Friday, December 14, 2007

Brief Message from Peter Toon

ADVENT GREETINGS from the West Coast.

I spent Monday in the Emergency Room and Tuesday in the Hospital having a battery of tests. It was decided that I had had a minor stroke, and that it has affected primarily my speech. Thankfully my rational mind is as before without the ability of my speech to keep with it!

It seems that if I work hard for a few months, and if providence smiles upon my endeavors, that I can see a return of most of what I have lost.

So for the interim I shall stay quiet, listening and learning a lot I hope.

Please do not call me; but do offer a prayer for improvement for me and patience for my wife.



Inwardly Digest: well worth reading, by David Curry of Canada

“Blessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them …” These familiar words belong to the Collect which Archbishop Thomas Cranmer composed for The Second Sunday in Advent. Taken from the Scriptures, in this case Paul’s Letter to the Romans, the prayer captures an entire pattern of theological understanding that is at once formative and foundational for Anglican doctrine and devotion. Diarmaid MacCulloch, commenting on Gerlach Flicke’s 1545 portrait of Cranmer, which depicts him holding The Epistles of Paul but also with Augustine’s book De Fide et Operibus (“Of Faith and Works”), suggests that this signals Cranmer’s theological enterprise, namely, the recovery of the Scriptures understood through the best of the Fathers, principally Augustine.

The creedal or doctrinal understanding of the Scriptures is a distinctive feature of the Anglican Common Prayer tradition. The rich interplay of Scripture and Creed(s), for example, shapes the worship and liturgy of the Church. The Articles of Religion and the ordination vows of the clergy testify to the centrality of the Scriptures for the teaching and praying life of the Church and express a remarkably sophisticated approach to the reading of the Scriptures in the life of the Church. We place ourselves under the authority of God’s Word Written. But that means that we have to think the Scriptures. “What do the Scriptures say?” (Romans 10.8). Or, as Christ asks, “how do you read?” (Lk.10.26). There is a necessary engagement between God and our humanity through the witness of the Scriptures. Revelation is mediation and requires the fullest engagement of our minds with what the Scriptures proclaim.

The reformed principle of sola scriptura, “scripture alone”, admits of a range of applications but its most basic sense for Anglicans is the primacy of Scripture in determining doctrine, devotion and discipline. “Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proven thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith,” as Article VI puts it. The same idea is required of the teaching of the clergy. What are the things necessary to salvation? Those things which belong to the articles of the Faith; in short, the Creeds, which are the distillation of the Scriptures, and which speak to the nature of our spiritual identity with God in his self-relation as Trinity and in his relation to us as Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier. Creedal and doctrinal principles exercise more than a merely formal role; they exercise a formative role in the life of the Church. They should have a definitive voice in the debates and issues of the day.

How? Do creedal and doctrinal principles as derived from Scripture have anything to say on matters of morality and polity? And, if so, in what way and to what extent? To begin to consider those questions will necessarily mean becoming more aware of the essentials of the Faith and the ways in which those principles are brought to bear upon our lives and the life of the Church. At issue in the present controversies is whether the principles of the Faith have an integrity which should direct our thinking or whether they can be changed and altered; in short, whether they are subject to our thinking.

Some see everything - God, humanity, the Church - as endlessly negotiable and celebrate the secular culture as providing the context that determines the content of the Faith. In this view, the principle is our human experience which determines all else and seeks the re-imaging of God, humanity and Church in our own image. But who is it that claims to speak on behalf of our human experience and what happens when such claims collide with principles of doctrine? For Anglicans, synodical consensus does not extend to matters of doctrine and worship; in fact, such things are intentionally precluded by the self-limiting nature of The Solemn Declaration of 1893 which commits the Anglican Church of Canada to being “an integral portion” of the “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, hold[ing] the One Faith revealed in Holy Writ, and defined in the Creeds” by being “in full communion with the Church of England throughout the world.” Some things, the Archbishop of Canterbury, remarks, with respect to the scene in North America, cannot be negotiated. We are not simply our own independent agents. We are part of the body of Christ.

To walk apart from the Anglican Communion would be to forsake the catholicity and apostolicity of the Church and to become merely another sect in the sea of sectarian confusions belonging to the landscape of North American religion.

The appeal to the Scripture is not to an arbitrary authority but to the principles which the Scriptures present, the principles which govern and measure human lives and human activity. At issue, in the present controversy, is the place of the sexual in the understanding of our humanity and moral behaviour. What is homosexuality? Neither a category of creation nor of biology, it is, properly speaking and on its own terms, a social and psychological construct. There are many, many different social constructs ranging from biker gangs to the red hat ladies, from hobby groups to sex clubs. It doesn’t mean that special liturgies should be created for each and every social construct or that each and every social construct is something that should be celebrated as morally consistent with Christian doctrine. What is the relation of the sociological to the theological?

From the standpoint of Christian morality, the theological determinants of social and moral order are the revealed doctrines of creation, redemption and sanctification seen in engagement with the order of nature rationally understood. Scripture does not speak of sexual orientation as something ontologically given or created. Christian Marriage, too, is not understood simply as a social construct – something invented by us – but rather as divinely “instituted of God in the time of man’s innocency,” recalling the order of creation, “an honourable estate, signifying unto us the mystical union betwixt Christ and his Church,” recalling the order of redemption, “an holy estate … adorned and beautified” by Christ “with his presence, and first miracle that he wrought,” recalling the order of sanctification. We are not our own and marriage is one way in which we live to and for Christ in the life of his body, the Church.

One way. Not the only way. Friendship in all of its varied and many forms is a significant part of our life in Faith. We belong to a fellowship of faithful believers who, whether married or single, are committed to one another in the body, in the Church. Friendship is not the same thing as marriage, however, and excludes the sexual. This is the sticking-point for our contemporary technologically fixated culture. In condoms we trust, too much, I fear, and are the victims of our own technological idolatry which wreaks such havoc upon all our lives.

We began with a reference to an Advent prayer. We end with a prayer of the Epiphany. Both are seasons of teaching, each of which engages contemporary culture in different ways. Advent looks to the light of God in Christ coming into our world and day, a light that is judgment from above. Epiphany celebrates the light of God in Christ in our midst, engaging the cultures of the world from within the world. A light from above and a light from within “that we may both perceive and know what things we ought to do, also may have grace and power faithfully to fulfill the same.” The doctrine of revelation offers healing and health, salvation and grace, to a world that is weary and worn. The question is whether we will “read, mark, learn and inwardly digest” what the Scriptures are saying to us in the integrity of their doctrinal and creedal understanding.

Fr. David Curry
Christ Church, Windsor, NS
Advent 2007

The Anglican COMMUNION of Churches

But what do we mean by “Communion?”

Do we mean the original ideal of 19th century; the much reduced ideal common today; or the half way point of the present Global South?

When the expression “Anglican Communion of Churches” was coined in the nineteenth century, this meant the Communion of the United Church of England and Ireland at home and abroad (via British Empire and missions) with the Protestant Episcopal Church in the U.S.A. and its missions overseas

But what did Communion mean? In The King James Version of the Bible which was universally read then the word “communion” only occurs four times—twice in 1 Corinthians 10:16; and once in 2 Corinthians 6:14 and 13:14. In the first two it relates to what occurs in the Sacrament, communion with Christ; and in the last it is what exists within the household of God and Body of Christ, the communion of all believers in the Holy Ghost. In the other reference, it has a moral sense where the Christian cannot have communion with “darkness” or evil.

Within The Book of Common Prayer the primary use of “Communion” is in the title of the Service, “The Order of Holy Communion,” and here the reference is that of 1 Corinthians 10:16, “communion of the blood of Christ and of the body of Christ.”

If the meanings from Bible and Common Prayer are taken as primary, then the Anglican Communion began as a practical coming together of two Churches (each with outposts and missions) because they believed they had already “communion,” that is communion in the Holy Spirit who indwells the church as the temple of God and communion in the sacrament of the body and blood of Jesus.

In the Preface to The BCP adopted in the U.S.A. in 1789, the Protestant Episcopal Church had declared that it had no intention “to depart from the Church of England in any essential point of doctrine, discipline or worship.” So the two Churches were from the 1780s in communion one with another, and thus the term Anglican Communion was a suitable term to describe their relation one to another and to the communion with the extensions of their Churches in other lands.

But we are only at the beginning of what “Communion” means in pointing to communion at the Table of the Lord and in the Holy Spirit.

Most bishops in the nineteenth century were well acquainted with both Latin and Greek and so they knew that the word “communion” in the KJV translated koinonia, which also may be translated “fellowship” as it is on some occasions in KJV. If we go through the various uses of the noun, koinonia, in the New Testament we come up with these further ideas as to the full content of “communion” and “fellowship.”

a sharing of friendship based on common Christian knowledge (Acts 2:42; 2 Cor.6:14)
practical sharing with the needy, as with the collection St Paul made on his travels for the church in Jerusalem (Rom 15:26; 2 Cor 8:4; 2 Cor. 9:13)
partnership in the work of Christ (Phil.1:5)
fellowship in the faith, membership of a believing society (Eph 3:9)
fellowship with Christ Jesus (1 Cor.1:9)
fellowship with God the Father when walking in the light (1 John 1:3,6).

