Monday, November 03, 2008

GAFCON & the Bishops & Diocese of Sydney!

from Peter Toon

In great sadness and pain for the Anglican Family, I write this tractate. You may care to read the news-item at the end first:

If GAFCON truly is walking in the biblical, historic Anglican Way;

If GAFCON truly is committed to Anglican, Reformed Catholicism and not to a generic, popular Evangelicalism in Anglican style;

If GAFCON truly is committed to the full and final authority of the Holy Scriptures, and resting on them is also bound to the content and teaching of the classic FORMULARIES of the Anglican Way—The BCP, Ordinal and Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion;

If GAFCON is still really committed to the powerful dedication made in a very public way at Jerusalem in June 2008;

And if GAFCON is still critical of the Archbishop of Canterbury and his advisors for their failure to be obedient to the Gospel and its teaching of Morals;

THEN, what the Diocese of Sydney has recently re-affirmed and confirmed as its public doctrine stands in total opposition to the doctrinal and public stance of GAFCON . This innovation in doctrine by Sydney is to teach and allow persons, who are not ordained as presbyters (priests), to celebrate the Eucharist and preside at the Order of Holy Communion.

My earnest suggestion to the leadership of GAFCON is this:

After appropriate warning, the Council of Primates of GAFCON should expel the Bishops and Diocese of Sydney immediately: by this action GAFCON will maintain its committed to the biblical, classic Anglican Way and will show that it does take discipline (a mark of the true church) seriously.

If GAFCON does nothing and allows the Diocese of Sydney, with its innovatory doctrine, and pride in that innovation, to remain as a full member, then GAFCON will become, and will be seen by thousands, as merely and only an international, Evangelical Anglican Group— with no serious claims to a serious catholic ecclesiology and historic Ministry, and no real opportunity or intention to set a godly example to the whole Anglican Communion of Churches.

[See below for news of the Sydney decision, which has been on the books for several years. I have been to Sydney some five or so times and on one visit I debated at St Paul’s College, University of Sydney, this question of the identity of Celebrant at the Eucharist. My talk was printed somewhere but I cannot find it! Peter Toon, October 30, 2008.]

Sydney Diocese Approves Lay Presidency at the Eucharist

Posted on: October 28, 2008

The annual synod of the Diocese of Sydney has overwhelmingly approved a resolution restating its support for diaconal and lay presidency at Holy Communion.

No further action is required for deacons to begin celebrating the Eucharist, according to the Rt. Rev. Glenn Davies, Bishop of North Sydney and sponsor of the resolution. Writing an opinion piece for the diocesan newspaper, Bishop Davis added that even though the resolution also makes it permissible for lay persons to administer communion, they would need to be licensed by Archbishop Peter Jensen to do so in a service of public worship. Archbishop Jensen has previously said he is unwilling to do so.

During debate of the resolution on Oct. 20, a number of amendments designed to weaken its impact were proposed. Each was defeated, according to information published on the diocesan website. The Diocese of Sydney is a member of the Anglican Church of Australia.

The most serious challenge to passage of the resolution came from a priest who had attended the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) last summer and said approval could affect the diocese’s relationship with GAFCON bishops. The approved resolution includes a provision to send each GAFCON bishop a copy of a book published by the Anglican Church League explaining the theological rationale for lay presidency.


All Saints’ Day is November 1: But who and what are the “Saints?”

a reflection from Dr Peter Toon

It appears from the tremendous commercial investment in making the evening of October 31 a “fun evening” and an end in itself, that most of modern America does not know or care that there is only “All Hallows’ Eve” because there is “All Saints’ Day” the next day.

But let us focus here upon “all saints.” There appears to be within the Christian traditions two ways of understanding what is a “saint.”

First, there is the way which Paul the Apostle embraces in his Letters: here, a saint is a baptized, disciple of Jesus Christ, who is being sanctified (made holy) by the presence, work, gifts, fruit and virtues of the Holy Spirit, working in him and in the church. Here all active and consecrated disciples of Jesus, who are members of the church, are “saints.” (See e.g., Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:2) Obviously backsliding, apostate and nominal church members do not qualify for this description for they do not seek holiness.

