Sunday, December 30, 2001

Circumcision of flesh & spirit -- for January 1st and for all 2002

The traditional English Collect for the feast of the Circumcision & Naming of Jesus on January 1st moves quickly from the historical fact of the circumcising of the infant Jesus on the 8th day of his human existence to the need and duty of his disciples, female and male, to be circumcised spiritually.

The content of the Collect was suggested by the words of “A Benediction on the Octave of the Lord” (=eighth day after Christmas Day) in the Sacramentary of Gregory I. Translated from the Latin this reads:

“Almighty God, whose only Son on this day underwent bodily circumcision, that he might not break the Law which he had come to fulfill, purify your minds from all incentives to vice by spiritual circumcision, and pour into you his own blessing. Amen.”

Thus in 1549 Cranmer produced for The Book of Common Prayer the Collect for the Circumcision:

Almighty God, who madest thy blessed Son to be circumcised, and obedient to the law for man: Grant us the true circumcision of thy Spirit; that our hearts and all our members, being mortified from all worldly and carnal lusts, we may in all things obey thy blessed will; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord.”

The scriptural passages in mind here were of course Luke 2:15-21 and Paul’s teaching on baptism and spiritual circumcision in Romans 2-4 & Colossians 2.

Later the Collect was amended to read “circumcision of the Spirit”.

When did you last hear a sermon on the Pauline teaching of spiritual circumcision?

Or when did you last hear a sermon on the submission by Jesus to the Law of Moses as a necessary part of his vocation to be the Messiah of Israel and Redeemer of the world?

Or when did you last hear a sermon on the shedding of the blood of Jesus at his circumcision and the connection thereby with his shedding of his blood on the Cross for us and for our salvation?

Or when did you last hear a sermon on the meaning of the Name of JESUS and the connection of this Name with the act of fleshly circumcision?

Finally why not ask your bishop or priest to use the Benediction given above on January lst and/or the following Sunday?

The Rev’d Dr Peter Toon the Sunday after Christmas 2001

The Revd. Dr. Peter Toon

Christ Church Rectory
Hot Lane, Biddulph Moor
Stoke-on-Trent ST8 7HP

Saturday, December 29, 2001

The Incarnate God is circumcised – A MESSAGE FOR NEW YEAR’S DAY IN THE SECULAR YEAR

“On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived” (Luke 2:20).

The shepherds called the male child in the manger “the Messiah, the Lord and the Saviour” but not Jesus. The Incarnate Son of the Father had no name until he began to fulfill the Law of Moses and was circumcised on the eighth day after his birth. Then the Name chosen for him by heaven, by the almighty and eternal Father himself, and revealed to Joseph his adoptive father, was given to him.

In the Gospels, the Incarnate Son is called JESUS around 600 times – in contrast he is called Jesus Christ only 4 times (but of course in the Epistles he is often called Jesus the Christ)

The Name of Jesus is the perfect Name for the One who is sent to be the Messiah of Israel and the Saviour of the world. Let us examine it briefly.

First of all, for the Jew in the days of Joseph & Mary, JESUS was a reasonably common name. It is in fact the Greek form by which three Hebrew and Old Testament names are presented – “Joshua” (Exodus 17:10); Jehoshua (Zechariah 3:1) and Jeshua (Nehemiah 7:7). In what we call the Apocrypha there is a book called “Ecclesiasticus” and its author is “Jesus the son of Sirach.” In the New Testament we find “Jesus Justus” (Colossians 4:11) and “Bar-Jesus” (Acts 13:6). From other sources than the Bible we also know that “Jesus” was a common name.

The fact that Jesus was a common name proclaims to us that the Incarnate Son of the Father truly became one of us, belonging truly to common humanity, bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh. The name JESUS reminds us that the eternal Son/Word truly became flesh/human.

In the second place, the name of JESUS is a highly significant and symbolic Name. It is in both Hebrew (the language of the Jews) and Greek (the language of the Roman Empire) a one-word summary and statement of the identity and work of the Incarnate Son of the Father.

In Hebrew “Joshua” and “Jehoshua” mean “the LORD is my help/rescue” or “the help of the Lord”. The angel told Joseph that he should give to Mary’s Son and his adoptive son, the name of JESUS “for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Thus JESUS is the Saviour & Redeemer sent from the LORD [Jehovah/Yahweh] who will rescue his people from their sins and from the clutch of the devil.

In Greek, it was usual to connect in sound the word Jesus [iesous] with the verb “iasthai” which means “to heal”. Thus JESUS meant for many “the Healer” and was proclaimed as the physician of soul and body and the one who cured spiritual and physical and mental sickness.

The fact that Jesus was a name with built in meaning points to both his real and full identity and to his vocation given him by the Father.

When the Name of Jesus is joined to the titles that belong to him then he is Jesus the Christ, the Lord, the Saviour & the Son, and it is this Person with two natures [divine and human] whom we serve and adore.

In the CHURCH YEAR the first day of January [now in the West the first day of the secular year] is the Feast Day when the Church remembers both his circumcision and his naming for these two are joined together in the record of the biblical text (Luke 2:20).

In The Book of Common Prayer (1662/1928) the words of the Collect are:

“Almighty God, who madest thy blessed Son to be circumcised, and obedient to the law for man: Grant us the true circumcision of the Spirit; that, our hearts, and all our members, being mortified from all wordly & carnal lusts, we may in all things obey thy blessed will; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Here the emphasis is upon the fact of the circumcision of Jesus, his shedding of blood for us and his submission to the Torah, and then the fact that for us, as believers in Jesus, circumcision is (as the apostle Paul explains) spiritual and moral. But his Name is not mentioned.

We may note that this Collect is not popular at New Year celebrations!

In the American Episcopal 1979 Prayer Book the Collect is as follows:

“Eternal Father, who didst give to thine incarnate Son the holy name of Jesus to be a sign of our salvation: Plant in every heart, we beseech thee, the love of him who is the Savior of the world, even our Lord Jesus Christ:…..”

Here the emphasis is upon the Name of Jesus and its meaning but there is no reference to his circumcision for us.

This Collect is less offensive at New Year celebrations!

Happily in the new “Common Worship” of the Church of England the name of the Festival is “the Naming and Circumcision of Jesus” and the Collect [which could be improved] reads:

“Almighty God, whose blessed Son was circumcised in obedience to the law for our sake and given the Name that is above every name; give us grace faithfully to bear his Name and to worship him in the freedom of the Spirit and to proclaim him as the Saviour of the world…”


(On a snowy Saturday morning, December 29, 2001, the Revd Dr Peter Toon, )

The Revd. Dr. Peter Toon
Christ Church Rectory
Hot Lane, Biddulph Moor
Stoke-on-Trent ST8 7HP
The Innocents' Day

December 28th is the day formerly called "Childermas Day" and has been observed since the fifth century by the Church. In medieval times the mournful nature of the Day was reflected in the use of Black Vestments and muffled peals of bells.

The Gospel is obviously Matthew 2:13-18 which tells of the slaughter by Herod of children of two years and younger and the escape by Joseph, Mary and JESUS to Egypt.

The Epistle, Revelation 14:1-5, speaks of the 144,000 who were redeemed and are the firstfruits amongs the Christian saints. Apparently, some folks in the Middle Ages did equate the 144,000 with the number of children killed by Herod, especially because of the words, "and in their mouth was found no guilt; for they are without fault before the throne of God" (v.5)

Today it is possible to use the slaughtered, innocent children of Bethlehem and its environs as a symbol of the cruel and vicious treatment of other children in the world. Naturally, the killing of thousands in the womb through abortion is a natural application by devout Christians.

However the Collect for this day points to the glorifying of God in the death as martyrs of the innocent babes and then applies the message to all believers.

"O Almighty God, who out of the mouths of babes and sucklings has ordained strength, and madest infants to glorify thee by their deaths; Mortify and kill all vices in us, and so strengthen us by thy grace, that by the innocency of our lives, and constancy of our faith even unto death, we may glorify thy holu Name, through Jesus Christ our Lord."

Thus the relation of the Incarnation of the Son of God to his passion and death and then the vocation of his disciples to be witnesses and martyrs for him are brought before our minds and sink into our hearts during this Christmas week.

There is a rather large gap between the general merriment and secularization of the season and the Christmas call to witness and martyrdom for the sake of the INFANT of Bethlehem who had to flee from martyrdom in order to be the Messiah and become a Martyr thirty years later in Jerusalem, a few miles from Bethlehem.

December 28, 2001

The Revd. Dr. Peter Toon
Christ Church Rectory
Hot Lane, Biddulph Moor
Stoke-on-Trent ST8 7HP

Thursday, December 27, 2001

St John, Apostle & Evangelist [Dec 27]

During the Christmas Festival we heard read the majestic and poetic Prologue of the Gospel according to St John. We heard his statement concerning the Incarnation of the only begotten of the Father. “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father) full of grace and truth.”

Today, appropriately, two days from the Feast of the Nativity, is the Feast Day of the beloved disciple (see the Gospel for today John 21:19ff.), John apostle and evangelist, who was given by his Lord long years to propagate and meditate upon the Gospel of the Father concerning His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Collect for this day, based upon a very ancient one from the 6th century or earlier, has within it the theme of Light, for both in the Gospel of John and in the Letters of John in the New Testament, Light is a major theme. Jesus is himself the Light of the world according to the Gospel, and also, as the Epistle declares, “God [the Father] is Light” [1 John 1:1ff.]

