Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Mary and Martha: contemplative and active

We all remember that Jesus gave his approval to what Mary was doing (or not doing) rather than to the very active and concerned Martha. But, if an opinion poll were done in modern America concerning the value of the two sisters, no doubt Martha would come out on top—with perhaps the proviso that the man or men of the house should have been helping as well! To be active and achieving something is highly rated, while engaging in prolonged meditation or contemplation is judged to be of doubtful value. Here is the story of Mary and Martha, as told by Luke in 10:38ff:

Jesus entered a village and a woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she went to Jesus and said, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me". But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; one thing is needful. Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her.

Take a look at Martha. She treats Jesus as a very special, in fact an unique guest, and so she must provide for him the best hospitality and food. All must be just right and nothing wrong. She is absorbed by her domestic chores.

Take a look at Mary. She is so keen to listen to Jesus, to hang on to and digest every word he says, that her mind is far away from kitchen and stove. She is absorbed by the very presence of Jesus the teacher.

The two sisters portray very different approaches to Jesus. Martha showed her devotion by what she could practically do for him. Mary showed her devotion by sitting at his feet as his committed disciple.

To understand why Jesus took the side of Mary we need to bear in mind that the Messiah, the Hope of Israel, does not come to town every day! When he pays his visit he comes not for what the town can do for him but what he has to give to the town. He does not need special food creatively prepared but just basic refreshment. Thus everyone, man and woman alike, have as their first duty, when the Messiah comes, to pay attention to him, to listen carefully as he speaks with authority, and as he utters the words of eternal life. Mary understood this and Martha did not. What Martha had to offer was not the right thing for this unique moment, but it had its place at other times.

Since the third century these two sisters have been seen in the Church as providing a picture of two necessary aspects, dimensions or sides of the mature Christian life. And these have been called (a) the active life, and (b) the contemplative life. Both have been seen as necessary; yet in God's plan for us as being in a certain order—first the contemplative and then the active. Mary's approach to Jesus has priority over Martha's but both belong together.

What this means in practice is that we are not to turn to prayer, meditation and contemplation when we have exhausted ourselves in good deeds and fine work for the Lord inside and outside the Christian congregation. That is, we are not to use prayer as a means of charging our batteries—though it will achieve this for us if we do so use it in this manner. No! We are first to be united to the Lord in meditation and contemplative prayer and from this go out to do his will in his strength. Activism is to flow from contemplation, not activism to turn to contemplation when exhausted.

The practice of the Church over the centuries—and this is wonderfully captured and developed in The Book of Common Prayer—is to begin the day with Morning Prayer and to complement this with Evening Prayer, not at the very end of the day but at the close of the afternoon. By this method the contemplative life is maintained and in a way that does full justice to Mary; but leaving much space after and between the offices to do justice to Martha.

One of the most eloquent descriptions of the necessity of both the contemplative and the active life is provided by St Augustine of Hippo in chapter nineteen of his City of God. And one of the most moving, and in the best sense, evocative descriptions of the two lives is provided by St Bernard of Clairvaux in his eighty-six homilies on the Song of Songs, especially the last of these.

The distinguished Archbishop of Canterbury, William Temple wrote: "The right relation between prayer and conduct is not that conduct is supremely important and prayer will help it—but, rather, that Prayer is supremely important and conduct tests it" ( Christus Veritas, 1924, p.45).

-- The Revd Dr Peter Toon, M.A. M.Th. D.Phil., President of the PBS 2007

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Anglican Way as the Church-type or Denomination-type but not Sect-type

– a discussion starter from Dr Peter Toon

Here I shall use the terms used by sociologists when describing different types of churches. The terms are not meant to be pejorative but function descriptively only.

1.Ecclesia Anglicana, the ancient church in England, was and is a National, Established Church and has two provinces, Canterbury and York. It was a Church-type both before and after the Reformation of the sixteenth century.

2. In Scotland, Wales and Ireland, “the Anglican Church” eventually became a national denomination, existing alongside Presbyterian and R. C. churches. Yet is was territorial, arranged into dioceses geographically. It was thus a Denomination-type in all parts of the United Kingdom, except in England.

3. In the USA what came to be called The Protestant Episcopal Church [PECUSA] was from the 1780s a Denomination-type, and so described itself in the preface to its own BCP of 1789. Again, it was territorial, arranged into dioceses in a geographical way and united at the center through a triennial General Convention.

4. Likewise at the end of the British Empire in the British Commonwealth of Nations “The Anglican Church” was understood to be of the Denomination-type, existing as one unit alongside other units (e.g. Methodist & Presbyterian). Yet is was always understood territorially, as a national unit, with geographical dioceses, and united at the center by a synod.

5. In both the Church-type and the Denomination-type the unity was/is based upon the common formularies (BCP, Ordinal and usually Articles of Religion) with an Episcopate recognized by all (the latter has been strained very recently by women in the Episcopate).

6. Thus it may be asserted that part of the identity and character of The Anglican Way as Reformed Catholicism is that it is a united body and society—howbeit it in a comprehensive way— using an agreed common prayer and pastored by a united Episcopal College. Thus it functions normally when it is either the Church-type or the national Denomination-type. Outside these boundaries, it is “lost”!

7. For whatever reason, good or bad, when Anglicans leave the national Church and seek to set up Anglicanism as the Sect-type then the Anglican way goes into distress, locally and even nationally and globally. When the move into the Sect-type is small then the distress may not be immediately discernible but when the move is large then the distress is quickly felt by all. This may be illustrated in the secessions from PECUSA from the 1870s to 2007.

