Wednesday, October 24, 2007

From Familiarity to Fear—looking at the modern worship-service: A caricature to make a point!

Perhaps the word which summarizes the general attitude and ethos of the modern congregation at worship—be it in the modern Roman folk mass or the popular evangelical service—is familiarity; that is, familiarity with each other and with Deity.

People dress as if they were going to a ball-game or a cook-out or for a stroll, and they regard the worship-space as ordinary rather than holy ground. They greet each other as if they were meeting a returning friend at the airport. Deity is addressed in song and in spoken word in much the same style as human beings address each other when they are being civil and respectful, except that Deity is asked for more than is usually asked of a fellow human being. In fact, Deity seems to be assumed as present in spirit and somewhere nearby in terms of availability. That is, Deity is near enough to be able to see what is going on, to hear what is said and sung, to know the motives of participants, and possibly to take action “in the spirit” if so disposed.

And the purpose of the whole exercise of being together, engaging in symbolic and ritual acts, speaking and singing seems to be to make everyone feel good about Deity, each other and himself/herself. It is a kind of escape from the bustle and pressures of life in order to have one’s batteries charged and one’s vision renewed and one’s self-worth affirmed.

Perhaps the above account is exaggerated. If so, then it may at least claim to capture what is generally true of much modern “worship” and that is (to speak theologically) it assumes the immanence of Deity but not (or only minimally) the transcendence of Deity. Further, it assumes the friendliness of God but hardly, if at all, is aware of the powerfully pure holiness and wonderfully glorious splendor of God. Or, in relation to Jesus of Nazareth, it presents Jesus as the Resurrected Savior, “who walks with me and talks with me along the narrow way,” but not as the Exalted Savior, who rules the cosmos as Lord of lords, and is its Judge.

Practically speaking, there is present in this kind of worship-service little or no reverence, awe, dread and fear of the LORD God, who in his holy and glorious Being is totally apart from all created reality. There is also minimal sense of human sinfulness and of the absolute need of the saving, redeeming, cleansing blood and work of Jesus. After all, it is only when we see God for who he is and ourselves for what we are that we truly appreciate Jesus for who he is. True enough, the truths that Jesus is Savior and Lord are accepted, but they seem to make no impact on the ethos, style, attitude, dress and deportment of those present. It would appear that the truths concerning Who is God, Who is Jesus, What is man, and how is man saved from sin, are not engraved on the heart to make it fully self-aware; they are merely present in the mind.

Not a few books and essays have used the expression, “dumbing down,” to describe the way that biblical and theological truths along with forms of devotion and moral duty have been minimized, reduced, explained away or made into forms of self-affirmation in modern forms of “worship.” But while many see this, few seem to think that it is a problem to be solved, a failure to be made into a success, and a deficit to be made into a credit!

But, before any of this can change those involved in it have to see that it is wrong, very wrong. Why? Because it is the “fear of the Lord” that is the beginning of both true wisdom and true knowledge of divine things. Perhaps prolonged and careful reading of the Old Testament will help show this, for there “the fear of the Lord” is absolutely fundamental to true service of YHWH, the Lord God of the covenant of grace; and the New Testament, though it says less about the fear of the Lord than does the Old, it actually assumes this inner condition of the soul as a given!

The advantage of using a classic Liturgy, and for Anglicans this means an edition of the real Book of Common Prayer (e.g., USA 1928), is that it provides the possibility of worshipping the transcendent LORD in the beauty of holiness and in the Name of Jesus; and experiencing both fear and joy, a profound sense of creatureliness and sinfulness together with a powerful sense of being a child of God, to whose spirit the Holy Spirit speaks. Yet, even here, if the heart is not prepared then the ancient words can be—as too often they have been—merely a vehicle for a religious kind of social conservatism.

So it all begins within ourselves—as repentant, humble sinners who, being justified by faith through grace, bow before the LORD God of glory in the Name of his incarnate Son, Jesus, the Savior. We do not feel good about ourselves; rather we feel good about God the Father, the Holy One; Jesus, the Savior and Lord; and the Holy Spirit, who brings us to the Father through the Son. And this holy relation of reverence, dread, awe and fear provides the setting for freedom in the Spirit, the peace that passes understanding and the joy unspeakable.

October 23, 2007 The Rev’d Dr Peter Toon

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Vocation, privilege and Duty of a Priest in the Anglican Way

(From the Ordination to the Order of Priests from BCP 1662 & Canada 1926 & USA 1928: Note the very high sense of the Vocation, Privilege and the Duties of those ordained Presbyter. Regrettably new Ordination Services lack an equivalent gravity and seriousness. The text is here rendered into a kind of contemporary English.)

Sitting in his chair the Bishop says to those about to be ordained,

My brothers in Christ, you have heard, both earlier in your private examination and now in the sermon and Scripture readings, of what dignity and great importance this Ministry is, to which you are called. In the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, I urge you to keep in mind the nature of this office. You are called to be messengers, watchmen and stewards of the Lord; to teach and to warn, to feed and provide for the Lord’s family; to seek for Christ’s sheep scattered abroad in the evil world, so that they may be eternally saved through Christ.

Always have printed in your memory what a great treasure is committed to your charge. For the people whom you serve are the flock of Christ, which he purchased with his death and for whom he shed his precious blood. The Church and congregation, whom you must serve, is both Christ’s Bride and his Body. Thus, if the congregation itself, or any member of it, is hurt or hindered as a result of your negligence, God will surely discipline you for this sin. Bearing this in mind, remember what God has called you to be and to do. Never cease your work, care and diligence, until you have done all that you can possibly do, as is your duty, to bring all those under your pastoral care to a true knowledge of God, unity of faith and maturity in Christ, so that there is no place available amongst you for erroneous belief and immoral behavior.

Since this office is both so excellent in its nature and so difficult in its exercise, you see how most carefully and studiously you ought to apply yourselves to this Ministry, so as to prove yourselves dutiful and thankful to the Lord, who has placed you in such a dignified position. Also you are to take care neither to offend nor to cause others to do so. Remember that it is only God himself who can give you the intention and ability to do these things. Therefore, you ought and you truly need to pray sincerely for his Holy Spirit. And, bearing in mind, that you cannot accomplish so important a work relating to the salvation of man, except by using teaching and exhortation taken out of the Holy Scriptures, and by living a life agreeable to the same, consider how seriously you ought to study and learn the Scriptures, and order your own life and that of your family, according to the rule of the same Scriptures. For the same reason, you ought to forsake and set aside, as much as you can, all worldly cares and studies which hinder you doing your duty.