“Merciful Lord [the Father], we beseech thee to cast thy bright beams of light upon the Church, that it being illuminated by the doctrine of thy blessed Apostle and Evangelist Saint John, may so walk in the light of thy truth, that it may at length attain to life everlasting; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

The Church of God is called to walk in the light of God’s revealed truth that it/she may attain unto the light of everlasting life.

Modern forms of the Collect (as in the English “Common Worship” of 2001) have changed the second “it” to “we” [“we may so walk…”] in an effort to make it more relevant to people today so that they think of it as applying to them. Whether this is necessary is debatable for it loses the full sense that the Body of Christ is not only one people but also one unit that can be spoken of in the singular as the Bride of Christ, the Household of God, and so on.

But the main point is that the Church of God, all its members both clergy and laity, allow the Light of God the Holy Trinity to illuminate and enlighten their minds and hearts as they read the inspired Gospel and Epistles of John, the beloved disciple.

7 a.m. Dec 27th

The Revd. Dr. Peter Toon
Christ Church Rectory
Hot Lane, Biddulph Moor
Stoke-on-Trent ST8 7HP
Stephen the Martyr

26 December is a public holiday in Great Britain. But not because of St Stephen the Martyr whom the Church commemorates. The holiday is Boxing Day to open the boxes given at Christmas! It is a day when churches in the main are locked for the people are out at the "sales."

What is the connection between the Incarnation of the only-begotten Son of the Father and his birth from Mary the pure Virgin, which we celebrated yesterday, the 25th December, and the Saint's Day we call SAINT STEPHEN'S DAY?

Stephen was the first Christian martyr, the witness for the Gospel of the Father concerning His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who was actually
put to death because of that witness. Thus the Epistle for this Day is
from Acts 7:55-60 where we read that Stephen had a vision of the exalted Lord Jesus and that his accusers stoned him to death. But as they stoned him he prayed to the Lord Jesus and asked forgiveness for his killers.

Jesus, the Messiah Saviour and Lord, was born in order to live and then to die as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Thus He shed his blood for the world, first a drop when he was circumcised a week after his birth (see the Feast of the Circumcision, Jan 1st) and then much when crucified. Stephen likewise shed his blood, not to atone for our sin, for that his Lord had already done, but to witness to and for his Lord and to begin that holy process where the blood of the martyrs is the seed from which the Church of God grows.

The Collect for this Day closely follows the information given in the Acts of the Apostles 7:55ff.: and it is addressed directly to the exalted Lord Jesus Christ:

"Grant, O Lord, that in all our sufferings here upon earth, for the testimony of thy truth, we may steadfastly look up to heaven and by faith behold the glory that shall be revealed; and being filled with thy Holy Ghost, may learn to love and bless our persecutors, by the example of thy first Martyr Saint Stephen, who prayed for his murderers to thee, O blessed Jesus, who standest at the right hand of God to succour all those that suffer for thee, our only Mediator and Advocate."

There is no expansion of Christianity in the present world without the witnessing that is prepared to go all the way and lay down its life for the Lord. And thanks be to God the Father such Faith exists in this world and is operative today. However, it is highly probable that much that goes by the name of Christian Faith in the old-line/main-line denominations of America and Europe (not to mention in the abundance of more recent "churches") has little or no connection with the Faith to which Stephen was committed. Western Christianity is so often merely the accommodation of aspects of the Christian inheritance to the secularist western society and culture to produce a comfortable form of religion.

So the feast of this day, December, 26, reminds us what truly is the Christian Faith and what is our calling as baptized believers - to be witnesses which may mean to be martyrs.

December 26 2001

The Revd. Dr. Peter Toon
Christ Church Rectory
Hot Lane, Biddulph Moor
Stoke-on-Trent ST8 7HP

Saturday, December 22, 2001

The traditional Collect for Christmas-Day, the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord, in the BCP 1662 reads:

“Almighty God, who hast given us thy only-begotten Son to take our nature upon him, and as at this time to be born of a pure Virgin: Grant that we being regenerate, and made thy children by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by thy Holy Spirit: through the same our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Spirit, ever one God, world without end.Amen.”

Originally in the BCP 1549, the very first edition of the BCP, it read “this day to be born of a pure Virgin” for it was intended for Christmas Day only. Later, as it was used during the week after Christmas it was changed to “as at this time to be born of a pure Virgin.”

What we seem to have lost, I think, in much modern Anglican worship is the sense of living within what I may call liturgical time and within the Church Year. Only as we so live, think, pray and meditate can we really pray meaningfully the Christmas Collect(s).

That is, the Collect only makes full sense if, and only if, during the season of Advent we have entered into the preparation for the Birth & Coming of the Messiah through our association in reading, meditating and praying with the righteous remnant of Israel, particularly John the Baptist. In Liturgical time, as contrasted with chronological or regular time, we place ourselves in the sphere of the Holy Spirit within God’s historical revelation and acts of redemption and move with Him through them. And with the righteous in Israel we look for the Advent of the Messiah. Doing so we can then share the joy of the shepherds, of Mary and Joseph, and of Simeon and Anna.

Thus on Christmas Eve/Day we can truly exclaim in joy that the Messiah is born [as also on Easter Day we can shout with more joy that he is risen from the dead, and on Pentecost we can rejoice in the gift of the indwelling and empowering Holy Spirit].

Further, as the words of the Collect remind us we can rejoice that because of the Incarnation of the only Son of the almighty Father there can be and is regeneration for man.

The second Collect for Christmas found in the BCP 1549 and the American BCP 1928 but not in the BCP 1662 reads:

“God [the Father], which makest us glad with the yearly remembrance of the birth of thy only Son; grant that as we joyfully receive him as our Redeemer, so we may with sure confidence behold him, when he shall come to be our Judge, who liveth and reigneth…”

Once again a careful noting of these words makes us realize again that fully to experience that of which they speak we need to be “in the Spirit” moving with the Lord God in his acts of revelation and redemption in ancient Israel so that the Incarnation is the cause for great joy – Glory to God in the highest!—and in the light of the First Coming we live in expectation of the Second! At Christmas we “receive him as our Redeemer” both within Liturgical Time and also as the Lord of the present time who redeems us now because he lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Ghost, one God.

The Rev’d Dr Peter Toon December 22, 2001

The Revd. Dr. Peter Toon
Christ Church Rectory
Hot Lane, Biddulph Moor
Stoke-on-Trent ST8 7HP

Friday, December 21, 2001


Christmas Eve & Christmas Day, a meditation for

Let us seek to enter into the experience of the shepherds who were out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night (Luke 2:8ff.).

Let us suppose that they were employed by the Temple in nearby Jerusalem to provide lambs for the sacrifices required by the Law of Moses in order for the people to worship and serve the Lord God according to his declared will. Let us further suppose that they were pious Jews who were looking for the advent of the Messiah.

All of a sudden the blackness of the night was replaced by brilliant light and the presence of a messenger from heaven. They were filled with amazement and fear for they knew that they were in the near presence of the God of their fathers, the holy and righteous Lord before whom all creatures tremble!

The shepherds did not know that already the greatest event in the history of Israel/Judaism had occurred not far away in the town of Bethlehem. The long expected Messiah of Israel had been born.

So the proclamation by the angel was “NEWS of a great JOY”! “Be not afraid; for behold I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you [the descendants of Abraham] is born this day in the city of David [Bethlehem] a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.”

Heaven declares that the Messiah [the Christ] is born and that he is both Saviour and Lord. As such he is given titles and a work that belong to the Lord God himself! This Messiah is no mere man!

Then the shepherds are instructed to go and find the babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger. (Bethlehem was a small town with only a few inns and so to find a new born babe in the stable of one of the inns was not a difficult task.)

But before the men could arrange for the safety of their sheep and begin their walk down the hill into Bethlehem, they were further amazed by the granting to them of a wonderful vision into heaven.

What were they given to see? A sight of the heavenly choir of angels and archangels, cherubim and seraphim praising the LORD God in song with words which were addressed first to God himself and then to the world. Heaven was celebrating the Incarnation of the Son of God, the entering into space and time of the Messiah, the Saviour and the Lord.

What we may call the benediction of the heavenly choir expressed that which had occurred – God had sent forth his only-begotten Son. Thus, Praise be to the Lord God and Peace [Shalom] to his covenant people.

To God in the highest, GLORY.
To his people on earth, PEACE.

[We may recall that the Church has expanded this angelic benediction into the Canticle that we call the Gloria.]

When they had recovered from this overwhelming experience, the shepherds set off to see with their own eyes the One who brings Peace and is the Saviour, Lord and Messiah. And finding the babe, they told Mary and Joseph what the angel had declared to them.

Mary, the mother of the Lord, Peacebringer and Saviour “kept all these things in her heart and pondered them.” Thereby she sets for us an example of constant meditation and faithfulness.

Her meditation was of the personhood, nature, vocation and character of her Son, who is also God’s Son for he is the Son of God incarnate: One Person made known in two natures, divine and human. And Mary is Theotokos, the birthgiver [mother] of God, the Son.

Let us join with the heavenly choir to glorify God the Holy Trinity and to exalt his saving and peacemaking work on earth amongst men.

The Rev’d Dr. Peter Toon Dec 20, 2001

The Revd. Dr. Peter Toon
Christ Church Rectory
Hot Lane, Biddulph Moor
Stoke-on-Trent ST8 7HP
Do we need to observe those three Saints' Days immediately after Christmas?

For clergymen [clergypersons] and many lay persons the latter part of Advent together with Christmas Eve & Christmas Day are very busy times. Thus they tend to take it easy in terms of attending public services after the last service on Christmas Day. If they are in Great Britain they enjoy the public holiday known as Boxing Day (26th) and keep far away from their parish church.