8. The Sect-type may be said to begin in the USA for Anglicans with the secession of the Evangelicals, opposed to Anglo-Catholicism, in the 1870s, and their setting up of what they called, “The Reformed Episcopal Church” which was for much of its subsequent history extremely low-church in worship, doctrine and discipline. One effect of this secession was that there was a virtual absence of Evangelicals in the PECUSA during much of the 20th century and this caused imbalance within PECUSA, with the absence of the evangelical school/party’s teaching on evangelism and conversion.

9. The Sect-type of Anglicanism took on a high-church form with the secession in the late 1977 of several thousands over the introduction of female clergy and new forms of worship into PECUSA. The intention of the seceders was to create a new Episcopal Church, a new Province, a viable alternative to PECUSA; but, this did not happen and they soon divided amongst themselves into various jurisdictions and thus had no alternative but to become-sociologically speaking-- Sect-type Anglicans, even though they sought to imitate the polity of the Denomination-type. The PECUSA by this secession lost many devoted people of an orthodox mindset and thus it naturally became more prone to become more progressively liberal as the years went by—which is what happened.

10. The Sect-type of Anglicanism—or we may call it extra-mural Anglicanism—increased in both numbers and profile from the late 1990s with the secessions that have led to the formation of several hundred new congregations outside PECUSA and alongside the variety of 1977 Continuers and the small Reformed Episcopal congregations. Much of the new Sect-type Anglicanism is loosely tied to overseas dioceses and provinces of the global Anglican Family, but, as it exists in the USA and not in the territory of these sponsoring dioceses, it remains necessarily of the Sect-type on US soil. [And of course the Sect-type is virtually the norm in the USA as the amazingly varied supermarket of religions illustrates.] With the loss of these “evangelically-minded, charismatic” types of members, PECUSA again became more militantly liberal and progressive.

11. Describing “extra-mural Anglicanism” as of the Sect-type implies no judgment on the characters and doctrines of the participants—in fact they are probably more committed as Christians than those who remain within PECUSA.

However, what the expression Sect-type highlights is that there are small groups here and there, who may want to be national organizations or part of one national grouping, but are too small to be so in any coherent way; and, further, that they exist outside what is still seen as the official National Anglican Church (PECUSA).

12. The route from Sect-type, extra-mural Anglicanism, to the Denominational-type of Anglicanism (which is necessary in order to become an alternative Province to the PECUSA in the USA) is a route that has NEVER been undertaken before anywhere in the world. In the conditions of the USA (with great emphasis on liberty and the right to express personal opinions) it will be extremely difficult even to get started on moving on this unexplored and un-chartered route. In fact, it will be a miracle if it gets started and more so if it occurs, even with those of the seceders who are generally of the same style and ethos (e.g., the post 1990s seceders). [One wonders whether the Primates who are encouraging the creation of the Sect-type, extra-mural, Anglicanism, have thought about in any detail the immensity of the task in creating an alternative Province to PECUSA. Further, has any one of them seriously thought about the 1977 seceders and whether or not they should be involved in the route towards one Province for all seceders?]

13. There is one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father. Paul tells us that there cannot be truth without unity and unity without truth in his Epistle to Ephesus; and Jesus in his Priestly Prayer in John 17 prays that we shall be one for that is his will. Many of us appear not to desire to be one! We think that possessing what we regard as truth is sufficient to justify our isolated standing before God. Thus, right now all forms of American Anglicanism appear to be in the most serious of error and sin before the One God—not only PECUSA but every group, whatever its protest on behalf of its own vision of orthodoxy!

Kyrie eleison (thrice)

"Sin" is key to present state of our disunity, says Continuing Church Metropolitan

The article below was posted at VirtueOnline and I did not see it until today, July 23rd. If my old friend, the Australian Bishop, John-Charles, who taught with me at Nashotah House in the early 1990s, is correct in what he states, then the Continuing Anglican Church(es) are not really Anglican in any historical meaning of the word, for they have rejected the classic, historical formularies of the Anglican Way and adopted other formularies which take them into a kind of half-way point between The Anglican Way and both Rome and Orthodoxy. But not all the Continuing Anglican jurisdictions actually have the Affirmation of St Louis in their constitution--e.g. the APCK-- and so committment to it is not required of clergy. in all continuing bodies. In former times--when I was young-- those who were known as anglo-catholics accepted the classic formularies and added to them what were seen as doctrines and ceremonies which were optional and extra, and these were not made compulsorh for others. For John-Charles the optional and extra are a necessary part of the foundation and so it comes about that many high church evangelicals and old fashioned high churchmen and even Prayer Book Catholics have no place in the Continuing Movement as he describes it.

Posted by David Virtue on 2007/7/5
"Sin" is key to present state of our disunity, says Continuing Church Metropolitan,

Archbishop John-Charles, F.O.D.C.

To all Bishops of Churches Adhering to the Affirmation of St. Louis

In the love of Christ and with all fraternal respect.


It has become a matter of urgency to me that I write to you concerning unity among Continuing Anglicans. As age wearies and I find my physical faculties diminishing, I am constantly reminded that there is less time ahead of me than behind me.

While I am now retired and no longer a Bishop Ordinary, it remains the case that by year of consecration I am the senior bishop of the Continuing Churches. This is no cause for pride or self-assertion, but I do feel that it lays upon me the responsibility of doing whatever I can in the time left to me to break down barriers between us, foster concord and repair communion.

What divides us?