Thus incorporating these to speak of the Communion of Churches is to speak of a very high level of fellowship, cooperation in mission, partnership in the Gospel, sharing of spiritual and material goods, interdependency, caring one for another, godliness, and so on.

Thus in a sense “Communion” in the title, Anglican Communion, describes an ideal to strive for as much as a state actually enjoyed howbeit imperfectly most of the time.

However, practically, it meant for a long time that any member of one church is welcome at the Lord’s Table of another, that a priest of one Church is a priest in the other and in order to officiate only needs a license, that no one Church will take any action which is a major innovation without consulting the others and being open to the advice of the others, and that while the liturgies of each Church may not be identical they must have a common doctrine for fellowship in the Faith to exist, and that a Bishop of one diocese is wholly accepted as a Bishop by all other dioceses.

Changed situation

Looking back on the history of the Anglican Communion of Churches, one can say that the Lambeth Conference of Bishops worked hard when they met from 1867 to 1998 to seek to preserve the Communion; but that in recent years with the arrival of a continuing series of innovations adopted in various of the member Churches—family planning techniques, no-fault divorce, remarriage of divorcees in church, women being ordained in some dioceses, various inclusivist- language liturgies being used in some dioceses, the blessing of same-sex couples and so on—the Bishops have had to bring down the bar and to abandon the old ideal of what is Communion.

What we hear now is talk of a minimal communionas the ideal, one that takes as its basis baptism rather than Eucharistic communion and thus includes all who are baptized on the assumption that “baptism is full initiation into the Church.” So the Anglican Communion of Churches is, from this perspective able to keep the premise of being a communion but change what this means—i.e., abandoning the rich but demanding biblical presentation and adopting instead a modern open interpretation of a more open communion in terms of doctrine, worship and discipline. To help keep this reduced and unstable communion in place, emphasis is also placed on “the Instruments of Unity” which are the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates’ Meeting.

However, even this minimal form of Communion seems not to be working as an ideal or base-line in 2007 for the Global South Provinces want the Communion to be more than the minimum but yet not the full reality—for the simple reason that not a few of them are committed to the ordination of women, which was one of the innovations that led to the reduction of the bar for communion in the 1980s. They are against most of the innovations that brought down the bar but some of them are enthusiastically for some of them, such as women clergy and artificial birth control in the fight against aids.

So while the Episcopal Church of the USA wants the much reduced form of communion, and the Global South a less reduced but still reduced form, that which was—say to the 1960s-- the real and full Communion, the ideal to be grasped, seems to have got lost and maybe forever!

The question is therefore raised: Can the Global South raise the bar for everyone above where it seems to be now—open communion based upon baptism only—so that it is somewhere on the way to the old ideal?

But, and it is a big but, it is possible that the Global South intends to work for its new ideal in its own Anglican Communion of Churches, which it is rumored it is seeking to form in 2008, having decided not send its bishops to the Lambeth Conference 2008.

Advent I 2007

The Revd Dr Peter Toon

The Anglican Way as a Denomination & National Church in the U.S.A.

A few words of clarification answering questions & queries

In a previous short essay (discussion-starter) I pointed out that The Protestant Episcopal Church [PECUSA], in the Preface to its first American edition of The BCP (1789) referred to itself as a denomination. In this it recognized that in the thirteen states of the Union, it was not the only Church for there were others, and each was denominated by a name, such as Presbyterian.

Nevertheless, despite the fact that PECUSA knew it could never be, as is the Church of England, a National and an Established Church, it nevertheless thought of itself from the beginning as a Church for the whole nation. And as the nation grew, there were missionary dioceses leading to the whole of the territory of the U.S.A. being divided into dioceses. Thus PECUSA always saw itself as A National Church but not The National Church.

Certainly other Denominations sought to occupy each and every state; but there is a difference between the PECUSA understanding of inhabiting the whole territory and say the Presbyterian or the Baptist understanding.

PECUSA possessed, subordinate to the Holy Scriptures, what we call “The Anglican Formularies,” being The BCP, The Articles of Religion and The Ordinal. These presuppose that The Anglican Way is a National Church and that there is an orderly division of the given geographical area (country or region) into dioceses, with bishops who are in communion one with another.

Now there can be several Baptist churches in one given area but as they see themselves as gathered congregations without geographical-based parishes they can easily work alongside and even in competition with one other. And there is no problem with this. Their ecclesiology calls only for the general doctrine of the Church universal as Invisible, and the local church as a visible congregation of those who are united to Christ in the Invisible Church and who intentionally gather together locally.

For Episcopalians and Anglicans the Church is certainly Invisible but it is also visible also; and this visibility is seen in a local situation where there is the One Bishop with his presbyters and deacons and they are serving several or many congregations in that specific geographical region. And in that region there is no other Bishop along with his presbyters and deacons.

So despite the presence of other Denominations, the Anglican Way is by its character and nature committed to the principle of the Church as territorial, divided into provinces, within which are dioceses, and within which are congregations/parishes. It is by nature—as its Prayer Book, Articles and Ordinal presuppose and declare—a National Church or a Provincial Church or a Church whose polity requires it to be specifically related to territory.

In this it differs from Presbyterians, Baptists and so on, and is much more like the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches, which are committed to the territorial principle.

Practically speaking it means—unlike the case with Baptists for example—that parallel or competing churches of the same faith and polity are not contemplated or allowed by Anglican Polity. The settled principle is of one bishop in each specific area (diocese) in communion with other bishops around him and also in specific areas.

The only exception to this is when a bishop becomes heretical or immoral and refuses to repent or be disciplined; then the surrounding bishops agree on actions to keep the churches within that diocese in good faith and practice. But this is done in an orderly and godly manner.

If there is any truth at all in what has been stated then the following realities in North America present serious problems for The Anglican Way:

(a) the existence of a variety of Continuing Anglican Church bodies outside PECUSA which show little cooperation between themselves and are organized to have overlapping jurisdictions throughout the U.S.A. & Canada.
(b) the variety of overseas Provinces that have established missions in the U.S.A. and Canada and as such are working alongside and over against each other—and not only against each other, but also against the Continuing Anglican bodies and parishes within PECUSA which deem themselves to be orthodox in intention.
(c) The plans of Common Cause Partners to form a Province contain the proposal that each of the Partners continues in its autonomy but enters into a full covenantal, interdependent relation with the others, so that there are multiple bishops in parallel provinces, dioceses and parishes.

Now if The Anglican Way were like the Baptist, Congregational and Presbyterian Ways then the above three examples would be no problem at all; they would merely belong to the mix and match of variety that is common to North America.

For Anglicans they present a very real and urgent problem of authenticity and ecclesiology. December 7, 2007

God’s Word for Reformed Catholics – the Collect for Advent II

There is no better short statement of the Reformed Catholic (Church of England & Anglican Protestant) approach and submission to the Bible as the Word of God than the prayer composed for the Advent season by Archbishop Cranmer in the late 1540s. It is found in all authentic editions of The Book of [the] Common Prayer, beginning with the first edition of 1549, as the Collect for the Second Sunday in Advent.

Blessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; Grant that we in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them, that by patience, and comfort of they holy Word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which though hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Let us take it part by part:

Blessed Lord, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel” cried Zechariah (Luke 1:68) and Paul wrote, “Blessed by the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1:3). Here we address God as “the Lord,” the ultimate “I am who I am,” the Lord of all being and the fountain of all goodness, wisdom and power.

Who hast caused all holy Scripture to be written for our learning; Paul wrote, “whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning” (Romans 15:4) and, “All these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they were written for our admonition upon whom the ends of the world are come” (1 Corinthians 10:11).

Here, by careful use of the relative clause, we recall reverently before God what we have been taught concerning the use of the Scriptures, which, though written centuries ago, were written (by inspiration and through God’s omniscience) for our practical use today. They exist for our learning, or our instruction in Faith and Morals. So we read the Scriptures in the humble confidence that God has foreseen our needs and will meet them as we receive his written Word.

Grant that we may in such wise hear them, Since we know why the Scriptures exist we ask God, in his mercy and grace, to place us in a position where we can truly profit from their existence and content, as the Word of God written and translated into our language. The verb “Grant” contains not only the theme of petition but also of submission to God, the Lord. And we ask that we may receive their content in such a way and fashion that the reception will be to our true edification. “Hearing” is the first way in which we receive the oracles of God, as they are read in the church services of Morning and Evening Prayer, in the Order for Holy Communion, and in Family Prayers.

Read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them, Hearing the oracles is but the beginning of receiving them for as we hear them we can also read them, and when alone we can just read them. The purpose of both hearing and reading them (done at the same time or separately) is that we may mark, that is pay careful attention to what we hear and read concerning God and his salvation in Jesus Christ. Marking, paying careful attention, leads to learning and understanding, and to being lodged in the memory and heart – “Thy Word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against Thee” [Psalm 119:11]. This whole exercise may be called meditation for it is the route appointed by God whereby his Word goes from the written page into our inmost souls. Merely to hear or merely to read the Bible is not enough; we are called dutifully and humbly to employ the means necessary to allow the Word of God to enter into our lives. We need to have both the spiritual appetite and the spiritual digestion in place to come to the experience of the Psalmist who declared: “How sweet are thy words unto my taste! Yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth” [Psalm 119:103].

