Saturday, September 29, 2001

From “presiding Bishop” to “Presiding Bishop, Primate and Metropolitan”

In the history of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the USA (PECUSA) from the 1780s to 2001 there have been many developments and changes. One significant change has been the move from having a “presiding Bishop of the House of Bishops” to having a “Presiding Bishop of the PECUSA.”

Even as the PECUSA was the first Anglican Church in the world to call its new, official Prayer Book of Alternative Services (1979) by the hallowed name of “The Book of Common Prayer” so also the Protestant Episcopal Church of the USA was the first National Church in the Anglican Communion to decide to have a “Presiding Bishop” who had to resign from his diocese in order to take upon himself this office.

From 1789 through to the twentieth century the House of Bishops of PECUSA appointed one of its members to be the “presiding Bishop” – primarily to be chairman of the meetings and the chief consecrator at ordinations of new bishops. These duties were added to his diocesan ones and he continued to live and work in his own diocese. Only from 1925 did the House of Bishops formally elect its “presiding Bishop.”

In the twentieth century, as the PECUSA grew in numbers and influence and felt a sense of not only being “a National Church” with a mission to the whole of the USA, but also a “bridge Church” between the various denominations, there was a felt sense of the need for the Church to have a visible, identifiable national “leader” – to be “a chief pastor,” or “ a chief executive,” or a “spokesman,” or a “prophet,” or “a symbol of unity” or all of these things and more.

So a variety of plans were discussed to set the “presiding Bishop” of the House of Bishops free from diocesan duties to have a national role as the Presiding Bishop of the PECUSA. One plan was to create a very small diocese of four parishes for him in Arlington, Virginia, with a seat in the National Cathedral. Another was to let him retain his diocesan position but hand over virtually all duties to a coadjutor bishop.

We may note that these and other proposals took seriously the doctrine that unless he is retired, a bishop to be a real bishop should have a diocese. Further, they were aimed at making sure that the “presiding Bishop” as a diocesan bishop would be invited to the Lambeth Conferences of Anglican Bishops.

In fact no diocese was ever created for the “presiding Bishop” but several Bishops (e.g., Bishop Tucker of Virginia, 1941-46) did become full-time “presiding Bishops” whilst retaining nominally their diocesan appointments and roles as a coadjutor bishop did the work.

It was at the Cleveland General Convention of 1943 that the decision was made to have a Presiding Bishop of the PECUSA who would have no diocesan responsibilities at all.

“Upon expiration of the term of office of the Presiding Bishop [Tucker of Virginia], the Bishop who is elected to succeed him shall tender to the House of Bishops his resignation of his previous jurisdiction…”

The first “Presiding Bishop of the PECUSA’ with no diocese was Henry Knox Sherrill, formerly Bishop of Massachusetts. (Since Sherill the PECUSA – now ECUSA – has had Lichtenberger, Hines, Allin, Browning and Griswold as its Presiding Bishops.)

At the time of his election in 1946 some argued that as Presiding Bishop Sherrill had a jurisdiction but not a territorial one – e.g., his presidency of the National Executive Council, his oversight of missionary districts and the episcopal churches in Europe, and his responsibilities in the consecration of new bishops. (They did not , however, claim that he had jurisdiction over the entire College of Bishops or the whole PECUSA!) Others still hoped that a small diocese near Washington DC would be created for him, but this hope seems to have faded away for nothing much has been heard of it since the 1940s. Further, William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury, indicated that there would be no problem of inviting the Presiding Bishop of the PECUSA to Lambeth Conferences even if he had no diocese.

With the arrival of the salaried, full time Presiding Bishop, having offices near, and then in, New York City, and a large staff surrounding him, the Episcopal Church was organized in general terms like a corporation with all the possibilities of both efficiency and bureaucracy.

People began to refer to this central organization as “the National Church” for it had the task under its chief executive, the Presiding Bishop, of implementing the mind of General Convention between the triennial meetings of this body and, further, it was seen as the voice of the PECUSA to the nation and the world and the link to both the Anglican Communion of Churches and to the Ecumenical Movement.