Is it dogma or doctrine? Surely not, for we are all committed to the Affirmation, which in turn commits us, not to yet another confessional statement in the history of the Church, but to Scripture as interpreted by Holy Tradition, that is the Consensus Patrum and the Seven Ecumenical Councils common to East and West. Is there any dispute among us as to the great and foundational dogmas of the Creed, summarizing the eternal Gospel? Do any of us deny the doctrines of Apostolic Succession, Eucharistic Sacrifice, or the Real Presence? Do any of us reject the truth of traditional Catholic teaching on prayer for the dead, the invocation of Saints, or the Blessed Virgin's divine maternity, perpetual virginity, immaculacy and present glory? Indeed, is there any element of the Faith we would vainly wish to filter out in the name of private interpretation, presuming to "correct" the Church Universal? Are any of us "cafeteria Catholics"?

If the answer to these questions is no, as it must be among those who lay claim to the Affirmation of St. Louis, then the way is open to reconciliation. However, there are some critics of the Affirmation that have claimed to see some customary Anglican ambiguity in it.

I would contend that their interpretation is strained and uncharitable, but let us deal with it, nonetheless.

The Affirmation states that we witness to Tradition as an "essential principle" in the following terms: 'The received Tradition of the Church and its teachings as set forth by "the ancient catholic bishops and doctors," and especially as defined by the Seven Ecumenical Councils of the undivided Church, to the exclusion of all errors, ancient and modern.' Some have said that the phrase be-ginning with the word "exclusion" qualifies in an open-ended way our acceptance of Tradition, as if we were saying, "We accept Tradition, except for the parts we deem heretical." Of course, this is hardly the natural reading, and the phrase in fact refers to ancient errors condemned by the Councils rather than any purportedly set forth by them, as implied by the reference to the Vincentian Canon earlier in the Affirmation.

Nevertheless, our assurance of this does not rest on the Affirmation alone. And it is here that our early history, despite its many false steps, mutual misunderstandings and mis-communications, despite its being marred by human frailty and pride, can provide both clarification and a common foundation.

For at the 1978 Dallas Synod, even amongst confusion and acrimony, while the Continuers were still one and newly renamed the Anglican Catholic Church (ACC), a Solemn Declaration and Preamble to the Constitution were agreed to. The Preamble says, inter alia, 'This Church ... accepts as binding and unalterable the received Faith and Traditions of the Church, ... as set forth in the Holy Scriptures; the ... Creeds; the writings of the "ancient Catholic Bishops and Doctors"; and especially as defined by the Seven Ecumenical Councils of the Undivided Church' [emphasis added].

Thus, barring heretical statements elsewhere in the nascent ACC's formularies, of which there were none claimed by anyone, we see that at this point the die was cast and Continuers had formally ratified unambiguously their Catholic identity and epistemology. Henceforth, whatever imperfections may have existed in the Constitution and Canons, and whatever personal errors may have later caused some individuals to advocate protestant, minimalist positions or sow discord in other ways, the ACC was irrevocably and undeniably a Catholic jurisdiction.

Therefore, it cannot be claimed that division has occurred for fundamentally theological reasons, as the only justification for separation over matters of faith is if one of the bodies formally embraces heresy. That this is not the case according to those who left the ACC is proven by the fact that there were later Episcopal co-consecrations involving them and ACC bishops. Such shared acts are inconceivable without mutual admission of orthodoxy, as is admitted by all.

And so we come back to the question, what divides us?

Is it liturgical churchmanship? Hardly, for all our jurisdictions contain many parishes which use the Missal and some which prefer the simpler BCP Mass, the latter being in our eyes no less Catholic due to its simplicity than is Novus Ordo. Is it differences in standards of discipline? Unlikely, since all of our Churches aim for high standards but must admit to having licensed, ordained, or even consecrated men who we have belatedly discovered to be of questionable character or stability.

Many years ago, I was asked in a public forum if I could explain how Christians in general had come to be so divided. I rose, went to the microphone and said one word: "Sin." I believe this answer also holds the key to our present state of disunity.

Yet I am far from implying that the fault lies only with those who have left the ACC. An unbiased investigation of our history as Continuing Anglicans does not allow any of us to escape blame. Nor do I wish to pretend that every division or schism has been due solely to clashes of personality, power-seeking or trivialities.

No, all of us must frankly examine ourselves and admit where we may have failed the tests of charity or straightforwardness. We must also all remember that, in the absence of a solution to the initial ECUSA descent into heresy authorized and imposed "from above", Continuers were forced to solve the problem themselves by voluntary association. While this was unavoidable in the emergency situation they faced, and thus actions normally impermissible and irregular were covered by the doctrine of economy, there can be no doubt that such a beginning made later divisions much easier. (It may well be that only by re-establishing communion with other branches of the Catholic Church, and so making ourselves more directly accountable to a wider Communion, will this flaw that was present ab initio be overcome.) And we must face up to the one issue of genuine substance that remains to keep us separate.

I refer to our different policies on the limits of communio in sacris. While this is not an area of difference in dogma strictly speaking, it is an important area of what we might call "applied ecclesiology" that makes closer relations difficult by its very nature. It has become increasingly clear to us in the ACC that the only way for those Catholic traditionalists still in the Anglican Communion to be fully faithful to their beliefs is to make a clean and public break with it.

Vague statements about "impaired communion" are not enough: public, clear, and complete repudiation of heresy and sacramental communion with heterodox Anglican provinces is what is required at the very least. Better still, all except unavoidable historic association with the Canterbury crew should be rejected. Rather than encouraging those left in the mire to retain some attachment to it, we must confront them with the need to make a choice.

Quite apart from questions of sacramental integrity, there is the matter of providing an honest witness to the world. Similarly, it is surely important that Continuing Anglican Churches which can lay claim to the doctrinal heritage of the Affirmation and the jurisdictional continuity of the "Chambers Succession" avoid establishing full communion with bodies of vagantes or heterodox origins until we are quite sure, with moral certainty, that these bodies have abandoned earlier errors and, if necessary, had their Orders regularized.