We are persuaded that you have carefully weighed and pondered these things for some time, and that you have clearly determined, by God’s grace, to give yourselves wholly to this office, into which it has pleased God to call you, so that, to the extent of your ability, you will apply yourself wholly to this one thing, and draw all your concerns and studies towards the fulfillment of this ministry. We are also persuaded that you will continually pray to God the Father, by the mediation of our only Savior Jesus Christ, for the heavenly assistance of the Holy Spirit; that, by daily reading and considering of the Scriptures, you will grow stronger in your ministry, and endeavor to sanctify and shape your lives and those of your families according to the rule and teaching of Christ, that you may be wholesome and godly examples and patterns for the people to follow.

And now, in order that this congregation of Christ’s flock may also understand your minds and wills in these things, and in order to strengthen your resolve to do your
duty before God, you are to answer clearly the questions which we, in the Name of God, and of his Church, now ask you.

Do you sincerely think that you are truly called, according to the will of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the canon law of this Church, to the order and ministry of Priesthood?

Answer. I do think so.

Are you persuaded that the holy Scriptures contain sufficiently all doctrine that is necessary for eternal salvation through faith in Jesus Christ? And are you determined to teach the people committed to your pastoral care from those Scriptures, and to teach nothing as required or necessary for eternal salvation except that which you are persuaded can be proved from the Scriptures?

Answer. I am persuaded and will do so, by God’s grace.

Will you always make every effort faithfully to provide the doctrine, the sacraments and the discipline of Christ, as the Lord has commanded, and as this Church has received
them, according to the commandments of God; so that you may teach the people under your pastoral care diligently to keep and observe the same?

Answer. I will do so, with the Lord’s help.

Will you be ready, with all faithful diligence, to banish and drive away all erroneous and strange doctrines contrary to God’s Word? And will you use, as need shall require and occasion permit, private warning and public exhortation, both to the sick as well as to the healthy within your congregation, to accomplish this?

I will do so, with the Lord’s help.

Will you be diligent in prayers, in reading of the Holy Scriptures, and in such studies as assist in gaining a fuller knowledge of them? And will you at the same time lay aside worldly study and private pursuits?

Answer. I will do so, with the Lord’s help.

Will you strive to frame and fashion your own lives, and those of your families, according to the teaching of Christ? And will you make both yourselves and them, to the best of your ability, to be wholesome examples and patterns to the flock of Christ?

Answer. I will do so, with the Lord’s help.

Will you maintain and promote, as far as you are able, quietness, peace and love amongst all Christian people, and especially among those under your pastoral care?

I will do so, with the Lord’s help.

Will you reverently obey those who are set above you in the Church, your Bishop and other senior Ministers, and gladly and willingly accept their godly advice and submit to their considered judgments?

I will do so, with the Lord’s help.

The Bishop stands and prays,

Almighty God, who has given you the will to do all these things, grant you strength and power to perform them; that he may complete the work that he has begun in you;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Revd Dr Peter Toon
President of the Prayer Book Society 2007

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Bishop Charles P. McIlvaine Society—a proposal from an old-timer to the new-timers

(An Evangelical Anglican Society committed to the Preaching of the Gospel, the planting of churches and the renewal of The Anglican Way in the U.S.A., based upon the authority of the Holy Scriptures and guided by the content of the historic Formularies [Articles of Religion, Book of Common Prayer & Ordinal of 1662/1789/1892/1928])

Who was McIlvaine?

Bishop McIlvaine (born 1799 in New Jersey) was Bishop of Ohio (1832-1873), leader of Evangelical Episcopalians, theologian, apologist, educator, evangelist, church planter, diplomat and family-man. He visited Great Britain often and was a close friend of leading Evangelical Churchmen there. Both Oxford and Cambridge Universities gave him the Doctor of Divinity Degree. In the Civil War he was sent by President Lincoln as his personal ambassador to Britain.

Why a Society named after and for him?

In the third millennium in the U.S.A. there is a growing number of Evangelical Anglicans, mostly under forty, who wish to be classic Evangelical Anglicans, the modern equivalent of the famous nineteenth century English Evangelicals (Charles Simeon, William Wilberforce, J.C. Ryle etc.), who were deeply committed to the historic Formularies and used the Book of Common Prayer (1662) daily.

Regrettably in the Episcopal Church from the first World War to the 1970s there were hardly any Evangelicals at all, and those who came on the scene as from the 1970s were not particularly committed to a distinctive Formularies-based evangelicalism. Further, most took the innovative 1979 Formulary of the Episcopal Church as their norm. This situation is at last in 2007 beginning to change but ever so slowly.

McIlvaine as the friend and follower of Charles Simeon, and as one educated in solid Protestant theology at Princeton, presents a fine example on American soil of the classic Evangelical, well-known in England through the nineteenth century. Not only was he committed to serious Bible study and theological reflection, but he also was on the American frontier both an evangelist and church planter. His books are of various kinds—sermons, diocesan charges, lectures to evangelical societies, exposition of Justification by Faith, opposition to ritualism and opposition to rationalism. He should be better known amongst those seeking to renew the Anglican Way in the U.S.A. and Canada.

What do I propose?

I propose that those—especially the under 40s—who wish to continue their search for, and commitment to, The Anglican Way in its historic, Evangelical form (which is deeply committed to the inspiration and authority of the Holy Scriptures and guided by the historic Formularies) form themselves into “The Bishop Charles P. McIlvaine Society.” I also suggest that they find association at first through a web-site and e-mail communication, and that as interest grows they move on to arrange conferences, local and national. Further, I suggest that this Society be actively run by the under-40s (or under-45s) and that initially I act briefly as the midwife to get a list of Names together—so please e-mail me at Finally, if this idea and proposal has acceptance in heaven, it will no doubt get off the ground eventually and you will hear more from the under-45 classic Evangelical Anglicans.

A final word—the aim is not to begin “party-warfare” in the Anglican Way in the U.S.A. but to recover a major heritage which is needed in any comprehensive expression of the Anglican Way today.

The Revd Dr Peter Toon President of the Prayer Book Society of the U.S.A. October 19, 2007

Thursday, October 18, 2007

What living the Baptismal Covenant means for the Presiding Bishop of TEC in November 2007

One phrase often on the lips of modern Episcopalians, who have fully embraced the new Episcopal Religion of a this-worldly salvation, is “living the Baptismal Covenant.” And they usually mean living and acting in such a way as to seek to promote peace and justice in and around this world and, at the same time, to affirm and work for the dignity of all persons, “just as they are.” They see Christ as the Symbol of this world-changing “salvation.”