That by patience, and comfort of thy holy Word, Here we begin a specific application to the Advent Season, when we look for the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus in glory even as we celebrate his Nativity in Bethlehem as the Son of God incarnate. St Paul wrote, “that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Romans 15:4), that is hope of that Second Coming and of the redemption of our bodies and life in glory. We need to bear in mind that the comfort and strengthening of the Scriptures particularly comes to those who are patient!

We may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, The Christian hope is a blessed hope as St Paul told Titus: “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). And having addressed God as the “Blessed Lord”, we now celebrate the “blessed hope” which he alone provides for us (if we were using Latin the first of God would be Benedictus and the second of his gift would be beatus).

Thus we ask God to help us rightly to use the Holy Scriptures as a means of preparing for the Second Advent and of life together with Christ in glory.

Which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. As the invocation of this Collect (to “Blessed Lord”) is unique in The Book of Common Prayer, so the conclusion is a very significant variation on the usual ending of these short prayers – “through Jesus Christ…” Instead of the proposition “through” we use “in” because the Christian hope is not merely through Jesus the Mediator but it is actually all bound up within him as our Prophet, Priest and King. In fact it is, “Christ in you, the hope of glory,” as St Paul told the Colossians (1:27). This Hope keeps us steadfast not only in Advent but throughout the whole Church Year.

Amen. So be it, O LORD, the Blessed One and blessed be thy kingdom now and always, even unto ages of ages.

Blessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; Grant that we in such wise hear them, read, mark,learn and inwardly digest them, that by patience, and comfort of they holy Word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which though hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

The Revd Dr Peter Toon

Local Church as a Microcosm of the whole

Reflections on whether this is so in North American Anglicanism

Theologians have often taught that the local church is in theory, and should be in practice, a microcosm of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church of God. I agree with this statement.

I want to explore it a little and then ask questions about the Anglican Way in North America within this way of thinking theologically.

We need to recognize that by local church they refer not to a local congregation or parish; but to a situation, as in a diocese, where there is a Bishop and his presbyters and deacons ministering to people in a given area in a cathedral parish and further congregations. It is assumed that this Bishop is in communion with neighboring Bishops and thus he represents the local church to the whole and the whole to the local church.

By microcosm is meant a miniature universe or world in itself, and so in referring to the local church it states that the whole essence of what is the Holy, Catholic Church is present locally. That is, that everything that God has provided for man’s salvation and sanctification and for the right worship of the Blessed, Holy and Undivided Trinity is present.


Because of the divisions within the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church (Orthodox from Roman Catholic and Anglican from both, and so on), one may say that the local church (e.g., an Orthodox or Anglican diocese) can never be fully and totally a microcosm of the whole; it can only be in a sense a microcosm of the branch or jurisdiction to which it belongs. This recognized, one may claim that within an Anglican diocese which is true to its own heritage of worship, doctrine and discipline, there is a microcosm of the whole, even if it is say only 90 or 80 per cent a true microcosm.

However, this claim to be a microcosm, as indicated above, also requires the local church (diocese) to be in fellowship with the other dioceses around (in the same Province or whatever the regional association is called). Also, this claim cannot tolerate the possibility that there are in the same region of the diocese and Province other local churches of the same name, competing for the same territory and souls, and making the same claims. Therefore, if there are two (or more) competitive form of the Anglican Way existing side by side and in competition (even if friendly competition) then the claim to be a microcosm is virtually negated.

But it will be observed that over the centuries the major Churches have learned to live with and tolerate the side-by-side existence of dioceses and provinces, bearing the Orthodox or Roman Catholic or Anglican or Lutheran names. But they all know, as commissions have stated often, that what is the ideal is that there be one and one only local church locally so that it can truly be in a full and real sense the microcosm of the whole Church.

The traditional answer of the Church of England has been simply that the Roman and Orthodox Churches, while being genuine Churches, are in such basic error in important matters that to work against them in any region is justified (see Richard Hooker, On Salvation and the Church of Rome, 2007, from for more on this theme). Today, most Anglicans see the existence of parallel dioceses and claims part of “the ecumenical problem” which seems to be unsolvable this side of the Second Coming of Christ to earth.

So, admitting that there is a real problem due to historical divisions, one can I think still make the claim that the local church (that is diocese with bishop and clergy and people) is a microcosm, even though not a perfect one. And, at least the Anglican Way can make sure that it does not add to the problem by creating parallel dioceses and competitive groups in the same geographical area and the like. Successive Lambeth Conferences have insisted with clarity that Anglicans should aim not to encourage or have parallel dioceses or provinces; or invasions without invitation of dioceses and provinces.

It appears that where Anglicans have placed themselves now in the U.S.A. (and increasingly so in Canada) is in a situation where they have set aside totally the idea of the local church as the microcosm of the whole, and they have adopted instead the commercial model of competition in the marketplace (read mission field of secular N. America) as the right, healthy and good way to go in this part of the world. Not only is there locally grown competition (REC from 1873 & various Continuing churches originating in 1977-8 and after) but also added competition from abroad (missions founded by Rwanda, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda et al). So that in one given metropolitan area there may be as many as a dozen or more Anglican jurisdictions working alone and effectively against each other.

Now one can blame The Episcopal Church for failing to be the microcosm that it often recognized in its history it was called to be—and this is surely justified for the schisms have been from It by those who felt It was in error; but this does not remove all blame from those who seceded from it and now have adopted the commercial model of competition as the basis for the Anglican Way, which they claim that they desire to renew.

In the grace and mercy of God, it may be that some or all of the competitive parts (known as denominations, jurisdictions, convocations, missions, networks, etc.) still reflect through the bishop, clergy and people a glimmer of what a microcosm is in reality. But it is surely only a glimmer; it cannot be a shining light due to the lack of unity in truth and truth in unity.

If this is so, then, if we have a true heart for the Anglican Way, we need to find a way to make the glimmer into a brighter light. Such will only be possible through growth in unity toward the One Head, Jesus, and toward one another in truth. If there is no such growth soon, and the divisions continue and grow as they have in the last decade, then the only conclusion to be drawn will be that the Anglican Way as a branch of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church of God in North America has failed; and this failure is to be seen as the ruins of what was once—a lifetime ago or more— a single spiritual household wherein was grace and truth.

December 6, 2007


But is this an erroneous translation of the original Greek?

My aim in this short piece is to encourage users of the 1979 Prayer Book of TEC to be test its texts by the clear standards of Scripture.

In both the Rite Two (most widely used) and in the Rite One (much less used) Eucharist of The Episcopal Church, just before the Administration of Holy Communion, the Celebrant (or “Presider” as now called) breaks the consecrated Bread/Wafer, is silent for a moment, and then says Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us, and the congregation responds with, Therefore let us keep the Feast.

What I wish to explore here is the source of these spoken words, whether they are rightly translated, and finally what are the implications if they are wrong translated.

Marion J. Hatchett in his Commentary on the 1979 Book tells us that this exchange is in technical terms the “anthem” and is derived from the first edition of The Booke of The Common Prayer (1549) where we find these words:

Christ our Passover Lamb is offered up for us, once for all, when he bare our sins in his body upon the Cross, for he is the very Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world; wherefore let us keep a joyful and holy feast with the Lord.

It is instructive to note what is taken and what is not taken from this 1549 text by the creators of the 1979 Eucharistic text. In fact their reducing it to form an exchange is much like what they did with the Blessing from The Orthodox Liturgy at the very beginning of the Eucharist as they shortened it and changed its theology.

For Archbishop Cranmer and his colleagues, who prepared this BCP of 1549, the words “once for all” with “offered up” were absolutely fundamental. They were wholly opposed to the idea that in any way whatever the priest re-offered the one Sacrifice of Calvary. So they would not have approved the 1979 form of words for it allows the idea that the one Sacrifice of Christ has been re-presented and re-sacrificed by the priest.

Secondly, the basis of the 1549 text is a medley of verses from the Bible—1 Corinthians 5:7; 1 Peter 2:24 and John 1:29, and in this case from the English Bible available at that time, The Great Bible of 1540. Seventy years later the translation in the KJV was much the same,

For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with the old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

He himself bore our sins in his own body on the tree.

John saith, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”

To appreciate the translation in 1 Corinthians 5:7 it will be helpful to see what the best of modern versions have. Here is the R.S.V.

For Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

The Roman Catholic version used each week at Mass, the NAB, also has “has been sacrificed.” And so do all others I have examined.

Therefore, what is not obvious to those using the 1979 Prayer Book, unless they are familiar with the developing forms of the English verb, is that “is sacrificed” is a past tense pointing to an event which occurred in the past, once at one time. So the 1979 text is misleading for it was designed for modern Americans, and they do not use the old form of the past tense; they say, “has been” or “was” sacrificed not “is sacrificed” to refer to a past event. In fact, to say “is sacrificed” probably conveys the idea of being sacrificed right now or just now!

I ask in passing: Is it the case that this old form of English was retained in order to make room for a modern Roman Catholic doctrine of the sacrifice of the Mass? Or was it a way of claiming the first edition of the real BCP to support the 1979 Prayer Book’s false claim to be authentically The BCP?

