Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi—a practical basis for The Anglican Way?

A discussion starter

The Global Anglican Communion, following the Church of England, has never had a Confession of Faith like the Reformed and Lutheran Churches by which the churches say, "We believe, teach and confess…" Rather, it has had a set of Formularies, two of which are Collections of Services of Worship (BCP & Ordinal), and one of which is a form of Confession of Faith (39 Articles of Religion). Of course, contained in the Services are the Creeds (always the Apostles' & Nicene and sometimes also The Athanasian), which are used doxologically as words uttered to God in response to his Revelation to man.

Generally speaking, we can say that there was a basic, even if at times shaky, unity within The Anglican Way on the basis of the Scripture and the Formularies until the 1960s or even later. Of course, the unity was within and through a comprehensiveness of churchmanship and interpretation of the Bible and doctrine. As the hub of a wheel, the Bible with the Formularies was at the center, and the various schools of thought and parties of churchmanship were as the spokes from the center, but spokes which were all joined by the rim.

[Now we have to admit that in a few cases the spokes went right through the rim, especially in missionary dioceses where forms of liturgy were introduced which were not strictly the Services of the BCP from the sending Church. Rather they were adaptations to suit a particular churchmanship (usually "catholic") or to incorporate supposed patristic models—examples of prayer books of this kind were created in places like India, Korea and South Africa before and after World War II. Regrettably they were called "Common Prayer" instead of being given a name that would have clearly distinguished them from the "real" BCP(e.g. 1662) of the sending Province, such as the Church of England. However, the BCP in these cases in the Constitution was normally the 1662.]

After the 1960s there appeared, especially in the West, and then much later in other parts of the Communion, new forms of liturgy which were initially billed as alternatives to the liturgies within the BCP and Ordinal; that is, they were to exist alongside but not replace the received Liturgy and further they were to be within the general theological framework of the BCP. But this experiment soon got out of hand and there was the spectacle of each Province, in its claimed autonomy, producing its own "Book of Alternative Services" and in some cases even calling this book, "The BCP" ( e.g. USA, West Indies & Nigeria).

To justify their work, and to give it a claim of authenticity, the liturgists and bishops involved in these new creations did various things. One was to tell us that "Common Prayer" refers not to a specific Book with specific services, but to a minimal List of common Content—like the Lord's Prayer, the Creed and the Sursum Corda. Thus in their varied new services they were actually maintaining "Common Prayer."

Another was to present to us the Latin tag, Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi, which was taken to mean, "We believe that which we pray." And it was said of the Anglican Way that its genius consisted in that as a Body its members expressed their Faith in and by their Liturgy. Citations were brought forward from the fourth century of the Church and later to demonstrate that this was a Catholic principle. And it caught on in the West and seemingly gave justification for the whole liturgical experiment and upheaval.

Of course, those who both know a little Latin and also know a little about how Liturgy was created both in the Patristic and the Reformation eras can see that this Latin tag can be also translated, "What the Church believes and teaches from the Bible is the basis for its Liturgy—i.e., the law of believing is the law of praying." But this was a minority voice.

Well the net result of all the freedom exercised by autonomous Provinces to do their own thing in terms of Liturgy has brought into The Anglican Way utter—near total- confusion. There is not one Lex Orandi, but a multitude of Liturgies in use in the Global Anglican Communion and though they have similarities they are different in shape, doctrine and content, created not one Lex Credendi but many. One never knows what to expect in any church anywhere in the West these days.

We no longer know what Anglicans believe because in general they have abandoned that which bound them together from 1549 to the 1960s (the Formularies with Holy Scripture and the guidance of the Early Church), and they have put in their place not a new set of Formularies but a vast array of services/liturgies containing many emphases and varied doctrines.

The modern situation is further complicated by the fact that since 1979 the title of "The BCP" has been used for the collections of the new liturgies—as in Nigeria, USA, West Indies and Ireland. So adding to the general confusion is that we do not know whether a book called, "The BCP" is truly "The BCP" or is in fact a modern collection of services produced in the last three decades or so.

Looking into the near future, perhaps we have to say that unless the proposed Anglican Covenant contains a way of stating a doctrinal foundation which is both truly Anglican and also dramatically decreases the variety of services and doctrines now in place and use, then the Anglican Way will become in essence what it is now in observed reality – a series of ways loosely connected one to another. That is, the Anglican Way will be "The assortment of varied Anglican Ways" and at best will be a federation of such.

And the bad news continues. Outside the "official" Anglican Global Communion, amongst the separated and continuing Anglican groups, the situation is not any better. No example is being set to the 80 millions of the Global Communion. For here you have not only the use of the traditional Book of Common Prayer (thanks be to God) but also of Liturgies from it to which are added sections from the Tridentine Roman Mass to create one or another Missal (e.g., The Anglican Missal), Calendar, Collects etc. These additions radically alter the Reformed Catholic doctrine of the BCP. The continuing Anglican Way is thus in reality also continuing Anglican ways.

Lord have mercy (thrice)!

The Revd Dr Peter Toon

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"...and continuing Anglican groups, the situation is not any better. No example is being set to the 80 millions of the Global Communion." OH BUT YOU DO HAVE A GOOD EXAMPLE SET FOR GLOBAL ANGLICANISM IF YOU WOULD ONLY PAY ATTENTION. THERE IS THE TRADITIONAL PROTESTANT EPISCOPAL CHURCH. YOU MAY VIEW THE WEBSITE @ www.reformer.org

Rev. Joseph Mahler