Tuesday, December 31, 2002

A brief meditation upon the ancient Collect for the Epiphany.

THE EPIPHANY or The Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles January 6

"O God, who by the leading of a star didst manifest thy only-begotten Son to the Gentiles: Mercifully grant, that we, which know thee now by faith may after this life have the fruition of thy glorious Godhead; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

[This Collect is to be used daily until the First Sunday after the Epiphany.]

Epistle: Ephesians 3:1-12
The Gospel: St Matthew 2:1-12

The magi were certainly non-Jews and thus as representatives of the Gentile peoples, they made the long pilgrimage to Bethlehem via Jerusalem probably from the country we now call Iraq. Their pilgrimage provides a model of the Christian pilgrimage through this life where we walk by faith until we are transported into the age to come where we walk by supernatural sight, the light of the exalted Lamb.

This Collect in its original Latin wording is based upon (a) the biblical narrative of the visit of the magi as recorded in Matthew 2; and (b) the thought that "we walk by faith and not by sight" on earth ( 2 Corinthians 5:7).

The translation in the BCP, however, does not bring out as clearly as possible, the second of these themes, the walking by faith now towards the future contemplation by sight in heaven. The petition in Latin may be more literally translated: "Mercifully grant that we, which know thee now by faith, may be led onwards until we come to gaze upon thy Exaltation [Majesty] by sight."

It seems that Archbishop Cranmer had in mind the writings of St. Augustine of Hippo and others, who spoke of the beatific vision in heaven as "the fruition of thy glorious Godhead." So he used this expression rather than literally translating the Latin before him. The translation provided above points to the same glorious conclusion as Augustine & Cranmer had in mind, but it picks up more clearly on the theme of "being led onwards" (in the case of the magi by a star and of ourselves by faith) and of "contemplation/gazing" (the magi gazed at the heavens and then upon the Only-Begotten Son Incarnate, while we shall see the glory of the Father in the face of the exalted Jesus Christ).

What this Collect prays for in Latin or in English is of course the important thing. The people of God make petition for divine assistance so that, after being faithful sojourners and pilgrims here on earth in this evil age, they will experience the full realization of Christian hope and see the Glory of the Father in the face of Jesus Christ in the glorious age to come. But we must first walk by faith in order later by grace to walk by sight!

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon

C of E Shortfalls


So that you can see what is happening in the C of E here is a bulletin I got today, Dec 31, from the Diocese. Reductions such as this are being called for in most dioceses. Paid clergy are getting fewer. My own parish was classified a full time job until I came a year ago, when, to save money, it was made 0.5 in terms of stipend and time by the diocese. All clergy are paid the same from central funds and parishes send in money, according to their size and ability to pay, to the centre. The basic, full clergy stipend is about $25,000.00 plus a house and expenses of ministry.


A budget shortfall of £2-million, which could rise to £4-million over the next five years, has sparked a strategic review of ministry within the Lichfield Diocese. The review could lead to a reduction in the number of clergy deployed throughout the diocese and a change in the way clergy are used, but reports that the diocese intends to "scrap vicars" are misleading. Parochial clergy and local churches are at the heart of the Church of England's mission and purpose.

Each year, every parish is asked to pay an amount set by the diocese as their share of the diocesan budget. In recent years, some parishes have found it increasingly difficult to pay their share, and the diocese has been forced to eat into its reserves to meet its costs. Reserves are limited and the diocese can not afford to keep using its reserves to fund revenue costs.

Historically, parishes had to pay a much lower share of the diocesan budget than today, as the amount available from external sources, such as the Church Commissioners, has reduced, and costs, such as pensions for retired clergy, have increased.

Diocesan Secretary, David Taylor, said today: "Parishes are finding it more and more difficult to pay their share of the budget agreed by Diocesan Synod. Therefore, the Synod has decided to reduce what it will ask from parishes by £835,000 over the next seven years. Whilst we are looking to cut non-parochial costs and increase income, savings of this magnitude can only be made by reducing our biggest cost - stipendiary posts.

"The only alternative is for churchgoers to be far more realistic in their levels of giving in order to maintain, or even increase, clergy numbers across the diocese."

Small reductions in clergy numbers have already taken place where parishes have been merged, or where several parishes have had to share one vicar. But these have tended to happen as a result of natural vacancies.

Now, the diocese will hold a series of meetings in each of its deaneries - groups of churches in a town or similar district - to ask "what is the most effective way of 'doing church' in this area?" Local clergy and representatives of the laity will be asked to look at how the church is staffed in their area, and whether this is the most effective way of using clergy. The deaneries will be asked for suggestions as to where money can be saved.

David Taylor commented: "Reducing clergy numbers and re-organising parishes on the basis of when vacancies occur is not an effective way of maintaining and developing a mission-oriented Church. Despite an excellent team of staff and volunteers working on diocesan finances, we have a problem because more and more parishes can't afford what we are asking them to pay. Rather than wait until the problem develops into a crisis, we want to take action now, but we want the action we take to be strategic, so that we develop the diocese into an effective tool for mission.

"The local church is central to what the Church of England is. And parochial clergy are at the forefront of the church's mission. The process we are embarking upon is designed to protect these front-line clergy and provide the resources to equip them to fulfil their calling as God's ministers. However, we have to face up to the fact that clergy numbers could fall, and the way we use our clergy could change."

On Sunday 12th December every church in the diocese will play a taped message from the Bishop of Lichfield, the Rt Revd Keith Sutton, in which he will call the Diocese to prayer in the run up and during Lent. This will not be a time of asking God to provide money, but of listening to God to determine his will for the future shape of ministry in the Lichfield Diocese.


The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon

Sunday, December 29, 2002

Suggested GUIDELINES to follow when deciding who may be married in a church using the official marriage service of the Church


For a discussion starter... and at the risk of getting into trouble... here are, especially for my North American readers,

Suggested GUIDELINES to follow when deciding who may be married in a church using the official marriage service of the Church

I have often stated that there is a connection (not logical but real in experience & practice) in the USA between the increase and acceptance of the divorce culture in churches and the campaign by homosexual persons to have their "faithful partnerships" blessed in church, and thus the best way to stop the advance of this part of the Lesbigay agenda is to begin gently but firmly to remove the divorce culture from the churches. In this context I have been called many things (e.g. "a legalist") and sometimes I have been asked by serious minded persons when it is right and proper for the local bishop/ parish to allow a service of holy matrimony when the two persons involved are not simply in law a bachelor and spinster (e.g., when one is a divorcee).

Here I set down some guidelines which are much the same as those recently offered by the Flying Bishops in England & Wales to parish priests who are under their pastoral supervision. (You will find similiar advice given in the ECUSA years ago and in the Church in S Africa more recently.)

1. If the first marriage has been annulled by the State court then a marriage of each of the parties to a different person in church is permissible, other things being equal.