The persons who were attracted to work at the headquarters of “the National Church’” were recruited to work there, increasingly reflected the left wing of the Church, which came to dominance during the massive social changes of the 1960s. They saw the Gospel primarily in terms of human liberation from the bondages of an unjust, patriarchal society. Thus it is not surprising that a felt sense of alienation has existed for a long time by many conservative clergy and laity in relation both to the Presiding Bishop and to “the National Church.”

To conclude, it seems a very odd thing that one of the major duties of the Presiding Bishop, who has no diocese, is to be the chief consecrator at ordinations of new Bishops and in doing so to use a Form of Service that supposes that a Bishop is to be the Pastor of a Diocese. He who has no diocese is placing others into that which he does not have! Further, it is also odd that Presiding Bishops, who have no territorial dioceses, have stood opposed in this century to the creation of non-territorial dioceses for others (e.g., for conservative parishes to have a “flying bishop”).

The Revd Dr. Peter Toon Sept 29, 2001
(As one who helped to produce TO MEND THE NET I was interested in the info and Communique below)

Top theologians in bid to save the Communion

A high-level meeting of Anglican theologians took place last week in an
attempt to stave off splits in the Anglican Communion over differences on
human sexuality.

Unable to hold their planned meeting in Virginia Theological Seminary near
Washington DC as a result of the terrorist attacks on September 11, many
members were already in London and met instead at the Marie Reparatrice
Retreat Centre in Wimbledon.

The major question facing the commission was on the limits of diversity in an
Anglican Communion, which covers most of the globe and a whole variety of
theological standpoints.

They will also be looking at a controversial document ‘To Mend the Net’
commissioned by the Primates of West Indies and Southern Cone, to find a
means of disciplining the Episcopal Church in the USA for its largely
permissive stance on homosexual clergy and same-sex blessings.

The commission, chaired by Bishop Stephen Sykes, includes the leading New
Testament theologian, Canon Dr Tom Wright, and the Very Rev Dr Paul Zahl, a
systematic theologian.

Members of the Commission come from Nigeria, New Zealand, Canada, India,
Kenya, Southern Cone, South East Asia, America, Britain and the United States.

In their first meeting, a communiqué revealed that they had already
identified some of the key commissions including asking basic questions about
what the word ‘communion’ in terms of the Anglican Communion actually means.
They are also to address the question of why some disputes are so crucial
that failure to resolve them threatens a break in communion. In addition,
they are to address the issue of how Christian teaching about moral behaviour
is integral to the maintenance of communion.

Overshadowed by the events of September 11 and in the absence of some
American members, the Commission’s first meeting was unable to "enter in
depth into the substantive issues related to the mandate."



The International Anglican Theological and Doctrinal Commission (IATDC) met
from 14 to 18 September at the Marie Reparatrice Retreat Centre in Wimbledon,
England, under the chairmanship of the Rt Revd Professor Stephen Sykes.

This was the first meeting of a newly constituted Commission, appointed by
the Archbishop of Canterbury. It was scheduled to be held at Virginia
Theological Seminary (VTS), in Alexandria Virginia, on the outskirts of
Washington DC. The devastating events of the 11 September necessitated a
transfer of the venue to England, as many members were either passing through
London en route to the USA, or beginning their journey in the United Kingdom.
Due to the disruptions in air travel, and the pastoral commitments of those
based in the United States, we had to proceed in the absence of some members.
We recognised that such a situation would be far from ideal, but it was
important to begin the work with as many as could be present.

The IATDC was asked by the Archbishop of Canterbury to focus on an area that
is of critical importance to the Anglican family at this time: ìThe nature,
basis and sustaining of communion in the Church with particular reference to
the Anglican Communionî. This will involve analysis of the limits of
diversity within a communion of Churches, some further reflection on
collegiality and interdependence, and the implications of being in communion
with the See of Canterbury. In the circumstances, with several members
unable to be present, it was not possible to enter in depth into the
substantive issues related to the mandate. However the Commission was able
to identify the key questions that will need to be faced in the study of
ìcommunionî, and to outline the processes and resources that might enable us
to move the study forward when the full complement of members are together.
As the first meeting of the Commission, some time was necessarily spent in
mapping out a timetable for the work, and discussing some practical details
of process and management of the studies to be undertaken.