Yet in the Church Calendar there are three major Saints' Days immediately following the festival of THE NATIVITY OF OUR LORD. These are St Stephen's Day, St John the Evangelist's Day, and The Innocents' Day, on the 26, 27, & 28 December.

It has long been held that these three Days illustrate the triple kind of martyrdom endured by God's saints -- St Stephen in will and deed; St John in will; Holy Innocents in deed.

It has also been held that these days are so placed so as to emphasize the honor due to Stephen as the first martyr, to John's special friendship with the Lord Jesus, and to the intimate connection of the death of the Innocents with the birth of the Saviour.

The problem, modern clergy have to face, is that these Days are not moveable and are long established in the Church Year. Clergy must keep them and if they do they will probably be joined at least by some of the faithful laity.

Therefore, in larger parishes there should be on each of the three days a full service of Holy Communion where the appointed Epistle and Gospel for each Day are used. In smaller parishes, what used to be called Ante-Communion [the first half of the Order for Holy Communion from the BCP], can be read by the clergyman in church whether he be alone or another with him.

That is, in one appropriate way or another the Church should remember the first martyr, the beloved disciple, and the holy innocents, and do so in relation to the Incarnation of the Lord Jesus. In each case, it will be found that an aspect of the meaning and purpose of the Incarnation of the only-begotten Son of the Father will become the clearer and union with him by grace will become the more dearer.

Thus not to keep these days will be to fail in one's duty and also to miss out spiritually on what is gained from these means of grace.

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon
December 21,2001

The Revd. Dr. Peter Toon
Christ Church Rectory
Hot Lane, Biddulph Moor
Stoke-on-Trent ST8 7HP

Thursday, December 20, 2001

A Pre-Christmas Meditation

“In the fullness of time, God sent forth his Son, born under the law…”[Galatians 4:3]

Since the Blessed Holy Trinity, the LORD God, is the Ruler and Guide of human history, then we should expect that the Incarnation of the Second Person of that Glorious Trinity would become incarnate at the right time in that history. So the Church confesses that the sending forth from eternity by the Almighty Father of the only-begotten Son into space and in the fullness of time resulted in the conception of the human nature of this Son by the Virgin Mary and the birth from her of the Incarnate Son of God, who is one Person made known in two natures, Son of God and Son of Mary.

Having made such a confession of faith, it is now possible to proceed by identifying some of the conditions on earth that made the time to be right for both Jew and Gentile for the Incarnation of the Son of God to occur.

In terms of the Jews, who were under the “old covenant” or “the Mosaic Covenant” or “under Law/Torah”, time was needed for the revelation and commandments of the Law to do their work. The testimony of the sages, psalmists and prophets sent and inspired by the Lord God had to be made and recorded. The experience of living under the Torah had to occur so that a people, with their holy writings, had been taught to worship and confess the one, true and living Lord God, to acknowledge his righteousness and glory, to confess and make atonement for its sins, and to walk in his ways and commandments. All had to be in place so that the Messiah, when manifested, could fulfill the Law and the Prophets, complete the revelation already given, and bring to their climax the saving purposes of God for the Jews and the world. Finally, there had to be a righteous remnant of the covenant people who were actively and piously looking for the coming of the Messiah. And when Elizabeth conceived John and Mary conceived Jesus, there was such a remnant and the time was ripe, God’s time had fully come.

To identify those conditions within the Gentile world that made the time to be ripe and right for God’s revealing and reconcilingaction is more speculative. But we can note the following:

The presence of the Jewish synagogue in the major cities of the Roman Empire and the teaching from it of belief in One God, who actually desires to be in communion with man and who requires righteous behavior of man. This Jewish monotheism stood in marked contrast to the polytheism of the day. We note that the Christian Gospel was first preached in the synagogues of the Gentile world before being proclaimed in homes and on the streets.

The Roman Peace allowing movement of persons and ideas and along with the Peace the Roman Roads, which linked all the major cities of the Near East and Mediterranean world. Apostles and evangelists used these to great advantage. Further, we may note that it was because of the Roman census required by Augustus that Joseph and Mary had to go to Bethlehem and because of this they were in the place that Jewish prophecy had identified as the birthplace of the Messiah.

The general use of the Greek language allowing a message to be quickly disseminated by word and in writing in the Roman Empire. The New Testament was written in Greek!

Jesus, the Word made flesh [to use St John’s expression], was certainly the Saviour of the whole world but in terms of his humanity he was born as the son of Mary, a Jewish woman, and thus was born “under the Law” of Moses, the Torah. Jesus was a Jew and the purpose of his presence in Palestine was “to redeem those born under the law” [Jews]. However, Gentiles rightly confess that Jesus was first the Jewish Messiah and then by fulfilling this Role was also the Saviour of the whole world. It was the Father’s will who sent him that the two roles should be in fact one in terms of achievement.


· GOD our Father, who makest us glad with the yearly remembrance of the birth of thine only Son, Jesus Christ; Grant that as we joyfully receive him for our Redeemer, so we may with sure confidence behold him when he shall come to be our Judge, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.

The Revd Dr Peter Toon Dec 21 2001

The Revd. Dr. Peter Toon
Christ Church Rectory
Hot Lane, Biddulph Moor
Stoke-on-Trent ST8 7HP

Wednesday, December 19, 2001

How a poor translation of the Creed has undermined the received Church doctrine of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Creeds, the Apostles’ & Nicene, proclaim, teach and confess the doctrine of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. A major part of that sound doctrine is the statement as to the full identity of Jesus of Nazareth, and included in this is the statement of his human origin.

In the traditional English translations of these two Creeds we have the words: “who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary” and “and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man.”

When we turn to the English translation which has been used widely by Roman Catholics, Anglicans etc, we find that there is inserted into both the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds the words “the power of” so that the conception in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary is said to be “by the power of the Holy Spirit” in contrast to “by the Holy Spirit.”

And in the addition of this expression “by the power of” is the beginnings of error and heresy.

Each and every conception by a female is “by the power of the Holy Spirit” who energizes the laws or workings of nature. Yet what has been and is claimed of the conception by the Virgin Mary is that it was not according to the laws or the normal working of nature. It was a new creation, a unique act of God, a supernatural event wherein a virgin conceived a boy child. And it occurred first because the Virgin was open to God’s grace and will and secondly because the Holy Ghost acted directly, individually and personally (not via the laws of creation) to cause the Virgin to conceive and to ensure that her conception was of the human nature belonging to the eternal and only-begotten Son of the Father. Thereby God the Father sent his Son into the world and this Son, theWord/Logos, was made flesh and dwelt amongst men. And thereby Mary became in the words of the Fathers, “Theotokos”, the birth-giving of God [the Son].

Thus the original Latin and the original Greek of these two Creeds have no words in them that could possibly be translated “by the power of”. These words in modern English renderings were additions made by liberal Roman Catholic translators in the 1970s because they wanted to make the conception and birth of Jesus to be something less than the full and complete Incarnation of the eternal Son of the everlasting Father almighty. They wanted the conception and birth to be remarkable (like that of John the Baptist and Samuel and Jacob) but not virginal.

It is perhaps necessary to note that the words of the angel in Luke 1:35, “…and the Power of the Most High will overshadow you” make use of a Name for the Lord God and that Name is “Power of the Most High.” It is a reference to the Shekinah Presence of the Lord overshadowing her as did the holy Cloud in the O.T. come down on the Tabernacle. Thus this expression is not a justification for erroneous translating of the Creed.

Happily in the vernacular translations into other European languages in the 1970s these words were not added and in the latest ecumenical efforts to translate the Creeds into English the expression “by the power of” has not been included.

This said, many people still use the two Creeds wherein is the erroneous translation and in doing so are constantly open to receiving a less than adequate understanding and view of the human origins of the Lord Jesus Christ.

At Christmas when the Church proclaims the Incarnation of the Son of the Father it is most important that she rightly stated the true identity and origins of that Son.

The Rev’d Dr. Peter Toon December 19,2001

Friday, December 14, 2001

THE THIRD SUNDAY IN ADVENT—The Two Comings of the Lord Jesus

In the Eucharistic Lectionary of THE BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER (1662) the Collect for this day is addressed to the Lord Jesus “who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end.”

It begins, “O LORD Jesu Christ, who at thy first coming didst send thy messenger to prepare thy way before thee:…” The messenger was John the Baptist and thus the Gospel reading (Matthew 11:2ff.) records Jesus’ estimate of John as “more than a prophet” for he was also the herald of the long-expected Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth.

The Collect proceeds by making a petition for the present situation within the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church of God the Father and created by the saving work of the same Lord Jesus Christ. “Grant that the ministers and stewards of thy mysteries may likewise 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…”

The Church of God lives by faith in the Son of God, who having been exalted into heaven will come again to the earth to judge the living and the dead, and thereby bring to a glorious conclusion the purposes of God with mankind in space and time. Evangelists and Pastors, Bishops, Presbyters and Deacons, are the ministers and stewards of the Mysteries of Christ (His Gospel, His Gospel Sacraments), and the people of God are to pray that these ordained persons in particular truly make use of these Mysteries so that they shall prepare the way of the Lord amongst his people for His second Advent, even as John the Baptizer prepared the Jewish people for the first Advent of the Messiah.

We know that the state of true preparation of the way of the Lord in Judaism, despite the heroic witness of John, was not as God desired. We pray that the preparation in the Church of the Second Advent will be better and will be pleasing to God the Father and thus truly beneficial for mankind.

This petition reminds us that in Advent, while we prepare liturgically for the celebration of the First Advent of the Incarnate Son of the Father, we also in heart and mind prepare practically for the Second Advent of the same Son, now exalted at the right hand of the Father. Thus the Church is called to watch and pray, and at no time more specifically than in Advent.

