Sunday, August 26, 2007

Why using TEC Prayer Book of 1979 is spiritually dangerous!

Please read this short essay before you laugh or consign it to the garbage.

If there is one connection waiting to be made,
if there is one situation where the penny has not dropped,
if there is one possession ripe for rejection,
If there is one road ready to be traveled upon:
And if there is one group that has not yet seen the light, a people who need a disclosure from above to help them to see clearly, it is those present and former Episcopalians, who make a specific doctrinal claim and use liturgy of a specific kind, and are guided in one way or another by the leaders of the Global South.

First of all they claim to be “orthodox,” and not “revisionists” like the leaders of TEC. Secondly, like the “revisionists,” they use ardently the 1979 Prayer Book, the chief creation and symbol of TEC, even though they believe TEC is far away from the Way, Truth and Life as they are in Jesus, and has been so for a long time.

Apparently, few, if any of them, do not see, or at least do not admit, that their practice is not only illogical but also spiritually and morally harmful to them and to those whom they seek to influence and to evangelize. Further, they do not apparently realize that in recently adopting (as the Anglican Communion Network) the Formularies of 1662 as their standard of Faith, they have by public statement at least moved away from the chief creation and symbol of TEC, the 1979 Prayer Book & Formulary.

In other words, and being more specific, most members of the Anglican Communion Network, the Anglican Mission in America and other recent seceders from TEC like many in CANA and other groupings do not seem to realize that their continued attachment to, and use of, that 1979 Book—which embodies in embryo and in principle the reasons for the serious departure of TEC in recent times from the received Anglican Faith and Way—is a most spiritually dangerous course. In fact, their love affair (for this is what it appears to be) with it may be the chief reason why their desire and plans to become the core people of a new Anglican Province may come to nothing and cause profound disappointment in the long term.

What I suggest that we need to ponder and take to heart is that as a symbol, the 1979 Prayer Book represents virtually all that is wrong with the modern American denomination, TEC. Here is some of the evidence for my suggestion in summary form:

1) The very existence of this 1979 Book presents the arrogance and pride of the former ECUSA (now TEC) in clarity. The General Convention then in 1976 & 1979 (as now in 2006) predominantly cares much for American rights and little for the common global good. The 1979 Book should have been “The Book of Alternative Services” and the classic Book of Common Prayer, Ordinal and Articles (the Formularies) in their 1928 edition should have been left in place—as they were in other provinces like Australia, Canada, England and Ireland when they introduced alternative liturgies. Thus the 1979 book is the symbol of the arrogance of TEC, the same spirit as in 2006-7 sees itself above and beyond the content and requirements of The Windsor Report and the common mind of The Primates’ Meeting. To use this Book in 2007—with whatever mindset—is publicly to identify with this arrogance and further it is to identify with the deliberate rejection of the classic Formularies which the 1979 Book was clearly designed and set forth as the replacement for. [To state this strong position is not to say that there are not some rites and services in the Book which can be used profitably, for such there are. But it is to state that as a symbol and as used as a formulary it represents the very arrogance which is a primary cause of the global crisis of Anglicanism.]

2) The Book was intended to deceive the faithful by giving them something which seemed sufficiently like the old and yet which seemed to be relevant to the young people of the 1970s. That is, it claimed to be presenting orthodoxy in an attractive way when in fact it was deliberately designed to undermine the received orthodoxy of the Anglican Way. It was designed as a new form of Episcopalianism for a new post-1960s world. What follow are some illustrations of this point:

3) Take the Preface. This was written for the first American edition of The BCP 1789 that had been approved by the English Bishops as being of the same doctrine as the classic edition of 1662 (which had been used in the 13 Colonies for a long time before Independence). It is wholly unsuitable for the innovative 1979 Book but it is placed in it without any explanation of this fact. This is deceit making it appear as if the 1979 is a classic edition of the BCP.

4) Take the Baptismal Service, the centre-piece of which is the so-called “Baptismal Covenant,” to which the leadership of TEC is deeply even fanatically committed. The amazing arrogance here is that a covenant is supposedly agreed with God by those to be baptized before God actually presents His own covenant of Grace in the words of Baptism—“I baptize you in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit…” In the Bible God creates the covenant and then calls human beings into it. In Baptism God offers the covenant of grace and gives it through the actually baptism itself (water and words); and then the duties of those baptized as covenant members are usually stated. The 1979 Covenant celebrates what are human rights and powers of negotiation and it has been called Pelagianism; furthermore, it presents a covenant to be presented to God that is moulded within the zeitgeist of the 1960s—peace and justice and dignity etc., leading to a wholly social gospel as we see now in TEC.