Among the highlights of the discussion at this preliminary stage were:

an assessment of the way the Churches of the Communion and individual
theologians are evaluating The Virginia Report (1997) of the previous
doctrine commission;
an analysis of the main proposals in To Mend the Net, a volume prepared for
and presented to the Primates' Meeting in 2001 and referred by that meeting
to the IATDC; the consideration of the concept of 'the fundamental articles'
of Christian faith Questions which will give direction to the work were
identified, along with an overarching question related to the relevance of
The Virginia Report:

(1) When we speak of the Anglican Communion, what do we mean by the word
(2) What is it that makes some disputes so crucial that failure to resolve
them threatens a break in communion?
(3) "In what way are Christian teachings about moral behaviour integral to
the maintenance of communion"?
(4) "In addressing these questions, we shall be asking how far does the
Virginia Report meet the relevant situations that have arisen in the Anglican
Communion since its publication".

The members recognised that complementary work on "communion" is being
undertaken by the Inter Anglican Standing Commission on Ecumenical Relations
(IASCER). It was agreed that relevant papers and study material will be
shared between IASCER and IATDC to ensure coherence in the respective studies.

The meeting was undergirded by daily offering of morning and evening prayer
and celebration of the eucharist. In addition to the formal sessions, time
was devoted each day to a reflective study of 1 John. The members attended
the Sunday eucharist at Christ Church Wimbledon where they were warmly
received by clergy and parishioners. The prayer life of the meeting was very
profoundly affected by the tragic events in Washington and New York earlier
in the week, and the grief, anxiety and distress felt by the whole world were
at the heart of our intercessions.

The Commission was grateful to the Sisters of the Marie Reparatrice Retreat
Centre for their most gracious hospitality and loving attention to our needs
and for their willingness to host the meeting at such short notice.

IATDC will next meet at VTS, Alexandria Virginia, USA, from 5 - 11 September

The members and staff of the Commission are:

The Rt Revd Prof. Stephen Sykes England, Chairman
*Dr Jennie Te Paa Aotearoa/NZ and Polynesia
The Revd Dr Stephen K. Pickard Australia
*The Revd Dr Bruce Kaye Australia
*Dr Eileen Scully Canada
*The Rt Revd Dr Samuel Cutting India
The Rt Revd Paul Richardson England
The Revd Prof. Nicholas Sagovsky England
The Revd Canon Dr Tom Wright England
Dr Ester Mombo Kenya
The Revd Joseph Denge Galgalo Kenya
The Rt Revd Dr Matthew Owadayo Nigeria
The Revd Canon Luke Pato Southern Africa
*The Rt Revd Hector Zavala Southern Cone
The Rt Revd Dr Lim Cheng Ean South East Asia
The Revd Victor Atta-Bafoe West Africa
*The Very Revd Dr Paul Zahl United States
*The Revd Prof. Kortwright Davis United States

*The Revd Dr Kathy Grieb Observer, VTS
*The Rt Revd Dr Mark Dyer IASCER Cross Appointment

The Revd Dr Philip Thomas England, Assistant to the Chairman
The Revd Canon David Hamid ACO, Secretary

Mrs Christine Codner ACO, Administrative Assistant
Ms Frances Hiller ACO, Administrative Assistant

(*unable to attend the Wimbledon meeting)
For information please contact:

The Revd Canon David Hamid, The Anglican Communion Office, 157 Waterloo Road,
London SE1 8UT, UK

Tel: +44 20 7620 1110 Fax: +44 20 7620 1070

19 September 2001

Friday, September 28, 2001

Baptized Anglicans Now a Minority in England
Researcher Raises Speculation About Disestablishment

LONDON, SEPT. 26, 2001 ( For the first time in the history of the Church of England, baptized Anglicans are now a minority in this nation, The Telegraph reported today.

Research by the University of Sheffield has found that the number of infants born in England and baptized into the Church of England dropped to 21% in 1999.

