointed by her, on the advice of the Prime Minister (who himself is advised by a commission of the General Synod of the Church), and any major changes in the worship, doctrine and discipline of the Church have also to be accepted by her. So she is prayed for in that double capacity.

Though there is prayer for the Queen, the government and nation in the intercessions of “The Order for Holy Communion” of the Book of Common Prayer (1662) in the Church of England, it is not usual, for there to be any obvious patriotism or nationalism displayed in this traditional service. For example, the singing of the National Anthem or the carrying of the national flag is extremely rare within this service, The Order for Holy Communion, the Holy Eucharist. This is how it ought to be, I think.

However, with public services of Morning and Evening Prayer, or other Services of public worship, the case can be different. Here controlled patriotism (not nationalism or racism) is displayed from time to time in civic services when the flags and banners of organizations are taken in procession through the church and when the National Anthem is sung and when the dead of the World Wars are remembered on November 11.

Here I want to suggest that anywhere in the world the celebration of the Eucharist should never include anything more than the expression of a mild form of patriotism? Why?

Because, wherever one is in God’s world, the celebration of the Holy Eucharist is a celebration of the heavenly Jerusalem, beyond space and time, not of an earthly city or kingdom. Those present lift up their hearts and, by the Holy Ghost, they are lifted up into the heavenly place, where they feast at the Messianic Banquet of the once crucified and now exalted Lord Jesus. They are in communion with the Father through the Son and with the Holy Ghost and they feed on the One who is the Lamb of God. As they are lifted up in Christ “there is no male and female, Jew or Gentile” for all are one in the Saviour. Jesus Christ. There is absolutely no place for overt patriotism or nationalism or racism here in this holy and rarified ethos. The family of God is from every tribe and every tongue and the heavenly Lord is lord of all peoples, races and nations. So those celebrating the Eucharist in Australia or in Bolivia or in Estonia or in New York City are all lifted up to the same Place, heaven, and are present there as citizens of heaven, as fellow members of the Body of Christ and of the Household of God. In terms of their relation to earth and nations, they are sojourners and pilgrims, for their true home is in the heavenly paradise, along with the angels and archangels, and all the redeemed.

If we have a right view of what the Holy Communion is all about, then we surely know that in its celebration we leave behind all nationalisms, patriotisms, racisms, ethnicities and whatever else. For only in so doing by God’s help and grace can we become that which God actually reckons us to be in Christ – that is, his adopted children, citizens of heaven and dwellers in the heavenly Jerusalem, who have been made clean by the blood of the Lamb. The experience of the Eucharist is for pilgrims & sojourners on earth nothing less than a foretaste of heaven, the first-fruits of the heavenly life and the anticipation of what shall be for ever!

This being so, I suggest, the place where the Christian assembly for Eucharist (I speak not of a civic prayer service) takes place ought not to display obvious excessive signs of patriotism, let alone forms of nationalism or racism, and there should not normally be the singing of patriotic songs. There is plenty of space and time for healthy patriotism outside the sacred hour of the Eucharist, and such I heartily endorse. But this sacred hour belongs to the patriotism of heaven, of the heavenly Jerusalem, and of the new heavens and the new earth, and we should not make the earthly and imperfect City of Man a competitor of the heavenly City of God in this holy hour.

To say this does not mean that in the Intercessions that we should not pray for the leaders and armed forces of the country wherein the Church is placed and is witnessing. Of course, there should be such prayer for them and others in positions of authority; but always the sense is to be that in comparison with membership of the heavenly City of God, citizenship of any earthly country or kingdom is always secondary and temporary.

The Revd Dr Peter Toon

P.S. It may be objected that in the BCP (1928) there is provision of a collect, epistle and gospel for Independence Day (July 4). We need to remember that the service of Ante-Communion (= Part 1 of the Order for H.C. but without the Sacrament consecrated and given) has been much used in the past (from 1789 to middle of 20th century), and this provision was as much for this service of the Word and Prayer as for a full service of Holy Communion. Further, the Collect expresses what I have called a mild form of patriotism.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

DEVOUTLY KNEELING – more of it, not less, required today!