Often this promotion of peace and justice is through the United Nations Millennial Goals and schemes. Below, however, is printed a news-story from the Episcopal News Service, which illustrates specifically an instance where the Presiding Bishop is deeply involved in activity which has, as its goal, “reconciliation” and “peace.” However, these two terms belong in the horizontal only and have no reference to the large theme of the New Testament where the transcendent, holy God is in Christ reconciling the world to himself and thus bringing peace between the Creator/Judge and his disobedient creatures. The terms are used in the common secular way of this cosmos only, and the God of the new Episcopal Religion is primarily an immanent Deity, a Deity of process and evolution, changing in interaction with the cosmos.

The amazing thing is that these new Episcopalians, led by the Lady Presiding Bishop in apostolic order, are so keen on their projects and so dedicated to them, when they can surely see that they are, as a group, both numerically and qualitatively very small players indeed in the universal promotion of peace and justice by the U N and other big organizations. It must be their religious zeal that keeps them going differing only from secular organizations in that they add “God” to their explanations and message.!
Working toward reconciliation
South Korea to host worldwide Anglican peace conference
By Matthew Davies [Episcopal News Service]

Peace initiatives and reconciliation on the Korean Peninsula will be the foci of a worldwide Anglican peace conference November 14-20 when more than 150 Anglican leaders, ecumenical guests and other participants will travel to South Korea for TOPIK (Towards Peace in Korea). The conference will begin with a three-day peace trip to Geumgangsan in North Korea, where delegates will meet employees of the Hyundai Asan Company and hear about its programs of development and economic support for projects in North Korea, including flood-relief aid.

The visit to North Korea will be followed by a four-day forum in Paju, near Seoul, South Korea. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will preach at the November 16 opening Eucharist, which is expected to draw more than 400 worshippers. The forum will introduce and summarize Korean experiences of war and forgiveness, conflict and reconciliation, and explore ways to contribute to establishing a permanent peace in Northeast Asia.

"This gathering promises to produce some lasting changes in the relationships with North Korea," Jefferts Schori said. "It seems especially timely given recent progress in talks with the North Korean government."

Full story:

If Mrs Jefferts-Schori, who claims to be an apostle for today, in succession to the first apostles, would be guided by the same first apostles, then perhaps her message and devotion would be different and she would be working to bring to thousands the peace that comes from above and passes all understanding and the reconciliation from the Cross of Christ which places guilty, repentant sinners in the family of God as his sons and daughters. But with the new Episcopalians “God” is LOVE and LOVE is every kind and helpful word and deed in this world—a kind of Pantheism of secular LOVE.

The Revd Dr Peter Toon
President of the Prayer Book Society 2007

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Seeking Unity with Rome: Traditional Anglican Communion’s Bishops hope for acceptance

In his famous Tractate entitled A Learned Discourse of Justification, Works, and how the Foundation of Faith is Overthrown, the most distinguished Anglican theologian, Richard Hooker, deals with both the nature and status of the Church of Rome and its doctrine of Justification. He provides solid reasons for the secession from the Papacy and papal rule by the English Church and he demonstrates that the doctrine of Justification, set forth by the Council of Trent, is erroneous and not according with the clear teaching of Holy Scripture.

The reasons he gives why the Christian, seeking to be biblically based and obedient to Christ the Lord and Savior, must leave the Church of Rome are as applicable today as they were in 1586—especially since the present Papacy has during 2007 clearly affirmed that the doctrine and dogma of the Church of Rome remain what they were at and after the Council of Trent.

I commend the reading of this Tractate to all serious minded Anglicans. (See below for details of its availability.)

In the light of what Hooker and many after him wrote concerning the nature of the Reformed Catholicism of the Anglican Way, and its rejection of the particular errors of Rome (connected with the Mass, Salvation by works, the Veneration of Images, the Cult of the BVM etc.) and in the light of the very clear teaching of the fundamental Formularies of the Anglican Way, with their rejection of the excesses of Romanist teaching, it is most strange that a whole group of Bishops from the Continuing Anglican Movement (having seceded from the Global Anglican Communion) should feel so confident about the orthodoxy and biblical basis of Roman Catholicism that they seek full communion with Rome—on Rome’s terms and according to Rome’s doctrine and dogma. See below for their official statement.

“The College of Bishops of the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) met in Plenary Session in Portsmouth, England, in the first week of October 2007. The Bishops and Vicars-General unanimously agreed to the text of a letter to the See of Rome seeking full, corporate, sacramental union. The letter was signed solemnly by all the College and entrusted to the Primate and two bishops chosen by the College to be presented to the Holy See. The letter was cordially received at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The Primate of the TAC has agreed that no member of the College will give interviews until the Holy See has considered the letter and responded.

+ John Hepworth, Archbishop.”

In reading this one wonders why, if these men are so sure that the Roman Way is totally superior to the Anglican Way, they are not already in the Roman Way—imitating the great John Henry Newman and many others, including some bishops (e.g., Bishop Pope) in the very recent past.

By hanging around on the periphery of the Anglican Way constantly talking of heading off, they make it difficult for those—and they are the majority—in the Continuing Churches who still desire to be faithful Anglicans in 2007.

If these Bishops believe that there is no integrity to the Anglican Way and that its only future is in the Roman Way then by all spiritual, rational and decent principles they ought surely to cross the Tiber now and find on the other side rest for their souls—and we wish them well in their voyage. But let them leave Anglicans to be Anglicans according to the principles of Biblical, Reformed Catholicism!

(For the Tractate, rendered into a simpler English than the original and under the title, Salvation and the Church of Rome, go to or send $7.50 to The Prayer Book Society, 100 E Avon Rd, Parkside, PA 19015 for a copy. There is a two for one offer to those who order through the mail.)

The Revd Dr Peter Toon
President of the Prayer Book Society 2007

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A solid moving prayer for unity

On the front page of the forthcoming issue of MANDATE, the bi monthly magazine of The Prayer Book Society of the U.S.A. the prayer below is printed, to set the theme of prayer as the primary means under God our Father of uniting now separated Anglicans, who are in part beginning to come together in organizations like Common Cause..

Praying for Unity in Truth amongst North American Anglicans

O God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our only Savior, the Prince of Peace; Give us grace seriously to lay to heart the great dangers we are in by our unhappy divisions. Take away all hatred and prejudice, and whatsoever else may hinder us from godly union and concord; that, as there is but one Body, and one Spirit, and one hope of our calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all; so we may henceforth be all of one heart, and of one soul, united in one holy bond of truth and peace, of faith and charity, and may with one mind and one mouth glorify thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

For back issues of The Mandate magazine go to where they can be read in pdf and color. To receive The Mandate 6 times a year send your name and address to The Prayer Book Society, attention Debbie Remenyi, 100 East Avon Road, Parkside, PA 19015, enclosing if possible a donation. The website for the PBS publications is -- do visit there. Thanks.