David Voas, a demographer at the university's department of sociology, claims that the minority status of Anglicans threatens the foundations of the church's establishment.

The Church of Ireland and the Church of Wales were both disestablished on the grounds that they served only a minority of the population.

In the Church of England, fewer than a million people regularly worship on Sundays, but among the over-50s in the country some 70% are baptized Anglicans.

The findings show that there was almost universal baptism before World War II with 75% of babies christened in the Church of England in 1933. But since the war, with the exception of 1950, the number of baptisms has declined.

Babies born to two Anglican parents remain the most likely to be baptized in the Church of England, the study says. Voas estimates that 24 million of the 48 million people living in England this year were baptized Anglican -- 49.8% of the population.

He predicts that this figure will decline at a rate of a million every five years as older people die and fewer of the young are baptized.

A spokesman for the Church of England challenged the validity of the research.

"Baptism introduces people into the Christian family and not into any particular denomination and so it is difficult to calculate how many end up as Anglicans," he said.

He dismissed the claim that a smaller church raised the case for disestablishment. He said: "People of all faiths appreciate the fact that an established Church of England means faith has a place at the center of the state."

Wednesday, September 26, 2001

Attitudes to War & the Just War against Terrorism
A meditation

It seems certain that the USA is to go to war – or to engage in military activity against international terrorists and those nations and tribes who support or protect them.

What Christian attitudes to such activity are being heard in the churches?

1. The voice of pacifism which states that Christians must not engage in war and that terrorists be brought to justice by other means than warfare. Jesus, it is said, did not resort to force but Muhammad, founder of Islam, did! (We may note that the voice of pacifism has affected the content of recent liturgical books over the last fifty years –e.g., most Anglican Prayer books lack prayers for to use in time of war.)

2. The doctrine of war as a necessary evil. This has been stated in a variety of church reports in the last fifty years as the preferred doctrine of both R C and Methodist leaders and is widely subscribed to amongst socially conservative Christians. War is seen as the lesser evil seeking to overcome the greater evil. Resorting to force at certain times is thus accepted as necessary for the sake of justice but, nevertheless, the participation in this activity by armed forces can never be a virtuous activity, only a necessary evil.

3. The doctrine of the just war. While this was once the general position of most Christians, it is now the doctrine of the few. There is a clear exposition of it by St Thomas Aquinas in his famous “Summa” (II-II.40) and this explanation is in a section not on Justice but on Charity! In the just war, soldiers who follow the rules of justice act virtuously and promote the cause of God’s justice and love in the world for they do his will (see Romans 13:1ff). Much the same doctrine of the just war and the virtuous role of the armed forces is found in Calvin’s “Institutes” and other writings of the Protestant Reformers.

One obvious reason why the doctrine of the just war has lost ground is the nature of modern warfare where the harm to the innocent is multiplied by the use of modern types of weaponry. Another is the general liberal-humanist, Enlightenment view that all war is ignoble and evil.

There is no doubt in my mind but that the USA in declaring a warlike campaign against terrorists responsible for recent atrocities can – can, and I hope will -- fulfill the general requirement and criteria for the just war ( “jus ad bellum”) as set out by Aquinas and others. Where the US leadership needs to be especially vigilant and extremely wise is in HOW it decides to prosecute this warlike campaign (“jus in bello”). It must seek to punish only evil doers and ensure that the use of force is truly a part of the duty to uphold the good. In this context, right conduct in war depends upon the armed forces acting with the right intention and for justice (not out of revenge, hatred, brutality, superiority etc.).

The Church of God and all her members in the USA ought to pray without ceasing for the President, the Cabinet, the Congress, the Armed Forces etc. that they will be led in wisdom to adopt the criteria of the just war and to prosecute this war/campaign with right intention and appropriate use of force. Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines along with CIA and FBI personnel etc. involved directly in this activity ought also to be told that they act virtuously and rightly in their activity of rooting out terrorism and that they serve God as his co-workers for justice in his earth if they keep to the basic rules of the just war. We all need to remember that punishment of sinners and of evil belongs to God in the first place and to those whom he has placed in positions of authority in the second (Romans 13:1-7). The US government therefore needs to humble itself under the mighty hand of God in order to be in the position to execute his justice and to do so with the minimum of harm to the innocent.