The other way of understanding what is a “saint” is provided by Christian Tradition and is reflected in the naming of churches (e.g., St Augustine’s Church), in special days of commemoration (e.g., St Luke’s Day) and in patron saints of countries and cities (e.g., St George of England). Here the biblical description is both narrowed and intensified: the real “saint” is now a rare person who stands out from the rest of church members, and does so by his or her holiness, goodness and love for God and man.

Having distinguished the two types of saints, we now have to determine which of the two is commemorated by the Reformed Catholic Church of England in her Book of Common Prayer (editions from 1549 through to 1662).

In making this determination, we have to bear in mind the fact that The Book of Common Prayer does itself provide in the Church Year commemorative days not only for the Lord Jesus himself (e.g. Christmas), but also for the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Apostles and Evangelists. Further, there is a tradition which calls the latter by the name “Saint,” and so, for example, we speak of “St Mark’s Day.”

On the other hand, the same Prayer Book rejects the primary act of devotion on a “Saint’s Day” in late medieval times – that of asking the saint in question to pray for Christians on earth. By taking away the spiritual power of the “saint” to intercede uniquely for the faithful on earth, the Reformers may be seen as making the “saint” into a godly, fine example of that which all genuine Christians ought to aspire to be as Christians, truly the holy ones, as in the usage of Paul, the Apostle.

So we come to the Epistle, Gospel and Collect for All Saints Day in the Prayer Book. The Epistle is Revelation 7:2-12 and points to the final salvation and place in heaven of all genuine believers – that is, of Paul’s saints. The Gospel is St Matthew 5:1-12 and is the Beatitudes, again a description of the life to which all baptized, committed Christians are called—that is, Paul’s saints. The Collect was composed in 1548/9 by the Reformers and is as follows in the 1662 edition of the Prayer Book:

O Almighty God, who hast knit together thine elect in one communion and fellowship, in the mystical body of thy Son Christ our Lord: Grant us grace so to follow thy blessed Saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those unspeakable joys, which thou hast prepared for them that unfeignedly love thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

If we carefully analyze this Collect, we see that the first part speaks definitely of all truly baptized Christians, the elect of God the Father, the (Pauline) saints of God, and it is they who together, by the union of the Holy Spirit, are the body of Christ. However, in contrast, the reference in the second part to following “thy blessed Saints” appears to lean towards the traditional meaning: that is, to narrow the meaning of the Pauline “saint” to those who have excelled by grace and dedication in practical holiness, and present them as worthy persons to be followed and imitated .
So, to summarize, it would appear that the Reformed Catholicism of The Book of Common Prayer is primarily committed to the biblical, Pauline, meaning of saint and calls all Christians to be what they are by God’s will in and through Christ, and called to be ,by God the Father– holy ones, sanctified ones, saints. But it is also ready to use the common, traditional meaning in a restricted and reformed way as well.

Therefore the “all saints” of the feast day are the countless, unrecorded, baptized Christians through the centuries and from all peoples, who were truly sanctified, holy, persons, fulfilling their vocations in serving Christ their Lord in the church and world, in a consecrated, dedicated and faithful way. It is probably safe to say that they are a minority of the whole baptized membership of the One Church of God.

In closing, we may note that the distinction between the Saint of tradition and the saint of the Pauline Letters is very strong indeed in both Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism and is a major theme of “Catholic religion”; in contrast, the distinction does not exist in pure Protestantism as part of its principles.

Now SING: “For all the saints who from their labors rest”

Appendix: A modern view of Sainthood from The P B of TEC

In her message to the Episcopal Church marking All Saints' Day, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori suggests that Episcopalians look for the modern saints who minister all around them every day.

'In your neighborhood, who is the saint who picks up trash?' she asks. 'Who looks out for school children on their way to and from school? Who looks after an elderly or frail neighbor, running errands or checking to be sure that person has what is needed? In your community, what saints labor on behalf of the voiceless?'

Saints, Jefferts Schori reminded the church, 'come in all shapes, ages, colors, and theological stripes.'