The Revd Dr Peter Toon
President of the Prayer Book Society 2007

Monday, October 15, 2007

Common Cause Partnership: On praying for its maturing in Faith, Hope and Charity

Those who follow the traditional Anglican discipline and who use the Daily Office(s) for worship, praise, thanksgiving, confession, petition, intercession and meditation pray the pray below daily (which I have here rendered into “contemporary English”). In the light of the facts that (a) Common Cause Partnership has an excess of Bishops (that is, in relation to the total number of lay members and the current need in the U.S.A.), and (b) that in the USA, since the secessions from TEC in the 1970s, men in this Office have found it difficult—for a variety of reasons— to work harmoniously together, I suggest that this ancient prayer be offered to the Throne of Grace daily with the specific intention of praying for the maturing in unity and godliness of the varying groups within the CCP. Unless this happens the reasonable prospects of CCP becoming a real Province are nil.

A Prayer for the Clergy and People

Almighty and everlasting God, from whom comes every good and perfect gift; Send down your Holy Spirit and grace on our Bishops, other Clergy, and on the congregations which they serve; and, that they may truly please you, pour upon them the refreshing dew of your blessing. Grant this, we pray, Lord God, for the honor of our Advocate and Mediator, Jesus Christ. Amen.

This Prayer is taken from the ancient Latin Sacramentary of Gelasius (circa 500) and is found in most of not all of the old English Primers from the late medieval and Reformation period. It was placed at the end of the first English Litany (composed by Archbishop Cranmer) in 1544. In BCP 1662 it comes at the end of Morning Prayer, and the American and Canadian edition of BCP follow this arrangement. This rich background gives to the Prayer a real sense of being a true prayer of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church and thus using it, with the intention of praying for the CCP, connects the latter with the rich tradition of Ecclesia Anglicana as well.

The initial relative clause, “from whom comes every good and perfect gift,” in the American and Canadian BCP is from James 1:17 and it replaces that clause in the original Latin and rendering of Cranmer, still found in BCP 1662, “who alone workest great marvels,” which recalls Psalm 136:4 (“to him alone who does great wonders”).

What is clear is that without the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of the Father and of the Son, the Episcopate, the Presbyterate, the Diaconate and the Shared Ministry of all the Laity in the whole Church are but religious persons and forces—and religion as such belongs to man in his “natural” state and does not save. They all need, that is the whole Church needs, and cannot do without, the Holy Spirit with his unction, gifts, graces and virtues.

The beautiful comparison of the descending Grace and the natural refreshing dew recalls O.T. usage – see Deuteronomy 33:28, Psalm 133:3 & Hosea 14:5.

To summarize: The churches affiliated to CCP, and at this juncture especially their bishops, need both the fullness of the Holy Spirit and the descending heavenly Dew from the Throne of Grace!

October 15, 2007

The Revd Dr Peter Toon
President of the Prayer Book Society 2007

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Questions facing American Anglicans and The Common Cause Parternship: 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 to 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. So the Anglican Church is 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—and repeated in later editions. Again, it was territorial, arranged into dioceses in a geographical way and united at the center through a triennial General Convention.

4. Likewise folliwing the end of the British Empire and the arrival of 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 and remains in most provinces (idealistically) 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 both women and active homosexual persons 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 tends to get “lost”!

7. For whatever reason, good or bad, when Anglicans leave the national Church or national Denomination and seek as seceders 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 major distress may be illustrated in the secessions from PECUSA from the 1970s 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 conservative Evangelicals in the PECUSA during much of the 20th century and this caused imbalance within PECUSA, especially with the absence of the evangelical school/party’s teaching on evangelism, conversion and church growth.

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 initially to imitate the polity of the Denomination-type. By this secession PECUSA 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, under its new name of TEC.

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/TEC 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 this phenomenon exists in the USA and not in the territory of these sponsoring dioceses, it remains necessarily (sociologically speaking) of the Sect-type on US soil. [And of course the Sect-type is virtually the norm in the USA as the amazingly varied forms of religions illustrate.] With the loss of these “evangelically-minded, charismatic” types of members, PECUSA again became more militantly liberal and progressive, as is now clear to all.

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 biblically-based 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. But the Common Cause Partnership has begun. And we pray that out of the many will be made the One. [Yet 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 consulted and 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 in sect-type churchmanship. Maybe we are beginning to change our minds and see that truth and unity, or unity and truth, belong always together and to claim to have truth and to shun unity is a totally false position.

Kyrie eleison (thrice)

The Revd Dr Peter Toon
President of the Prayer Book Society 2007

Bishop J.C. Ryle, first Bishop of Liverpool: The Leading Principle of the Prayer Book

It is absolutely essential to understand the great leading principle upon which the Prayer Book was first compiled. and on which it was always meant to be interpreted. It is a principle which runs right through, and much damage has been caused and false teaching given through lack of knowledge or neglect of it.

The principle of the Prayer Book is to suppose that all members of the Church are in reality what they claim to be in profession ; namely, true believers in Christ and sanctified by the Holy Ghost. The Prayer Book takes the highest standard of what a Christian ought to be, and is worded, right through, accordingly. The minister addresses those who come together for worship as believers. The people who use the words of the liturgy are supposed to be believers. But yet those who drew up the Prayer Book never meant to assert that all who are members of the Church of England are actually and really true Christians. In fact, in Article 26 it is stated “in the visible Church the evil be ever mingled with the good”.

However, the compilers held that if forms of devotion were drawn up then they must be written on the supposition that those who used them were real Christians and not false ones. In fact, a liturgy cannot be compiled on any other basis. A liturgy for unbelievers or unconverted people would be absurd and practically useless. The people for whom it was meant would care nothing for any liturgy at all, while the converted part of the congregation would find its language entirely unsuitable for them.

a) The Baptismal Service.
This general principle applies to the baptismal service, for it supposes that those who bring their children to be baptised, bring them as believers. The infants are baptised as the seed of godly parents, and the godparents and parents are exhorted, as believers, to pray that the child may be born again and encouraged to lay hold on the promises made. And as the child of believers the infant, when baptised, is pronounced “Regenerate”, and thanks are given for it.

b) The Communion and Confirmation Services.
Surely no intelligent person would seriously maintain that all the communicants who say '' the remembrance of our sins is grievous and the burden of them is intolerable " do really feel and mean what they say ! An examination of the lives of many shows that they feel nothing of the kind. Equally, no commonsensed person really believes that all the young persons, when confirmed, really think that they are “bound to believe and do”, what they profess when they say in reply to the Bishop's question, “I do”. Too many never think at all ! But in both cases, the Prayer Book puts into the mouths of those who are confirmed or who come to the Table, the language they ought to use, on the great ruling principle of charitable supposition. But it does not in the least follow that all is right because of the language that is used.

