Common Cause, an affiliation of ten ecclesial groups in the USA & Canada, has in its theological basis a commitment to The BCP 1662 as a Formulary.
Before the meeting of the Bishops from these ten groups in Pittsburgh on September 26-28, 2007 (occurring immediately after TEC House of Bishops Meeting in New Orleans) I suggest that all Episcopalians/Anglicans concerned for Truth in Unity and Unity in Truth in American Anglicanism pray fervently the two Collects in The BCP for Trinity XV (Sept 16) and Trinity XVI (Sept 23).
I shall print them in their original Cranmerian form and then in the kind of language many in Common Cause prefer for worship, before offering a few explanatory comments as to their profound meaning for us.
First of all, here is the Collect for Trinity XV which is to be prayed during the week of the meeting of TEC House of Bishops, with the Archbishop of Canterbury as guest:
Keep, we beseech thee, O Lord, thy Church with thy perpetual mercy; and, because the frailty of man without thy help cannot but fall, keep us ever by thy help from all things hurtful, and lead us to all things profitable to our salvation; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Lord God, guard and maintain your Church, we pray, with your never ending and unchanging mercy; and because we always in our weakness need your constant help, keep us ever by your help from everything that can hurt us and at the same time lead us into everything that is profitable to our salvation; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Here we acknowledge the following theological, spiritual and practical facts:
• We pray not merely as servants but as undeserving sinners and servants, and so we “beg” and “beseech” for we have no rights before God. Only in and through Jesus Christ do we approach the heavenly Throne.
• The Church belongs uniquely to God the Father, the Lord our God, for he brought it into being through his mercy and by the saving work of Jesus Christ.
• Thus the Church can only be what it is intended to be and do what it is intended to do by the divine will, through the constant presence of the mercy and grace of the Father.
Baptized members of the Church still retain their “fallen” natures and thus in their moral and spiritual weakness can at any time fall from the way of faith and holiness into the ways of error and darkness.
• Likewise the local manifestation or branch of the Church can fall from the same way of faith and holiness into infidelity, schism and confusion.
• The Church as the local household of God with each and all of its members can only stay on the narrow way that leads to the Holy Trinity and everlasting salvation by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, bringing the grace and mercy of God to his people, and causing the baptized to be true disciples of the Lord Jesus.
And further, we assume (as does The BCP) that in one region there is one only branch of the Church—at least one Anglican branch.
Now we move on to the next Collect for Trinity XVI, which is actually prayed the week of the Common Cause Bishops Meeting in PA,
O Lord, we beseech thee, let thy continual pity cleanse and defend thy Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without thy succour, preserve it evermore by thy help and goodness, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Lord God, let your continual, gracious kindness cleanse and defend your Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without your constant protection, preserve it always by your help and goodness, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Here we acknowledge the following:
• We bring no merits or rights to God the Father and thus we beg for mercy through the mediation of his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
• The Church is a divine institution but inhabited by human beings who are prone to sin and thus contaminate the Church by their sin.
• Only the gracious intervention and action by God the Father through his Son and by the Holy Spirit is sufficient to purify and strengthen the Church on earth.
• The Church can only fulfill its vocation as it is guided, cleansed, empowered and sanctified by the Holy Trinity.
One may note that there is no sense of triumphalism (only begging!) in these Collects for none of us whether we be from Africa or the USA has anything to boast before the Blessed, Glorious and Undivided Holy Trinity as we approach HIM only in the Name of Jesus, God Incarnate and sole Mediator.
Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to thy Cross I cling.
The renewal of the Anglican Way begins at the foot of the Cross, the Cross that towers over the wrecks of time, and here there is saving truth with unity, and unity in Christ with truth, through the shed blood of the sinless and pure Saviour, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
September 15, 2007. Dr Peter Toon