I beg that as fellow Pastors of the flock we set our house in order, discuss and overcome any theological differences that might remain, make the necessary apologies and present a unified and forthright position to Anglicans who remain in the chaos.

My own experience, having remained in ECUSA longer than was tolerable, assures me that providing them an escape route back to the Church is our duty. Leaving them where they are is simply not an option.

Yours in Christ,

Archbishop John-Charles, F.O.D.C.
The Province of The Anglican Catholic Church

Monday, July 23, 2007

Responding to Ephraim's Radner's Essay of July 13, 2007 on The Network and The Common Cause—some initial observations from Peter Toon .

I always read my friend Dr Radner's essays with care, and I highly respect him even though we belong to different forms of Anglicanism—he fully embraces women priests and I fully reject them, even as I also affirm the great value of the ministry of godly women. His expressed concerns at the direction of the Anglican Communion Network are to be taken most seriously, which I do. Having read his essay, these are my thoughts.

What may be called Episcopalianism and/or Anglicanism in the U.S.A. is in one big mess. All this has come about initially (but not completely) through the faithlessness, heresy and apostasy within the Protestant Episcopal Church of the U.S.A. since the 1960s. Secessions from PECUSA have occurred continually—by dribs and drabs and occasionally in brief intensity—since the days of the civil rights rallies and marches. Thus the most recent secessions primarily over the new doctrine of sexuality in this Church are part of a long line. The practical difference between the secessions since 2004 and the major ones of 1977 (which created the Continuing Anglican Church[es]) is that major players in the Anglican Communion are involved in the recent ones, even to the extent of gathering the seceders into their arms as shepherds and making them part of their provinces. And thus it is that very little attention is paid by the most recent seceders to those who preceded them, and so they cannot even learn from them and their experience of extra-mural Anglicanism—its pros and cons! I note here that only rarely does Dr Radner mention the traditional Continuing Anglicans in his essays.

The recent seceders are usually united in fellowship to some PECUSA dioceses in the Anglican Communion Network and to other Anglican groups ( e.g. AMiA, Reformed Episcopal Church [dating from 1873] and CANA) in the Common Cause movement. And the Network seems to be drifting towards the Common Cause movement and making its cause that of the Common Cause.

The general impression I gain from observing what is going on is that there is an implicit commitment in the leadership of the Network and Common Cause to creating or being part of a new Province of the Anglican Communion on American soil. It as if the ball is rolling down the hill and it cannot stop—the movement towards a hoped-for province is what energizes these two groups. Yet there is a certain vagueness about the future for so much depends on the actions of overseas Primates in giving their imprimatur to such a reality and they are not producing blueprints as yet. And, let us be clear, if such a Province were ever formed it would most likely belong to one half of what would then be a divided Anglican Communion, and in the USA it would not include all conservative Anglicans ( i.e. only a tiny proportion of the original 1977 Continuers would be involved and also several "conservatively disposed" dioceses of PECUSA would not be involved).

Dr Radner is right to call for a slowing down, for taking a deep breath, for consulting more openly and graciously; but I fear that he may have called too late. The powerful centrifugal forces in American religion must be taken into account. Further, the impatience of African Archbishops and their inability to wait for Lambeth 2008 before taking drastic actions must also be taken into account. If the Lambeth Conference does not take place with all Provinces present then it will be a failure before it begins, and the problems of the Anglican world will increase from this point beyond what they are now—and they are in intense crisis right now. And if there is an alternative Lambeth Conference in Africa or Sydney or Singapore then we are in really big trouble as Anglicans.

As things stand in July 2007, the scenario, in my view, that is most likely to happen in the USA is not that there will be the old PECUSA (as a Unitarian Liturgical Church) doing its own thing on its own, and a new "orthodox" Province in the USA, part of a 38 member Global Anglican Communion, proclaiming orthodoxy alongside the degraded old PECUSA. A more likely scenario will be that the old PECUSA continues with a few (by comparison with the liberal majority) conservative dioceses; that several African Provinces have dioceses or networks in the USA (overlapping each other and sometimes competing one with another), that there are all kinds of associations and links of parishes with other overseas bishops; that the number of small jurisdictions of continuing Anglicans of one kind or another continues and increases, even as a few of them unite with one another; and that an increasing number of Anglicans in frustration either cease to be church goers (as happened in a massive way in the 1970s with the introduction of the new liturgies and women priests) or go to Rome or Orthodox or various forms of Protestantism—especially interdenominational churches. To create a new Province in the USA will be exceptionally difficult for it will need in the USA powerful (but rarely experienced) centripetal forces and from overseas all kinds of diplomatic, theological and constitutional help and advice. And the wrath of the old PECUSA will work to make it not happen!

We all know too well in the USA right now that politicians and statesmen of differing political affiliations have this in common when it comes to trying to find a solution to Iraq's present chaotic situation. They all say that there is no simple or single solution and that every possible solution has high risks and problems attached. No one seems to envisage a good outcome!

I submit that the situation of American Anglicanism/Episcopalianism is similar in that there is so much chaos, confusion, crisis, division, schism and dysfunctionality (happily no bloodshed except metaphorically) that to find a way out is impossibly difficult. And, and, unless the God of all grace and mercy actually intervenes in ways, that are difficult or impossible for anyone even to envisage, then the future looks bleak indeed for the Anglican Way. The very character of the Anglican Way normally requires one province in one geographical area and once this principle is let go, and there are competing groups in the one territory, then it seems the Anglican Way falls apart, and does so with a great tumble like Humpty Dumpty, whether those involved count themselves as orthodox or heretics, conservatives or liberal progressives.