To find congregations kneeling to pray in the modern Episcopal Church is a difficult task! Please read on.

In Morning and Evening Prayer in The Book of Common Prayer (1662) the congregation is described as “devoutly kneeling”. In the two Daily Services the expression occurs after the Creed and before the Lesser Litany which prepares for the saying of the Lord’s Prayer.

In The Order for Holy Communion from the same Prayer Book the Minister calls the congregation to confession of sins, ending his exhortation with the words: “and make your humble confession to Almighty God, meekly kneeling upon your knees.” In the rubric, which is printed before the text of the general Confession to be said by all, are these words: “both he and all the people kneeling humbly upon their knees.”

In other places within all these Services, there is direction for Minister and people to kneel.

For example, at the first saying of the Lord’s Prayer before the Versicles in the Daily Services the rubric reads: “the Minister shall kneel…the people also kneeling with him.”

And in The Order for Holy Communion in the rubrics which appear at the very beginning of the service are these words: “the Priest shall say the Lord’s Prayer with the Collect following, the people kneeling.”

The Anglican tradition was (until the advent of modern liturgy in the 1970s) that the congregation kneels to pray, stands to sing and recite the Creed, and sits to hear the Word of God. So, if the tradition has been/ is to kneel for prayer, why should the expressions “devoutly kneeling” and “kneeling humbly” be used at specific places, and at those only?

It appears that these expressions are used to give special emphasis at these places and to serve as a further reminder to the congregation that it is facing the Almighty LORD. It is therefore to lay aside all wandering thoughts, and to attend to the great work of prayer that all are engaged in – looking to the Father through the Incarnate Son. For, although the Minister alone speaks most of the words, the godly affections of the worshippers must go along with every expression/petition/phrase, and sign them all at last with a hearty “Amen.”

Let us note that “devoutly kneeling” is used in the Daily Services at the transition point in the Office where there is a move from praise of God and hearing his Word to the offering of prayer. This is indicated by “Let us pray.” Then in The Order for Holy Communion it is before the general Confession, which is the immediate preparation for the move towards the Consecration Prayer and the receiving of Holy Communion.

Of course, in all prayer there should be humility before God but people are weak in will and in devotion and thus at these critical points they are urged to kneel humbly and devoutly. The true Christian will always be devout and humble before God but because of human weakness and sinfulness reminders are very much needed by all.

In the American edition of The Book of Common Prayer (1928) the expressions are only found in the Order for Holy Communion and at exactly the same place as in the English Prayer Book of 1662.

One further point needs to be made. In the description of services from the second and third centuries after Christ that still exist, it can be deduced that the congregations in those times in the Roman Empire usually (maybe always in some case) stood for prayer. This led liturgists from the 1970s onwards to call for exact imitation and to seek to abandon the Anglican tradition of kneeling and adopt the supposed primitive Church custom of standing (and so out went hassocks and kneelers etc.). And to a large extent they have succeeded in many congregations!

And some clergy devoted to this innovation have tried to show that even the rubrics of the historic Book of Common Prayer (editions of 1549, 1552, 1662 & USA 1928) required standing for the Prayer for the Church militant here in earth. Their reasoning is that there is no specific rubric requiring kneeling for this Prayer and that a little later there is the specific call to confess sins “devoutly kneeling.” Thus they say that no kneeling is required because it is not commanded. What they overlook is the very general requirement in the Daily Offices and then also in the first part of the Order for Holy Communion that the congregation is to kneel when it addresses God Almighty!

Let us recover or acquire the habit of devoutly and humbly kneeling! And of course of praying to the Father in the Name of the Son and with the Holy Spirit as we do so.

It is no accident that the growing absence of “the fear of the Lord” (godly reverence and awe before His Majesty) has accompanied the move away from kneeling to either standing or sitting. Bodily posture symbolizes inner attitude and conviction, and those who truly believe God, the LORD, to be transcendent and glorious in his holiness will be more than ready, very desirous, to kneel devoutly and humbly before him! (Those who for reason of age or infirmity cannot kneel will make sure that the inner attitude is right before God.)