Full story:

Dr Peter Toon, October 28 2008,

A unique kind of Prayer: An Anglican Collect designed to supply the Defects of our other Prayers

Reflections from Peter Toon

When you come to the end of participation in public worship, do you feel a sense of satisfaction? Or do you have the sense that what has been said and done though good could have been much more suited to the glory of God Almighty?

Bearing these questions in mind, let us delve into an ancient prayer, which originally appeared in the first fully English Liturgy.

In The Book of Common Prayer (1549, 1552. 1604 & 1662) there is a collect, printed at the end of the Service of Holy Communion, and composed by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, that was not intended for any particular part of the Church Year or for any special occasion. Rather, it was made available for possible use to clergy and heads of households after the normal content of worship and prayer had been offered to God. Here it is in the very traditional English language of public worship:

“Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, who knowest our necessities before we ask, and our ignorance in asking; We beseech thee to have compassion on our infirmities; and those things, which for our unworthiness we dare not ask, and for our blindness we cannot ask, vouchsafe to give us, for the worthiness of thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

I do not know about you, but for me this prayer seems to fit my situation more often than I care to admit!

The point is that whether we use a superior or inferior type of liturgy, whether we perform acts of devotion in a crude or creative way, and even whether we prepare ourselves for worship as carefully and fully as possible, we are still going to offer—before the absolute perfection of God—defective and imperfect worship and prayer to the Father. The fact of the matter is that, while we are called to be saints but are not yet saints, there is much in us and about us that is constantly in need of the cleansing and sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.

Let us now analyze the collect, beginning with the opening address to the Almighty God, the Father of the Lord Jesus.

First of all, we recall in his presence, as we begin to pray, that all true wisdom, the kind that King Solomon asked for, comes solely from God. He is the living Source and Fountain of all wisdom, and as the infinite, eternal, God of wisdom he knows both our “necessities” before we make our requests and “our ignorance” in making them. Being creatures made in the image of God as persons with body and soul, we have daily needs—“necessities”— arising both from our physical and spiritual/moral aspects and natures. Thus we require not only food and clothing, but also forgiveness and moral discipline. As Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:8 & 32) God the Father knows all the needs of his children. And he also knows the lack of true knowledge that Christians, including saintly persons, actually have of themselves and their real needs of body and soul. All of us are ignorant of the full picture and diagnosis of our condition, and thus even our best efforts in prayer fall far short of what they should truly be in terms of rightly petitioning our Father in heaven.

We are now prepared, and the stage is now set, to examine the actual petitions of this collect.

“We beseech thee to have compassion upon our infirmities.” In a modern culture of “rights,” we do not address God as if we had any rights to stand on; rather we beg and we beseech, as those who have no merits to claim. Our heart’s desire is that God our Father be graciously pleased to show compassion to us who are continually plagued by our own infirmities (physical and spiritual weaknesses). Let him in his mercy, we earnestly hope, bring healing and strength to us in body and soul.

“And those things which, for our unworthiness, we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask, vouchsafe to give us for the worthiness of thy Son…”

God, the all-wise and all-knowing LORD, is aware of all our infirmities! We are aware of some, but we are sometimes/often prevented from bringing petition concerning these before our Father, because either (a) in our sense of unworthiness before him we do not dare to ask for his special favor; or (b) we are in part morally and spiritually blind and thus do not have the open, discerning eyes to recognize what we truly are and need as we stand before God.

Let us end on a high note.

Despite our blindness, unworthiness, infirmities and ignorance, because we have received the precious Gospel of the Father concerning his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, for his sake and his alone, we humbly pray to the Father:”Vouchsafe (graciously grant) to us each day all that we need for body, soul and spirit in order to be thy loving, faithful and obedient children, for thy honor and glory.”

Trinity XXII 2008

Real Prayer, devotional and effectual

Amongst committed Christians, it is commonplace to hear the following kinds of claims with respect to the nature of prayers [of petition]:

If we pray in the name of Jesus, God the Father will hear [and answer] our prayer.

If we pray in the name of Jesus and according to God’s will, God the Father will hear [and answer] our prayer.

If we pray in faith claiming the promise(s) of God, God the Father will hear [and answer] our prayer.