It is of note that Archbishop Cranmer deleted the words in the experimental 1549 edition (quoted above) of The BCP in the revised edition of BCP 1552 and these words have never returned to any authentic edition of The BCP since then.

One reason why Cranmer left out the reference to 1 Corinthians 5:7 is that the latter is part of an explanation by Paul, which requires knowledge of how the Passover was celebrated in Judaism and further requires thinking of Jesus against this background as the Pascal Lamb slain. In fact it takes more than one sermon to explain clearly verses 7 & 8 of 1 Corinthians 5. Modern churchgoers do not get the point and teaching there without much background information and to cite in—especially briefly and in bad translation—is to create problems..

In conclusion:

If people feel obliged to use the Rite One or Rite Two texts then I would say there are three alternatives, if they wish to be biblically sound and honest. (a) give some clear and careful instruction regularly to the people on the form and meaning of the verb “is sacrificed;” (b) leave out totally this whole exchange, do not dramatize the breaking of the bread, and go straight to the communion of the people; or (c) change the verb to have a contemporary ring so that it is, “Christ our Passover was sacrificed for us.” All in all I would avoid the whole of this section as it is biblically unsound and also is based upon Dix’s theories which have now been shown to be at best questionable and most likely wrong!

No one anywhere can deny that the verb in the Greek used by St Paul in 1 Corinthians 5:7 of the death of Jesus Christ is in the past tense. In no way is it a present tense.

The Revd Dr Peter Toon December 6, 2007

The Protestant Episcopal Church of the U.S.A.—just a Denomination?

For consideration by all who have concern for the unity of the Anglican Way!

The Preface to the first edition in 1789 of the new American Book of Common Prayer (adapted from The BCP of 1662 with a little help from Scotland) is a fine example of late eighteenth-century style. It contains one of the earliest official uses of the word “denomination” to refer to a particular form of the Christian Church. There is reference to “the different religious denominations of Christians in these States” and obviously this refers primarily to such as the Congregational, Baptist, Presbyterian, Episcopal and Methodist Churches.

Thus from the very beginning—despite state churches in a few states for a while—the Protestant Episcopal Church of the U.S.A. [PECUSA] recognized that it shared the territory with other Churches (denominations) and had effectively both to cooperate in some areas and compete in other areas with them.

Yet at the same time, the very content of The Book of Common Prayer, Ordinal and Articles of Religion, received and adapted from the Church of England, gave to this particular American denomination/Church a sense that it was very different from the Congregationalists, Baptists and others. Not only was there the conviction that the Ministerial Order originated in the time of the Apostles and had been maintained by the Church of England at the Reformation to be continued in the expansion of the same Church overseas—thus substantiating the claim that as a visible Church PECUSA was a real part of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church; but also there was the assumption that the Episcopal Church is by its very nature a genuine National Church, a Church that naturally and really claims and ministers to the whole available territory.
And being in full communion with the Church of England, a National Established Church, both allowed and fostered these types of conviction, which were usually not articulated as clearly as they could have been.

Looking back to the late 1780s, one can now say that it would perhaps have been better in the long run for PECUSA to have done a more radical revision of The BCP. That is, removed from it that teaching and those characteristics which make it really to be suited only to a genuinely National Church, rather than to a competing denomination. Nevertheless, the PECUSA stayed with this inheritance and did eventually divide the whole country into dioceses based on the territorial principle, and it did often act and speak as if it were the (one and only) National Church. It called its Washington D.C. Cathedral, “the National Cathedral.” And to seek to show that its clergy were not merely Protestant ministers but genuinely different in essence, it began in the 1950s a policy of calling all clergy “Father” (which was odd because in Britain this title was reserved specifically for Anglo-Catholic priests).

When the PECUSA began to set aside and then eventually put into the archives in 1979 its Book of Common Prayer, Ordinal and Articles (in editions of 1789, 1982 & 1928) and began to use from that date another very different Prayer Book with different doctrines and devotion, it effectively lost (by the very removal of the classic BCP etc with their inlaid assumptions) the basis for its thinking of itself as a National Church. Rather, it became self-consciously only a main-line or old-line denomination characterized by its liberal progressivism in political and social matters, its (better than Vatican II) liturgy; and its devotion to music and the arts.

It is known now in 2007 more for its innovations in morality than for its claim to be a branch of the one, holy, catholic an apostolic Church.

So the loss of The BCP, Ordinal and Articles in 1979 was much more than a loss of sacred liturgies in the traditional English language of prayer, it was the loss of the sense of being a National Church and not merely a long-existing denomination.

Thus with the sense of “National” gone or weakened, those who felt obliged to secede from PECUSA because of its progressive liberalism in doctrine and morals in the late 1970s, and then in the late 1990s and afterwards, left with little or no sense of The Anglican Way as being by its nature, English origins and US history the claimant to be a/the National Church. This is an important point. For whatever high views the seceders had of the Ministry or the Sacraments, these were apparently in a box alone and they were not associated with the sense of a National Church and the vocation and unity which this requires and implies.

Thus for those who exited in 1977 and later, it was relatively easy not only to secede but also to create different ecclesial entities on leaving. All sense of a united, national Church had gone.

And the fruit of this loss of sense and perspective is now very evident in American Anglicanism, where many claiming to be orthodox Anglicans are apparently living happily in their differing and even competing small denominations and jurisdictions, and they regard this situation as normal (it is normal, we may say, for American religion but was not normal for the Anglican Way). True there are calls for unity in terms of cooperation and co-existence, and there is Common Cause; but all sense of a National Church has gone and gone forever.

Even talk of a new Province arising out of Common Cause is talk which works on the assumption that there will not be One Church as a Province, but rather an association of covenanting autonomous small units--dioceses, networks, groups and the like— who covenant to be together and work in harmony.

So PECUSA is now really and truly a denomination in the modern sociological use of the term (that is, NOT a National Church), and best known as The Episcopal Church. Around it are other denominations also of Episcopal or Anglican character and these also are denominations [in the modern sociological sense], though much smaller than PECUSA. Interestingly a growing number of these denominations are the results of missionary work by overseas Anglican Provinces! So the global Anglican Communion is contributing to the loss of the sense of National Church in the U.S.A.

And regrettably, there is no sense at all of the Anglican Way seeking to be and explaining itself as a National Church, even where the classic BCP (1789-1928) is still used as the liturgy by churches.

We need some very wise leaders to arise including good women as was Deborah in order to guide the Anglican Way in North America into godly and wise thinking and actions.

The Revd Dr Peter Toon December 6, 2007

An Major Innovation in modern American Protestantism by Four Dioceses of The Protestant Episcopal Church of the U.S.A.

In the U.S.A. seceders from a congregation or denomination assume without question their right under God to form a new congregation or a new denomination, usually according to a specific blueprint. There are hundreds of examples of this since the American Civil War. In fact, this right and its consequences lie at the heart of American religion.

And this right was in essence what the secessions from The Protestant Episcopal Church assumed in both 1873 and 1977—the one to restore the Evangelical character of Anglican Protestantism and the other to restore the Episcopalianism of the 1950s, before the revolutionary 1960s. One group created The Reformed Episcopal Church and the other group the various Continuing Churches.

But the secession planned by the four dioceses of S-J, F-W, Pittsburgh and Quincy from 2008-9 is different in a basic principle. Here there is no claimed right to set up an autonomous local ecclesial entity; rather there is an attempt to be validated and authenticated by an overseas ecclesial entity! That is, there is an intention to become part of, by adoption, an overseas Province that is in good standing within the Anglican Communion. For to be within the Anglican Communion is seen by these dioceses as the sure way to be a part of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church and not be in schism. So what is planned is a movement from one Province (judged to be seriously in error and so perhaps not in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church) to another Province (judged to be orthodox and within the Church of God).

Here then is the innovation in American Protestantism! It is the negation of the right simply to secede and create one’s own thing in favor of the lesser right to transfer from one local Province to another which is overseas.

Let us be clear. Other options are available to the four seceding dioceses but these are rejected.

One is to form together a Province in embryo and patiently wait for full recognition from overseas Provinces; and in the interim simply be in fellowship with overseas dioceses and Provinces and seek to unite the Common Cause Partners.

Another is to join the missions from African Provinces (Rwanda. Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda) already on U.S.A. soil and enter the Anglican Communion via the back door as it were by uniting and working with one oir all of these.

These two possibilities are rejected because, it appears, belonging to the Anglican Communion in a clear and observable manner is fundamental to their belief system. They are not even sure about membership of the Communion via the missions of Rwanda etc.

In a sense, one could say that the four dioceses are imitating what the churches of the former thirteen colonies did in 1788-9 when they asked the Church of England to authenticate their Prayer Book (edited version of BCP 1662) and also declare that they were in full communion with the mother Church. Both were granted from England (see the Preface to the American BCP of 1789-1928).

This said, the innovatory position adopted by the four dioceses is not without its difficulties, practical and theological. The practical begin with the lively interest of the leadership and lawyers of PECUSA in their intention to secede; and the theological begin with the ecclesial reality of the Anglican Way in North America. I deal only with the latter for the former is well known—many law-suits.