c) The Collects.
Many of the collects can only be fully explained if this principle is accepted. The Epiphany collect says, “Grant that we who know Thee now by faith may after this life have the fruition of Thy glorious Godhead”. Surely no one would maintain that the compilers of the Prayer Book meant to teach that all who use the Prayer Book do know God by faith. The Collect for the third Sunday after Trinity says, “We to whom Thou hast given an hearty desire to pray”. No one can doubt that this form of words is used by many of whom it could not strictly and truly be said for one minute. But in these, and many other instances, there is one uniform principle ; that of charitably assuming that members of a church are what they profess to be. The Church puts into the mouths of her worshipping people the sentiments and language they ought to use, and if they do not come up to her high standard the fault is theirs, not hers. But to say that by adopting such expressions she stamps and accredits all her members as real and true Christians in the sight of God, would be manifestly unreasonable.

d) The Churching of Women.
Every woman for whom the service of “Churching” is used is spoken of as the “Lord's Servant”, and is required to answer that she “puts her trust in the Lord”. But no one can deny that such words are utterly inapplicable in the case of many of those who are churched. They are not servants of the Lord, nor do they put their trust in Him. Further, it cannot be argued that, because they used these words, the compilers of the Prayer Book considered that all women who were churched really did trust in the Lord. The simple explanation is that they based the service on the same great principle, that of charitable supposition.

e) The Service for Adult Baptism.
In the service for adult baptism the minister first prays that the person about to be baptised may have the Holy Spirit given to him, and be born again. The Church cannot take upon herself to pronounce decidedly that he is born again until he has witnessed a good confession, and shown his readiness to receive the seal of baptism. Then. after that prayer, he is called upon openly to profess repentance and faith before the minister and congregation, and that being done, he is baptised. Then, and not until then, comes the declaration that the person baptised is “regenerate”, and is born again and made an heir of everlasting salvation.

But can these words be strictly and literally true if the person baptised is a hypocrite, and has all along professed that which he does not feel ? In fact, the words are used on the charitable assumption that he has repented and does believe. It is quite plain that, in the absence of this repentance and faith, the words used are a mere form. The Church cannot draw up two forms of service, and in a case like this they do not imply for a moment that inward and spiritual grace necessarily accompanies the outward sign, or that a death unto sin and a new birth unto righteousness is necessarily conveyed to the soul. The person baptised is pronounced “regenerate” upon the broad principle of the Prayer Book that people are charitably supposed to be what they profess to be.

f) The Burial Service.
In the burial service the person buried is spoken of as a dear brother or sister. It is said that it has pleased God of His great mercy to take to Himself his soul. “We give thee hearty thanks that it hath pleased Thee to deliver this our brother out of the miseries of this sinful world”. “Our hope is this our brother rests in Christ.” In using statements like this, did the compilers wish us to believe that all this was strictly and literally applicable to every individual over whose body these words were read? No one can honestly say so. The simple explanation is that the service was drawn up, like the rest, on the charitable assumption that all members of a Church were what they professed to be.

g) The Catechism.
In the catechism, everyone is taught to say, “In baptism I was made a member of Christ, a child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven”, and “I learn to believe in God the Holy Ghost who sanctifieth me and all the elect people of God”. Does this mean that the Prayer Book writers intended to lay down the principle that all baptised children are sanctified and elect? Certainly today no minister can say that every child in his parish who has been baptised is actually sanctified by the Holy Ghost. It would be an exceptional parish if he could; or else Bible words have no meaning. Again there is but one explanation, namely these words are words of charitable supposition, and they cannot be taken in any other sense.

It is quite impossible to understand how anyone cannot see this principle in the Prayer Book. It is quite certain that Paul wrote his epistles on this principle. He constantly addresses the members of the churches as saints and elect, and as having grace, faith, hope and love. although it is evident that some of them had no grace at all ! Obviously the compilers of the Prayer Book drew up its services on the same lines, and it is on these lines of charitable assumption alone that the book can be interpreted.

So it must not be forgotten that this principle, that worshippers really are what they profess to be, runs through the whole of this most valuable book. On this principle it is an incomparable manual of public worship. Without this principle people tend to draw from it lessons which it was never meant to teach.

The Revd Dr Peter Toon
President of the Prayer Book Society 2007

ORDINATION in the Common Cause Partnership

A discussion and prayerful consideration starter

Common Cause Partnership is held together by a Theological Statement, by “bonds of affection.” by common opposition to a common enemy—Episcopal revisionism and infidelity, and by other practical things.

Importantly it does not have now, and will not have as a movement and potential Province for a long time to come, any canon law (although each of its autonomous members presumably has its own canon law).

Within the Theological Statement of CCP is a commitment to the classic 1662 Formularies of the Church of England (and also of many other Provinces founded from the C of E). Now one of the received Formularies, dating back to 1550, is what is commonly called “The Ordinal,” in which are the appointed services for the making of deacons, ordaining of priests and consecrating of bishops. In this Book of three Services is found the Anglican Doctrine of the Ministry and this is complemented by what is stated in The Articles of Religion and in The Book of Common Prayer.

In this brief paper, I want only to point to one clear fact that is both presupposed and presented in the Formularies. It is this. Only men who are duly called and examined are to be candidates for the three offices of Deacon, Presbyter and Bishop. Throughout the Formularies the doctrine of male headship is everywhere assumed, and is made most explicit in the text of the marriage service. In the rubrics and in the language of the Three Ordination Services it is assumed that only male persons are the candidate for examination, prayer and laying on of hands. The Articles of Religion confirm this.

When a majority in the Church of England’s Synod desired to see the ordination of women as deacons and then priests, the way around the clear teaching of the BCP, Articles and Ordinal was through canonical change, which itself caused the possibility of either a novel way of reading and interpreting the texts of the BCP, Ordinal and Formularies or a way of discounting their content.

But in 2007 in North America the Common Cause Partnership has no canon law.

And the Common Cause Partnership is thus bound to the Formularies pure and simple, and will have to amend them to change them and their authority.

Thus there should not be, and ought not to be, in what will become a Province the presence of any “ordained women” (ordained under the innovatory 1979 TEC prayer book provisions or the like).

Now, if this most important fact is recognized and adhered to, then a very MAJOR barrier keeping away from CCP the major Continuing Anglican Churches (ACA, PCK, ACC & UEC etc.) and traditional Anglicans elsewhere will have been removed. As Continuers they claim to seek to continue the Anglican Way as it existed before the arrival of the innovatory ordinal within the 1976/1979 TEC prayer book. A CCP in which ordained women have no part will be difficult for them to say “no” to and stay outside, for it will moving towards being really Anglican!