2. There are some unions of a male and female, though incapable of being annulled in civil law, may be treated by the Church as being not true marriages and thus each person involved may, after divorce, be married to another, other things being equal. Examples of such unions are as follows:
(a) the marriage was contracted clearly for such other reasons than those stated in the Preface to the Marriage Service in the BCP of 1662 - i.e., the procreation and nurture of children (save where age or condition make impossible), the hallowing and right direction of natural instincts and affections, & the mutual help and fellowship one with another at all times, in adversity and prosperity.
(b) At the time of the wedding one or both of the two involved was most clearly not able to evaluate and understand in basic terms (not in detail but in basics) what Christian marriage is all about. Thus he or she entered marriage with a very major misunderstanding or gross ignorance and he/she did not quickly learn.
(c) Most clear evidence of behaviour before, or soon after, the marriage showing that at the time of the marriage one party did not accept the marriage to be an exclusive and indissoluble union.
(d) Either party had an undisclosed yet clear intention not to have children.
(e) The existence of a pre-nuptial contract between the parties, providing for division of assets/property upon civil divorce, thereby suggesting that the union was intended to be merely conditional, and not for better or worse.
(f) Both persons at the time of the marriage were not baptized; later one of them becomes a Christian and is baptized and the other one, without any reasonable cause being given by the baptized one, departs not to return..

In these instances, following a civil divorce, persons from categories a - e, and the baptized from f , would be eligible, other things being equal, to be married in church to a new spouse.

3. Apart from a decree of nullity from the State ("void marriages") it is possible for the Church to declare that the following unions are no longer marriages (that is they are "voidable marriages") and thus that persons involved in them after divorce are possible candidates for being married in church to another person, other things being equal.
(a) One of the parties is impotent (except this be fully known to both before the marriage)
(b) One of the parties made the promises and consented when he or she was in such a state of mind as not to be wholly in charge of his/her statements and actions (e.g., through drug use or major illness).
(c) One of the parties, unknown to the other, had venereal disease in a communicable form.
(d) The woman, unknown to the man, was pregnant at the time of the marriage by another man
(e) There has been a wilful refusal by one of the parties to consummate the marriage.

With all such regulations (as has happened clearly in the Episcopal Church of the USA in the 1960s and following) it is possible to begin with the intention of keeping to them as interpreted reasonably yet strictly but then, due to the very powerful emotional pressure of the current divorce culture, and the greater context of human rights and the pursuit of personal happiness & satisfaction, to begin to interpret them loosely in favour of laxity and thus bring virtually every divorcee into one or another of the conditions listed above.

Today, nearly all bishops in the ECUSA allow a second marriage without any question and only begin to ask questions with respect to a third or fourth marriage. Many bishops take part in second and even a third marriage of a priest! And some of the major Continuing Churches make use of the power of annulment very liberally indeed so as to give the impression of keeping to traditional Anglican canon law, when they are rejecting it. In the C of E, new legislation for 2003 leaves the matter of who is to be married in the parish church entirely and finally in the hands and judgment of the parish priest! This is a very terrifying thing indeed to those of us who are parish priests.

Two final comments. Apart from any counselling, there needs to be for persons entering a second marriage a period of guided self-examination, confession and absolution so that he or she is prepared to enter the new marriage in soundness of mind and with a cleansed soul.

For many couples where one or both is/are divorcees it is probably better in some circumstances that they be married by the State and come to the church for a Service of Blessing, where God is asked in his merciful grace to bless their new union. This can be done in an attractive way so that it has something of the joy and solemnity of a marriage service proper.

The Revd Dr Peter Toon December 29th 2002

Friday, December 27, 2002

IDOLATRY -- the Anglican doctrine of


For your kind consideration and possible reponse,

IDOLATRY -- the Anglican doctrine of

What in 2003 are the perils of idolatry facing Christians in the high secularised western world?

Before beginning an answer (and inviting your comments) let us take a look back into our history.

"Thou shalt not make to thyself any graven image.thou shalt not bow down to them, nor worship them." (Exodus 20)

This Commandment has always been taken by Anglicans as a moral Command from God. Thus it applies everywhere in all circumstances. (The problem as we shall see, is how rightly to interpret it!)

It was understood by the Early Church of condemning and forbidding all forms of pagan worship and any attempt by the Church to make representations (statues & the like) of God, Christ or even the Apostles and the Virgin Mary.

It was understood by the English Reformers of the 16th century as not only condemning and forbidding all forms of pagan worship but also all the "traditional" medieval images, carvings, pictures, crucifixes and statues of parishes churches. The most accessible, authentic denunciation of the outward forms of inherited medieval religion is found in "An Homily against Peril of Idolatry and Superflous Decking of Churches", which is in the second Book of Homilies (referred to in the Thirty-Nine Articles) and is thus part of the doctrine of the Church of England under Elizabeth I.

If we receive this Homily as delivering the doctrine of the C of E [and of the Anglican Communion] in 2003 then we have to say that virtually all parishes churches and cathedrals in the West [or "North"] and many also in the rest of the world place those who enter them in "the peril of idolatry." The Homily does not teach that the presence of images and icons absolutely and always causes those who use them not merely to venerate but also to worship them, but it insists that the dangers of so doing and falling into idolatry are so great that the risk should not be taken and thus they should all be removed from churches immediately.

Let us, for the sake of discussion, accept the position of the Homily that in the context of pagan idolatry (in which the Israelites/Jews and then the Early Church were situated) the perils of idolatry are most real for the ethos of that time was aggressively towards treating representations as if they were the real thing.

Let us also, for the sake of discussion, accept that that the inherited traditional religion of the Ecclesia Anglicana (the Church of England) was plenteously rich in images, statues, carvings and a multitude of representations of deity, angels, apostles, saints and martyrs and thus, to the Protestant Reformers, was totally at odds with the 2nd commandment of the Ten. (For details of all this rich imagery see the excellent study by Eamon Duffy, "The Stripping of the Altars. Traditional Religion in England 1400 - 1580" Yale Univ Press.)

In the context of the plentiful use of images, crucifixes, carvings of many kinds, and the like, in all parishes churches and cathedrals, the only way forward for the morally intense reforming preachers, was to warn of the perils of idolatry and to work for the removal of all such from places of worship. And this was achieved in general terms by the latter part of the reign of Elizabeth 1.

Today, the context in which we seek to worship God in the West is certainly not the inherited traditional religion of the Medieval Centuries. It is a secularised society, which has been deeply affected by the Enlightenment, Modernism & Post-Modernism, by the massive building achievements of major roads and skyscrapers, of technological and scientific progress in a multitude of different forms, of the pervading power of the media, as well by the human rights and the self-worth aspects of modern culture.

In other words, we are not like the Early Church or like the Church in the 16th century in being surrounded by religious images, icons and statues. Rather we are surrounded by massive constructions of concrete, steel and glass, and we receive colour images via computer and TV screen of a desacralized world. We are in peril of idolatry when we watch the superstars of sports and the entertainment industry; we are in peril of idolatry when we are absorbed by the love of money or capital or stocks/shares; we are in peril of idolatry when we over admire and trust in the might of national war-making ability and strength. And so on.