It is not well known that Lambeth Conferences from 1867 to 1998 have only been consistent in their many Resolutions in a few matters; and one of these has been the territorial integrity of a Province and within it of a diocese. No other position is so clearly and often articulated as this, which means that in the few cases where there are overlapping jurisdictions they are seen as a problem and one to be solved (e.g., the American and English dioceses overlapping in Europe).

Here then is the oddity in the U.S.A. At the same time as the four dioceses are insisting that their full integrity as members of the Catholic Church can only be maintained through transfer to another (territorial) Province overseas, they are actually supporting the invasion of the PECUSA territory—but not interestingly theirs— by at least five overseas Provinces from Africa and South America.

By any measure, this is inconsistent thinking! If these overseas Provinces are right to invade with the Gospel Mandate, then the four dioceses logically should join these missions for they are already on U.S.A. territory. Further, they should declare that they think that the Lambeth Conference teaching over 150 years on the integrity of Provinces is wrong—at least with respect to the U.S.A. in 2007-8!

Consider what will be the situation in 2009 if the plans of the four dioceses go ahead and PECUSA is unable to stop them.

There will be at least five—buy probably more—missions from overseas Provinces organized into dioceses and networks with multiple bishops and with separate administrations; there will be multiple single congregations with a bishop somewhere overseas in another continent; there will be four dioceses belonging to overseas Provinces (e.g. Southern Cone); there will be multiple, small Continuing churches, the Reformed Episcopal Church and other groups yet to emerge. And over against all these variations there will be the Episcopal Church, in which are congregations and dioceses claiming to be orthodox (e.g. Dioceses of Dallas & Springfield), even as the Province of the U.S.A. is still regarded by many Provinces as a true Province of the global Anglican Communion!

To conclude:

Either there is here in this bewildering variety an absolutely new form of comprehensiveness in the Anglican Way in North America, a form never envisaged before; or else, there is the shattering of the Anglican Way into many parts (and like Humpty Dumpty no one—except a Moses or Joshua or David or Solomon— may be able to put them together again). Secession is relatively easy; reconciliation and unifying are relatively difficult!

The Revd Dr Peter Toon; December 5, 2007;


Matthew 21: 5 Tell ye the daughter of Zion, Behold thy King cometh unto thee.

In the Christian Year, the season of Advent (Latin, adventus, “Coming”) runs from the fourth Sunday before Christmas until the eve of Christmas Day. It is also the beginning of the Christian Year.

But consider this. For us, in the secularized West in 2007, it is as though for all practical purposes Advent has disappeared. For Christmas has devoured Advent, gobbled it up with the turkey giblets and the goblets of seasonal ale. In fact the practical disappearance of Advent has opened a major hole from Thanksgiving to Christmas Day and this hole has been filled up with many different attempts to anticipate Christmas! More Christmas trees, more Christmas lights, more tinsel, more tassels, more glitter, more glee—so that the glut of candles and carols, ornaments and trimmings, parties, programs and performances, has left nothing for Christmas Day. In fact, Christmas Day arrives for most people not as the fulfilment of Advent but rather as the end of the long Yule season, that has burned without ceasing since the Thanksgiving sales began in late November in the malls. In fact, Christmas Day is like the peace after the strom.

To avoid this profanation of Advent is a massive task and is probably impossible if we live in the West in 2007. However, we can put up some kind of fight against this heavy secularization and this I shall attempt to do now.

One way of thinking about the purpose and meaning of ADVENT is to take each letter of the word, a-d-v-e-n-t, and let it represent a theme or aspect of this season. So let us try this method.

A – Arrival

During the season of Advent, the Church of Christ using the faculty of memory joins, as it were, the remnant of Israel (represented by such as Simeon & Anna) in preparing for the Arrival of the Messiah, the Son of David & the Son of God, even Jesus, Son of Mary. Further, the Church joins Israel out in the wilderness of Judea in listening to John the Baptist, who prepares the way of the Messiah.

By and in Liturgy, and caught up in the Spirit of the Lord, it is as though the contemporary people of God in 2007 are joined to the people of God two thousand years ago—and we join with them in faith, hope and charity.

Also, during the season of Advent the Church of Christ as the Bride of Christ looks for his Return to earth, his Arrival as the Lord of lords and King of kings to raise the dead, judge the nations and inaugurate the kingdom of God. In fact the expectance of the Second Coming adds greatly to the true piety and spirituality of Advent season.

So the Church prays on Advent III

“O Lord Jesu Christ, who at thy first coming didst send thy messenger to prepare thy way before thee: Grant that the ministers and stewards of thy mysteries may likewise turn so prepare and make ready thy way, by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, that at thy second coming to judge the world, we may be found an acceptable people in thy sight, who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.”

D -- Devotion

The four weeks of Advent provide the possibility of a period of intense and deep Devotion both in the public liturgy of the Church and in personal times of prayer and meditation. This consecration to walking with God in humility and obedience is summed up in the Collect for the last of the four Sundays:

O LORD, raise up (we pray thee) thy power, and come among us, and with great might succour us; that whereas, through our sins and wickedness, we are sore let and hindered in running the race that is set before us, thy bountiful grace and mercy may speedily help and deliver us; through the satisfaction of thy Son our Lord, to whom with thee and the Holy Ghost be honour and glory, world without end. Amen.

The Collect is addressed to God, the heavenly Father, and it is an earnest request that he will gather up his power and descend to his people (by the Holy Ghost) in order to help, succour and sustain them in the race they are running in their earthly pilgrimage towards the goal & fullness of the kingdom of heaven (see Hebrews 12:1).

In making this petition, God’s people recognize that due to their sins of omission and commission they have failed to run in God’s grace as gracefully and swiftly as they are called to do and ought to have done. Thus they look to the Father to provide them through his Son and by his Spirit, and in grace and mercy, the help they need.

If God’s people are to live as those who expect the return of the Lord Jesus Christ, then they need not only to watch and pray but also to live as the obedient and faithful servants of God, engaged daily in his service and running the race that is set before them. This is true Devotion!

V. Volition (the act of willing or resolving)

God is merciful and gives us grace, but we have to be willing to receive that grace and to commit ourselves to his will and purpose. The Devotion of Advent requires definition Volition! But this we prayed for in the week before Advent: “Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people…”

The season of Advent may be viewed as a short Lent as a time when strict discipline over the body through Fasting is one means of deepening awareness of God and devotion to him. The colour for this season, like Lent, is purple pointing to asceticism. Then the words of the Advent Collect, “Give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness” also suggest the need for discipline & Fasting. Further, it is possible for four weeks to omit “Gloria in Excelsis” from the Eucharist as a sign of liturgical asceticism – but to make this omission without developing the interior Devotion of asceticism is to miss out!

Yet Volition, the commitment of the will resolved to do what God requires and to please him, is the real thing here! That is, the will as it is graciously turned towards the Lord to obey him and to do his bidding.

E – Expectancy

As the righteous remnant in Israel waited for the Messiah in hopeful expectancy, and greeted him with great joy—Lord, now let thy servant depart in peace for mine eyes have seen….—so Christian worshippers in the Liturgy throughout Advent grow in expectancy week by week for the arrival of the Son of God Incarnate. And their expectancy is joyfully fulfilled at the first service of Christmas as either they hear (a) the words of the angel first spoken to the shepherds: “To you is born this day in the city of David, a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord,” or (b) the majestic words of John 1, “And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth…”

Further, liturgically Expectancy is communicated by the great “O’s” used during the last week of Advent.

O WISDOM, that camest out of the mouth of the Most High, reaching from one end to another, firmly and gently ordering all things: Come and teach us the way of understanding.

O ADONAI, Captain of the house of Israel, who didst appear to Moses in the flame of the burning bush, and gavest him the law on Sinai: Come and deliver us with thine outsretched arm.

O ROOT OF JESSE, who standest for an ensign of the people, before whom kings shall shut their mouths, to whom the nations shall seek: Come and deliver us and tarry not.

O KEY OF DAVID, Sceptre of the house of Israel, who openest and no man shutteth, and shuttest and not man openeth; Come and bring forth out of the prison-house him that is bound.

O DAY-SPRING FROM ON HIGH, Brightness of Eternal Light, and Sun of righteousness: Come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death.

O KING OF NATIONS, thou for whom they long, the Cornerstone that makest them both one: Come and save thy creatures whom thou didst fashion from the dust of the earth.

O EMMANUEL, our King and Lawgiver, the Desire of all nations and their Saviour: Come and save us, O Lord our God.

N – Narrative

The Scripture passages, the Bible narrative, read, heard and pondered during Advent are of critical importance. In the Daily Offices of Morning and Evening Prayer, the Book of Isaiah the Prophet is prominent and is read extensively throughout the four weeks as the Old Testament Lesson. In this book, not only are there many passages addressed to ancient Israel but there are also prophecies that look into the future to proclaim the arrival of the Messiah, the nature of his kingdom, his exaltation through suffering, and the triumph of his cause. Please be sure to read this Book with the elect of God in this season.

The Collect for Advent II refers to the unique importance of Holy Scripture for our doctrine and devotion:

“Blessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark ,learn and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast, the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.”