Further, if the teaching of the 1662 Formularies are obeyed, then CCP will be able to claim to be honest in its adoption of these classic standards of Anglican Faith and Practice. Right now it seems to many observers that the 1979 innovatory TEC prayer book is the real doctrinal authority!

In closing, may I say that I recognize that I suggest major changes in the CCP as it is now, in order—as I see it— for it to be truly theologically honest and to be truly inclusive (of the major Continuers etc.) on classic Anglican principles. It is well known that CCP has decided to accommodate ordained women, and both its present Moderator, and a chief sponsor, the Archbishop of Uganda, are prominent for their zealous support of this innovation in the Church’s ministry, having ordained women and using them as their “right hand men.”)

For the CCP to become a viable Province, including within itself the whole of the groups which have seceded from TEC in search of true Anglicanism, it will need to ask some of its members to give up their commitment to women priests and to accept humbly the clear teaching of the classic Formularies, and we may add of Scripture itself, when read within the guidance of the Patristic and the Reformed Catholic Anglican Ways.

The Revd Dr Peter Toon
President of the Prayer Book Society 2007

Unity in opposition & Conflict in Power: How the CCP can learn from the Bush Presidency

[This is written from Fairbanks, Alaska, where I am (October 4-8) guest of the Church of the Redeemer. I reflect in this (not far from the Article Circle) city on the journey of the Common Cause Partnership towards a viable Province of the Anglican Family, for, believe it or not, people are interested in it here, even as the winter snow falls and the long dark days get closer.]

Let us suppose that the aim of the Common Cause Partnership is in due time and through due process to become a Province that is accepted as authentic by at least part of the present Anglican Communion –say the Global South.

Let us also suppose that the model for unity in the process and as a Province is a federation, fellowship, and partnership of ten or more autonomous “Anglican” denominations, jurisdictions and ministries,

Now let us reflect upon this model of provincial unity.

First of all, let us be clear that the doctrinal foundation—if not regrettably the practical theology guiding the weekly activity—is that of the Church of England and the majority of the Provinces of the Anglican Communion as it is now—the classic Formularies of 1662. This undoubtedly is good, for it means that it can be built upon rock rather than the sand of the 1979 formulary of The Episcopal Church (TEC).

Secondly, we may note—and note clearly—that this scheme and model of unity accepts the reality of the American religious scene. It works from, rather than seeks to oppose, the American supermarket of a variety of religions, even a variety of one type with different brand names. That is, it accepts as semi-permanent reality the various groups formed by, or to be formed by, secession from TEC.

In the third place, we may note that such a scheme/model is clearly innovatory in the Anglican Way. It has NEVER been tried anywhere else. Further, it appears to be a total denial of the Anglican principle of one province as one jurisdiction with several constituent dioceses in one geographical area, as was The PECUSA from 1785 to modern times.

Therefore, fourthly, in order to do justice to the hitherto uniform, Anglican tradition of the territorial province, I would suggest that at least two characteristics or attributes are needed and required in the process and new Province:-

(a) that it be as nearly as possible a perfect federation, fellowship and partnership of the participating groups, and

(b) that it be a complete bringing together of All the major groups which have seceded from PECUSA, ECUSA, TEC since the 1970s. In other words, that it be a practical union of all those groups which rejecting the revisionism of TEC have sought to recover authentic Anglicanism. [Here it may be noted that the REC left PECUSA in the 1870s because it opposed Anglo-Catholicism, but it has now embraced this churchmanship and so can be in CCP alongside Anglo-Catholics.]

I make these two suggestions because CCP is pioneering a totally new way of living within Anglican Polity. It has to overcome the charge of denying what has been assumed everywhere and by all Anglicans that there is one jurisdiction in one geographical area. It has also to overcome the doctrinal hurdle that the Formularies of 1662 also assume one Anglican church in one area.

So, if say CCP becomes only a Partnership of 80 per cent of the groups created from post 1970s secessions, and thus leaves intact various denominations outside its federation, it will have failed practically to create a viable model. It will present an impaired model, worthy of the American supermarket but not of the Anglican Communion.

If also CCP is a federation in which there is little real fellowship, inter-communion, and mutual recognition of ministries, and with minimal practical charity, then again it will fail as a viable model.


What I fear—and this haunts me in the day and night—is that the unity created by common opposition to outrageous revisionism in, and infidelity by, TEC will give a false sense of security and achievement not only to the CCP partners but also to their sponsoring African bishops. And that this will lead inescapably to insufficient patience, perseverance, ecclesial comprehensiveness and wise counsel, creating a situation where the ending of the process is not an improvement on the beginning. To secede is difficult, but to secede and then to unite graciously with fellows seceders is an altogether more problematic exercise—as many cautionary tales from American religious history illustrate.

In fact, if we simply look at the political sphere of the federal government in recent years, we see that the Bush years supply us with a very cautionary tale.

For, as various commentators have pointed out, what the Bush years have demonstrated is that a movement based on shared resentments rather than on shared goals is better at winning elections than in governing once it has. As long as the dragon of “liberalism/revisionism” needed to be slain, the various types of conservatives and republicans kept the peace, but they fell to squabbling as soon as real opportunity to govern presented itself. And in the good old USA what occurs in the religious sphere is usually not far removed from what occurs in the political.

Lord, we beseech thee, have mercy upon the people who call themselves Anglican!

The Revd Dr Peter Toon
President of the Prayer Book Society 2007

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

A virtually clean bill of health for The Episcopal Church!

An International Committee finds TEC is in compliance with requests made of it.

Dr Peter Toon

On October 2nd, the Joint Standing Committee of the Primates Meeting and the Anglican Consultative Council submitted its Report on The Episcopal Church to the Archbishop of Canterbury, who then sent it on to the Primates of the Global Communion. The Report is nineteen pages in length, is clearly written, and is unlikely to be misunderstood in terms of its findings by anyone who reads it carefully.

In order to appreciate its major findings or recommendations, we need to bear in mind the following context concerning the work of the Joint Committee:

1) It had a limited brief which concerned the relation of The Episcopal Church, more specifically its House of Bishops, to The Windsor Report and to the recent Communique from The Primates Meeting in Tanzania. Further, it met only with Bishops at the Bishops’ Meeting and apparently had no prolonged conversation there with the Bishops of the Anglican Communion Network, who are closely allied with the Provinces of the Global South.

2) It made no study of either (a) “the practical theology” of much of TEC, which theology is closely related to a radical reading of the much-vaunted “Baptismal Covenant,” or (b) what goes on in dioceses without the Bishops’ formal permission and as he or she turns “a blind eye.” Thus it only studied the words of Bishops when they were on their best behavior and engaged in crafting forms of words in order to be seen as genuine members of the Global Anglican Communion. Further, it relied on the lady Presiding Bishop for information and interpretation, where perhaps the use of other sources may have been better (e.g., on how many parishes have left TEC recently and their size).