A final thought for meditation. It is only those who are in moral and spiritual preparation for the Second Advent of the Lord Jesus Christ who can truly enter fully into the liturgical preparation for Christmas (that is of waiting with the pious remnant in ancient Israel/Judaism for the arrival of the Messiah and then with Simeon and Anna and pious shepherds greeting him with JOY).

The Revd Dr Peter Toon,
Dec 14 2001

The Revd. Dr. Peter Toon
Christ Church Rectory
Hot Lane, Biddulph Moor
Stoke-on-Trent ST8 7HP

Wednesday, November 28, 2001


In the traditional service of holy matrimony of The Book of Common Prayer [1549-1662], these words said by the man, after the solemn promises have been made both by the man and woman, are most significant:

“With this ring, I thee wed, with my body I thee worship, and with all my worldly goods, I thee endow.”

Note – “I thee wed” & “I thee worship” & “I thee endow.”

Here the object comes between the subject and the verb (as in French or
Italian) and is a structure that is uncommon in English of any period. One would expect in normal English “I wed thee” & “I worship thee” & “I endow thee.”

Why did Cranmer choose this odd form of the English sentence in his writing/editing of the Service of Holy Matrimony?

Apparently, because he did not merely want to identify & describe what was happening in the marriage but rather to provide a form actually to perform & to enact the marriage.

The unusual order of words used by the husband for this “till death do us part” commitment & union has two specific merits --- first, there is the actual solemnity of the words for the unique moment, and secondly, the order of the words “I thee wed” tends to put equal stress on each word when spoken. And this is good and proper for an equal stress on each word brings together the three elements of the act of bodily union in/with an equal significance (man, woman and being wed).

[Note that the 1928 BCP of the ECUSA retained the “I thee wed” even though it did not retain either the “I thee worship” (because the word no longer is used of a human relation) or the “I thee endow” (because of modern property laws etc.).]

The Rev’d Dr Peter Toon (with thanks to Professor Andor Gomme for the above insight).

November 25, 2001

Monday, November 26, 2001


“Woe to the Shepherds who destroy the sheep and scatter the sheep of my pasture”

These words, from the first Lesson [Jeremiah 23:1] in the ECUSA Lectionary for the last Sunday before Advent, have been ringing in my ears since I first heard them today. [It is of interest that the Epistle reading in the classic BCP Lectionary for this same Sunday is also from Jeremiah 23, but begins at verse 5 and so does not contain the above words.]

As I prepare to leave canonical residence in the diocese of Quincy in the ECUSA and move soon to Christ Church, Biddulph Moor, in the diocese of Lichfield in the Church of England, I cannot but think that these words apply very particularly as a word of the Lord today to the Bishops and clergy of the ECUSA, especially the Bishops.

The very name, The Episcopal Church, puts emphasis on the Episcopate and thus on each Episcopos [Bishop]. If the Bishops of the ECUSA fail to be what they are called to be then the whole Church suffers deeply for they are the chief pastors of the flock.

The content of the service for the consecration of a Bishop (whether in the ordinal of the classic BCP or in the 1979 prayer book) makes clear the high calling and onerous duty of each bishop to teach and safeguard the Faith, to care for the clergy and people, and to live in such a manner as to adorn the Gospel of Christ Jesus, the Chief Shepherd.

Unless my eyes deceive me and my mind wrongly interprets the empirical evidence, the clearest fact in regard to the ECUSA in my 11 years in the USA is that the Bishops have failed to be genuine pastors of the flock of Christ because they have failed to teach and guard the Faith, morals and divine order, and at the same time they have encouraged and abetted heresy, error and immorality.

They have rejected the authority of Holy Scripture over the Church; they have rejected the witness and guidance of holy Tradition in and over the Church [tradition in the dogma and teaching of the ecumenical Councils and in the classic Anglican Formularies]; they have accepted the dominant liberal, secularized, western view of human rights, sexuality, self-worth (self-expression etc.) and given to this human-centered ethos God-names and language of Zion reference. They have turned from Trinitarian Theism to forms of Unitarianism, panentheism and pantheism. And they have done this with their clergy and laity in the General Convention, in diocesan conventions and in their pastoral relations, letters and permissions.

The few bishops who have opposed some or all of this new episcopal agenda have not (it seems) declared themselves out of communion with their sisters and brethren and so are [whether they like it or not] participants in this general reality, and upon them the “woe” falls.

It needs to be noted that often these same bishops who claim to be “orthodox” have actually redefined orthodoxy to make its content significantly less than it has been in the life of the Church over many centuries. Further, some of them tend to allow in their own dioceses flagrant examples of clergy practicing the new Episcopalian religion and morality [immorality]. Thus the “woe” remains.

What applies to the chief shepherds of the ECUSA also applies to all the clergy – all of us -- for they/we share in the ethos and content. Woe to all the shepherds, woe to all of us under-shepherds. Being members of one society we all share in its disease and judgment.

Unless all the shepherds repent and embrace the Lord Jesus Christ in all his Advent glory and in all his Advent holiness, and humble themselves under the mighty hand of the LORD GOD, the Father almighty, then the WOE will be for each of us a judgment that sooner or later will cause us to tremble, really tremble…

How many people are starved, how many people have been scattered, how many are walking in the way towards hell, because of the failure of Shepherds to care for the flock for which Christ died!

I wish that I could state that ALL the Bishops (circa 104) of the Anglican Jurisdictions outside the ECUSA gave a clear and unambiguous portrait of godliness, sound teaching and good order. Regrettably, too many of them seem to be ruled by ideas and passions that do not adorn the Gospel of Christ. This said, there are some fine examples of bishops in these churches who genuinely care for the flock in terms of biblical standards, thinking not of their own promotion but that of the kingdom of heaven.

Having said all this, I cannot say that the Bishops of the Church of England are a lot more faithful, holy and well ordered than those of the ECUSA. But I have not been canonically resident in Britain for the last 11 years and have no near view.

What seems very clear to me is that if the Anglican Way is to survive in the West/North as a godly form of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, then it will be despite most of the Shepherds and not because of the Episcopate. Thus, the sheep must find ways to green pasture and to still waters on their own if they are to preserve the true faith and enter into life eternal. I hope and pray that they will do this and be the means in the divine providence of causing the Episcopate to repent!

The Revd Dr Peter Toon (Sunday before Advent, 2001)

Thursday, November 08, 2001

The Eleventh of the Eleventh

This coming Sunday will be November 11th. This date is engraved in the history of Europe for it is the day when the First World War ended and also the date since then when the dead of one and then two world wars have been remembered publicly by Church & State. In recent times in Great Britain the Remembrance has been moved to the Sunday nearest the 11th.

However, this year the 11th is a Sunday and so the Nation will keep a two minute silence at 11.a.m. Led by the Queen and Government in London, services will also be held at local memorials throughout the nation, as all keep the silence at 11.a.m. as an act of national unity in remembrance and thanksgiving.

Some of the most solemn moments of my life have been at such services in the 1970s-1980s when, surrounded by the military, the Guides, Scouts, British Legion etc., in small towns I have read out the names (a long list) of those who died in World War I and then (a shorter list) of those who died in World War II.

Because of the ongoing campaign (war) against terrorists and terrorism, and because the armed forces are being increasingly used in this dangerous activity, there will be for many present a special poignancy to this year’s Remembrance.

In the USA the tradition of keeping the 11th of the 11th is not as strong as in western Europe but this year, in the light of the campaign against terrorists/criminals and their evil deeds, it will be well for Americans to make a special effort to devote time to silence & remembrance, as well as to fervent prayer for the armed forces and their leaders as they are espeically active in the campaign against terrorism presently centered on Afghanistan.

In all our prayers and thoughts we need also to remember the innocent victims of war wherever they be and whatever be their backgrounds.

The Revd Dr Peter Toon November 8, 2001
ACNS 2750 - AUSTRALIA - 3 November 2001

Sydney Synod moves to forward lay and diaconal presidency at the Lord's Supper
By Margaret Rodgers

[Anglican Media Sydney] Sydney Synod passed resolutions on lay and diaconal administration (presidency) on Saturday 27 October. At the conclusion of the debate Archbishop Peter Jensen informed the Synod of his discussions on the issue with other Anglican leaders, including the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The first resolution requested the appointment of a Committee on lay and diaconal administration "to investigate the options, if any, consistent with law, that are available." The committee is "to report to back the next ordinary session of the Synod [2002] together with any appropriate legislation."

The second resolution requested the Sydney representatives to the General Synod to "promote a bill for a canon to permit a deacon to administer Holy Communion" when General Synod next meets in 2004.

Archbishop Jensen had previously indicated, in his Presidential Address, his own support of lay and diaconal administration in his Presidential Address, while at the same time saying it must "be legal."

"The theology of lay administration is linked to lay ministry and especially lay preaching, and flows naturally and properly from the theology of the Bible and our reformed heritage as it applies to the contemporary world," the Archbishop said. "Other dioceses have developed novelties such as local priests and extended communion to help with ministry.

"Lay administration, should it be legal, would be a contribution to the common task of bringing the gospel to Australia."

North Sydney Bishop-elect, Dr Glenn Davies and the Bishop of South Sydney, Robert Forsyth combined to argue the initial resolution before the Synod. Dr Davies stressed that the matter had been before the Sydney Synod since 1977, with six (6) reports from the Diocesan Doctrine Commission and five (5) other reports from Synod Committees. He was following on Archbishop Jensen's earlier reference to his astonishment at suggestions in Australian dioceses "that we {Sydney} wish to adopt this course as a sort of adolescent pay back aimed at the National Church for ordaining women."