T – Thanksgiving

Though there is a strong element of penitence accompanying the fasting and asceticism in Advent, there is a stronger element of Thanksgiving! For God is praised and thanked for his saving deeds and his inspired words recorded in the Old Testament, all of which point to their climax in the arrival of the Messiah, the Saviour, who came to “fulfil the Law and the Prophets.” There is celebration of God’s mighty salvation experienced by the Israelites and there is anticipation of the even mightier salvation wrought in the Lord Jesus Christ.

And of course the meaning of the word, “Eucharist”, is “Thanksgiving” and thus in the Sacrament each week there is profound thanksgiving offered to the Father through the Son and with the Holy Spirit.

Arrival Devotion Volition Expectancy Narrative Thanksgiving

I close with the Advent Collect to be said throughout all Advent.

Almighty God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious Majesty, to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and ever. Amen.

The Revd Dr Peter Toon

Certain Words are Crucial for contemporary Episcopalians and Anglicans in North America

For nearly all US history, to think of Episcopalians or of Anglicans was to think of The Protestant Episcopal Church (later called “The Episcopal Church”). Only in very recent times are we required of necessity to think of “Church” in the Anglican sense of being both The Episcopal Church (TEC) and those groups, denominations, jurisdictions, networks and associations using the term Anglican or Episcopal but outside TEC.

So the state of the “Church” that we observe is that of being primarily divided, and divided in at least two senses—(a) organizationally, as already indicated; and (b) doctrinally, in terms of what is true teaching and what is right conduct.

How we evaluate this situation depends on a lot of things, but here let us focus on just one of them—the form of words, expressions, phrases, titles that we use to describe the departing from or leaving of The Episcopal Church to form congregations, networks, dioceses and the like. Let us examine briefly the three major departures from The Episcopal Church of people intending to create a new form or revive an old form of Anglicanism or Episcopalianism.

First of all, a committed, small group of Evangelicals left The PECUSA in 1873 and formed The Reformed Episcopal Church using the 1785 Prayer Book (the Latitudinarian Book rejected by the English Bishops) rather than that of 1789. To the General Convention of The Protestant Episcopal Church and to many of the Evangelicals who stayed within it, this departure was schism. However, though they did not use the word, for those exiting it was re-alignment, for they saw themselves as restoring a right relation and line with denominations that were truly Evangelical and true heirs of the Reformation. The PECUSA had lost its Protestant character, they believed, and they needed to restore it by re-aligning for only thus could they remain Evangelical.

Secondly, a somewhat larger group left TEC in 1977 and formed at the Congress of St Louis the Continuing Anglican Church. They rejected the arrival of female clergy in TEC and were concerned about the liturgical innovations in the pipeline (which led to the 1979 Prayer Book of TEC). They saw their departure as an act of continuation of the historic Anglican tradition, a tradition which they believed TEC was losing; and they intended to align with Anglican Churches overseas that did not embrace innovation in Ministry and Doctrine and Liturgy. For The Episcopal Church this departure was open schism and caused some high churchmen inside it to begin to use the expression, “schism is the worst kind of heresy.”

Right now in 2007 we seem to be towards the end of a continuing saga of departure that started ten years ago and accelerated after 2003. Here the exiting is because TEC has embraced doctrine, especially in sexuality, that embraces immorality and calls it holiness. Those departing claim that they are engaging in the process of re-alignment, of joining orthodox Anglican provinces abroad and thereby remaining genuine Anglicans. From within TEC the seceders are seen as creating and engaging in schism.

Let us now focus on the words, schism and realignment. If we take dictionary definitions and seek to remove all emotion then one may say that in all three cases of departing from TEC there is both the fact of schism and the attempt to realign.

However, psychologically, it is most important that those departing use only realignment to refer to what they have done for this puts a positive spin on their activity and raises it to a good, and even noble purpose. Through this frame of reference they can see everything connected with their departure from TEC, and their arrival in a new sphere, positively and give themselves to pursuing it more cheerfully and sacrificially. They say to themselves, “Not schism but realignment, and, indeed, necessary realignment.”

From the other side, within the walls of TEC, the word schism is necessary to describe what happens, because it underlines such ideas as (a) that those departing have cut themselves off; (b) they have forsaken their heritage and friends; (c) they have brought division where there was none before; and (d) they are causing unnecessary trouble at home and abroad. They say, “It is schism, not realignment, and schism is the worst kind of heresy.”

From even a minimal acquaintance with the political scene in the U.S.A., one can see that there are very definite frames of reference or mindsets present around and within the political agendas and activities of the two major political parties in the U.S.A. And so it is also with the “parties” in the Anglican “Church” of the U.S.A. To recognize this is to gain some preliminary understanding of how people feel and why they speak and act as they do. Likewise, what the Global South Provinces from abroad are doing in terms of creating congregations of their own on U.S.A. soil is, from one perspective, very clearly aiding and abetting schism; but, from another, it is making the process of alignment easier and quicker. And which words are used matters a lot for the words are the outward expression of a deeply embedded frame of reference.

First Sunday in Advent 2007

The Revd Dr Peter Toon

The real King James Version of 1611

Are you aware that the actual text of what we call the KJV of the Holy Scriptures is not that of 1611, when first published, but of 1769?
What happened was that from 1611, when the first editions came out, through to 1769, scholars employed by the University Presses made minor changes of various kinds, correcting typographical errors, adjusting marginal notes and making changing words where the original had changed in meaning from 1611. Then this process stopped. And all official printings in Britain since 1769 have been of the 1769 text, and thus it has been a most stable text for two hundred and fifty years or so.
Now the differences between the first edition and that of 1769 are by ordinary standards minimal; they do not change the general character or the style of the KJV, the most important and influential of books in the English language. However, these days, when there is a tremendous interest in things as they originally were, to know as exactly as possible what was the text that was actually produced by the translators—before the minor correcting and editing began by printer and scholar—is not only an interesting but an important quest.
Happily, Cambridge University Press and Dr David Norton of Victoria College, Wellington, New Zealand have come to our aid in a magnificent way to guide us in this quest.
First of all, Dr Norton has most carefully investigated the transmission of the text of the KJV from 1611 onwards and his painstaking work may be seen by reading his A Textual History of the King James Bible (Cambridge University Press, 2005)
Secondly, Cambridge University Press has published the original 1611 text of Bible and Apocrypha, as re-created from manuscript and printed evidence, by Dr Norton. And in this edition the text is provided in paragraphs rather than separated into verses. The full title of the Bible is The New Cambridge Paragraph Bible with the Apocrypha. King James Version (2005). It is produced to the high standards we expect of this Press and it is available in leather or as hardback on high quality paper at discounted prices from places like
To cite the Introduction:

Thousands of specks of dust have been blown away from the received text in “The New Cambridge Paragraph Bible,” leaving the King James Bible presented with a fidelity to the translators own work never before achieved, and allowing the most read, heard and loved book in the English language to speak with new vigour to modern readers.

All serious users and lovers of the KJV need to have this unique edition of the KJV in order to become the better acquainted with this classic of literature as well as of Christian religion!
In 1662 the two greatest Books of Christianity in English came together. Inside this new edition, under Charles II, of The Book of Common Prayer, originally published in 1549, revised in 1552, and then authorized by each Monarch from Elizabeth I onwards, the text of the Epistles and Gospels for Sundays and Holy Days was printed for the first time from the King James Version, and this has remained the case till the present.
However, so much loved was the Psalter (originally from the pen of Coverdale in the sixteenth century) in The BCP that it was not removed but retained; and it remains there to this day. It is a translation that lends itself to being prayed!
It is amazing that as versions of the Bible come and go—and in recent times with great rapidity—the KJV remains in print and in use; it is also amazing that Cambridge University Press would make such a massive investment in this edition of the KJV.
Many of us know from hearing that it retains its own unique quality when read aloud in the context of public worship and classical Common Prayer.
Oh that more of our younger people would discover the charm, power and accuracy of the KJV and take to reading it day by day! It is not too late for any of us to start this reading.

Peter Toon November 30 2007

Lambeth Resolutions and Reports: What Permanence do they have?

A reflection to aid better Reflections.

Many of the Resolutions of the Lambeth Conference from 1867 to 1998 belong to the space and time when passed and become irrelevant as the years pass by. This is especially so with Resolutions addressed to pressing social, economic and political matters. The same applies to the Reports on these matters which go before the Resolutions.

Some Reports and Resolutions do, however, have a more permanent character—e.g., those to do with Doctrine, Liturgy, Polity, Ecumenism and so on. The effect of some of these is that by their regular statement they have the effect of creating “an Anglican mind” –and this is especially so when they are made part of the received teaching of local Provinces through synodical action. One example is the general agreement set forth after World War II for there to be alongside the one Book of Common Prayer, local, provincial alternative sets of Services to be used under the doctrinal authority of the same Book of Common Prayer. (Thus the Church of England produced The ASB 1980. But what The Episcopal Church did was not in accordance with the Lambeth mind in that it created in 1976/9 a Book of Varied Services and called it The BCP, putting the received, classic BCP in the archives! Here lies one of the major sources of the present TEC’s dysfunctional nature.)

One would expect that a Report and Resolution to do with heresy would have a permanent aspect to them. But this is not necessarily so.