In our culture of rights and of self-esteem, it is good for us to show by bodily posture that before God, our Creator, Judge and Redeemer, we possess no rights whatever. We implore his mercy in the Name of his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Please visit www.anglicansatprayer.org for more material on public and private prayer as Anglican Christians

Please visit www.pbsusa.org for materials on the Common Prayer Tradition and work of the Prayer Book Society

Please visit www.anglicanmarketplace.com to buy books and booklets by Peter Toon and others, published by the Prayer Book Society of the USA

Friday, September 01, 2006

The BCP & The Ordinal and the Inductive Method

In my recent commending of The Thirty-Nine Articles for study as one of the three historic Formularies of the Anglican Way, I have received – from some persons who state their views very directly – both personal criticism and emotionally strong dismissals of this Standard of Faith.

I ask them and all who care to read what follows to use rational judgment in assessing my argument below.

What I want to show is that if one studies the other two Formularies, the classic Book of Common Prayer [BCP]and The Form and Manner of Making, Ordaining and Consecrating Deacons, Priests and Bishops (The Ordinal) then one finds in them the same doctrines that are in The Articles, but without references to specific historical circumstances. For, being books of services of worship, we should not normally expect to find in them references to specifics of controversies (e.g., with Pelagians and Anabaptists).

Before beginning, I would like to point out – especially to those who use the 1979 Prayer Book – that the Catechism in the 1979 Prayer Book of The Episcopal Church was produced by the inductive method. That is, having rejected a reasonably good Catechism created on traditional principles, a committee was set up by the House of Bishops to write a new one and to do so by going through all the already approved services in contemporary English (to be known as Rite II). Its task was to ascertain what was there presupposed and expressed as doctrine (and Rite One material was excluded as being a left-over from the past). This inductive study of Rite II materials was done on the principle of “lex orandi, lex credendi,” that the law of praying in public worship is the law of believing for the people of God. That is, the congregation learns what to believe, teach and confess through using the new Liturgy and learning its content. (No wonder the ECUSA went wrong!)

If we do the same as this committee sought to do and use the inductive method to gather from The BCP (1662; 1928 USA and 1962 Canada) and The Ordinal (also 1662, 1928 & 1962) what is there presupposed and explicitly taught as doctrine, we shall find that the doctrine in The Articles and in The BCP with Ordinal is much the same!

The dogma of The Holy Trinity and of the Person of Christ made known in two natures (divine and human) is found in Articles 1-5 & 15 & 18 and is also presupposed and expressed through the entire content of The BCP & Ordinal, especially on Trinity Sunday and at the Festivals of Christ.

The doctrine of Scripture in Articles 6-7 is expressed in the Lectionaries, the Collect for Advent 2, in the questions and answers, together with the charges within The Ordinal, and in many other places.

The three Creeds of Article 8 are printed in The BCP.

The doctrine of sin in Articles 9-10 is presupposed in the confessions of sin in the services of the BCP as well as in many of the Collects and Prayers.

The doctrine of justification by faith through the merits of Christ and grace of God (Article 11) is deeply embedded in The Order for Holy Communion as well as in many Collects and Prayers.

The necessity of good works as the fruit of faith but not as means of gaining merit before God (Articles 12-14) is again found in The Order for Holy Communion, in the Catechism and in various Collects and Prayers.

The possibility of forgiveness of sin after Baptism (Article 16) is found in the exhortations and absolutions of daily Morning and Evening Prayer and of The Order for Holy Communion.

The mild Augustinian doctrine of divine election and its purpose of Article 17 is presupposed throughout the whole of The BCP in its Collects and Prayers and Exhortations.

The claim in Article 19 that the visible Church on earth has erred in doctrine, morals, ritual and ceremonial is expressed both in the content of prayers and exhortations but also in the absence of various (RC) doctrines, ritual and ceremonial from both The BCP and The Ordinal.

The authority of the National Church to set forth Rites and Ceremonies that are not contrary to the Word of God written (Article 20) is expressed in the very existence of The BCP as such, and its prefaces.