5) Take the Marriage Service, intended to follow on from the revision of canon law in 1973 and to accommodate to both the divorce culture and to the increasingly common idea that marriage is basically a loving relation of two persons for as long as they choose and in their own terms—not to mention the availability of artificial birth control. Thus 1979 has no clear teaching of the biblical institution of marriage as primarily for the procreation and raising of children in the love and fear of the Lord. This is merely an option. In fact this service with a few amendments is being used by same-sex couples who also want only a loving faithful partnership and perhaps the right to adopt children if they feel like it. The origins of the same-sex blessings can be traced to this service as one major source.

6) Take the persistent way that the (supposed) “Holy Trinity” as GOD is presented. Not as in the Bible or in previous well-known Liturgies of East and West, but in an innovative way such that it can be read either as orthodox (by the orthodox in heart) or as representing openness to various possibilities (by those who are exploring these). “God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit,” of 1979 is not the same as “God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit” or “the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, One God.” The 1979 expression can mean—as in Modalism, Unitarianism, Panentheism etc.—“God as One Person who self presents in three basic Modes—as Father, as Son and as Holy Spirit (or if you like, as Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier).” The amazing thing is that this favored expression in 1979 claims to be based upon a well known blessing in the Orthodox Divine Liturgy: “Blessed be the Kingdom of the Father and the Son and Holy Spirit, now and always even unto ages of ages.” In the context of the Divine Liturgy the Three Persons are the Three Persons who are One Deity for they all share the one and identical Godhead. Oh that this were also clearly the case in 1979.

7) Take the Shape or Structure of “The Holy Eucharist” which is clearly based upon the novel ideas of Gregory Dix, ideas which are now generally discredited (see The Oxford History of Christian Worship, 2006, chaps 1-3). Even the text taken over from the classic BCP 1928 Order for Holy Communion was divided and modified in order to fit into the Dix pattern.

8) Likewise take the heavy dependence of the texts for both Ordinations and the Eucharist in 1979 upon the supposed special value and content of the writings of Hippolytus of Rome because they were so early. Virtually all scholars now believe that the date for the “Works” of Hippolytus is much later than was presumed in the 1960s and thus the use of them on this basis in 1979 is deeply flawed. (See again the Oxford History.)

9) Then take the so-called inclusive language which made its way into the Psalter in a big way and into the Rites in a lesser but real way—language which has now become the norm for TEC in all liturgies. By this the biblical distinctions between male and female are hidden and further Christ is eliminated from his Prayer Book, the Psalter. See Psalm 1:1 where the Hebrew original speaks of the righteous godly man and the early Church spoke of Christ as The Man in Psalm 1 and as the content of the Psalter. For 1979 Christ is reduced to “Happy are they…”

10) A dominating idea of the creators of 1979 was that in the Early Church there was a Unitary Festival of 50 days from Passover to Pentecost (from Good Friday to the Descent of the Spirit). Thus they spoke enthusiastically of the great fifty days and they numbered the Sundays after Easter Day as Easter 2, Easter 3 etc, teaching that Easter lasted for fifty days. The effects of this were many—virtually no recognition of Ascension Day, the claim that there should be no public confession of sins and all should stand and not kneel on this 50 day Easter, and the keeping alight of the Pascal Candle until Pentecost (rather extinguishing at the reading of his Ascension on the 40th day). To be guided so much by what was only in place temporarily in the Early Church and which was replaced especially in the West by the 40 plus 10 arrangement was a major mistake.

Much more could be stated by way of illustration—e.g. relating to radical feminism and female ordinations— but this has been done in various works:—see e.g. Tarsitano & Toon in Neither Orthodoxy nor a Formulary, and Episcopal Innovations, 1960-2004, from or 1-800-727-1928.

One immediate way forward would be to use either the cast-into-the archives-in-1979 genuine American edition of the BCP and Ordinal (that of 1928 and still in print and use) or the global edition of the BCP & Ordinal (that of 1662 and available in many languages). And if there is a problem with the traditional language forms of these two editions then they can be rendered into contemporary English without changing their structure, doctrine or spirituality.

The identity of Anglicans is profound related to the Bible as the authority for faith and conduct and the Formularies as the sure guides for worship, doctrine and discipline. The Bible alone is the religion of Protestants but the Bible served by the Prayer Book, Ordinal and Articles is the religion of Anglicans.

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