Two final points.

1. At the same time as this just warlike campaign progresses, let us not forget that there is also the important Christian duty to care for the multitudes of refugees, the homeless, the widowed, the injured and the bereaved.
2. Further, we need to get Muslim leaders from Indonesia to Morocco to make it very clear to the world that Islam and genuine Muslims do not support or take part in terrorism; and we need to get Christian leaders to say the same of Christianity and genuine Christians. Terrorism as recently witnessed is not holy war or a crusade but a wicked, evil, Satanic reality.

Lord have mercy upon us and guide us aright at this time.

The Revd Dr Peter Toon, September 26, 2001

What follows is my attempt to provide (1) the Mindset of a Young Person, living in what we call post-modernity, and (2) a few comments on how to evangelize such.

1. My Soul within Post-Modernity – a young person’s confession

“There is no possibility of final truth. I can only know ‘truth for me’ or truth as I see it. The only ‘dogma’ I hold is that of relativism, which for me is non-negotiable and forms my mindset.

I am tolerant of varied approaches to life, to religion, to morality and to philosophy. I do not seek to impose my own views on anyone else but will share them if asked. I do not want others to force their views on me.

I am free to be uncommitted to anything at all. Especially I am free from supposed universal and objective or God-given principles, rules and doctrines as well as from the supposed authority of tradition. Nevertheless I do obey for the sake of peace the variety of regulations and rules imposed by government, society and university.

I preserve my freedom by standing back, by keeping at a distance from anything that could trouble me. For me there is no ultimate commitment or final obedience. At the same time I celebrate all expressions of relativism, of subjective approaches to truth, life and meaning.

Measured by old standards my chief “sins” could be described as sloth and cowardice (not pride!) and my general stance is defensiveness.

I preserve & cherish my freedom most particularly in the area of sexuality. I oppose, and defend myself against, chastity. And I do so NOT because I desire to be promiscuous but rather because I am fearful of the consequences of allowing the aspiration to chastity to enter my soul.

My sexual freedom – whether I exploit it or not – is my crucial line of defense against the demands of the old Authority (orthodox Christianity & the Person of Jesus Christ). Think of it…if I were to allow the “Gospel” into my soul and I found that its power could make me chaste, then if I am capable of “sanctification” here, then I am also capable of it in my intellect, my will and all my emotions. And I can’t allow that to happen!”

2. Communicating the Gospel
To proclaim the Gospel effectively to such people (and there are many on our campuses) one must offer nothing less than the whole and real thing. Only the full Gospel will penetrate the post-modern claim of freedom and the dogma of relativism. After declaring (in the most appropriate and suitable way) the existence of God who is the Creator, Judge and Savior, then the total demands of Christ should be set forth, concentrating for example, on his call for purity of soul in respect to sexual desire and habit. In other words, one goes for the citadel of sexual freedom which has to fall in order for the Gospel to enter the soul. For unless this barrier is broken down, the Gospel will always be kept at a distance and made to be one of the many possibilities of subjective truth and life.

The implication of this approach is that the bearers of the Gospel have to be repentant, believing persons, who are themselves seeking to be obedient to the full demands of this Gospel and its teaching. They need to be authentic witnesses, whose freedom is in their whole-hearted and whole-minded commitment to Jesus Christ and his will.

[It may be suggested here that many young people are able to be members of ECUSA and other old-line churches because the Gospel of Jesus Christ is never preached to them and they are fed with the food of relativism, a false gospel. Of course, it is nearly impossible for a church like the ECUSA to evangelize post-modern young people since it has both embraced post-modernity as a mindset, and in terms of sexuality it has embraced both the divorce culture and the lesbigay lobby. Regrettably this comment probably also applies in some degree to the so-called conservative churches as well as to the liberal churches within ECUSA, for they are all deeply affected by the culture of relativism and divorce. And, if I may dare to say so, it also probably applies to those churches which pride themselves on being “great commission [Matt 28] churches”. For they tend to leave aside or to forget the second half of the great commission (teach them to obey all that Christ has commanded) in their enthusiasm for converts and church growth.]