Bishop Forsyth said that he didn't "come with much enthusiasm for lay and diaconal administration of holy communion", but he was most concerned "that any way forward must follow a constitutionally legal way to proceed.". Anything less, Bishop Forsyth said "would be unworthy of us and massively divisive here in this diocese."

This resolution received an overwhelming affirmative vote in the Synod, though it was not unanimous. The Rev Dr James MacPherson, Rector of Granville, argued that the work of the proposed committee "may have the
(unintended) effect of straining even further relationships within the Australian Church."

Ms Linda Hughes, lay representative from Mt Druitt parish, and Dr Chris Forbes brought the second motion calling for a canon for General Synod on diaconal presidency. Ms Hughes said that the Synod had always linked lay and diaconal administration and that it should consider diaconal administration in its own right.

"Diaconal administration at Holy Communion is the logical first step," Ms Hughes said. "We should have done it years ago."

This motion also received strong support from the Synod, though not without a lay representative from Christ Church St Laurence, a large Sydney city church, saying that such an act would require the calling of a worldwide ecumenical council.

After debate concluded, Archbishop Jensen informed Synod members of the discussions he had held with other diocesan bishops at the General Synod held in Brisbane last July. He said that there had been frank and courteous discussions, and that he had been able to present his opinions and hear from the other diocesans.

Dr Jensen also said that he had some initial correspondence from the Archbishop of Canterbury on the matter, and that he was glad to have commenced this dialogue.

Dr Davies' motion, was carried in the following form:

"Synod noting its own frequently expressed desire for lay and diaconal administration of Holy Communion and the Archbishop's comments that he wishes to find a constitutionally legal way to proceed, requests that the Standing Committee appoint a committee to investigate the options, if any, consistent with law, that are available and report back to the next ordinary session of the Synod together with any appropriate legislation."

Miss Hughes' motion, was carried in the following form:

"Synod requests that our representatives on General Synod, at the next session of the General Synod, promote a bill for a canon to permit a deacon to administer Holy Communion."

The ACNSlist is published by the Anglican Communion Office, London.

Wednesday, October 24, 2001

What is it that has made the USA a great nation?
A French philosopher, who toured the United States about 170 years ago, Alexis de Tocqueville, published his poignant observations. He said:

"I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers, and it was not there.

I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her fertile fields and boundless forests, and it was not there.

I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her rich mines and her vast world commerce, and it was not there.

I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her public school system and her institutions of learning, and it was not there.

I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her democratic congress and her matchless constitution, and it was not there.

Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power.

America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great."

Goodness as a fruit of the presence of the Holy Spirit in the believer and the church flows over into the basis of civil goodness and civil responsibility and duty.

Today, it would appear, many pulpits in the USA no longer “flame with righteousness” and do not exhort people to be perfect as God himself is perfect and holy as God himself is holy. Instead, what is likely to be presented is a lukewarm soup of self-help psychology mixed with shallow political liberalism, couched in the language of Zion and expressed in a jolly experientalism. The vibrant biblical theme of the Kingdom of God and the righteousness thereof is generally ignored or not appreciated by the clergy of today.

The war declared by terrorists on the USA in September & October has raised the level of public decency, cooperation and goodness and brought out the best in many American people.

How long will it last? And does the present “goodness” match the more solid “goodness” that De Tocqueville saw?

The Revd Dr Peter Toon Oct 24, 2001

Saturday, October 20, 2001


Collect for Trinity XIX

“O God, forasmuch as without thee we are not able to please thee; Mercifully grant that thy Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

English-speaking Christians have always found most difficult to accept – mentally and more especially practically – the truth contained in this Collect. That is why Pelagianism began as a British disease and has remained so – spreading wherever the Brits have gone!

The truth that we are not able to please God the Father in thought, word, attitude or deed unless He Himself, through Jesus Christ and by His Holy Spirit, is involved in helping, guiding, purifying and blessing us.

Or, the truth that our best and highest human achievements (for which we may be celebrated and decorated by human authority) are not acceptable to God as good works that please Him unless they are inspired by the Holy Ghost.

By grace are we saved through faith and both the grace and the faith are gifts from God. Only as we are united to the Son of God and in Him to the Father by the Holy Spirit are we in a state of salvation and acceptance with the Father.

Of ourselves we may think that we can truly believe unto salvation. Of ourselves we may think that we can do good works both to please God and to advance our own reputation. But if we so think we are sadly misguided, even though much modern religion may encourage us so to think.

Certainly we are called to believe, trust, be faithful, obey, worship the Holy Trinity in spirit and in truth, love the Lord our God, and love our neighbors. And this must be our daily decision, commitment and consecration. However, what we do has to be done consciously recognizing that we are always dependent on the presence of the Holy Ghost with us (which is another way of saying “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ with us”).

The error and spiritual condition that this Collect seeks to keep us from is found in all forms of “orthodox” Christianity – traditional Prayer Book religion, traditional Anglo-Catholic religion, modern evangelical charismatic religion and so on. It is found in all because it is in origin a condition of the human heart/soul -- a state of mind, that is particularly pleased to be in a culture that has much to say about self-worth, self-affirmation, self-determination, self-sufficiency and self-justification. And also pleased to be in a culture that values what we may call “religious experiences in community” and “individual spirituality” that cause one to feel good about oneself and the world and others.

This disease of the soul thus permeates everything from sermons to testimonies, from vocabulary used in church-talk to the words of choruses and hymns, from the hug at the passing of the peace to the hug at the church door, from internet messages to printed tracts, and from evangelistic, missionary work to social service. It may even be declared on the church notice board.

A good place to start to recognize the truth of this Collect, and begin to live by it, is Paul’s Letter to the Romans and the first eight chapters. Careful attention to his delineation of human nature before the holy, righteous God and to the portrayal of the work of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost for our salvation will help us see that before God in our naked humanity “there is none righteous, no not one” (3:10) – no one that is except the Incarnate Son, whose righteousness is reckoned unto those who believe on His Name and repent of their sin.

Certainly a Collect to pray daily….

The Revd Dr Peter Toon, October 19,2001

Wednesday, October 17, 2001


Almighty God, who calledst Luke the Physician, whose praise is in the Gospel, to be an Evangelist, and Physician of the soul: May it please thee that, by the wholesome medicines of the doctrine delivered by him, all the diseases of our soul may be healed; through the merits of thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. [BCP 1662]

Almighty God, who didst inspire thy servant Saint Luke the Physician, to set forth in the Gospel the love and healing power of thy Son; Manifest in thy Church the like power and love, to the healing of our bodies and our souls; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. [BCP 1928] ============================================================================

Two books of the New Testament come from the pen of Luke, the physician. He wrote the Gospel and the Acts as he was inspired by the Spirit of the Father and of the Son and thus his writings became part of the Canon of the New Testament.

Because he proclaimed the Gospel in his writing and as traveled with the apostle Paul, he is called an Evangelist. Not an apostle but an evangelist.

His was a physician by training and profession, but in becoming an Evangelist the healing that was uppermost in his mind and central in his vocation was God’s salvation which embraces the whole man, body, soul and spirit. He proclaimed that fullness of healing which is brought to completion with the resurrection of the body and eternal life in the kingdom of God of the age to come.

The EVANGEL (Gospel) that he records is good news from God the Father concerning His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and it is for all people, the Jew and Gentile, the poor and rich, male and female, young and old. It begins with the Incarnation of the Son of God and includes his ministry, precious death, glorious resurrection, and the sending of the Holy Spirit to create the people of the new covenant, the holy catholic Church. It ends with the continuing advance of the EVANGEL into Rome and to the ends of the earth.

This GOSPEL, though a message of joy, came into being through suffering and death [the passion & Cross of Jesus]; further, it is advanced in the world through witness that often requires and includes suffering and martyrdom.

The HEALING that is offered in the Gospel is not a quick fix for a bodily ailment or pain, but it is the curing of the diseases of the soul by the gift of the Holy Spirit in such a way that the healing power also energizes the body. For Luke there is no mere healing of the body as if a person is primarily a body meant for life only in this world. Rather, man is a whole being for whom healing by the Gospel begins in the soul/spirit and moves to include the body (in part in this life and in full at the general resurrection of the dead).

The emphasis in the Collect for St Luke’s Day in the BCP 1662 emphasizes that healing by the Gospel is of “all the diseases of the soul” by “the wholesome medicine of the Gospel.” Here we are faced with the possibility of being cured of that which can cause eternal damnation.

The emphasis of the 1928 BCP moves to the “healing of body and soul” and this tendency – the psychosomatic --- has accelerated in recent decades. Today the diseases of the soul identified now are often those that are identified and healed by psychotherapy. They seem to be less serious and less harmful diseases - in fact different -- than previous generations identified. The modern ones do not, it seems, cause a person to be damned, only to have an unhappy and confused life here in this world. And there seems to be little or no sense in the modern healing processes that full and complete healing of the body will be achieved only and finally by the resurrection of the body.

In the 1979 prayer book of the ECUSA St Luke is said to set forth “the love and healing power” of Jesus Christ. Of course he did, but only if we understand “Love” and “Healing” in ways that are uncommon today!

Perhaps the best way forward is to READ the Gospel of Luke and then to read the Acts of the Apostles (the two parts of his magnum opus) and after doing this to write down for our edification what Jesus and Peter and Paul, as recorded by Luke, actually said about Love, Healing, Salvation and so on! It may be an eye-opener and a soul-saver!

