Sunday, April 29, 2007

Bishops, TEC style; Or, How to create a Bishop as CEO via Lex Orandi

A major complaint about many Bishops in The Episcopal Church is that they are more like Chief Executive Officers than Pastors—one could say they are not like "Fathers-in God" but this now has to be made "Parents-in-God" to include the female Bishops.

They have become like CEOs for a variety of reasons, including their own decision to act this way and the growing bureaucracy of modern national denominations. There is, however, a liturgical and theological underpinning of this trend away from the pastoral to the management style, and to this I wish to point in this short essay.

I wish to point to the content of the Ordination Services in the Prayer Book (1979) of TEC and show that on the widely stated "Anglican" principle of lex orandi lex credendi the management or CEO style is suggested, perhaps even required, by these Services, within the context in which they are used. [To appreciate the full force of what I am to argue it will be useful for my kind reader to have before him the 1979 ECUSA Book, the Ordinal in the 1928 American BCP, and, if possible, the Ordination Services within the English ASB (1980) or Common Worship (2000ff.]

The first point to make is that contrary to the tradition in The Ordinal of the classic Book of Common Prayer in its English edition of 1662 and its American editions of 1789, 1892 and 1928, the Ordination Services in the 1979 Prayer Book occur in a different order—a descending order of bishop, priest and deacon, instead of the Anglican tradition of ascending order. Now, it may be argued that there are examples from antiquity of ordinals following the hierarchical model (bishop first), but such is not the point. Why change the order in an Anglican province unless a point is being made? And apparently the point being made was to follow the emphasis of the new Roman Catholic Ordinal, post Vatican II, where the Bishop is portrayed very much as the focus of the diocese and the vital link with the Papacy in Rome. It was to be as much like Rome as possible to be distinguished from the mass of Protestants in the USA. But, as we all know, a theme within a R C document may easily come to have a different meaning and usage within an Episcopal document, especially since in the Episcopal context there is no central Authority like the Pope and the Vatican.

The second point to make is that in order to present Episcopal Church bishops as real bishops—that is bishops who could claim to be just as much so as bishops in the Roman Catholic Church—it was decided to use for the actual Consecration of a Bishop the Prayer for such contained in the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus. Significantly and importantly, it was then very widely believed (early 1970s) that this Prayer truly represented the form of prayer used in the church in Rome in the early third century, around AD 215. (Apparently Dr Boone Porter translated the original for use in the 1979 book and he truly believed it was certainly to be dated very early in the third century.) Thus to use it was to say that Episcopal Bishops are of the same kind as those ordained in Rome in the third century!

The third point is that in using this Prayer the opportunity was provided to emphasize in religious terms that the presbyter being consecrated Bishop truly became the religious CEO and top Manager of his diocese, assisted by his under-managers the presbyters. In this supposed consecration prayer from the church in Rome, there are phrases which definitely seem to point to the Bishop as both superior to other ministers and in charge of them. The Spirit requested for him from God is "your princely Spirit" and he is said "to exercise…the high priesthood." Nothing like this is found either in the traditional Anglican Ordinal, or in the new Ordination Services from the 1980s in England, New Zealand, Australia and other Provinces. And we may add that no Anglican these days in a right mind wants "prince bishops," and,further, that all devout Christians confess that Jesus Christ alone is the High Priest, as the Epistle to the Hebrews makes clear. No bishop is a high priest!

Now, reflecting upon the second and third points, we need to be aware that there is in 2007—and has been for a few years now--a very different evaluation of the Apostolic Tradition than that held by Boone Porter and the ECUSA Liturgical Commission in the 1970s. Put simply and briefly, it may be said that there is now virtually a scholarly consensus that the Apostolic Tradition does not represent what was the case in the Roman Church in 215 and is certainly not the consecration prayer from that time in that church. Rather, its content was put together later, for defensive or apologetic purposes, and this is why it has such an exaggerated view of the bishop in order to set him fully apart in a distinctive role from the college of presbyters in the city. (For a full explanation of the status of the Apostolic Tradition as an early Church document and its value for today, see The Oxford History of Christian Worship, OUP New York City, 2005, chapter two.) In summary, we now surely know that it was a huge mistake to use the Apostolic Tradition in such a pronounced way both in the Ordinal and for the creating of "The Holy Eucharist" in the 1979 Book.

To move on to the fourth point which is that here and there in the services for the ordaining of Deacons and Priests there are strong hints which point to the Bishop ( i.e. the specific bishop of these ordinands) being a kind of religious CEO. This point actually becomes clearer if the American 1979 Services are compared in detail with the 1980 English Services. The emphasis in the 1979 Book is that ordinands are being promoted by and ordained for a specific bishop and diocese, whereas in other Rites they are being ordained for the Church in general, although they will serve in a particular diocese to start with. In particular, deacons are very much tied to the ordaining Bishop to assist him personally (which rarely happens in practice).

Apparently the liturgists who produced the Ordination Services did not consult with those who produced the Baptismal Service for the latter very much emphasizes the ministry of each and every one of the baptized and does so in a context which is a long way from the authoritarian and hierarchical. Further, in ECUSA propaganda since the 1970s, it has been claimed that the commitment made in "The Baptismal Covenant" leads to the baptized being given in potential every possible ministry within the Church. Thus the work of a bishop or of the presiding bishop (as the last two have made specifically clear at their installations) is a further phase of the baptismal ministry. But this can hardly be a ministry of "high priesthood" and "princely rule."

So there is one doctrine or law of believing in the law of prayer in the Baptism Service and another doctrine or law of believing in the law of prayer in the Ordination Service. And the two are very different from each other.

Probably better to use another Prayer Book. Try an edition of the classic BCP!

[For more on this theme with references to other works, see Professor Bryan D. Spinks in Journal of Anglican Studies, Volume 2 (2), 2004, pp.58-69 under the title, "An Unfortunate Lex Orandi?"]

Peter Toon April 28 2007

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