The tendency in popular American evangelization is to make the Gospel simple and easy to understand and receive. There may be a case for this with some people, but not so with the post-modern youth in the country. Nothing less that the whole Gospel with its call for total commitment and self-sacrifice, of true repentance and lively faith, will penetrate their souls and make disciples of the kingdom of God the Father. And then these converts will look for authentic, Gospel Churches!

The Revd Dr Peter Toon, Sept 26, 2001

Tuesday, September 25, 2001

“A” or “The”
Multiculturalism or old-style Pluralism

At Harvard University two women, one a Methodist and one an Episcopalian, are co-Masters of Lowell House. Recently, the Methodist professor has written a book that she dedicated to her partner, the Episcopalian (who is both a professor and a priest).

This book is an important statement and argument for multiculturalism as a social and religious doctrine. The title is, A NEW RELIGIOUS AMERICA (Harper, $27.00) and the author is Diana L.Eck, professor of comparative religion. It is dedicated to Dorothy Austin, professor of psychology & religion.

It is an important book for educated Episcopalians, especially those claiming to be “orthodox”, to read and for this reason. It provides a very clear and attractive account of one of the major ideologies informing the elite of the so-called “National Church” of the ECUSA.

That is, this book provides a view of religion in America that celebrates & tolerates all forms of worship, doctrine and morality that claim to be no more than “ a way, a truth and a life” for the gaining of access to deity. What counts, therefore, is not a claim to objective truth but rather a rich religious experience of “deity”; and it matters not whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist or Native American words and forms are used to express this experience.

So any group making the claim that it worships The one and true GOD and possesses by Revelation from this Deity objective truth in doctrine and morality is outside the multicultural pale; it needs to come of age and to adjust its position to conform to the presuppositions and reality of multiculturalism (which apparently the Harvard Divinity School has already done and which Professor Eck celebrates).

What Eck is describing or calling for is a major step forward for America. First of all, the USA was a Protestant country, with the Protestant religion informing the ideas and principles of the whole nation. Then, after the arrival of many Roman Catholics and some Jews, there developed in this century a pact between Protestant, Jew and Catholic to stand for “Judaeo-Christian” principles or values. Today, we are seeing (she believes and also works for) the arrival of multiculturalism where America is not “one nation under God” but rather “one nation under many gods.”

This view of American religion does not argue for or expect all groups and types eventually to merge into one great denomination of toleration. Rather, it expects each group or church or denomination or religion to pursue its own forms of religious experience but to do so always in the “a” mood, rather than the “the” mood. That is, there is to be a new pluralism of many differing groups and they are united by an understanding for religious purposes of relativism and subjectivism. And so each form and expression is “true for us/me.”

So, to take an example, to show how this could work. Episcopalians do not cease to be Episcopalians but rather they see their religion as one cultural form (an Anglican, liturgical form) by which people are enabled to have religious experience and thereby know “god.” In speaking of Jesus they refer to him as “a way, a truth and a life” and “a Saviour” and “a teacher” and “a mediator.” They enjoy their religion but do not claim too much for it, as they recognize that other religions and groups also seek religious affirmation and experience in their own ways.

So, while they are tolerant of all sincere attempts to find deity and know it/him/her they are intolerant of the “fundamentalists” in their midst – those who make absolutist claims for the mediatorship of Jesus Christ and will not compromise (e.g., like the Rev’d Fr. Sam Edwards of Maryland!). It may be added that it is permitted for some conservative members to say “the way & the truth and the life” of Jesus Christ, if (and only if) they keep this form of speech to their own circle and do not try to make it a denominational policy.

Professor Eck is a woman with a vision and a mission and she is very persuasive. Her book will, I predict, strengthen the multicultural lobby in the ECUSA and other major US denominations of the old/main line. It remains true, however, despite her eloquence and and advocacy that a majority of Americans still remain either in the old Protestant culture (described by de Tocqueville in “Democracy in America”) or in the Judaeo-Christian culture celebrated by Will Herberg in the book, “Protestant, Catholic, Jew.”