The Rev’d Dr. Peter Toon October 17,2001

(I ask my friends to compare this Letter with the statements issued by the ECUSA House of Bishops and its President...this Letter is clear and traditionally Christian while theirs were confused and based on post-modern religion using Christian terminology. I am reminded of the Gulf War when the then Presiding Bishop had nothing of value to say to the other President Bush!)


October 16, 2001
The Honorable George W. Bush
The President of the United States of America
The White House
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

Like all Americans, I have been reflecting a great deal on the Evil events of September 11, 2001, and about their immediate and long-term consequences. I write to thank you for the strong and wise leadership you and your administration have been providing, and to express my prayerful support for the multidimensional response to the terrorist attacks that you have been detailing for the American people.

Mr. President, you have rightly called these attacks acts of war. They are the most catastrophic in a series of lethal assaults that include the earlier attack on the World Trade Center and the bombings of United States embassies, a military barracks and a naval vessel. Undeniably, terrorists pose a threat to the lives and security of all people, and a particular danger to Americans here and overseas. Our government has the right and the duty to defend its people against this modern plague upon mankind. It is encouraging to see that other nations also recognize that same moral obligation as they join us in protecting humanity from the evils inherent in this latest form of tyranny.

Over the past few weeks, calls for retaliation motivated by anger and vengeance have been replaced by careful reflection on the need for self-defense. You and your chief advisors aver that the responses by our government and the international coalition currently underway * political, financial, economic and military * are directed toward defending the free world. The United States and its partners in the coalition made clear their preference to protect humanity by diplomatic means rather than military force. Sadly, because past and recent diplomatic efforts and political and economic sanctions failed, military action became necessary. These facts, together with the well-founded hope that we will ultimately succeed in the war against terrorism, demonstrate that we are engaged in a just war.

You, your administration and the Congress are to be commended for the manner in which this war has been conducted so far. The formation of an international coalition, the shared intelligence and coordinated efforts of national and international law enforcement agencies and the steps undertaken to cut off the terrorists' financial resources are all part of a well-conceived and effective plan. By all reports, the military action which began on October 7, 2001, has been both measured and discriminate. I have every confidence that our government will ensure that all future military action will continue to be directed only against the terrorists and the regimes that protect and support them.

You are to be commended also for the humanitarian assistance currently being given to millions of innocent people in Afghanistan who have suffered for more than a decade at the hands of the Taliban. It is heartening to know that the leaders of the coalition intend to continue this assistance in the post-Taliban era, and to create the conditions needed for the people of Afghanistan to establish a just and stable government. It is also heartening to know that the United States and other nations are prepared to support such a government in addressing the conditions and causes of poverty and illness that have brought so much suffering to the innocent people of that land. Hopefully, the unique alliances forged by this war on terrorism will foster new political and diplomatic attempts to address the poverty, suffering and hopelessness from which so many people in that region and elsewhere in the world continue to suffer.

Mr. President, you have been realistic and forthright in stating that the war against terrorism will take a long time. We, the American people, must be equally realistic in recognizing that it will involve sacrifice on our part. It will require patience in coping with security measures that will cause inconvenience and may seem overly intrusive. It will require a willingness to put the common good above some individual civil liberties. It will require unity, courage and steadfastness, especially at times when there may be little tangible evidence that we are succeeding or that a serious threat still remains. For the men and women of the armed forces, the sacrifices will be great indeed. They must be reassured that the cause they champion is just, and that this nation supports every moral means they employ in our defense.

Many Americans believe that life in the United States was changed forever by the terrorist attacks of September 11. To a degree, this is unquestionably true. The unspeakable evil made vivid in the horrific images of commercial aircraft commandeered by suicidal murderers crashing into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field are now permanently etched in the national memory. Mercifully, those images are offset by countless displays of the fundamental goodness of the American people. They have turned to God in this hour of need and prayed for guidance, strength and healing. They have mourned the dead and prayed for the repose of their souls. They have tended to the physical and spiritual needs of their families and of all the injured. The valor and dedication of the rescuers, medical personnel, clergy, civil and religious leaders as well as the loving and tangible concern of the entire nation prove that the American spirit was not buried beneath the rubble. In its best instincts and highest ideals, America remains unchanged by the barbaric attacks that killed thousands of innocent men and women. I pray that, in time, this nation will also recover its sense of security and return to its way of life.

As we search for reasons for the attacks, we must be careful to avoid two unsupportable conclusions: first, that they were God's punishment for moral decay within our nation; second, that they were an inevitable and deserved response to United States foreign policy. These were the acts of men with evil in their hearts, perpetrated against innocent human beings. No reason can be given to explain them or the loathing which inspired them. Still, as a nation victimized by acts of incomprehensible hatred and violence, we must emerge from this experience with a more profound respect for one another, for the world community and for human life itself. A new world order without terrorism must also be one of global solidarity in caring for the needs of every human being.

The anxieties of these perilous times have reminded us all of our utter dependence upon God. Let us continue to ask Him to help all men and women to pursue justice and to live in peace.

With gratitude and with prayers for God's blessings upon you and this great nation, I am

Sincerely yours,

Anthony Cardinal Bevilacqua
Archbishop of Philadelphia
Archdiocese of Philadelphia
222 North 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103

Tuesday, October 16, 2001

GOD and LOVE and WAR

Whenever human suffering becomes a reality through the pain of a loved one or the onset of the casualties of war (e.g., in Afghanistan) at least some of those who believe in God ask questions about God’s Love.

So it is appropriate to reflect for a while on the Love of God.

We can understand the Love of God as something that God IS; as something that God HAS; and as something that God DOES. And, further, we can recognize that the Love of God is not wholly contained in this description, for God’s Love, being infinite and eternal Love (as Agape and Caritas), transcends our best attempts to describe it.

In terms of defining God’s Love, modern theological opinion is divided at least into two major camps.

Classical theists portray God, the Holy Trinity, having the intent and the ability to do good to creatures and this is his Love. Here the internal Love between the Persons of the Trinity overflows to creatures, especially in the Incarnation of the Second Person, but God asLove and loving remains unchanged and unchanging, not affected in His own being by the attitudes, actions and responses of his creatures to his love. God is Love and wills to Love whatever be the reaction of his creatures.

Panentheists or Open Theists portray God the Holy Trinity as in a dynamic relation[ship] to the world and to creatures where God’s love for them while everlasting is not unchanged and unchanging because it is affected by the responses of creatures. Here God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit wills to be open to the effects of his love and he feels the pain and suffering, the joy and celebration of his creatures.

Both positions seem to be upheld by the contents of Hosea 11 in which we read of the husband’s love for his harlot wife [portraying the LORD’s Love for Israel]. On the one hand there is the portrayal of unchanging/unchanged love and on the other the portrayal of a change of heart/mind. Here is a chapter to read and meditate upon.

For Christians, whether they are Open Theists or Traditional Theists the resolution of this tension in Hosea 11 is in the fact of the Suffering and Atoning Death of the Incarnate Son of God and of the meaning that the New Testament draws out of this Event. We must surely avoid making our concept of God fit into our modern sentimental views of love [saying “Love is God”] ; but we must face the full scope of God’s Love in relation to human sinners and their sin and think and live in the light of it.

Unless we are prepared to accept the portrayal of God’s Love as given in the whole of sacred Scripture, we shall never be able to begin to understand how the God who is Love also reveals his wrath against wickedness and sin. Further, we shall never be able to understand how God the Lord as the Sovereign Ruler of the world does use human agents (e.g., armies) to do his will and even to display his wrath. St Bernard described mercy and judgment as the two feet of God and urged his monks to be aware of both feet (Sermon 6 on Song of Songs). They were to temper sorrow for sin with the thought of divine Love/mercy, so as to avoid despair; and they were to temper meditation upon God’s Love/mercy with remembrance of his judgment against sin.

Likewise today in thinking about the relation of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ to the “war against terrorism” and to the human suffering involved, we need to hold together, via the Cross of Jesus, doctrines not only of the Love/mercy of God the Holy Trinity but also doctrines of God’s wrath and His judgment against sinners and sin.

We shall not help people by sentimental and sloppy notions of love and of vague statements that there is truth in all religions. Christian witness has to plumb the depths of Scripture and be informed by the best of the Christian tradition, which includes the doctrine of the Just War, before it utters pronouncements in press releases from denominational headquarters and bishop’s palaces!

The Revd Dr Peter Toon
October14 2001

Monday, October 15, 2001


THE traditional Collect for this week (Trinity XVIII) together with the set Collects for Morning Prayer are as relevant now as they were when first written (in Latin) and when they were first rendered into English. (If you have a problem with older standard English, they can easily be rendered into modern standard English!) They can be prayed profitably by Christians in Afghanistan as well as in the USA.

Consider first the two Collects to be used on every day of the year – 365 times.

The first one fits the industrialized and technological age as much as it fitted the pre-industrial world.

“O GOD, who art the author of peace and lover of concord, in knowledge of whom standeth our eternal life, whose service is perfect freedom: Defend us thy humble servants in all assaults of our enemies; that we, surely trusting in thy defence, may not fear the power of any adversaries; through the might of Jesus Christ our Lord.”

We address GOD THE FATHER from whom alone true peace and concord come. We acknowledge that to know him (through His Incarnate Son) is eternal life and to serve him is genuine freedom (in comparison with which the great political and civil liberties of the USA are but dung). This freedom in the Spirit is the spiritual and moral sphere in which the fruit of the Spirit can grow in the soul and be seen.