So I do not think that for the average Anglican (or these days Southern
Baptist) church there is much of a peril of idolatry in having a Crib at Christmas, a donkey on Palm Sunday, a Cross for Good Friday, and candles here and there. Such things can these days be aids to the imagination in making a good atmosphere and creating in the mind's eye the biblical narrative, that is being read from the sacred Scriptures. I can see that where there is an excess of statues, icons and the like, (as in some very traditional Catholic, Orthodox and Anglo-Catholic churches) there is the danger for some people of confusing the veneration of the image with the adoration/worship of Almighty God (and thus I can see that regular teaching needs to be given by clergy and teachers on the right use of icons, images and visual aids to imagination and understanding in Christian worship). I can also see that for many people surrounded by concrete, steel and glass a beautifully appointed church can be a real help in switching gear as it were and become attune to the transcendent dimensions of our life.

What we need I think is a new Homily, written for us in the West in 2003, that solemnly, powerfully, clearly and eloquently warns us of the perils of idolatry facing Christians via the Media, the secularised culture, the claims and intentions of governments (especially that of the USA) and the powers of technology and science. Meanwhile I think that we can all from Baptist to Anglican to Methodist & Pentecostal benefit from the Christmas Crib, the Cross as the universal sign of Christianity, and other simple yet profound visual aids to the entry into the sacred and into the felt presence of the transcendent yet present living God, the Lord.

St John the Evangelist's Day, Dec 27, 2002.

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon

Saturday, December 21, 2002


Baptists & Icons and Anglicans and Iconoclasm

The ceremonial, decorative or aesthetic dimension of church buildings presents an interesting topic for observation and reflection.

In early December, I was in the South of the USA in Georgia, which is, as they say, "Baptist country." There are millions of Baptists in this southern State and most of them are Southern Baptists!

What I saw in a couple of big Baptist churches was the recognition of Advent (the advent wreath with the five candles), the display of candles (to point to the Light than lightens every man - John 1 ), the Crib waiting to make its entrance nearer to Christmas, and on the wall behind the pulpit a large Cross. There will be a Christmas Tree in the Vestibule or some other prominent place. There will be Nativity plays and the choir will all be robed for Sunday worship as if they were singing in a Cathedral.

An earnest Calvinist asked me: "Have these people not heard of the Reformation and the putting away of images and icons by sound Protestants?"

I do not know how much detail of the Protestant Reformation (or the Puritan ascendancy under Oliver Cromwell) the thousands of members of these churches actually are familiar with. What seems reasonably clear is that they do not see any connection between on the one hand the iconoclasm, or setting aside of visual aids to prayer and worship, which happened in the 16th & 17th centuries and on the other hand their desire to have visual aids to prayer and worship in 2002. The contexts are so wholly different.

The fact of the matter is that the Baptists of Georgia, who are famed for their Bible-based religion, see such things as an Advent wreath, a Crib, Candles, a Nativity Play and the Cross as visual helps to focus their minds on the contents of the Bible, the faith of their Creed and especially (in a culture which is dominated by images through the media) to keep their young people focused and interested in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was born in a stable and crucified on a Cross.

The Baptists of Georgia are not looking over their shoulder at the Roman Catholic Church and seeking to be as different as they can from Catholics in worship. They are the majority and so they decide what to do on the basis of what they think will help the spread of their understanding and practice of Christianity! And in this image/visual age they see that they need more than bare churches and black covered Bibles! They need icons or visual aids if they are to make their Faith meaningful in the modern culture.

Now let us cross the ocean Eastwards and visit the few Anglican parishes in Britain which support Orangeism (Irish Protestantism) or are in the "Reform" group or are excessively Protestant (say 2 per cent of the whole). Here you will most likely see no Cross in the church, no Advent wreath, no candles on the Holy Table, no Nativity Play and no Crib. Only the Christmas tree which has no connection historically with Romanism will be allowed, and this in and of itself, is not a Christian symbol. (It becomes so by association with other visual aids like the Crib)

Why this rejection of Cross and Crib? Because the mental paradigm by which they look upon and evaluate Christianity is dominated by an anti-popery and anti-icon mindset. They think as did some of the Reformers in the 16th century and many of the Puritans in the seventeenth century. That is, they see visual aids as idols in disguise as left-overs of popery and the religion of antichrist. They have no idea that Vatican II made great changes in the Roman Catholic Church or that visual aids have always been blessed by the church to help our imagination be focused.

To return to the USA.

What the Baptists in Georgia have discovered (even though few of them realise it) is the distinction made by the seventh ecumenical council of the Church at Nicea in 787 concerning veneration and worship/adoration. The Cross & the Crib, the holy picture and the holy statue, point to the Lord Jesus Christ or to his Blessed Mother or to his Apostles/Saints. These artifacts are certainly not to be worshipped; but they actually help the imagination to focus on the living Lord and the blessed company of saints and angels who surround him. Worship is only to be offered to the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. Visual aids help us to understand the Gospel message the better and thus to engage in that adoration of God himself. The text of the Bible and the visual aids are to be venerated but not adored. Only God the Holy Trinity is to be worshipped.

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon

January/February Mandate Available On Line


The Jan/Feb 2003 issue of The Mandate is now on line, edited by me. It is on the theme of Cranmer and his jewelled miniatures, that is the Collects of the BCP - their origins, style, content and religion. The author of two of the pieces therein is the distinguished professor of English, Ian Robinson, who has written important books on the origins and nature of English prose.

please go to: www.episcopalian.org/pbs1928

Also at my church website there is available for hearing (via your speakers) the most important of all Nativity Sermons, that in the official Book of Homilies and approved by Elizabeth I in the 1560s. I have the privilege of reading it as though I were preaching it in the Church of England. It lasts 34 minutes. By its standards most of our modern efforts appear to be doctrinally weak!

please go to: www.christchurch-biddulph.fsnet.co.uk

PLEASE enjoy both visits, and do have a splendid TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS

Thank you,

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon

Thursday, December 19, 2002

Listen to the Homily for the Nativity Online


There is only one official HOMILY for the NATIVITY and it is found in the Book of Homilies referred to in the Thirty-Nine Articles.

I have recorded this (35 mins) and it is available at my parish website. www.christchurch-biddulph.fsnet.co.uk

I hope you enjoy listening to it and that my voice does not diminish its sublime content.

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon

Tuesday, December 17, 2002


I believe that the following is of interest and so I send it. The writer is a fine young man who has a great passion for the Church of God and her Truth.

It is a report of part of the the Speech of Bishop Bennison of PA to his diocese with comments of James Altena who attends St James the Less. -- P.T.

"'Wherever the river goes, everything lives.'" (Ezekiel 47:9)

"'Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the streets of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.'" (Revelation 22:1)

"Jesus said, 'As the scripture has said, "Out of the believer's belly shall flow rivers of living water."' (John 7:38)

[Bp. Bennison proceeds to offer numerous examples of what he claims are examples of how Diocesan activities in the last year are resulting in various sins being healed by the leaves of the tree of life, including racism, sexism, heterosexism, and "adult privilege" that assumes the superiority of adults to children. Then occurs the following text.]

"Healing the Schism of St. James the Less, East Falls --
By the leaves of this tree, Christ is healing the schism begun by the rector and vestry of the Church of St. James the Less, East Falls, when in 1997 they created a 'shell' corporation into which, in April 1999, by a vote of 33 of their 70 members, they merged the corporation of their parish, thereby attempting, in violation of their own corporate charter and our canons, to steal the property of the parish from the Episcopal Church. In 2001, we patiently pursued a mediation process with the parish's leaders. When that process failed, we filed a petition to protect the property. The trial took place on October 14-15, and we are awaiting the judge's decision, due by the end of January. If, as expected, the diocese retains the church property, I will appoint a priest-in-charge to rebuild our ministry in that critical, growing urban neighborhood.