It is also commonplace to hear such explanatory comments as the following:

God’s response to our petition may be “yes” or “no” or “not yet,” but he will answer.

Let us now imagine a congregation of say 100 persons and get a sense of the number and variety of prayers offered that ask for something. First of all, take the public worship of this local church. In it there will normally be a form of prayer that is primarily of petition and intercession, where the focus is upon asking God to intervene in situations, to bless different persons and people, to heal the sick, to prosper the proclamation of the Gospel, to edify the church(es) and so on.

Further, together with the congregation speaking to the Master as one body and household, each individual member present on the Lord’s Day also offers from within the assembly his own prayers of petition, for this and for that according to need and necessity.

Then, of course, there are the many prayers offered outside the public worship in the family prayers and individual prayers of the members throughout the week.

The Lord’s Prayer itself used many times also includes several wide-ranging petitions—e.g., “thy kingdom come.”

So, all in all, we are imagining here thousands of different prayers in the name of Jesus addressed to God the Father by people in various stages of Christian pilgrimage and maturity. If we could hear and analyze all these petitions and intercessions, perhaps the majority of them would fit into several basic categories—e.g., for healing of the sick, for children to grow up reverencing and loving God, for evangelism and church growth, and so on.

Here, with the hope of taking forward our thinking I want to introduce an ancient collect, rendered from Latin into the traditional English language of prayer.

“O GOD, our Refuge and Strength, who art the author of all devotion; Be ready, we beseech thee, to hear the devout prayers of thy Church; and grant that those things which we ask faithfully we may obtain effectually; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” [See further, The Book of Common Prayer, 1662, Trinity XXIII]

From this profound, short prayer I want to focus initially on two phrases: “author of all devotion” and “devout prayers.”

All real stirrings of genuine faith, hope and love in our hearts: all desires and intentions to serve, obey, trust, thank and praise God; and all inward and outward movements towards adoration and worship of God are to be traced to God as their source—that is of the Father working through his Spirit in the hearts of his people. Thus God is the “author of all devotion” (or “godliness”) and, of course, he expects his people to work with him in this matter!

“Devout prayers” are prayers that have their origins in the cleansing and renewing work of the Spirit of the Father and of the Son in the souls of his baptized people. Such prayers are of varying kinds but since they are inspired by God we are to believe that they are actually heard by God.

We are now ready to move on now to reflect on the words: “Grant that those things which we ask faithfully we may obtain effectually.” From this petition we are reminded that there are further, important spiritual additions to what we have already noted (that God the author of true devotion hears the prayers of his devout people) in terms of the answering of prayer. Here the two key words are “Grant” and “faithfully.”

The use of the verb “grant” of God the Father makes clear that none of us deserves, or has a right to anything, that we ask for; rather, it is solely in the goodness and wisdom of God to give it out of pure, eternal mercy. This attitude of deep humility in the devout must be a major part of the ethos of their prayer.

“Faithfully” points to prayer that is not only from Christian believers who trust in God through Jesus Christ, but is also a prayer that is characterized by, and filled with, living, dynamic faith—including often an inner conviction that which is asked for is truly God’s will to give.

In this way and by this form of prayer, the church effectively obtains that for which it asks the Father in the Name of the Lord Jesus.

I conclude by making an observation that addresses the real, daily and weekly pastoral situation, within western churches, that we seem to get more “answers” to prayer that are in the “no” and “not yet” category than the “yes” one.


I suggest that we do not make a sufficiently clear distinction in our teaching and practice concerning petitionary/intercessory prayer between (a) devout prayers being heard by God (the emphasis here is upon God hearing them and being pleased to receive them); and (b) devout prayers that are filled with and characterized by faith/trust being not only heard but also answered effectively by the God of all mercy and grace.

Take prayers for healing of the body offered by a congregation, its pastors or a visiting evangelist/healer. Why is it—and this seems to be true in the West at least—that there are, comparatively speaking, so few examples of genuine healings (whether or not modern medicine is involved) and so many examples of disappointed petitioners? Devout prayers are offered and heard by God, we believe, and these please him, but that is all we can be sure about in any given case, unless there is present (as the gift of the Spirit) the genuine, real prayer of humility and faith.