YET to read her book is to become acquainted with the religious ideology and commitment that drives leaders of the ECUSA and other churches to take their people away from biblical, historic and orthodox Christianity into what they see as a superior form of religion, applicable to the modern age and the social reality of the USA. Perhaps we have to admit that they have gone so far on this journey and destroyed much of the ground on which they stood that it is impossible for them ever to do a U-turn even if they ever desired to do so.

Meanwhile, the old-style Protestants (e.g., Southern Baptists) seem to prosper and grow as also do the many new forms of Protestant interdenominational Bible and community churches, along with the new forms of Anglican expression (e.g., the CEC and the AMiA). And traditional forms of Catholicism and Orthodoxy are also gaining ground.

The Rev’d Dr. Peter Toon September 25 2001

Tuesday, September 18, 2001


Since various messages have been going around the Internet about my relation to the Church of England, may I clarify what is happening.

It is my expectation that by the New Year I shall be the Rector (Minister in
Charge) of Christ Church, Biddulph Moor, Diocese of Lichfield. (I was ordained in the C of E in 1973) This is a small traditional parish which uses the BCP 1662 and in which I can continue to give time to reading and writing.

Meanwhile and until the Board Meeting in January 2001, I remain the President of the Prayer Book Society of the USA. Thus I shall be working and writing and editing and speaking for the cause of the Society until the end of 2001. (I have been on the Board of the PBS for 9 years and its President for 6 years)

Even when I go to England I intend to continue to write for the Prayer Book Society and be in daily touch by e-mail, fax etc with colleagues in the Prayer Book movement in North America, and spend a month or so each year in the USA.

Peter Toon September 17th 2001

Sunday, September 09, 2001

LUKE 14: 25-33
A Word from heaven for us all to hear.

As the Word of God, this is a message to those who would call themselves Christians and would claim to be biblical and orthodox, but who have reduced the content of discipleship so as to make it convenient and manageable within western society. Here is a call from heaven to take discipleship of the Lord Jesus seriously, indeed as the most serious commitment possible on this earth.

As he speaks, Jesus has his own suffering and cross before him. He has set his face steadfastly towards Jerusalem in order to fulfil His Father's will and establish the new covenant by his sacrificial blood.

So Jesus does not mince words. What is required from him is clarity and truthfulness. This is the only way truly to love those who flock to him to hear of the kingdom of God.

Thus Jesus makes two stunning points, sufficient to drive away from him all but the truly serious minded.

First of all, to be a disciple of Jesus and of the kingdom of God, and truly to be under the rule of God the Father, a person must have a devotion to Christ that is greater than his natural affection and loyalty to his family, his kith and kin. In fact -- using hyperbole -- the true disciple actually hates his family. That is, in comparison with his total love for the Lord his devotion to his family takes a very obvious subordinate place.

Secondly, to be a true disciple of Jesus and of the kingdom of God, and truly to be under the rule of God the Father, a person must embrace willingly and joyfully the life of suffering and martyrdom. That is, he must take up his cross as he follows Jesus (who himself took up the Cross for us and for our salvation) in this evil age and world where sin reigns.

Today, too many of us put loyalty to family, or friends, or colleagues, or business relations or whatever before loyalty to Christ. We have not learned to hate all human associations in comparison with our total commitment to and love for Christ Jesus the Lord.

Further, too many of us live the compromised life rather than the ascetic and suffering life. Christianity is adapted by us to our circumstances rather than our total lives being formed by the Cross of Jesus our Lord.

Also, too many churches by their forms of worship,their teaching,their ethos and lifestyle reveal that they have not heard - or obeyed - this Word from heaven. They have made the sermon and the Eucharist and the social activities to hide the wholesale demands of the Gospel and to speak instead of the comfortable and easy way of religion.

We all need to hear clearly the last sentence of the Gospel for this day --"Whoever of you does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple."

The Revd Dr Peter Toon Sept 8, 2001