The enemies who attack those who love God begin with Satan and his hosts and then include all those human beings who do the will of the Devil – many of whom may appear as angels of light! Against these adversaries, Christian believers trust in the Lord Jesus who is mighty, put on the armour that He supplies and know that they are perfectly well defended (as spiritual and moral beings). So at home, at work, in a car, a bus, a train, an aircraft or whatever, believers “surely trust in thy defence.”

The second set prayer likewise envisages a world of sin wherein there is spiritual, moral and perhaps physical danger at every turn:

“O LORD our heavenly Father, Almighty and everlasting God, who has safely brought us to the beginning of this day: Defend us in the same with thy mighty power and grant that this day we fall into no sin, neither run into any kind of danger; but that all our doings may be ordered by thy governance, to do always that is righteous in thy sight: through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

We acknowledge that God our Father is by His providence in control of everything and everyone (even though we have free will!) and therefore we look to him to guide us safely through the day ahead. We do not want to sin against him or be in danger but to do what he has commanded and what is pleasing to him. We are protected and guided by God to do what is RIGHT in his eyes for not only are we declared righteous by and in Christ through faith, but we are called to be righteous in thought, word and deed. And this calling applies every day whatever be the political/civil freedom (or lack thereof) in which we live.

Finally the Collect for the week:

“LORD, we beseech thee, grant thy people grace to withstand the temptations of the world, the flesh and the devil and with pure hearts and minds to follow thee the only God: through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Whether we live in plenty or in poverty the world around us incites temptations within us; and whether we are in good or bad health, our flesh is also the source of temptations. To these we add the persistent work of the devil to tempt us directly, spirit to spirit, and via the world and the flesh…and he is as present in the USA as in Afghanistan!

Temptations in and of themselves are not sinful. Sin is to yield to them! So we pray that we shall be able to withstand them all and, importantly, go on to serve the Lord (whatever our outward circumstances) with pure hearts and minds.


The Revd Dr Peter Toon
October 15 2001

Sunday, October 14, 2001

Prevent or Precede

Are we to drop the use of "to prevent" in its older meaning?

The Collect for Pentecost XIX in the 1979 prayer book seems to be the same as the Collect for Trinity XVII in the classic BCP of 1662 & 1928.

But is it the same?

The answer all hinges on a verb “prevent” or “precede”

1979 – Lord, we pray thee that they grace may always precede and follow us and make us continually to be given to all good works…. 1928 – Lord, we pray thee that they grace may always prevent and follow us: and make us continually to be given to all good works….

The reason for the change from “prevent” to “precede” is simple. The common & modern meaning of “to prevent” is “to stop or keep from doing or happening.” And this is not the meaning intended by the traditional Collect.

The old meaning, based on the Latin verb, venire = to come, and prae = before, is “to come before.”

In theology, we have long spoken of “prevenient grace”, that grace that is secretly and invisible active in the human soul (heart, mind and will) BEFORE the person actually is aware of this action of the God of grace. By this action he or she is prepared to say “Yes” to the God of all mercy.

This use of the verb “to precede” attempts to preserve this meaning of praying that the Spirit of the Lord our God will be active in us before we know that we need his action!

“Precede” comes from “prae” (before) and “cedere” to move and so has the meaning of “to go before in time.”

The advantage of keeping the traditional English verb, “to prevent,” (and taking a few seconds to explain its meaning in the Notices or Sermon) is that it connects with the long western theological tradition that is known as the doctrine of Prevenient Grace.

Most traditional believers would agree that it is very important that we keep this tradition of understanding because in the current western/ American culture of self-affirmation, self-development and self-realization, we all need to be told and to know that salvation is wholly the work of God to which we humbly and gratefully say (by divine assistance) “Yes.”

We all need the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ by the secret action of the Holy Spirit of God both to come/go before us, to be with us, and to follow us. We certainly need to be surrounded by GRACE, the personal presence of the Blessed Trinity of the Father with the Son and with the Holy Ghost.

The Revd Dr Peter Toon Trinity XVII.
Pentecost XIX

Thursday, October 11, 2001


In what is known as “A General Thanksgiving” in “The Book of Common Prayer” there is a definite and chosen order of that for which “Almighty God, Father of all mercies” is thanked by his covenant people. That which belongs to this life is separated from that which belongs to the life of the age to come by the words “BUT ABOVE ALL.”

For our creation, preservation and all the blessings of this life “we bless Thee, O GOD.”

BUT ABOVE ALL “we bless Thee for thine inestimable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ, for the means of grace [Sacraments, Preaching, Bible study etc.] and for the hope of glory [in the life of the age to come].

The way of the Bible and the classic “Book of Common Prayer” is to evaluate the blessings that come through the Incarnation, Death, Resurrection, Exaltation and Session of the Son of God differently – and on a higher plane – than those which flow from the fact that we are creatures and God is the good Creator and Sustainer of life.

Certainly the blessings that are ours merely as creatures are and can be precious; and if in God’s providence we have good health, sufficient food, good lodging and civil liberties then we can think that we live in a kind of heaven on earth.

But, for those who are “born from above” the blessings that come through GRACE are so much more profound and precious, are not merely temporal but everlasting, and completely satisfy for ever the desires and longings of spirit, soul and body.

So it is most appropriate that baptized and committed Christians say “BUT ABOVE ALL” – above all else, above everything in the visible creation that is ours to use and enjoy.

What concerns me and worries me is that much modern western piety and prayer, be it in the charismatic-evangelical or the Lesbigay movements or in the middle of the way churches, seems to have reversed for all practical purposes the divine order of the Bible and the classic BCP.

We bless God for the hope of eternal life and then say “but above all” and go on to bless God for our liberties in “the land of the free.”

Certainly, in comparison with the refugees in Afghanistan & Pakistan we have very much, exceedingly much, to bless God for in terms of food, lodging, health and civil liberty. Yet the authentic Christians in these poor countries whose hearts are set on things above where Christ is (Colossians 3:1ff) and who are living in the faith of “but above all” as they experience “the hope of glory” know more of Christ and Christianity that do we who tend in our materialism and secularism to reverse the order of the blessings of the Father of all mercies.

Authentic Christian piety, Catholic, Orthodox or Protestant, normally and habitually lives in the spirit of “But above all…”

The Rev’d Dr. Peter Toon October 11, 2001

Wednesday, October 10, 2001

Anglo-Catholics, Roman Catholics, the C of E & the Diaconate

Probably anglo-catholics inside the ECUSA made a theological and strategic mistake when they took the position in the 1970s thru the 1990s that women could be ordained deacons but not priests.

Ten years ago, the Rev’d Professor Charles Caldwell and I argued that the case against the ordination of women was severely weakened and even sabotaged by ordaining women as deacons. Our argument was wholly rejected by the Episcopal leadership of the ESA (now FinFNA) and thus women serve as deacons in the so-called two or three orthodox dioceses of the ECUSA. In contrast, most of the Continuing Anglican Churches have not introduced female deacons, though some have deaconesses (who are not considered to be in holy orders).

The position Caldwell and Toon took was that there is no biblical or patristic basis for a female diaconate and that the use of women deaconesses (who were not seen as within holy order) in the Early Church ceased for good reasons.

It is gratifying therefore to find a distinguished R. C. theologian, Manfred Hauke of Germany, making this same case this year but with more erudition and authority than we had in 1991/2.

In a Vatican publication, Father Hauke has written that deaconesses, though fulfilling a variety of tasks in the Early Church, were never considered as part of the ordained hierarchy like male deacons were. For example, he said, records showed that female deacons in both Eastern and Western churches were prohibited from preaching at Mass. They also were ``ordained'' with a formula that did not link them to the male deacons' ordination in the Acts of the Apostles.

He explained that deaconesses did not serve ``at the altar'' like deacons did, and mainly were called upon to perform functions that would have been improper for men: for example, anointing the bodies of women who were being baptized. Because the number of adult baptisms dropped by the end of the eighth century, the institution of deaconesses faded out, he said.

From a historical point of view one must conclude that the various manifestations of the deaconess were distinct from the priestly ministry of which deacons were a part. Modern proponents of women deacons, however, call for a ministry that is equal to that of male deacons, and so would not be satisfied with a re-introduction of deaconesses that is limited and faithful to ``the testimony of tradition.''

``Introducing a `pastoral diaconate' would not give any comfort to women, but would only intensify the anger and demands of the feminist movement,” Hauke wrote. ``It would be like a gift desired by virtually no one.''

In addition, Father Hauke said he thought the church still needed time to mature its conception of permanent male deacons, which were re-instituted after 1,000 years by the Second Vatican Council.

Turning from the USA and Rome to England, we notice that there is a new House of Bishops’ Report from the Church of England on the diaconate. And this proposes all those things that worry Hauke, Caldwell and Toon!

The report ”For Such a Time as This: A renewed diaconate in the Church of England” , says that the diaconate must be taken more seriously, and needs to be seen as more than a transitional stage on the way to priesthood. There are at present only about 75 permanent deacons in the Church of England. Others, female and male, who were ordained deacon went on to being ordained priest

The report attempts to set out what is “distinctive” about the ministry of deacons and constantly makes references to the “overlap” with the work of Readers, bishops and priests. However deacons might specialize according to the needs of their parish and their own gifts.

Their work might include co-ordinating and monitoring faith-development courses, preparing candidates for baptism, preaching, conducting confirmation and marriage preparation, specialist counselling, or teaching/training roles in the diocese or deanery.

Pastoral tasks assigned to a deacon should be threefold, the report says: care for the “faithful members of the Christian community”; outreach to those who have “backslidden from church attendance or whose faith has become weak and troubled”; and mission to the unchurched, a “vast mission field”.