3) It is composed of persons who, while being admirably committed to the unity of the Global Anglican Family, belong in the main to what we may call “the centrist” position and apparently are neither too perturbed by “the practical theology” of the TEC nor too supportive of the “enthusiasm and zeal” of some in the Global South.

Obviously these three factors profoundly affected the tone, if not the facts in this Report, in which are three major findings or recommendations.

First of all, the Joint Committee finds—after a long tour of the documentary evidence on sexuality in recent discussion— that the House of Bishops (and thus TEC) has met the requests and demands made by both The Windsor Report of 2004 and of The Communique of the Primates from Dar es Salaam. That is, the Committee accepts as trustworthy the words of the resolutions of the recent House of Bishops’ Meeting in New Orleans, wherein the House committed not to bless the unions of same-sex couples, not to ordain active homosexual persons and not to vote for any such for the office of bishop. The Report thus states:

“By their answers…, we believe that the Episcopal Church has clarified
all outstanding questions relating to their response to the questions directed explicitly to them in the Windsor Report, and on which clarifications were sought by 30th September 2007, and given the necessary assurances sought of them.”

We note that the Committee was able to come to this conclusion because—and it really had little option—it had to take the words of the Bishops’ resolutions in their literal, straightforward meeting. Had the Committee also toured say ten of the more “prophetic” dioceses, it would have found most probably that the blessing of same-sex persons has in no way ceased, even though there is no official Liturgy for the same and the official permission of the Bishop is not requested. (It may be noted here that is because the Primates of the Global South have reliable reports of what goes on unofficially and widely in not a few liberal dioceses that they do not take the statements of the House of Bishops as necessarily faithful and true.)

Secondly, the Joint Committee finds that the “interventions” by overseas Bishops to establish missions and congregations on U.S. territory, and to consecrate missionary Bishops for this purpose, are wholly against the spirit and the letter of what may be called a fundamental law of Anglican polity. In this it agrees with the statement of the House of Bishops of TEC from New Orleans defending the territorial episcopate as the Anglican way of being the church on the ground. Further, it advances in support of this position all kinds of evidence from Councils of the Early Church and resolutions from Lambeth Conferences. Further, it also seems to believe that there is some hope of resolving this problem and so makes suggestions—mostly concerning what the Archbishop of Canterbury could do—for ways to heal this growing schism and to bring back into TEC the recent seceders on terms that are reasonable and fair. One may comment that while what it stated and recommended by the Committee is balanced and reasonable, what is wholly missing—perhaps because the Committee does not really feel this—is the sense that the present TEC leadership has actually adopted a new form of religion. That is a new type of Christianity which, while using much traditional wording and symbols, is contrary to classic, biblically-based traditional Anglican worship, doctrine and discipline. In a word, its basic confession is not “Jesus is the only Lord and Savior” but something like “Jesus is a Savior and is our Savior.”

Finally, the Joint Committee finds that the position of the House of Bishops in terms of the understanding of “sexual orientation” and the making sure that people of all kinds of “orientation” are welcome in the Church as whole persons is wholly in accord with the position adopted by The Lambeth Conference of 1998 and widely accepted within the Anglican Family. Here is the final paragraph:

“The life of the Anglican Communion has been much damaged in recent years following the tensions raised by the consecration in The Episcopal Church of a bishop living in a committed same-sex relationship and the authorization in some dioceses of Rites of Blessing for same-sex unions. With the response of the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church in September 2007, the Communion should move towards closure on these matters, at least for the time being. The Communion seems to be converging around a position which says that while it is inappropriate to proceed to public Rites of Blessing of same-sex unions and to the consecration of bishops who are living in sexual relationships outside of Christian marriage, we need to take seriously our ministry to gay and lesbian people inside the Church and the ending of discrimination, persecution and violence against them. Here, The Episcopal Church and the Instruments of Communion speak with one voice. The process of mutual listening and conversation needs to be intensified. It is only by living in communion that we can live out our vocation to be Communion.”

One may regret that the Report ends in this way, which may be seen as placing too much emphasis (by stating it last of all) on the failure of the Church to minister fully to one small class of persons, “gay and lesbian people,” when Communion has many other more important dimensions to be emphasized and lived.

In conclusion

What will be the fall-out from this Report which is now in the possession of all the global Primates and their advisers? We can only guess and here we go.

The majority of, if not all, the Primates of the Global South will not regard it as binding because, relying on what they believe to be accurate information from the U.S.A., they will believe that the fine words of the House of Bishops (taken at face value by the Committee) do not match either the reality on the ground in many dioceses or the general teaching of the leadership of TEC on the radical meaning and prophetic actions and requirements of “the Baptismal Covenant.” Thus the missionary interventions will continue with the general intention of creating a new province in North America for they regard TEC as apostate and engaged in infidelity.

The majority of Bishops in the West/North will be inclined to accept the Report and support the Archbishop of Canterbury in his going ahead with the 2008 Lambeth Conference, even if many from the Global South do not attend. This Bishops will also pay lip service to the need to bring the American seceders back into TEC and away from their African “Pastors” but do little about it for they have other things to do!

The Global Anglican Communion will effectively be no more, except in name, and this may lead to the effort to create a two-tier membership, at which the Archbishop of Canterbury has hinted. But since TEC has been given a relatively clean bill of health by this Committee, it will apparently not be the lead candidate for any such second tier anymore! More likely then that we shall see something like a North/South divide with some in the South (e.g., S Africa) looking to the North and some in the North (e.g., Evangelicals in England, Australia and U.S.A.) looking to the South! If this occurs, Anglicanism will be opening a wholly new era for itself and will have few maps available to guide it.


Monday, October 01, 2007

Church—ONE, but what kind of ONE? Giving the Church expectant and triumphant its vote!

A discussion starter from Peter Toon for those involved in the new initiative of Common Cause Partnership

“One Lord, One Faith, One Church,” we sing, and “I believe in one….Church,” we chant and say. Then we read what St Paul declared to the Ephesians: “there is one Body and one Spirit…one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism…”

There is, of course, a major question as to what we mean by “One”—whether it be a numerical unity or an organic unity, or both, or something else.

From Baptism to Burial

Let us reflect upon the position, seemingly held practically (if not theoretically) speaking, by many leaders today that “the Church is primarily an earthly society, which we enter by baptism and leave by death/burial—that is, it is a continuing terrestrial organism with a constantly changing and overlapping membership.” Here the Church may be likened to many human societies which persist through space and time and whose membership is constantly changing as people join it and leave it (e.g., like the U.S. Congress). And like human societies, the Church has a governing body of which the most prominent aspect is being governed by bishops, who are seen simply in terms of successors of the apostles and as the people in charge. (Here the Episcopal office is like a relay-race where each runner drops out as he passes on the baton to the next.)