"Healing the Schism of Good Shepherd, Rosemont --
By the leaves of this tree, Christ is healing the schism created by the rector and vestry of the Church of the Good Shepherd, Rosemont. For 16 years the parish has not allowed a bishop diocesan to confirm. For a decade the former rector, David Moyer, has refused to receive the bishop. After David told me he would be willing to be a candidate for election as a bishop by a schismatic organization he heads, the Standing Committee prepared and delivered to me last February 26 its finding that based on a consistent pattern of canonical failures over a decade, David had abandoned the discipline, and therefore the communion, of the church. When I affirmed the Standing Committee's findings I was required by canon law to inhibit David. When after six months David neither denied the Standing Committee charges nor retracted the actions on the basis of which they were laid, I was canonically required on September 5 to depose him. Because the wardens and vestry persisted in having David function following his deposition, on October 22 the Standing Committee invoked Diocesan Canon 13.4, declaring the bishop to be the trustee of the parish and consenting to my vesting the parish's property in the Church Foundation. I continue to seek reconciliation and hope to avoid litigation in the civil courts, but I will do what is necessary to retain the property for the Episcopal Church and rebuild the congregation.

"Healing the Schism of All Saints', Wynnewood --
By the leaves of this tree, Christ is healing the schism created by the vestry of All Saints' Church, Wynnewood. When the parish's rector resigned, contrary to diocesan policy the vestry chose the assistant, the Rev. Edward Rix, a priest of the Diocese of Lusaka in the Province of Central Africa. I later agreed to appoint Fr. Rix the interim if he would sign our standard letter of agreement. When he refused to sign the agreement and his annual license to function here expired last January, I did not renew it. Then on October 8 the vestry voted to have Fr. Rix resume celebrating and preaching without a license, and despite my inhibition of him on October 11, he did so. His own bishop has 90 days to initiate disciplinary action regarding Fr. Rix. Should Bishop Mwenda fail to do so, I will. On October 22 the Standing Committee declared that the vestry has violated the discipline of the church, made the bishop trustee of the property, and consented to my vesting the property in the Church Foundation.

"These three situations have been painful in the extreme, making this past year for me an annus horribilis. At the same time, in my 58 years I have had one broken bone and five surgeries, enough to know that the road to health is sometimes paved with pain. I have been blessed by and am deeply grateful for the advice, counsel and courage of our Standing Committee, for the guidance provided by our deans, our Diocesan Council, my staff and hundreds of you. Above all, by the leaves of these trees Christ is healing us and our whole church of the sin of schism and the heresy of Donatism. Donatus, and subsequently the Donatists, claimed that the efficacy of our Christian ministries depends on the purity, the moral quality or the theological confession of us who are administering them. It leads to the attitude that says: 'If the bishop doesn't think or act just like we believe he should, we will not welcome him here.' As Anglicans, by contrast, we believe that the church is a corpus mixtum, a 'mixed body' of saints and sinners, of 'wheat and tares together sown.' Inasmuch as our addressing these parish's schismatic behavior in the way we have has become iconic for the contest with Donatism across the Anglican Communion, inasmuch as many eyes are on Pennsylvania right now, all of us are carrying a burden we neither desired nor deserved, but also find ourselves facing an opportunity to make a significant contribution to our Communion's unity and integrity."


As Fr. Ousley has observed on several occasions, "Bp. Bennison appears to have a different conception of 'truth' than we do." Herewith several illustrations:

1) The fact that Bp. Bennison can describe as acts of healing the suing of his own parishes in secular courts, the inhibiting and deposing of godly, faithful, orthodox parish priests, and the expulsion of faithful orthodox Christians, is singularly revelatory of his mindset. Throughout all his dealings with traditionalist parishes, there has been a complete absence of any pastoral concern. Instead, his approach has been one consisting entirely and only of legalistic authority -- "I am the bishop, and therefore you are obliged to do whatever I say." In his meeting with the vestry of St. James the Less while I was a vestry member, he brought to it not a copy of Scripture but of the Constitutions and Canons of the Episcopal Church. He did not cite even one passage of Scripture to support his position, and told the vestry point-blank that it had no right to act upon conscience, but was obligated to obey his interpretation of the canons. This is of completely contrary to all traditional Christian moral theology, which teaches the absolute obligation to act in conformity with scripturally and spiritually informed conscience.

2) The claim that the disaffiliation of SJL from ECUSA by a vote of 33 out of its 70 members is extremely misleading. The parish had about 60, not 70, voting members, all of whom were notified of the meeting in advance by mail. Of those, almost a dozen were hospitalized or homebound by illness or disability, and about ten more were traveling. In short, almost every member of the parish who was able to attend did so. The actual vote for disaffiliation by those attending was 33 to 2. It is a remarkable testimony to the unity of the parish that not one parishioner notified the Diocese in advance of the meeting and vote, and that only one person left the parish as a result of disagreement with the disaffiliation, and even then did not do so until a year afterwards.

3) SJL did not attempt "in violation of their own corporate charter and our canons, to steal the property of the parish from the Episcopal Church." Following the advice of legal counsel, the rector, vestry and parishioners acted in strict conformity with the parish corporate charter, national and diocesan church canons, and corporate law of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, to effect the disaffiliation. The parish charter and title deeds have always been in the name and possession of the parish itself. The diocese has never contributed even one cent of support to SJL in its 150+ year history. The alleged claim by the national church and diocese to the parish property is based on a national canon that was enacted only at the 1979 General Convention, in a highly irregular manner that did not provide for prior knowledge, review, or informed consent by individual parishes. Our legal counsel contests on several grounds both that this canon applies to SJL, and also distorted diocesan interpretations of the parish charter and by-laws as well as various canons. Also, none of the canons have any provisions regarding merger of an existing parish corporation into another corporate entity in order to perpetuate its existence -- as was undertaken by SJL -- in contrast to dissolution of such a corporation. Use of derogatory terms such as "steal" to describe the parish disaffiliation action are extremely pejorative, inflammatory, and hardly consonant with any claim by Bp. Bennison to be pursuing "reconciliation."

4) The bishop and diocese have not "patiently pursued a mediation process with the parish's leaders." SJL agreed to a mediation process at their request, after which they repeatedly refused to schedule any regular sessions, and then canceled or postponed the few that were scheduled. As a result, only four short meetings (one of which was not a mediation session) took place in a 70-day period, at which they presented no other position than that SJL should agree unilaterally to all of their demands. Similar conduct has occurred with Good Shepherd and All Saints', where Bp. Bennison has requested mediation and then unilaterally canceled it when that was not defined a priori as complete surrender to his demands.