Kyrie eleison (thrice)

(Dr Radner's piece is at the website of the Anglican Communion Institute and has been circulated by Fr Kim.).

Saturday, July 14, 2007

What's unique about Love as Agape?

The Christian Vocation to love God and the neighbor.

Christians—indeed all mankind—are commanded by their Creator and Judge to love Him, one another, including their enemies. To put it mildly this is a tough requirement and assignment.

Now all people everywhere are familiar with the need to love others, but the "others" are usually, if not inevitably, those of their own kind, type, kith and kin, together with those whom they find attractive for one reason or another. Certainly the idea of loving those who are different or whom they despise or regard as enemies is not considered as a duty in life.

In fact, the question of who to love, who is a proper object of one's loving, in normal life in this world focuses not on the one who will do the loving but upon those who may be loved. That is, loving others is usually, indeed primarily, determined by who the others are. This is so even—perhaps especially—in erotic or romantic loving where the one in love is so because there is something in the beloved which attracts as a magnet the affections.

Bearing this is mind, the command of Jesus to his disciples to love people as he loves them and especially to love the enemy, the outsider and the needy seems totally outside the scope and possibility of human loving. Perhaps occasionally the "normal" human being can rise above normality and love someone outside "the circle" but to do so as a disposition of the will and a way of life is not considered as sensible or reasonable.

This is where the full Gospel of Jesus Christ comes into the human situation not only with the promise of forgiveness for sins of omission and commission and the promise of life everlasting; but, also, with the promise of the creation of a new principle of life within the soul so that the Holy Spirit may dwell therein and "the love (agape) of God may be shed abroad in the heart."

As we have noted, what is needed by human beings in order to begin to be true creatures and humble servants of the Lord their God is the inward desire, motivation and will to love God as He is, the Holy, Blessed and Undivided Trinity, and to love fellow human beings as they really are--be they friends or enemies, rich or poor, sick or well. That is, to love in the same way as God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ love the world: they love sinners, they love those who rebel against them; and they love those who despise and hate them for they are merciful and gracious. They offer the fullness of salvation and redemption and glorification not to the righteous but to wicked sinners.

Thus the love for which the Lord our God calls, and which our Lord Jesus Christ exemplified, is a love that in the first place is not motivated by the nature and character of the other (the one to be loved), but is a permanent principle resident within the regenerate soul, and, as such, this indwelling love looks for people of all kinds, from friends to enemies, to care for and be kind and gracious to. It is there to imitate the way that God's love for it is the love of God in the human soul.

Practically speaking we may say that within the soul or inner life of the baptized, regenerate Christian believer, there are to be found two active principles, one of which is to be mortified and the other to be allowed to grow and bear constant fruit. (1) From the old nature, the "flesh" as St Paul calls it, come the readiness and desires to love the lovable in terms of those who qualify for our love (friends, family heroes and the like) and along with this a tendency to despise or neglect or seek to have no feelings for the rest of humankind. (2) From the new nature, the new creation, the new "man", come the desire and readiness to love God as a solemn duty and high privilege and also to love all God's rational creatures (human beings) who are made in his image and likeness, despite their sins. Thus in this loving the enemy is included with the friend, and God's justice and wrath are loved as much as his righteousness and grace.

Yet, as long as we are living on earth in the evil world and have bodies that are weak and waiting for their transformation at the general resurrection of the dead, we need to be reminded of the duty to love in god's way and this is why the two great Commandments to love God and the neighbor are proclaimed in the Order for Holy Communion. As the adopted children of God, justified by faith through grace, we seek to love as God loves, and in this commitment to the holy life of love, we fall short, fail and make serious mistakes. Wonderfully and happily, the God whom we serve is Love and with him there is full and free forgiveness for the repentant sinner! In the life of the world to come in our perfected bodies of glory, we shall naturally and gladly love God with all our beings and also love our fellow creatures with all our beings and we shall know experientially the meaning of the statement, "God is Love."

The Revd Dr Peter Toon, July 14 2007

Ugandan Archbishop Orombi describes The Anglican Way in East Africa.

But did he overlook something?

First of all in First Things (August, 2007), and then as an e-mailing from The Anglican Communion Office and the American Anglican Council, I received on July 10-12 the text of an essay by Henry Luke Orombi, Archbishop of Uganda. Its title is dull ("What is Anglicanism?") but its content is exciting.

It is a well-written and coherent piece containing sufficient testimony to historical facts and vital Christian experience as to make educational, edifying, and existential. He writes as the leader of a Church whose problems are caused more by its success in growth in maturity and numbers than—as in the West—demise and secularization.

After having read it at 37,000 feet (on a Boeing 757) and at sea-level (in Seattle) in my condo, I want to say that in everything that if affirms and commends I say a hearty "Amen." I have in mind here his description of what he calls the "pillars" of Ugandan Anglicanism and that these are all founded on the Word of God..

The Archbishop insists that the Anglicans of Uganda are a scriptural people, reading and interpreting the Bible in the tradition of the British evangelical missionaries who came to them initially in the late nineteenth century. That is, they treat the Holy Scripture as the Word of God written and thus it is the authority for faith and conduct. Therefore they seek to memorize it and meditate upon its message, so that they can live according to its message.

The Three Pillars are: martyrs, revival and the historic episcopate.

The first martyr was an English missionary bishop, James Hannington, who was killed when he sought to enter the Bugandan kingdom with the Gospel on October 29, 1885. Less than a year later, the king of Buganda had twenty-six servants at his court killed because as Christians they confessed king Jesus and refused to become homosexual objects for the king and his circle. More recently on February 16, 1977 Archbishop Janani Luwum was martyred by the command of the Ugandan dictator, Idi Amin, because of he had spoken out boldly against the atrocities committed by Amin on the Uganda people. This testimony of witness to the Lord Jesus Christ by the martyrs is treasured by the Anglican people of Uganda, and it serves as an inspiration and model for them, alongside the holy martyrs of apostolic times –not to mention those honored in Foxe's "Book of Martyrs". No wonder they cannot entertain the toleration of active homosexual relations between male clergy!