The mission of deacons should never be detached from the Church’s liturgical life, the report states. Their distinctive role is to assist the bishop or priest who is presiding. This work might include reading the Gospel, leading the prayers of penitence or intercessions, serving, and administering holy communion. The deacon might conduct the daily offices, or officiate at baptisms, funerals and burials.

But the report emphasizes that “a renewed diaconate should on no account absorb expressions of ministry that are entrusted to lay people”.

It seems beyond reasonable doubt that this Report is lacking in theological clarity for it does not begin from any sound basis. It appears to be truly pragmatic and utilitarian.

We hope that the promised Vatican Report on the Diaconate, which is in the process of being written, will appear soon and bring much needed clarity to a confused area of church ministry. Meanwhile we hope that deacons male and female know what they are doing.

The Revd Dr Peter Toon October 10 2001
Life abundant after death

The young Palestinian men who volunteer to become human bombs and commit suicide in order to punish/kill others appear to have a vivid sense of abundant life after death. They receive this faith and the description of such immortality from their Islamic teachers.

I mention this phenomenon, which is also common in groups living in the Middle East, the Arab world, and places life Pakistan, not to seek to analyze it. Rather my purpose is to note that amongst YOUNG MEN belief in the LORD GOD, Creator and Judge, and in LIFE AFTER DEATH with God is very real, so real that they are prepared to live/die in the light of it and for it.

In contrast, in the West, because of what we call secularization, it is difficult to find any young men, even church-attending young men, who have a vivid belief in, and sense of, the gift of eternal life.

In the main-line, old-line churches, there is very little evidence that members live their daily lives “watching and praying” for the Coming of the Son of God in glory, or thinking and behaving as if they were merely pilgrims and sojourners in this world. Rather, religion seems to be very much for this world and for appropriate comforts and blessing in this life with the occasional nod to belief in heaven. And, in the churches with more conservative theological traditions, while there is a lip service given to the gift of eternal life and the threat of hell, this does not seem to have much effect upon the general life-style and deportment of the members.

Of course, within the life of the Church through history up to the present day, there is a persisting and pervasive witness wherein Christians’ hearts are so set on things above, where Christ is, that they are prepared to give all and sacrifice all for him, even if this means martyrdom or persecution or early death.

That is, there have always been Christian people (even if rare in the West now) who are so committed to the kingdom of heaven that for them all other reality is secondary and subservient. And, strange to relate, Christians of this kind have usually been of more earthly use than those whose minds were set on things below!

Part of the spiritual weakness of American Christianity (which has many adherents and much money and influence) is that it is earthly-minded, so secularized that the authentic Christian whose mind is set on things above (Colossians 3:1ff) is seen as an oddity or a nuisance by the majority.

I get the impression that there is very little desire within Western Christianity of either the liberal or conservative varieties to recover the sense that we are to be pilgrims and sojourners in this world for it is not our home. We seem to want to accommodate the Christian Faith to being mostly about this world, with only an appendix about the life of the world above us, beyond us and to come.

One question that arises is – Are we seeking to be genuine Christians? Or are we better described as religious people using the Christian tradition as a source for our religion?

The Rev’d Dr. Peter Toon , October 10, 2001

Tuesday, October 09, 2001

Dressing up or down

As the armed forces engage in military activities of defense or attack they dress smartly. Their uniforms are clean and pressed; their shoes or boots shine and their hair is groomed. How they dress is seen as part of their readiness and discipline. Likewise with the police and nursing staff.

Most Christians used to believe that going to a church to join in the worship of the Blessed, Holy and Undivided Trinity was an activity for which they were to be appropriately dressed. As they were going into the presence of the LORD God Almighty they held that not only were they to be humble and contrite of spirit but also dressed appropriately (since they were having an audience with the King of kings and Lord of lords). The way they dressed for leisure activity or for garden work or for daily jobs was seen as not the right dress for church. Only the best and cleanest attire was good enough for the Lord.

Today while a few still hold to the traditional view, a majority seem to dress in what may be described as casual dress. Some even wear jeans and sneakers (especially it seems do acolytes in Episcopal churches). I have seen eucharistic ministers in the R C church distributing the Holy Communion wearing shorts and colorful shirts/blouses. In other words, many folks dress for church in the same way that they dress for non-formal occasions.

There seems to be both a historical connection and a psychological relation between the dress of modern Christians and the type of worship in which they participate. Where the worship is called “contemporary worship” then casual dress is the norm and where the worship is called “traditional worship” then “dressing up” is common.

What this probably means is that where God is perceived to be close, near, nice, loving and friendly, affirming us in our weakness , then contemporary worship with casual dress seem to be in place.

And where God is perceived as above us in his holiness and majesty yet drawing near to us in mercy, then traditional worship with “dressing up” seems to be in place.

Or dressing up goes with organs and order, while casual dress with guitars and drums and spontaneity?

What I am not sure about is whether or not there is in people conducting and attending contemporary worship any sense of dressing up in what is perceived within this ethos and culture as the very best in this category – e.g., we put on our very best jeans for church for we are to meet wit an important Person, the Lord our God! Or is part of the statement being made that we are to worship just as we are in ordinary life for that is what God wants of us?

And, very importantly, what kind of dress for worship is the right kind of expression of a person who is humble and contrite of heart and is seeking the Lord’s face?

The Revd Dr Peter Toon October 8, 2001

Wednesday, October 03, 2001


I have read this Statement [see below] several times and I confess that I do not know precisely what it is that is being said about the Bishops’ vision of their/our calling.

The understanding of religion here seems to have no eternal dimension, no heaven and hell, but appears to be essentially for this world looking to a future time of peace and goodwill.

In this world, God’s passionate desire, we are told, is for "justness" (not justice or righteousness?) which is achieved through “waging reconciliation” (whatever that expression means).

Biblical expressions are used by the bishops but what is offered is not biblical and creedal theology but vague hope dressed in pious words.

When a House of Bishops is committed to the religion of the 1979 prayer Book and the Rites approved since 1979, as well as to the 1979 “Baptismal Covenant” that commits all to work for peace and justice in this world, then this Statement is the kind of sentiment we should expect from them – Niceness of a liberal kind, dressed in effusions of piety with biblical quotes. And a Niceness that calls devotees of Islam “brothers and sisters.”

Had the Bishops been committed to the classic Anglican Way (abandoned by most of their predecessors in the 1970s) then the tone and content of this Statement would have been very different – that it, it would have been imbued with an overwhelming sense of God, the Holy One, who is the God of all mercy, before whom we all are to give an account.

I cannot see how this Statement will bring genuine comfort or hope to any who are in pain. It is a statement of the spiritual and theological poverty of the leadership of the ECUSA.


On waging reconciliation

Statement from Bishops of the Episcopal Church

released by the Office of the Presiding Bishop

26 September 2001

[ENS 2001-272] We, your bishops, have come together in the shadow of the shattering events of September 11. We in the United States now join that company of nations in which ideology disguised as true religion wreaks havoc and sudden death. Through this suffering, we have come into a new solidarity with those in other parts of the world for whom the evil forces of terrorism are a continuing fear and reality.

We grieve with those who have lost companions and loved ones, and pray for those who have so tragically died. We pray for the President of the United States, his advisors, and for the members of Congress that they may be given wisdom and prudence for their deliberations and measured patience in their actions. We pray for our military chaplains, and for those serving in the Armed Forces along with their families in these anxious and uncertain days. We also pray "for our enemies, and those who wish us harm; and for all whom we have injured or offended." (BCP, page 391)

At the same time we give thanks for the rescue workers and volunteers, and all those persons whose courageous efforts demonstrated a generosity and selflessness that bears witness to the spirit of our nation at its best. We give thanks too for all those who are reaching out to our Muslim brothers and sisters and others who are rendered vulnerable in this time of fear and recrimination.

We come together also in the shadow of the cross: that unequivocal sign that suffering and death are never the end but the way along which we pass into a future in which all things will be healed and reconciled. Through Christ "God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross." (Col. 1:20) This radical act of peace-making is nothing less than the right ordering of all things according to God's passionate desire for justness, for the full flourishing of humankind and all creation.

This peace has already been achieved in Christ, but it has yet to be realized in our relationships with one another and the world around us. As members of a global community and the worldwide Anglican Communion, we are called to bear one another's burdens across the divides of culture, religion, and differing views of the world. The affluence of nations such as our own stands in stark contrast to other parts of the world wracked by the crushing poverty which causes the death of 6,000 children in the course of a morning.

We are called to self-examination and repentance: the willingness to change direction, to open our hearts and give room to God's compassion as it seeks to bind up, to heal, and to make all things new and whole. God's project, in which we participate by virtue of our baptism, is the ongoing work of reordering and transforming the patterns of our common life so they may reveal God's justness - not as an abstraction but in bread for the hungry and clothing for the naked. The mission of the Church is to participate in God's work in the world. We claim that mission.

"I have set before you life and death...choose life so that you and your descendants may live," declares Moses to the children to Israel. We choose life and immediately set ourselves to the task of developing clear steps that we will take personally and as a community of faith, to give substance to our resolve and embodiment to our hope. We do so not alone but trusting in your own faithfulness and your desire to be instruments of peace.

Let us therefore wage reconciliation. Let us offer our gifts for the carrying out of God's ongoing work of reconciliation, healing and making all things new. To this we pledge ourselves and call our church.

We go forth sober in the knowledge of the magnitude of the task to which we have all been called, yet confident and grounded in hope. "And hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us." (Romans 5:5)

"May the God of hope fill us with all joy and peace in believing through the power of the Holy Spirit." (Romans 15:13)

[Statement from Bishops of the Episcopal Church released by the Office of the Presiding Bishop]
From: ACNS []