5) Forward in Faith - North America, the nationwide organization of Anglican traditionalists of which Fr. Moyer is president, is not "schismatic" -- indeed, if anything it has bent over backwards (perhaps too much so) to find ways still to remain within ECUSA. Fr. Moyer's supposed deposition has been rejected not only by numerous bishops in the USA, such as Bp. Duncan of Pittsburgh (who has made Fr. Moyer canonically a member of his diocese), but also by bishops abroad, including no less than the recently retired and newly installed Archbishops of Canterbury, George Carey and Rowan Williams -- and Williams is a theological liberal. Furthermore, not only had nothing in the national or diocesan canons "required" Bp. Bennison to depose Fr. Moyer, the deposition was done (as the other bishops above publicly recognized) in clear violation of the canons, which are for deposing a priest who has renounced the communion of ECUSA, not one such as Fr. Moyer who has sought to remain within it. Also, Fr. Moyer did deny the legitimacy of the charges lodged against him as the pretext for his inhibition and subsequent deposition. (Note also Bp. Bennison's patronizing and false pretense to familiarity and friendship in speaking of "David" rather than "Fr. Moyer," which also allows him to avoid having to refer to Fr. Moyer as a priest by title. Remarkably, in court documents filed during the SJL trial in October 2002, Bp. Bennison admitted that Fr. Moyer was both a priest and the rector of Good Shepherd, over a month after Fr. Moyer's putative "deposition.") Likewise, Bp. Bennison's refusal to renew Fr. Rix's license also had no proper canonical or other justification.

6) Contrary to statements made elsewhere by theological revisionists such as Bp. Bennison, heresy and schism are not distinct sins, with tolerance of heresy under the rubrics of "unity" and "diversity" trumping schism as institutional division. Rather, heresy is a form of schism; all schism is a manifestation of either doctrinal heresy, or of pride, judgmentalism, and hardness of heart, by one (sometimes both) sides. Where schism is the visible manifestation and result of heresy, it is the heretics who are schismatic, not the orthodox faithful which Scripture commands to separate from them. The fundamental unity of the church is doctrinal and moral, not institutional, critical though the latter is; the latter is the function and manifestation of the former, and does not and cannot exist without it. (See Point 9B below.)

7) The Church is a corpus mixtum, but again not in the way that Bp. Bennison pretends. We simultaneously are all sinners and saints, with the latter being revealed and shaped out of the former as the new man in Christ supersedes the old man of worldliness in those who surrender themselves unreservedly to Christ. This is not the same thing as defiant justification by unrepentant sinners of sin as not being sin but virtue, which is what Bp. Bennison supports. ("Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! . . . Which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him!" -- Isaiah 5:20-23.)

8) Ultimately, however, all of the above points are secondary to one single main point -- Bp. Bennison's betrayal of his own office as a bishop. By definition, that office is to preach, practice, and hand down -- unaltered, undiminished, unaugmented, and unimpaired -- the traditional teaching of Christ, as recorded in the Scriptures, preached by the Apostles, and defined by the Fathers and Ecumenical Councils of the undivided patristic Church. By definition, it is absolutely closed to any innovations in fundamental theological and moral doctrines. Instead, Bp. Bennison has openly violated that sacred trust at every turn, even going so far as to claim publicly that "Since the Church wrote the Bible, the Church can rewrite the Bible." He has refused to sign any document or make any public affirmation of belief in traditional Christian doctrine and morals, and openly supports and promotes such anti-Scriptural and anti-patristic practices such as pagan prayer to God as "Mother" rather than "Father," the putative ordination of women bishops and priests, sexual activity outside of marriage, and abortion, and has preached sermons that pervert and even ridicule the plain meaning of Scripture.

The other defining aspect of the episcopal office is pastoral -- the bishop is supposed to care for his clergy and laity in a self-sacrificial manner after the example of Christ and the apostles. Instead, Bp. Bennison has viewed his office in the legalistic terms of a corporate executive or government bureaucrat, whose goal is the possession and exercise of unlimited power for self-aggrandizement. He has acted as a ravening wolf, smiting the shepherds and scattering the sheep. (Cf. Jeremiah 23:1-4, Ezekiel 34:1-31, John 10:1-5, Acts 20:28-31, and Point 9A below.) SJL, Good Shepherd, and All Saints' have all -- in conformity with Scriptural admonitions, patristic church teaching, and Article XXVI of the 39 Articles of the Book of Common Prayer -- refused to receive an episcopal visitation from Bp. Bennison. They do so not because they are Donatists who deny the formal validity of Bp. Bennison's sacramental administrations (note again how Bp. Bennison misrepresents the position of the Donatists as being one merely of objection to a bishop's views, rather than denial of the validity of his orders and sacramental administrations), but because Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition both require faithful orthodox Christians to separate themselves (in charity, not vindictiveness) from an unrepentant heretic -- in the case of clergy, including his teaching and his sacramental acts -- until he is converted from his errors in doctrine and moral conduct.

(Cf. Matthew 7:15 & 10:16-39, Mark 13:22, John 16:1-4, Acts 20:28-31, Romans 16:17-20, I Corinthians 5:1-13 & 10:13-21, II Corinthians 6:14-7:1, Galatians 1:6-10, Ephesians 5:1-13, II Thessalonians 3:6-15, I Timothy 1:5-11 & 6:3-12 & 6:20-21, II Timothy 3:1-4:8, Titus 1:7-16 & 2:7-8 & 3:10-11, II Peter 2:1-3 & 2:17-22, I John 2:18-23 & 4:1-6, II John 7-11, Jude 3-4 & 17-23, Revelation 2:12-29.)

Both Christ and the apostles warned us that in doing so we should be subject to reviling and persecution, and that consequently we should not mourn, but rejoice that we are counted worthy to suffer shame for the holy name of Jesus. Sadly, it is clear that our persecutors have a different mind, hold a different religion, and preach and worship a different God, than that set forth in Scripture for the salvation of all, and we pray earnestly for their enlightenment and conversion. (Cf. John 15:18-16:4, Acts 5:41, James 5:16-20, I Peter 3:14-18, I John 3:13.)
9) Finally, here are two pertinent supporting quotations --

A) From a sermon by the saintly 19th c. Anglo-Catholic priest, blessed James DeKoven. The first paragraph describes well the outlook of Bp. Bennison, as opposed to the Scriptural view in the second paragraph. (DeKoven did not envision here the present situation in which church Canons are being willfully framed and interpreted to subvert rather than support
Scripture.) --

"Theoretically the well-trained churchman has a very lofty idea of the Episcopal office -- sometimes an exaggerated notion of it; and yet, while this exists, practically the office is shorn of its real glory. The money-qualified electors choose the Vestry, and the delegates of the Council; the lay delegates have either an actual, or, at any rate, a veto power in the election of a Bishop. It is not surprising that they should feel as if the elected Bishop had simply such powers as may be conferred upon him by the Constitution and Canons of the Church, which they or their pre-decessors have formed, and which at any time may, by due process of law, be altered. Hence, a Bishop's work and duty is whatever the Canons require him to do. He is to ordain, and confirm, and hold visitations. He is to preside at Councils and be the chairman of committees. He is to be the pleasant guest of the chief layman of the parish and advise the clergyman when advice is needed. He is to attend to routine duties without end, and, above all, to be in journeyings often. If he can preach well and talk well, if he is provident and cautious and a good executive officer; if he has personal influence and an untiring physique, if his digestion is unimpaired, his nerves unruffled; if he concentrates himself upon nothing, and diffuses a mild Episcopal perfume over everything, he meets the common theory as to what a bishop ought to be.