The evangelical revival occurred initially in 1935 in northeast Uganda, and it spread rapidly throughout the country. Its major impact was to make what we may call nominal Christianity into vital Christianity and to heighten the sense of Christian assurance of God's grace and of the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ in and through the Spirit. But this only occurred because first of all the revival brought—as Americans had known in the Great Awakening—the sense of personal sinfulness and the urgent need to repent and to turn away from all known sins. Today the fruit of the revival lives on and is felt in the warmth and glow of worship and in the passion for evangelism and personal holiness.

For the historic episcopate to be presented as a pillar, and also as a pillar grounded in the Word of God will surprise many, not least good English evangelicals, for whom the episcopate is more of the " bene esse" (the well being) than of the "esse" (essential being) of the Church. But Orombi and his fellow bishops are apostolic men in the sense that they see their vocation in dynamic terms of being shepherds and evangelists, pastors and teachers, real leaders and fathers-in-God to their flocks and people. For them a pipeline theory of apostolic succession, and dressing up in finery as prelates, do not any way at all describe what they are and do. They are the successors of the apostles because they are committed to the Gospel and to the Word of God, to the commendation and defense of the Faith. They actually like the apostles make converts and found churches; they guard the flock from ravening wolves and they labor to present their people as a holy people to the Lord Jesus Christ though their ministries.

So three pillars—the blood of martyrs, the experience of revival and apostolic mission—are for Archbishop Orombi the distinguishing marks of Anglicanism in his province. Those who know Uganda ( and I had the privilege of teaching not a few clergy from there and know it through them) sense that he is right.

Yet, if I may be so bold to say so, I think he would have done a better job if he had described a fourth pillar and described it also as founded on the Word of God—a pillar which the English evangelical missionaries brought and used, and which is very widely in evidence in village and town churches today. I refer of course to what the Archbishop notices in passing when he speaks of the importance of the Formularies of the Anglican Way—i.e., The Book of Common Prayer, The Ordinal, and The Articles of Religion. The doctrinal stance of the Ugandan Church is very much that of the theological content of the Articles of Religion (especially those on justification by faith and vital religion) and the sense of apostolic ministry of the episcopate and presbyterate is a modern application of the rich teaching of The Ordinal.

The fact that there is a strong demand right now in the country for more copies of The Book of Common Prayer (1662) in English and also for the reprinting of the same Prayer Book (or parts thereof) in various Ugandan languages reminds us that the basis of worship for this Province remains basically the BCP of 1662—not used as in dreary English 8.00.a.m. celebrations but as a living text for a committed and celebrating people, who often know large parts of it off by heart.

So, I say to Henry Luke Orombi: "Dear Archbishop, whom we salute as an apostle of Jesus, please consider in your next essay adding the fourth pillar, The Anglican Formularies, which loom large both in your Provincial Constitution and in your practical worship and experience. Thankyou!"

[People will be interested to know that the Prayer Book Society of the USA is currently sending copies of the BCP in English to Uganda to meet an expressed need, and it is also seeking to help the reprinting editions of the BCP in local languages. To participate in this ministry write to thomascranmer200@yahoo.com ]

Peter Toon, President of the Board of The Prayer Book Society of the USA. July 13, 2007

Monday, July 09, 2007

Sabbath Day—does it have any application for modern Christians, especially Episcopalians/Anglicans?

A self examination starter from Peter Toon

It seems to be the case that for most Christians in the West today Sunday is just like any other day, except that in the morning an effort is made to go to a church service. For the rest of the day the rules for any none-go-to-work-day seem to apply—gardening, recreation, home improvements, going to restaurants, dressing casually, shopping at the mall and the supermarket, watching TV shows and sport, traveling by air and car, paid employment, and so on.

This approach to Sunday—better "the Lord's Day," the festival of the Resurrection—is relatively new. One has only to read the Catechisms of Anglicans, Protestants and Roman Catholics from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and look through the older Lutheran, Methodist and Anglican Hymn Books to find that Christians are taught and urged to treat the Lord's Day as belonging very specifically to the Lord, and therefore to use it for corporate worship, family togetherness and prayers and an opportunity for meditation and contemplation of the things of God. And, of course, it was the common custom to go to corporate worship both in the morning and the evening—with Sunday School or catechetical instruction added.

While some groups have come close to a Christian Sabbatarianism, setting over strict rules for what was permissible in this day, the majority—until recent times—simply deduced from the name "Lord' Day" that it was unique in the seven days, and thus ought to be observed with appropriate consecration, commitment and reverence to the Lord.

What seems to have happened is that an exaggerated sense of "Christian freedom," developed in the context of modern secular ideas of freedoms and rights, has caused many of us to think that Sunday is the day on which we, out of our busy lives and because of our appreciation of God, give to God an hour or two, and then spend the rest of the day as we will. And, further, that couple of hours we donate to God, is taken back by us if something "important" comes along to claim our attention and time. (Theologically this is a bad kind of Pelagianism!)

The virtual removing of the Lord's Day is not a phenomenon that is simply what the laity do, it is also what the clerical and lay leadership do whether they are "liberal progressives" or "biblically orthodox." An example from the month of July 2007 of the what the "orthodox" do is provided by the arrangements for the Annual Meeting of the leadership of the Anglican Communion Network in Bedford , Texas.. The Meeting begins in the evening of a Sunday ("the Lord's Day") and this means that the vast majority of attendees have to travel there by plane, setting off on the Sunday morning, thereby probably having to miss Christian worship and also using the Lord's Day to travel across the country as if they were committed secularists. (Of course they may travel on the Saturday and spend an extra night in a hotel and maybe some will do so.)