An example of a prayer that was filled with real faith and expectation of an effective answer is found in Acts 12:6 ff. – the story of Peter in prison and his amazing exit as the local church prayed for his release.

Peter Toon Trinity XXII 2008

York: a Lament for the York in modern defining of the global the Anglican Communion.

A Cry for the Beloved Country in the neglect of York as the See of the North (known initially by the Romans as Eboracum) from Peter Toon, Yorkshireman

The Church of England has two provinces, one in the south of the country, centered on Canterbury, and one in the north-east of the country, centered on York. Each of these cities has an archbishop named after the cities. The Archbishop of Canterbury is known historically as the Primate of all England, and the Archbishop of York is known historically as the Primate of England. The slight difference in title points to the fact that Canterbury is first in order and authority of the hierarchy in the Church of England. This explains why he has a residence in London, Lambeth Palace, within easy distance of the Houses of Parliament (where he is a member of the House of Lords) and royal palaces (where the monarch is often in residence).

In terms of the worldwide Church, the Archbishop of Canterbury has always had the lead role in the fellowship of international Churches known now as the Global Anglican Communion of Churches. In the last forty years he has increasingly been known as “the first instrument of unity” (where “instrument” means “a person who is made use of” for a specific purpose). Further, the See (meaning “the place in which a cathedral church stands”) of Canterbury has been consistently referred to within Global Communion-talk as though this See is the only See in the mother Church of the Communion, the ecclesia anglicana. But it is not! Perhaps you remember name the place where the man whom we now call “Constantine the Great” began his journey to Rome in the early fourth century. It was York and here is also, as we noted above, is one of the two Sees of the Church of England.

But is there any way that the See and province of York is specifically or distinctly associated with the very definition of the Global Anglican Communion of Churches? That is, other than being a half of the Church of England, which as a whole entity is obviously in that Communion as the Mother Church? Yes there is!

For the answer we turn to The Revised Catechism (1962) a revision of the Catechism in The Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England. It is important to note that this Catechism was published before the beginnings of the move to new modern liturgy, to so-called contemporary language for language, and to the expansion of the Anglican Family of Churches in the 1970s and following. It belongs to the pre-modern reality of the ecclesia anglicana. Further, it was composed by a Commission set up by both Archbishops, and it was authorized in January 1962 for seven years use by the Convocations of Canterbury and York (who met together as a governing body before the arrival of the Synod of the Church of England a little later).

Obviously there is nothing in the original Catechism of 1662 about the Anglican Communion for it did not exist; and it is not mentioned in revived Catechisms of Canada and other provinces; however, in that of England and Wales 1962 it it was a topic about which those being confirmed ought to be informed. Thus there is this basic question followed by a revealing answer:

“What is the Anglican Communion?

“The Anglican Communion is a family of Churches within the universal Church of Christ, maintaining apostolic doctrine and order and in full communion with one another and with the Sees of Canterbury and York.”

Not surprisingly a Commission representing the province of York as well as Canterbury would and should include “in full communion with the See of York.” And the Church of England, let us not forget, is one Church with two provinces, and both are provinces in the full ecclesial and theological meaning of the word “province.”

Regrettably after the revolutionary 1960s and early 1970s, in which the Anglican Way changed much, especially in the West, “full communion with York” got apparently forgotten, and the new entrants into the global Anglican Communion, usually from the previous British colonies, were not told about it. They simply learned that the Archbishop of Canterbury is the primary instrument (an odd word for most of them) of unity. And this they accepted seemingly without much question until the new question of the new millennium arose with vengeance—which is a story that has often been told recently and need not be repeated here.

I have one more thing to say about Yorkshire..

As one who was born near the city of York, and who was ordained deacon and priest in the province of York, I protest about the demise of York from the Anglican Communion pedigree! I dream of what could be achieved if from the 1970s York could have been designated the Secondary Instrument of Union of the Anglican Communion, with special responsibility for convening and chairing the Primates’ Meeting on a regular basis!


The Revd Dr Peter Toon October 11, 2008.