"The opposite theory only needs to be stated. He receives the Holy Ghost for the office and work of a Bishop in the Church of God. He is bound to be an overseer, to confirm, to ordain, to do all the works I have mentioned. But, above all, he is called to be one upon whose soul the awful burden is laid, to convert men to the obedience of the faith. He must offer the Holy Eucharist; he must preach the Word, he must bind and loose; he must organize; he must, above all things, be a shepherd, a guide, a Father. The Canons of the Church are simply the directions according to which he exercises his office. Wheresoever they do not limit that office, the inherent powers remain; and to convert men to Christ, to be the chief pastor of his Diocese -- this is the Bishop's glory."

B) A pronouncement of the first and second Councils of Constantinople in the time of Archbishop Photius, c. 870-880 A.D. --

"They who separate themselves from communion with their bishop on account of any heresy condemned by the Holy Synods or the Fathers, while he evidently proclaims the heresy publicly, and teaches it with brave front in church -- such persons, in excluding themselves from communion with their so-called bishop before synodical cognizance, not only shall not be subject to canonical censure, but shall even be deemed worthy, by the orthodox, of becoming honor; for they condemn as teachers, not bishops but pseudo-bishops; and they do not cut up the unity of the Church by schism, but hasten to deliver her from schisms and divisions."

Faithfully, James Altena

Sunday, December 15, 2002


In the CHURCH TIMES of London (13th Dec.2002) there is printed, next to the Editorial Comment, an essay by the retired Bishop of Birmingham, Hugh Montefiore, a distinguished, caring liberal, under the heading, "Why forgive divorcees but not gays?"

On the basis of my experience in the USA, I have been expecting such an article from a distinguished churchman for the last month, since the recent decision of the C of E on marriage of divorcees in church.

The Bishop welcomes this recent decision of the Synod of the Church of England to allow the marriage of a divorced person (with spouse still alive) to another person (according to guidelines to be supplied by the House of Bishops) in church using the regular church service. He points out that this decision has taken a long time in coming and that it represents a new interpretation of the teaching of Jesus. What was once seen as impossible is now possible, because the statements of Jesus in the Gospels have now been interpreted so as to allow now for this possibility, not to forbid it.

Turning to the question of homosexuality, the Bishop is prepared to accept the traditional interpretation of Paul's words as condemning all forms of homosexuality in his day as expressions of lust. Yet "when two people of the same sex seek to lead a faithful life of mutual love and support" he argues that Paul's teaching does not apply for here they are not motivated by lust but by genuine care for one another, and further they are disposed by nature to seek a same-sex partner. In this case he chooses to call their relation[ship] a handicap rather than a sin. It is a handicap because they cannot procreate children which is a prime aim of matrimony.

He concludes: "I find it very strange that those who condemn all homosexuality do not permit this scriptural hermeneutic, even if they do not hold it themselves, while, at the same time, they are able to permit a hermeneutic that allows the possibility of marriage after divorce. It is hard to avoid a homophobic conclusion."

Of course, what the Bishop is now saying aloud in England has been said in similar ways in the USA for a decade or more. It has been said and continues to be said by both liberals and by evangelicals, catholics and protestants, in the large American denominations and in many seminaries.

In the modern context of the tremendous pressure of the culture of human rights along with that of self-esteem with self-satisfaction, once you loosen the moral law of the Church and, in the name of tolerance or charity, make concessions, it is difficult to know where to stop. In fact, a momentum is generated which, as long as the cultural context remains what it has recently been in the West, will seemingly continue to move on. We are witnessing such a moving on with apparently no signs of slowing down or doing a U-turn.

As a long-time evangelical high churchman (or high-church evangelical), what I continue to find most puzzling is the energy and vehemence of the Evangelical opposition (in USA, Canada and England) to the blessing, approval or even partial approval of same-sex partnerships while, simultaneously the virtual silence of the same Evangelical voice against the modern divorce culture in the churches and its effects. For example, I have heard little in England from Evangelicals against the recent legislation - in fact all the evangelical bishops in synod voted for it. Yet I have heard much against the new Archbishop of Canterbury because he ordained a homosexual person.

One possible reason for this seeming imbalance is that (according to figures supplied by Christianity Today not long ago) the percentage of divorced and remarried people in evangelical churches is amongst the highest for all kinds of churches.

To be scriptural, to be consistent, and to live within the best tradition of the Church of God, it would seem that the modern Church must begin to refuse (under normal conditions) to bless both second marriages (when a previous spouse is still alive) and the claimed faithful partnerships of same-sex couples. To take such action will require tremendous courage, wisdom, patience and mercy.

If there is no change made in the way the Church treats the marrying of heterosexuals persons, then it seems inevitable that all of us within a decade or so will be accepting the unions of homosexuals as normal and acceptable.

Sunday December 15, 2002

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon

Saturday, December 14, 2002

Whatever are the Anglican Books of Homilies?

Do they have authority?

In the Church of England in the sixteenth century sermons could not be preached by every incumbent (rector/vicar of a parish). A licence was needed, for which an M.A. degree (usually from Oxford or Cambridge) was a usual qualification. In The Book of Common Prayer no sermon is scheduled or required in the rubrics at either Morning or Evening Prayer, or with the Litany, but one is required in the Order for the Holy Communion.

When a sermon was not to be preached at Holy Communion, according to the Book of Common Prayer of 1552, "After the Crede, if there be no sermon, shal follow one of the homelies already set forth, or hereafter to be set forth by commune auchthoritie." The rubric remains substantially unchanged to the present day in the BCP of the Church of England. It was widely obeyed during the reigns of King Edward VI & Queen Elizabeth I (1559-1604). In fact in the parish churches of Shakespeare's England sermons were heard less frequently than the homilies. They were strongly defended against Puritan attacks in Elizabeth's reign. (The Puritans objected to a minister reading a sermon written by another person.)

The Book of Homilies, as the 1552 rubric states, is in fact two books bound together. The first book of twelve (12) written sermons was published in the reign of Edward VI in 1547, and the second book of twenty-one (21) in the reign of Elizabeth in 1563. Archbishop Cranmer is the major name behind the first book and Bishop Jewel behind the second.

The topics of the first book of homilies are: sin, salvation, justification, faith, good works and the Christian life of faithfulness and obedience.

The topics of the second book of homilies include: Christmas, Easter, Whitsuntide, Rogationtide, Marriage, Common Prayer, the Sacraments, Idolatry and godly living.

Often a homily was divided into two or three parts and read on consecutive Sundays.

It is surprising that the Homilies have not enriched the language with proverbial phrases as have the Bible and the Prayer Book. This may be partly because most of the homilies are in any case solidly biblical, and secondly perhaps because now that they are so little known we do not recognize every phrase they put into circulation. Shakespeare is said to have derived from them his ideas about the necessity for order and respect for authority.

There is the question as to the authority of the Book(s) of Homilies, which are dependent upon the authority of the formulary we know as The Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion (1562). The other two formularies of the Anglican Way are the BCP and the Ordinal.

