Tribute to Dr. Peter Toon
Peter was my comrade in arms, guide, counsellor, and dear friend for upwards of 20 years. I owe him much personally. But it is his contribution to the Anglican Way of reformed Catholicism, particularly in North America and Australia which concerns us all. The Prayer Book as the principal formulary and root of the Anglican Way was at the heart of his message. Indeed it would not be saying too much to observe that there would be no Prayer Book cause in North America without his tenacious, dedicated, learned contribution. Peter shone like a searchlight through the fog of ignorance, amnesia, wishful and selective thinking , the muddled motives and petty jealousies that surround the supposedly orthodox Anglican forces in North America, Australia and even in England. His incisive mind and clarity of expression served us all so well, even those of us who were made uncomfortable thereby.
Peter was determined to understand and to engage modern North American life and society. His analyses remain a tremendous gift to us who are left to fight on for the Anglican Way. Not for Peter was the Anglican Way a retreat into some romanticised, enchanted world of faux mediaevelism. Peter’s faith was a living, driving thing, and in him one got a real sense that our God is a flaming fire. His profound humility never lessened the urgency with which he worked, and wrote. A master of terse, nervous English he could address complex issues in simple direct terms in a very brief span. We shall not see his like again. He was God’s gift, and his writings are a treasure trove to be rediscovered and put to use by succeeding generations.
Generosity of spirit attended Peter in all his work and life. Never did he resort to ad hominem attacks on opponents in argument. His tenderness to some of his antagonists was extraordinary, though his life was marked by adversities and betrayals, by humiliations at the hands of those he thought were allies, and by slights, sneers and condescension on the part of those who were in every respect his inferiors, that would have provoked a lesser man to sarcasm and worse. Never was he bitter. Peter remains to us all an ensample of emulation of our Lord’s life and teaching. Peter lived the petitions in so many of the Collects he delighted to expound to our benefit in his weekly commentaries on the Eucharistic lectionary.
We are all so much the poorer for Peter’s personal absence from us and from the end of his earthly ministry. But of him we can say with confidence: “May he rest in peace; and rise in glory”. In his memory we must all “press on”.
Graham Eglington, former National Director of the Prayer Book Society of Canada