For Episcopalians and Anglicans, the diminution of the Lord's Day into merely "Sunday" has not only deeply affected Anglican Liturgy (note how Evensong, the most beautiful of Anglican services, is now virtually extinct—along with Matins, and how people attend worship dressed as thought they were out for recreation); but has also has deeply affected the potential for learning by good habit and teaching, by fellowship and common prayer, the content of the Christian Faith and its application to day to day living. And the general secularizing of the day has become as a poison to affect all aspects of doctrine, morality, style and ethos—as the state of Episcopalianism in the USA reveals.

Certainly the glorious Christian hope includes the Sabbath Rest of the people of God (see the teaching in the Epistle to the Hebrews) as the final fulfillment of what the Sabbath is all about, but at the same time, the Lordship of Jesus extends very much over his day—the first day of the week, or the eighth day—in this world, now and here, when his people celebrate his Resurrection together as the Lord's people, hearing his Word, being fed at his Table, and being empowered by his Spirit. Unless there are emergencies or necessities to require our attention, the best mind of the Church over the centuries is that Lord's Day is a Day that is to be different to the other six because devoted wholly to the Lord.

Is there a way back for American Christians to such doctrine and discipline?

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Church Hierarchies and church Property: How some laity see the matter.

A discussion Starter from Peter Toon on behalf of some laymen

Not a few laity in and around The Episcopal Church [TEC] have the sense, even the understanding, that congregations which secede from this Church to be part of another Anglican Province (via AMiA, CANA etc), lose their properties (even where they have paid for them in whole) on secession; and the real reason for the loss is because of the principle of hierarchy—that TEC is governed hierarchically, Bishops downwards, and so the property follows this tendency, upwards to diocese and/or national Church.

Let us begin our reflection by recognizing that the clearest examples of what we call hierarchical churches are the Roman Catholic Church and the various Eastern Orthodox Churches. In these Churches, decisions come from the top down, or from higher up to lower down. In total contrast, in a variety of "Bible" and "Baptist" local churches, in which there is complete local autonomy in all matters and property is owned locally, decisions are made at the local level and might be carried forward and upward at a convention of like-minded churches; but such a convention is not empowered to rule and does not tell the local church what to do.

In the world of business and commerce, closely held corporations are hierarchical, but public companies are not. Even though in public companies the Board and CEO run the company on a daily basis, they are ultimately responsible to the stockholders, who can replace them if enough votes can be gathered to do so.

In the Roman Church, major decisions of all kinds always come from above. While the Pope is elected by the College of Cardinals, the Cardinals themselves are not elected. They are appointed by the incumbent Pope, who has his job for life. Bishops in the Roman Church are not elected, they are appointed by the Vatican. Priests are not called by a parish, they are sent by a bishop. Mutatis mutandis, the various Eastern Churches operate in much the same way in terms of the hierarchical principle. In the Roman Church a General Council is called by the Pope and reports to the Pope and from Pope and General Councils ( e.g. Vatican II) come doctrine. Laity and ordinary clergy are not in this loop except as the recipients of what is decided and required. And in terms of property, while there may be local trustees, the general rule is that the property belongs to the diocese and that where there is any dispute the diocese takes control.

Let us now return to TEC. Major decisions within TEC have never been made in the hierarchical way of Rome. Bishops are elected by their dioceses. Priests are called by local congregations, admittedly with the approval--usually in the past, a pro forma approval--by the bishop of the diocese. The basic structure of TEC is not set up as an absolute monarchy as is the Roman Church, but along democratic lines, with certain limited authority given to Diocesan Bishops, Rectors, and Executive Councils. But Delegates to diocesan conventions are selected by local congregations. Diocesan conventions make the rules for the dioceses. Delegates to the General Convention of TEC are selected at the diocesan level. The General Convention itself is set up on the model of the United States government, not on the model of an absolute or even limited monarchy. The House of Bishops (whose members are elected by local dioceses) corresponds to the U.S. Senate; the House of Delegates (whose members are elected at the local level) corresponds to the U.S. House of Representatives. The major officers of TEC are elected by these bodies and the Canons of TEC are voted upon and passed by these bodies. In short, decisions about worship, doctrine and discipline within the TEC are basically made from the ground up, not from the top down. That does not mean (a) that there is not a role for bishops to exercise leadership and discipline over clergy and laity, and (b) that all decisions of the TEC General Convention are fair or orthodox. What it does mean is that decisions are not made hierarchically as are the decisions made in the Roman and Eastern churches, privately-held companies, or in absolutist secular political systems.

So, if in principle the government of TEC imitates the working of the federal government of the USA, what does this mean for local congregations? Well it makes their claim, that they own the local property that they have paid for and cared for, to have real merit. Of course, they own it in the sense that they hold it in trust for the worship of God in the Episcopal and Anglican Way. Thus if the congregation judges that TEC is making it impossible to do fulfill this high privilege and solemn duty, then it has the right to secede from TEC and move to another Anglican Province both with its property and for full pastoral care and leadership. The decision to secede should not be taken lightly and would only be done after careful listening to those who have been appointed – through the majority vote – to lead the diocese of which the parish is a part.