In Article XI on Justification we are told that a full exposition of the doctrine is contained in the Homily of Justification, which is Homily III in the First Book. This strongly suggests that to know the doctrine of justification by faith of the Reformed Church of England we need to study this Homily. Thus it has a specific, doctrinal authority.

Article XXXV describes the second Book of Homilies and states that it contains "a godly and wholesome doctrine and necessary for these times". Then it refers to the First Book and of both Books says: "We judge them to be read in churches by the Ministers, diligently and distinctly, that they may be understanded of the people." This suggests that the Homilies teach and illustrate the worship, doctrine and discipline of the Church of England in a general way and in their essential contents (rather than their rhetorical style and internal organization) are to be received as the doctrine of the Church of England. The emphasis that they be read "diligently and distinctly" is notable for they are not in any way popular sermons.

If an Anglican Province sets aside the Articles of Religion then it would seem that the Homilies have no authority at all for they are dependent on the existence and authority of the Articles. However, in Elizabeth I's day they were required to be used by other personal forms of authority, especially that of the Queen herself.

It would appear that in 2003 the Book of Homilies is no longer in print (according to British Books in print).

It is surely time for a new edition.

And it is surely time for more people of the Anglican Way to become acquainted with them and their teaching.

I am tempted to read them "diligently and distinctly" into a micophone and thus enable them to be put on a couple of so CD's so that people can hear them as they are stuck in their cars in heavy traffic!

Perhaps I should put the homily for Christmas (from Book 2) on to our own little church website in the UK.
The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon Minister of Christ Church, Biddulph Moor, England & Vice-President and Emissary-at-Large of The Prayer Book Society of America

Friday, December 13, 2002

Formularies in the Anglican Way


I have been asked about Formularies in the Anglican Way -- so here goes.

Formularies - an odd word! What are they?

In "The Study of Anglicanism" (edited by Stephen Sykes & John Booty, SPCK & Fortress), which is still used widely as a text-book, I have an essay on "The Articles and the Homilies" which I wrote some 12 or so years ago.

In doing some of the research for the essay in the Anglican Communion Office in London in the 1980s, I discovered that all Anglican Provinces received the classic Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal, alongside Holy Scripture, as the basis of their worship, doctrine, order and discipline; also most received the Articles of Religion. (A few provinces whose origins were in mission work by Anglo Catholics, omitted the Articles from their Constitution yet did not deny them.)

Formularies is a technical term used by Anglicans of the BCP, the Ordinal & the Articles [sometimes also the Canon Law] as these are named & cited in constitutions and books of canons throughout the Anglican Family; but, it is a word not used much today, though it was common in earlier times.

By a formulary we usually mean "a document containing the set form or forms according to which something is to be done."

So the basis of the worship of the Church in Word, Sacrament and Offices is set forth in the BCP; the basis of her Ministerial Order of Bishop, Priest and Deacon in the Ordinal; and of her doctrine (in terms of the major dogma of the Trinity, the Person of Christ, the authority of the Bible & Salvation, and also in the context of major controversies of the late Medieval & Reformation period) in the Articles of Religion.

After the Ecclesia Anglicana (the national Church of England as Latin based) broke with Rome under Henry VIII and became an independent National Church, She attempted to reform aspects of her inherited colourful, medieval Catholicism. She received in the 1530s her first non-Roman official Anglican Formularies in English -- "The Ten Articles" of 1536 and "The Bishops' Book" of 1537 (revised as The King's Book in 1543). These were not Protestant (as in Lutheranism) statements but were attempts to provide a revised form of medieval Catholicism for the English Church - a religion and doctrine without the Pope as the ultimate head of the Ecclesia Anglicana, but with the Latin Mass, the Sarum Rite, still in place.

It was after the death of Henry VIII and during the reign of his son, Edward VI, that the movement of reform from the European Continent, made its full impact on Britain. Archbishop Cranmer and colleagues made sure that the English Bible was available in all parishes and they also produced a new Prayer Book, The Book of the Common Prayer (1549), to replace the collection of medieval service books, and the Ordinal, to replace the Ordination Rites of the "Use of Sarum."

With no medieval Latin books authorised, the BCP & Ordinal became the authoritative Formularies of the now English-speaking Church of England. Later, in the reign of Elizabeth I there was added to these two a third formulary, The Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion (which had gone through several editions). And from the 17th century all three Formularies were printed inside the one book, which went by the title of "The Book of Common Prayer" (1662).

This Book went all over the world wherever the British Empire went and so was used in the American Colonies until the very late eighteenth century (when replaced by the 1789 American edition of the 1662 BCP).

The Formularies were never in competition with the Bible but seen as subsidiary to the Canon of Holy Scripture with its two Testaments, and thus as helps to the use, reading, interpretation and exposition of the Bible in the Church.

Thus the Anglican Communion of Churches is not a confessing Church as are the Lutheran & Reformed Churches of the Reformation (i.e., Anglicans do not say "we believe, teach & confess" via a Confession of Faith). Rather, the Anglican Way has certain authoritative FORMS to shape her worship, her doctrine, her ministerial order & polity and her basic dogma and doctrine. These FORMS are found in her Formularies and they belong to her very foundation. If she loses them, she has no bearings and no direction. They are also like sign-posts pointing out the direction of the Anglican Way into and within the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.

It is only in recent times that successful attempts have been made to remove these Formularies from the Anglican Way. The favourite method (as used in the ECUSA in 1976/79 and more recently in the Church of the West Indies) is to create a book of alternative services with new ordination rites (which book has many self-contradictory forms in it) and mischievously to call it "The Book of Common Prayer," and then to ditch the authentic BCP (instead of keeping it as the formulary that it is). Thus the 1662/1789/1892/1928 BCP of the PECUSA was set aside to make way for the 1979 prayer book, a book not of Common Prayer but of many alternatives for prayer.

Recent turmoil in the Anglican Communion has shown that the Anglican Way needs her classic Formularies, at least to keep her on the straight and narrow way. Her attempts to produce new types of services and new ordination rites should not be for the purpose of setting aside the Formularies; rather it should be seen as providing alternatives to them for those who want "contemporary language" and/or a new "shape". The new rites should conform to the doctrinal norms and forms within the Formularies. One reason why the ECUSA is fast heading away from the authentic, biblical & historical Anglican Way is because in her General Convention (but not in every parish) she has cast away in canon law and practice her classic Formularies (though they are still there un-noticed in her original Constitution).

Finally, I need to state three things.

First, the Formularies belong together - all three. The Anglican Way needs and should have all three. Evangelicals have tended to make too much of the Articles and too little of the BCP & Ordinal while Anglo-Catholics have tended to downplay the Articles.

In the second place, we need to realise that the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral is not a Formulary but a statement of the minimum conditions for re-union of an Anglican Church with a non-Anglican Church (e.g., Lutheran). Too many people in recent times have been treating it as an internal Anglican definition of faith, when it is in fact an external one meant for relating to others.

Finally, Anglicans have been putting great emphasis upon the "instruments of unity" (See of Canterbury, ACC, Primates' meeting & Lambeth Conf.) in recent times because the former unity guaranteed by the Formularies has been waning.