If one examines the agenda and the resolutions of the General Convention of The Episcopal Church from the 1970s, looks at the kinds of literature being published by its publishing houses in the last 40 years, and listens to the public statements of its Presiding Bishops, then one concludes that the Church is primarily an earthly society with a mission to change the world by introducing into it more “peace and justice” and with greater “respect for human dignity”. And, accordingly, God is presented as essentially the God who is around, within and for this cosmos and this earth in particular. There is no clear expressed belief in the utterly transcendent Sovereign LORD (the Blessed, Holy and Undivided Trinity) who created the cosmos out of nothing and who through the Incarnate Son, Jesus, and by the presence of the Holy Spirit, is creating a new heaven and a new earth, which are everlasting and where the fullness of human potential will be realized in the worship and service of this same LORD and in the beauty of holiness. Rather the emphasis is upon the God who enfolds and inhabits this world moving through change into a better future.

Before this mindset gradually entered The Episcopal Church from the 1960s onwards, there was within the same Church (PECUSA) the deep conviction, held by many, that the Church as we know it now as creatures of space and time on earth is only the fringe or the outpost of the whole Catholic Church of God. The One Church of God is militant on earth, expectant after the grave waiting in his presence for the Second Coming of Christ to the earth, and (to be) triumphant in heaven with the exalted Christ and the holy angels. So the local church (diocese and parishes) is a manifestation in space and time of the fullness of the Catholic Church; and thus her members, who have been baptized and meet at the Table of the Lord, are very much only a tiny minority of the total membership of the One Church of God. And within this belief the Bishop is not merely one in a series in a relay-race but is rather the local apostle who both embodies the unity of the Church and who ties this local church to the whole Church. Further, while sinful human beings, who believe the Gospel of the Father concerning his Son, enter the Church as the Church militant by Baptism they do not leave it at death, but they pass into the Church expectant and thus on and into the Church triumphant.

Central to this mindset is the conviction that the Church as “Catholic” is not the same as the Church as “Militant here on earth.” The Church as Catholic and as One is both of heaven and earth, not only of earth (Hebrews 12:22-24). “Catholic” covers militant here on earth, expectant until the Lord comes again, and triumphant, seated with him in glory everlasting unto ages of ages.

Doctrines have practical consequences and applications.

The current Episcopal Church doctrine that the Church is the divine society we enter through Baptism and leave by burial/cremation logically and morally requires that the agenda of the Church be this-worldly, that is concerned with making this world a better place. And, as we have observed, the agenda of this Church is truly concerned with bringing the “kingdom of God” to earth and thereby greatly improving the lot of human beings, especially the poor, weak, sick, down-trodden, despised and neglected. In this system of thought, Jesus is the One who embraces the outcast and the needy as Savior.

So it is not unexpected to be and to do this, The Episcopal Church accepts secular views of what is right and good for people who live on this earth and have no prospect of going anywhere else from it. Thus its heavy commitment to modern theories of human rights and of what is human dignity, including the doctrine that in “Baptism” God gives to all the baptized the potential and right to assume later any ministry in the Church, if the Church actually calls one to that ministry (so whatever one’s “orientation” one can be in principle a clergyperson, even a bishop, if one is baptized).

Had the leadership of The Episcopal Church seen this Church as a small earthly part of the Church Militant and thus a part of the Catholic Church, which is expectant and triumphant in and through Christ Jesus, then, without denying a temporal mission. it would have concentrated on its vocation of calling people out of the evil age and sinful world into the kingdom of God and the family of God, as the new people of God of the new heaven on earth—and it would have known, as history has so often illustrated, that those who are the most heavenly-minded are the most earthly-useful. And when it came to voting in General Convention, it would have voted bearing in mind the already cast vote of those promoted to the Church expectant and triumphant. Thus innovations in doctrine would have on principle been rare, and only in the sense of applying truth to new and challenging situations.

Of course, to take the high ground and to act and vote with the Catholic Church is a very challenging and difficult thing for a part of the Church militant to do in modern America where individualism, relativism, pragmatism, therapism and utilitarianism are so powerfully present. Nevertheless, it makes a tremendous difference to how a Synod votes if its members remember that the Church militant is only a small part of the whole Catholic Church. In such a mindset, innovations in doctrine and morals will be rare and only in terms of applying and updating of the received tradition (e.g., in area of medical ethics and use of the earth).

The Catholic Church as One

Many Protestants affirm that the Church is One in its invisibility, as the total number of the elect known unto God and found both in heaven and on earth. It is One in the sense of being numerically one and organically one in that each and every member is united to Christ Jesus by faith and through the Holy Spirit.

Many Roman Catholics affirm that the world-wide, global organization known as the Catholic Church and under the authority of the Pope as the successor of St Peter is the Catholic Church and is one numerically, organizationally and organically.

Anglicans in their best moments and doing their best theology have insisted that the Church is One both numerically and organically but not in the Protestant or the Roman Catholic form, but more like the [Eastern] Orthodox form (where there are patriarchs and a college of bishops, but not a single, all powerful Pope, above the college of bishops), but without the excessive claims of traditional Orthodoxy to uniqueness as the only, true Church.

The Church, even in its many different forms and denominations worldwide, is numerically one Church in that, in comparison with Islam and Judaism, there is one religion, Christianity, professed by millions who gather in churches, and the aggregate of all these is the Christian Church.

The Church is organically One in that all the baptized, who believe the Gospel, are united to Christ Jesus through the human nature he made his own from the Virgin’s womb; and thus, united to the One Christ, by the Holy Spirit, they are united through, in and with him, the Mediator, to the Blessed Holy Trinity (see John 17) so that in the deep and mysterious words of St Peter, they are “:partakers of the divine nature,” even as also they are the adopted children of God the Father. This organic unity is not without expression in space and time and the historical Episcopate, which is understood to be the continuance of the College of Apostles through space and time, is the sacramental means whereby the Church militant is maintained as organically one. (This is why for Anglicans the question of who may be ordained and consecrated to the apostolic office of Episcopos is critical. The startling innovation of The Episcopal Church has been to claim that both a woman as a woman. and any human person living in same-sex partnerships. are suitable candidates for the office of Bishop, to be the local apostle of Jesus Christ.)


The emerging leadership of the emerging Common Cause Partnership and of the proposed new Province of the Anglican Communion in North America (replacing The Episcopal Church?) should have, at the front of its common mind, the doctrine that the “votes” and the mindset of the members of the Church expectant and triumphant, who are in the majority, need to be counted and proclaimed, as plans are made for the future.

The Revd Dr Peter Toon October 1, 2007