The decrees of General Councils only have authority in so far as they faithfully express biblical doctrine (Article 21) is seen in the reception of the doctrines concerning The Trinity and the Person and Work of Christ from the first four ecumenical Councils and in the rejection of the invocation of saints and veneration of saints from the Seventh Council and the doctrine of purgatory from later (Western) Ecumenical Councils (see Article 22). Note that in The BCP there are no requests on Saints’ days for the invocation of the saints and also in the Burial of the Dead or The Holy Communion there is not the slightest hint of purgatory – and there is no All Souls’ Day.

The rule that only those properly called by lawful authority should minister in the churches and that when they do so they should use the vernacular (Articles 23-24) is confirmed by the very existence of The BCP in English and the words of The Ordinal addressed to Ministers.

The teaching on the two Dominical Sacraments in Articles 25 to 31 is also found in the services of the Lord’s Supper and Baptism in The BCP.

The right of clergy to marry (Article 32) is presupposed by The Ordinal where they are charged to care properly for their families.

The excommunication of ungodly and wicked persons (Article 33) is described in the rubrics of The Order for Holy Communion concerning admittance to the Holy Table.

The establishing of local traditions in a National Church (Article 34) is illustrated by the contents of The BCP and The Ordinal and their prefaces.

The use of The Homilies (Article 35) is stated in the rubrics of The Order for Holy Communion (BCP 1662) at the place where a sermon is to be delivered.

The setting aside of men to the Threefold Ministry (Article 36) is achieved through the use of The Ordinal.

The authority of the civil magistrate (be it in under a Monarchy or in a Republic) stated in Article 37 is presupposed in the Catechism in the duties required by the Commandments and in the prayers for the civil magistrate in The Order for Holy Communion and at the end of the Daily Offices.

The duty to give alms to the poor (Article 38) is presupposed in the Offering/Collection in the Order for Holy Communion and in various Collects with the Eucharistic Lectionary.

The taking of an oath (Article 39) in a proper manner is part of the living soberly and in the fear of God often declared as needful in The BCP.

One problem facing those of us who commend the study of The Articles is that we are often heard by people who (a) rarely use the Order for Holy Communion in the BCP as written, for they use it as “enriched” from “Catholic” sources either by direct additions to the text by local custom or by the use of The Anglican Missal or other Missal; and (b) rarely go to Morning and Evening Prayer as public services, but may go to Evensong with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament; and (c) rarely read or hear the Services from The Ordinal (and when they do these are also “enriched” so as to lose their original content and character). Thus what they think is BCP religion is in fact not so in a strict sense. It is a modified form of the BCP religion in a “Catholic” direction. Thus they instinctively feel that The Articles are not teaching what they are used to hearing, reading and saying! And they are right for The Articles agree with The BCP as is, not as modified and developed to take in “Catholic” principles. So it is not surprising that people in this position want to embrace the doctrinal decrees of The Seventh Council of Nicaea in 787 because this gives justification and support for the extras (e.g., invocation of saints and the BVM).

At the other end of the spectrum, some of those of modern evangelical and charismatic leanings, since they are committed to a certain dumbing-down in order to achieve credibility and relevance with modern folks in evangelization, dumb down their services in terms of doctrinal content, and thus they find that The Articles are just too strong for them!

I have no doubt but that those who “enrich” the BCP tradition and those who “dumb-down” the same truly believe that what they are doing creates something superior to that tradition in its pristine form. Even if they so believe, let them concede my point that the actual BCP, Ordinal and Articles belong together, as three sisters of one family!

The BCP & The Ordinal as they are, as they exist as published by the University Presses of Oxford and Cambridge in the editions of 1662, 1928 & 1962, are in full doctrinal agreement with The Articles, and the Three of them belong together as The Formularies of the Anglican Way!

[See further Peter Toon, The Anglican Formularies and Holy Scripture, from www.anglicanmarketplace.com or 1-800-727-1928. From the same source may be obtained now CDs on which are multiple text-books on The Articles and The BCP; and also an excellent new edition of The Homilies by mid-September 2006]

For contemporary language forms of some of the Services from the BCP 1928 go to

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