Take the decision made at the first Lambeth Conference of 1867 publicly to support the Metropolitan of Southern Africa, Robert Gray, in his condemnation and deposing of the Bishop of Natal, John William Colenso—even though the Privy Council in England had declared the condemnation null and void. Colenso taught that there was no hell, no everlasting punishment; and he also denied the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch and made the Torah in effect to cease to be Word of God. In 1867, the 76 Bishops at Lambeth agreed with Gray that Colenso was a heretic and ought to cease to be a Bishop, and said so.

In 2007, one hundred and forty years later, one may safely say that many Anglican Bishops—especially in the so-called West or North— do not believe in either everlasting punishment or that Moses wrote the Pentateuch. And such beliefs are regarded as “normal” and “acceptable” generally in educated Christian circles.

In the light of this, one hears today the strong suggestion that though same-sex covenanted, faithful partnerships are seen as immoral and heretical by a majority today, in twenty years time (after the greater spread of human rights and therapeutic views of the human person in Africa) this position will be reversed, just as in the case of Colenso’s heresies. Maybe so!

To continue: One would also expect that a Report and Resolution to do with basic Polity—the organization of the Church geographically into Provinces with Dioceses—would be fairly stable. And so it was and seemed to be from 1876 until the last decade of the twentieth century!

In 1867 there was a carefully drafted Report which made suggestions how missionary Bishops from two Provinces working in the same general territory and area could plan their activity so that that the unity of the Church was maintained both in the present and for the future. Since 1867 the unity of the Church and the respect for provincial boundaries has been emphasized and agreed upon often. So to enter another Province a Bishop has sought the permission of the local, resident Bishop, who, in the bonds of affection, grants it. But he did not enter to cause dissension but to edify.

This long established custom has been severely challenged in North America from the late 1990s.

Within the territory of The Episcopal Church of the USA [TEC] and the Anglican Church of Canada, there has been in the last decade a series of “visits” by overseas Primates and Bishops, with the intention of creating secession from TEC and a re-alignment with their provinces. Rwanda began this crossing of boundaries to establish The Anglican Mission in America, with a growing number of Bishops (all part of the House of Bishops of Rwanda); and it has been followed by Nigeria, Kenya, and Uganda also with their Bishops—and in a slightly different manner the Province of the Southern Cone of America is joining this crossing of boundaries, but coming up from the South, rather than crossing the Atlantic. None of this crossing has been approved by TEC and in fact TEC has not been asked to approve it. When TEC has protested it has not been heard. When the larger Anglican Family has protested it has also not been heard.

Thus the new (as yet minority Anglican) position—not discussed yet at a Lambeth Conference—favored by the Global South provinces appears to be that any province has the right to determine if another province is doctrinally sound; and; if it judges in the negative; then it has the right to enter that province to cause secession and re-alignment, and create an extension of its own church there.

What confusion Anglicans have put themselves in, first in North America and also increasingly globally.

Happily the same Anglicans have declared that even General Councils may err—and if they may err, then so may the Lambeth Conference in any or all of its Resolutions. With this in mind any Resolution planned for 2007 hardly merits excessive zeal or intense support!

The Rev’d Dr Peter Toon November 28 2007

Lambeth Conference 1867 – addresses two (contemporary) concerns (heresy & missionary bishops)

The first Lambeth Conference of xxxx 1867, presided over by Archbishop Longley, inside Lambeth Palace, London, only lasted three days. However, committee work from it continued afterwards by Bishops who remained in the London area. Two of the areas of concern addressed were:

What to do about a diocesan Bishop who expressed and stood by what were judged by virtually all the Bishops to be heretical views?
What to do about Missionary Bishops from different Provinces working in the same (virgin) territory?

In 2007 the Anglican Communion remains concerned about at least one Bishop (Gene R.) who has heretical views about sexual relations; and with the arrival in the U.S.A. and Canada of “Missionary Bishops” from four or five Anglican Provinces overseas, it is concerned about how these same Bishops relate one to another in the same territory and how all of them relate to the sitting Bishops of the Provinces involved.

In 1867 the Bishop in question was John William Colenso, Bishop of Natal in South Africa. He denied the doctrine of eternal punishment, questioned much sacramental theology, rejected the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, and declared that the latter is inaccurate in many of its details. Already before 1867 he had been excommunicated and deposed by the local Metropolitan, Robert Gray of Capetown; but Colenso appealed to the Privy Council in London which on legal not doctrinal grounds did not confirm the ecclesiastical sentence. So Gray wanted the moral support of the Bishops at Lambeth for his action and this he received in full. However, in South Africa, this moral support did not have the effect of moving Colenso, for he clung to his rights under British law. [The continuation of this schism is reflected in the existence of the Church of England in South Africa alongside the Church of the Province of Southern Africa.]

By 1867 both the Church of England and the Protestant Episcopal Church had Missionary Bishops operating in various parts of the world including North America, and in some cases they were in the same country and apparently competing for the same territory and the souls therein. To a man the Bishops at Lambeth desired to maintain the unity of the Anglican Communion and this concern enters the text of the recommendations they offered to the Churches.

In that the Report may shed a little light on the confused situation in North America in 2007 with respect to missionary bishops, here is the Report in full for consideration:

Your Committee report that, after full consideration of the questions referred to them by the Conference, they have adopted the following Resolutions:
I. That every branch of the Church is entitled to found a Missionary Bishopric.
II. That it is desirable that each branch of the Church should act upon rules agreed upon beforehand by the Synod or other Church Council of the said branch.
III. That each Missionary Bishopric should be deemed to be attached to one branch of the Church, and that all rules for the election of a Missionary Bishop, and for the formation of a Diocese or Dioceses out of the Missionary District, should be made by the Synod or other Church Council of such branch of the Church.
IV. That notice of the erection of any Missionary Bishopric, and the choice and consecration of the Bishop, should be notified to all Archbishops and Metropolitans, and all Presiding Bishops, of the Anglican Communion.
V. That in appointing a Missionary Bishop, the district within which he is to exercise his Mission should be defined as far as possible ; and that no other Bishop should be sent within the same district, without previous communication with that branch of the Church which gave mission for the work.
VI. That, while peculiar cases may occur in Missionary work, owing to difference of race and language, in which it may be desirable that more than one Bishop should exercise episcopal functions within the same district, the Committee consider that such cases should be regarded as exceptions, justified only by special circumstances.
VII. That, with respect to the special case of Continental Chaplaincies,
the Committee suggest to the Conference the consideration of some ecclesiastical arrangement by which the various congregations
of the Anglican Communion may be under one authority, whether of the English or American Church.

Resolution XI. " That a special Committee be appointed to consider the Resolutions relative to the notification of proposed Missionary
Bishoprics, and the subordination of Missionaries."

VIII. That the conditions on which a Missionary Bishopric should be brought within a Provincial organisation should be :
1. The request of the Missionary Bishop, addressed both to the Church from which he received mission and to the Province which he wishes to join.
2. The consent of the Church from which he received mission, that consent being given by the Metropolitan or Presiding Bishop.
3. The consent of the Province he wishes to join, that consent being given by the Provincial Synod.
IX. That the status, jurisdiction, and designation of the Bishop thus received into a system of Provincial organisation should be determined by the Synod of the Province to which his Bishopric shall be then attached.
X. That, as a general rule, it is expedient that such Missionary Bishopric should be attached to the nearest Province; but that in certain cases it may be necessary that some more remote Province should be selected.
(Bishop Tozer's Mission is a case to which the Committee desire to draw the attention of the Conference, as being one in which, for the present, Provincial organisation would seem to be impracticable, from the isolation of the district in which Bishop Tozer exercises his episcopal functions, and its remoteness from the Province of South Africa.)
XI. That Missionary Bishops and their Clergy should be bound generally to the Canons of Doctrine and Discipline of the Church from which their mission is derived, or to which they may have been united, and that all alterations in matters of discipline be communicated to the authorities of that Church.
XII. That when a Missionary Church shall be received into the organisation of a Provincial Synod, the said Church should be bound by the acts of that body ; but that, in order to effect this, the Missionary Church should be granted a power of representation, or of vote by proxy, in such Synod.
XIII. That, as a general rule, in conformity with Church order, all Missionaries and Chaplains residing or engaged in the exercise of ministerial duty within the Diocese or District of a Colonial or Missionary Bishop, should be licensed by, and be subject to the authority of the said Bishop.
XIV. That every Clergyman removing from one Colonial or Missionary Diocese or District into another Diocese ought to carry with him Letters Testimonial from the Colonial or Missionary Bishop whose Diocese or District he is leaving.
XV. That no person admitted to Holy Orders by the Bishop of any Diocese in England or Ireland, who shall afterwards have been serving under the jurisdiction of any Scottish, Colonial, or Foreign Bishop, should be received into any of the Home Dioceses, without producing letters Dimissory or Commendatory from the Scottish, Colonial, or Foreign Bishop in whose Diocese he has been serving.
W. J. GIBRALTAR, Chairman. WILLIAM GEORGE TOZER, Missionary Bishop, Secretary.

Lambeth Conference 1867: the crucial contribution of an American Evangelical

Bishop C.P., McIlvaine of Ohio on the world stage: The crucial contribution of an American Evangelical Bishop to the first Lambeth Conference of 1867

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Charles Thomas Longley, wrote to each of the 144 Bishops of the Anglican Communion in 1867 in this manner:

February 22nd, 1867.