Probably the claim that TEC is hierarchical and that the property of a parish really belongs to the hierarchy is based on the imported idea, foreign to TEC historically, that Bishops and their Executive Councils actually rule TEC and function as the CEO's of dioceses and Liturgical Directors of the same. Contrast this imported idea with what has been the boast of TEC in Anglican meetings around the globe -- that this Church is administered like no other Anglican province, for the principles of republican and democratic government within the USA constitution have been transferred in an appropriate manner to the way that the independent Protestant Episcopal Church of the USA is governed by its members under God, and this has been done without sacrificing the priority of Bishops in the Threefold Ministry and the Shepherding of the flock.

July 4, 2007 Independence Day!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Blowing the precious Opportunities provided by Divine Providence: A call for reflection, spiritual discernment and discrimination.

A basic belief of Christians is "the providence of God;" that is, that God is ultimately the only ruler of the cosmos, that nothing happens without his knowledge and permission, and further that, as the Father of his adopted children ("the elect"), he both causes and allows things to happen to them and around them for their long-term true good.

Looking back over the last fifty years of Episcopalianism in the USA in terms of divine providence, I advance the following proposal or thesis—for others to reflect upon, accept, modify, improve, or reject. It provides an account of the lost possibilities offered by Divine Providence through the two major recent secessions from The Episcopal Church [TEC].

I begin with the schism of 1977 leading to the formation of the Continuing Anglican Church.

By this secession, God provided the opportunity and means for a committed group of Episcopalians to join together in orderly and godly ways to begin all over again—outside and away from TEC—The Anglican Way in America. And this is what they intended, even though in the Zeitgeist of the USA with its powerful centrifugal forces, they knew that their task would be very difficult. Further TEC intended that they should fail and worked to gain that end. Regrettably—as much by their own weaknesses and errors as by the machinations of others—the intended Unified Continuing Church lasted but a year or so, and then divided into what became small competitive jurisdictions—and from these have come more small groups since 1980.

I suggest that this opportunity provided by Divine Providence to recreate the Anglican Way in the USA was missed and not utilized and this was a most serious failure—indeed a tragedy; and, thirty years on, there are only a few signs of those who trace their roots to the original seceders of 1977 actually working together as one or even desiring to do so. If anything, they are in danger of getting more entrenched in their divisions, because of their having created elaborate separated, canonical machinery to govern each of their separated denominational units. Bureaucracies are easy to set up but difficult to dismantle!

Now I move on to the schism that is associated with the consecration of Gene Robinson of New Hampshire as a Bishop in the TEC (but not in the catholic Church of God!) in the twenty-first century. In protest, parts of, and whole, congregations left TEC looking for temporary Episcopal oversight from some friendly bishop from overseas, in the hope that a new Anglican Province for America will be founded soon (arising particularly from the support and efforts of "the Global South" ) and that that they would have a rightful and natural home in this new Body.

It is very possible that by and through this secession Divine Providence was giving to Episcopalians in the USA a second major chance to reform themselves and to be renewed by the Gospel and the Spirit. However, what was also needed, due to the complexities of the Anglican Communion of Churches, was godly patience by all—i.e., those wishing to be orthodox in the USA and their supporters overseas—at least until the major get-together of Anglican bishops in England in July 2008. At this Lambeth Conference the negotiations could take place, it was hoped, to make it possible to gather together within the USA at a later time the various seceding congregations and groups into some orderly unit and then make this the beginnings of a new Province—blessed initially at least by the Global South and probably, later, by other Provinces as well. Meanwhile TEC would cease to be the American Anglican Province, because a majority of Anglican Provinces would not be in communion with it, and thus TEC would become an independent, liturgical Unitarian Church.

Most regrettably in the period of testing and waiting, patience recently ran out; Lambeth July 2008, it seemed, was too far away; righteous anger and holy indignation made their impact; Africans long held down by British colonialism flexed their new muscles and took (precipitous?) action! Here again the opportunity provided by Divine Providence for a path to reform and renewal appears to have been blown. And this time blown first in Africa and then in the USA.

Contrary to the basic (and historical) rules of the fellowship that have joined the 38 Provinces in a Communion of Churches, a growing number of African Provinces has decided formally (a) to invade the territory of TEC (which the Lambeth Conference as a body in session has not yet formally judged to be apostate) and (b) to set up dioceses or networks within it—up to now we have Rwanda, Nigeria, Uganda and Kenya doing do. Further, these new units have been given their own bishops, who personally invade the historical territory of the local TEC bishop and who also are—strangely— in geographical competition with each other (via overlapping networks and dioceses). Looked from above with a bird's eye view, a real web of intricate overlapping has been created, which will be extremely difficult to unite (bearing in mind also that there are several TEC dioceses which intend to be part of a new Province if it ever comes into being, and that churches like the REC also wish to be part of this projected Province).

Even as continuing Anglican Bureaucracies have been relatively easy to set up but will be most difficult to dismantle, so this setting up of a variety of interlocking and overlapping networks and dioceses by African Provinces will be much more difficult to dismantle than they were to set up!

To ponder these things deeply bring sadness to the Anglican soul, for there seems to be no way out of the huge mess and problem we have created for ourselves on American soil.

If one were to predict—on the basis of what has previously happened in American history—one would have to say that the possibility of the most recent Secession leading to a new Province is remote, and that the more likely result is even more types of Anglican bodies, to join those whose origin is connected to 1977. Overall this points to the further contraction of the number of Anglicans in the USA which was at its height in 1967 with around four millions. Counting all now, TEC and the seceders, it is half of that number while the population has grown massively since 1967.

Anyone, who can discern the Providence of God clearly to see how the LORD our God will lead us out of this confusion and disorder that we have brought upon ourselves, and into godly unity in truth and charity,needs to speak as a prophet of the Lord right away unto his diminishing and sorrowful Anglican people.

Dr Peter Toon July 1, 2007.