I request your presence at a meeting of the Bishops in visible communion with the United Church of England and Ireland, purposed (God willing) to be holden at Lambeth, under my presidency, on the 24th of September next and the three following days.

The circumstances under which I have resolved to issue the present invitation are these : The Metropolitan and Bishops of Canada, last year, addressed to the two Houses of the Convocation of Canterbury the expression of their desire that I should be moved to invite the Bishops of our Indian and Colonial Episcopate to meet myself and the Home Bishops for brotherly communion and conference. The consequence of that appeal has been that both Houses of the Convocation of my province have addressed to me their dutiful request that I would invite the attendance, not only of our Home and Colonial Bishops, but of all who are avowedly in communion with our Church. The same request was unanimously preferred to me at a numerous gathering of English, Irish, and Colonial Archbishops and Bishops recently assembled at Lambeth; at which I rejoice to record it we had the counsel and concurrence of an eminent Bishop of the Church in the United States of America the Bishop of Illinois.

Moved by these requests, and by the expressed concurrence therein of other members both of the Home and Colonial Episcopate, who could not be present at our meeting, I have now resolved not, I humbly trust,
without the guidance of GOD the Holy Ghost to grant this grave request, and call together the meeting thus earnestly desired. I greatly hope that you may be able to attend it, and to aid us with your presence and brotherly counsel thereat.

I propose that, at our assembling, we should first solemnly seek the blessing of Almighty GOD on our gathering, by uniting together in the highest act of the Church's worship. After this, brotherly consultations will follow. In these we may consider together many practical questions, the settlement of which would tend to the advancement of the Kingdom of our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, and to the maintenance of greater union in our missionary work, and to increased intercommunion among ourselves.

Such a meeting would not be competent to make declarations or lay down definitions on points of doctrine. But united worship and common counsels would greatly tend to maintain practically the unity of the faith : whilst they would bind us in straighter bonds of peace and brotherly charity.

I shall gladly receive from you a list of any subjects you may wish to suggest to me for consideration and discussion. Should you be unable to attend, and desire to commission any brother Bishop to speak for you, I shall welcome him as your representative in our united deliberations.

But I must once more express my earnest hope that, on this solemn occasion, I may have the great advantage of your personal presence. And now I commend this proposed meeting to your fervent prayers; and, humbly beseeching the blessing of Almighty GOD on yourself and your diocese, I subscribe myself,

Your faithful brother in the Lord,

United Church of England and Ireland, purposed (God willing) to be holden at Lambeth, under my presidency, on the 24th of September next and the three following days.

Out of the 144 invited some 76 arrived.

The Conference met on Tuesday, September 24th, the opening service being preceded by a Celebration of Holy Communion in Lambeth Palace Chapel, with a sermon from Bishop Whitehouse of Illinois.The meetings of the Conference were held in the upstairs dining-hall, or "Guard-Room," of Lambeth Palace, not (as was the case in 1878) in the great library. On the Archbishop of Canterbury's right sat the Archbishop of Armagh, the Bishop of London, the Presiding Bishop of the American Church, the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Bishop of Calcutta and the Bishop of Sydney. On the left were the Archbishop of Dublin, and the Bishops of Montreal, New Zealand and Capetown. The other Bishops sat in front. The Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol acted as episcopal secretary to the meeting throughout its deliberations.
In his opening address, Archbishop Longley again defined, with some care, the position of the Conference. "It has never been contemplated," he said, "that we should assume the functions of a general synod of all the Churches in full communion with the Church of England, and take upon ourselves to enact canons that should be binding upon those here represented. We merely propose to discuss matters of practical interest, and pronounce what we deem expedient in resolutions which may serve as safe guides to future action. Thus it will be seen that our first essay is rather tentative and experimental, in a matter in which we have no distinct precedent to direct us."

Special importance attached to the discussions of the first day, when, in the form of a preamble to the subsequent resolutions, the standpoint taken by the Anglican Church was in general terms described. All the leading Bishops took part in the debate, and its outcome will be best seen by comparing the submitted preamble with the one that was adopted and which had been written by the American Evangelical Charles P McIlvaine of Ohio.

[Bishop McIlvaine was deeply disturbed by what seemed to him to be the strong anglo-catholic overtones of the draft preamble prepared by the Bishop of Capetown, South Africa before the Conference and circulated with the expectation that it would be approved quickly. So encouraged by the English Evangelical Bishop, C. R. Sumner of Winchester, McIlvaine prepared a revised draft which to his surprise was passed after discussion.]

Here is what McIlvaine prepared and what the Conference officially adopted on its first day:

Here the priority of Scripture above all tradition is very clear and this was a theme that McIlvaine had written and preached about for the last thirty years!

The Preamble from the Bishop of Capetown in the view of McIlvaine and Sumner tended to make Scripture part of Tradition.

"We, Bishops of Christ's Holy Catholic Church, professing the faith of the primitive and undivided Church, as based on Scripture, defined by the first four General Councils, and reaffirmed by the Fathers of the English Reformation, now assembled by the good providence of GOD at the Archiepiscopal Palace of Lambeth, under the presidency of the Primate of all England, desire, first, to give hearty thanks to Almighty GOD for having thus brought us together for common counsels and united worship ; secondly, we desire to express the deep sorrow with which we view the divided condition of the flock of Christ throughout the world ; and lastly, we do here solemnly declare our belief that the best hope of future re-union will be found in drawing each of us for ourselves closer to our common Lord, in giving ourselves to much prayer and intercession, in the cultivation of a spirit of charity, and in seeking to diffuse through every part of the Christian community that desire and resolution to return to the faith and discipline of the undivided Church which was the principle of the English Reformation."

So the 76 bishops, having agreed on where they were starting from theologically, began to address several major problems facing the Anglican Communion at that time, not least the question as to what to do about Bishop Colenso of South Africa, who was teaching error.

(Part II of the 1867 Lambeth Conference to follow.)

The Revd Dr Peter Toon November 26 2007

Pray this Collect each Day in Advent Season, December 2 – 24, 2007

The prayer printed below was composed in 1549 as the Collect for the first Sunday of the Christian Year, Advent I, and to be used also throughout Advent until Christmas Eve, and after the other Collects appointed for Advent II, III & IV. It captures wonderfully the two Advents or Comings of the Son of God to earth—the first in deep humility to assume our human nature in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the second in majestic glory to judge the living and the dead at the end of the age.

“Almighty God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious Majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal, through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and ever. Amen.”

When you read it aloud you realize just how memorable is this Prayer in its grand roll and rhythm, with the result that it is hard to say whether the ear or the mind finds most satisfaction in hearing it. Yet, at the same time, it is a Prayer that is also a short Creed, declaring major articles of the Christian Faith with clarity! So, bearing in mind its excellence, let us not fail to pray it through Advent daily, and in sincerity, godly reverence, fervency and devotion.

The prayer is addressed to the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ and he is called the all-powerful, omnipotent God, the sovereign LORD of all things, visible and invisible. But it is not addressed directly to the holy and righteous Father for sinful beings need a Mediator to approach the holy LORD. Thus it arises to the Father “ [the Lord Jesus Christ]” who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit as the Blessed Holy and Undivided Trinity, One God. Further, this Mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ, is the very One who became Incarnate by the Holy Spirit,; that is he “.”

We reverently address the Almighty God as those who live on the earth as mortal beings, that is as those who are born and who eventually die. This existence may be expressed as being “” for we live in space and time as mortal beings, who, in and of ourselves, cannot make ourselves immortal.

So we wisely pray for “that is, for the merciful and compassionate assistance of God through the presence of the Holy Spirit to do what is pleasing to God by mortal beings living in an evil age. And what is pleasing has two aspects to it—a casting away and a putting upon. We need help from God both to desire and determine as well as then “ (all those sinful and evil deeds and actions, small and great) which are contrary to the law of Christ; and we also need help to clothe ourselves with, “,” the armor provided by Christ for Christ’s warriors, with which we resist the arrows of devilish temptations and conquer sin in our lives to live in holiness, using the “sword of the Spirit.”

This petition within the Collect is taken straight from the Epistle appointed for Advent Sunday. St Paul wrote: “ And the theme of armor recalls what the same apostle told the church in Thessalonica: “Let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation” (1 Thess. 5:7). Later in his apostolic career he was also to describe this armor in greater detail—see Ephesians 6.

As soldiers of Christ wearing his armor, we are to watch and pray as we live under his command. We do not know when he will return to earth from his exalted throne in heaven, that is “ Thus we ought to live each day in such a godly manner that if he comes we shall not be ashamed but rather be delighted to see him, so that “ with him in the courts of the heavenly Jerusalem.

Advent is that four-week part of the Christian Year when we not only prepare ourselves for the celebration of the Incarnation of the Only Begotten Son of the Father on Christmas Day and in the twelve days following, but also, and very importantly, we look up to heaven for the same Lord Jesus Christ to return to earth “” and with all the holy angels accompanying him, to raise the dead, to judge the peoples and to inaugurate the fullness of the kingdom of God. Let us not forget that the best way to prepare for the celebration of the birth of Jesus, our Immanuel, is by watching and praying in the knowledge and light of his promised Second Advent.

The Revd Dr Peter Toon November 26 2007