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon

Thursday, December 12, 2002

A book on the Anglican Continuing Churches

by Douglas Bess

Tractarian Press, 5225 Canyon Crest Drive, 71-295, Riverside, CA. 92507

320 pages ISBN 0-9719636-0-6


I am told that it is filled with useful information but it is not easy reading. I am also told that it was in origins a thesis.

Buy direct for $22.00.

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon

"Liturgy is more than a text." Episcopalians & Lutherans find a common mind.

Pages 400-401 of the 1979 ECUSA prayer book contain the HERMENEUTICAL KEY.

In a lecture at Virginia Seminary to commemorate the 450th anniversary of the Anglican Common Prayer, the Lutheran scholar, Gordon W. Lathrop, stated: "American Episcopalians are in the forefront of those who know and teach that liturgy is more than text." And then he pointed to the book, Shaped by Images (1995), by William Seth Adams for illustration of this point.

He proceeded to claim that: "One way to understand the remarkable pages 400-401 at the center of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer -- the text-less 'Order for Celebrating the Holy Eucharist' -- is that they are the very hermeneutical key to the entire book." That is, these pages provide " a way to understand how the other texts of all the rites have their meaning as they are used in a shaped communal action." Further, "they are not an after-thought for 'informal services,' but they are an opening of the book towards its future, an awareness that the book of the church is always in process." (See Virginia Seminary Journal, January 2000, for the text of the lecture).

What Professor Lathrop asserts is not new. We have been hearing for several decades from liturgists and bishops in the ECUSA and in the C. of E. about "the shape of the liturgy" and that common prayer is to be seen not as a common text but as a common structure with common elements, allowing a variety of forms of words.

So what is on pages 400-401? The barebones structure of the Eucharist as envisaged by those who produced the 1979 prayer book. Parishes are free to insert material of their choice under the eight headings -- Gather, Proclaim, Pray, Exchange the Peace, Prepare the Table, Make Eucharist, Break the Bread & Share the Gifts of God.

In 1979 it was assumed that the material to fill in the spaces would be taken from the 1979 book itself, but now with the creation of more official Rites as Supplementary Texts (e.g., Enriching Our Worship, 1998) by the ECUSA, and with the existence of ecumenical web-sites containing all kinds of suggestions, the possibilities for experiment and novelty are immense. Further, with the pressure from the feminist lobby for "gender-neutral" or "feminine" names for God and forms of address to God, this possibility of novelty increases all the time, as congregations dare to move further away from traditional "God-language" and moral discourse. The worship committee meeting on Wednesday has great opportunity using the scissor and paste method to produce a liturgy to suit the most recent taste and preference (whether God be glorified or not!).

Thus what is claimed to be "Common Prayer" in the Episcopal Church is now effectively a minimal common structure wherein can be inserted anything from texts of historical orthodoxy in traditional or modern language to texts celebrating the goddess, Sophia. For some people, the structure is the most important thing for that is what makes Liturgy authentic!

It is important to note that this common structure for the modern Eucharist is not the same structure as found in the classic Book of Common Prayer (1549, 1662, 1928 etc.) and that it is not possible to fit the content of the historic BCP into the modern structure proposed by the 1979 book without changing its doctrine thereby.

Why would a Lutheran professor be so happy about the new Episcopalian/Anglican sense of "common prayer"?

Here is a possible answer. Lutherans have never had the equivalent of the Book of Common Prayer as Text and Formulary. They have never had Liturgical Formularies (e.g., as are the classic Anglican Book of Common Prayer & the Ordinal) to unite them as a jurisdiction of the Church. Rather they have been a Confessional Church ("We believe, teach and confess.") based upon the Augsburg Confession, and the structure of their worship has been guided in principle not by a common text but by common structures. Their Liturgical Books are not primarily collections of texts but essays on how to lead liturgy and teach the Faith. This is not to say that many Lutheran parishes have not used common services, but it is to say that for them common prayer does not mean a common text but a common (and minimal) structure for Word and Sacrament.

Now that the ECUSA and the ELCA [Evangelical Lutheran Church of America] have joined together in a practical union from January 1, 2001, Lutherans such as Dr Lathrop rejoice because the ECUSA has moved to the position in terms of common prayer where the ELCA can truly be glad. In effect the ECUSA has come to the position adopted by the Lutheran leaders in the 16th century concerning Rites and Ceremonies (but not, emphatically, we may add, with regard to doctrine & justification by faith in particular). What matters for leaders of Episcopalians and Lutherans now is NOT a common text but a common structure for liturgy.

Thus it seems that there is room in the uniting Episcopal-Lutheran body for all types of Lutherans and Episcopalians to be united in a common worship because they have reduced common prayer to a common structure, wherein they can insert material of choice. So one parish will seek to be orthodox in doctrine and morality while another will knowingly be neo-pagan. This will be possible because on the one side the Augsburg Confession and on the other the Anglican Formularies will be merely "historical documents." And the Bible will be seen not as authoritative in all matters of faith and morality; but as a collection of books describing the experiences of God by people in ancient times; therefore the Bible is authoritative only in that it is first in order, rather than first because foundational.

Some of us prefer the older Anglican Way of using classical, fixed texts for Liturgy and finding in these texts the richness of doctrine and devotion that the saints over the centuries have poured into them and found through them.

The centrality of structure for modern liturgists is seen in the new Common Worship of the C of E where before each service/rite, its structure is carefully set out on a page of its own! Happily the classic BCP of 1662 does not follow this method!

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon

Wednesday, December 11, 2002

Traditional Language, inside and outside, the classic editions of the BCP.

How should we view the relation of traditional language services in modern prayer books to the services in the classic Book of Common Prayer (USA 1662 & USA 1928 & Canada 1960)?

If we look inside most of the new prayer books (e.g., 1979 ECUSA, 2000 C of E, 1985 Canada) we find that there are both "contemporary language" and "traditional language" rites!

Thus the question arises: Is using one or another of these "traditional language" rites any different from using the similar or related service in the classic BCP?

A. Let us first consider the Rite I for Holy Communion in the 1979 ECUSA prayer book.

1.The language used in Rite I of 1979 is much the same as that in the BCP (1928) but not identical.

2.The structure of the Service in Rite I is very definitely not the same as that in the BCP for Rite 1 is made to conform to the structure of Rite II, the "contemporary language" Rite.

3.The doctrinal content of Rite I is modified from that of the BCP through the change of structure, through a different Eucharistic Lectionary, through the presence of an alternative Prayer of Consecration, through innovations in the naming and addressing of God, the Holy Trinity, through the use of the required Collects, by the way that confession of sins is presented and understood, and by other significant verbal changes to significant Prayers.

4.The doctrinal content of Rite I is also affected because the Psalter to be used is the inclusive language Psalter of the 1979 prayer book. Thus the well beloved Psalter of the BCP cannot be used (unless one breaks the rubrics) and the Christological emphasis (Christ praying the Psalms in his Body) is lost.

5.The doctrinal content of Rite I is also affected because it is to be understand according to the doctrine in the Catechism in the 1979 prayer book and this doctrine at odds with the Catechism in the BCP.

Thus while users of Rite I may have the best of intentions of having a Service that is really and truly the classic Anglican service this is impossible, strictly speaking.

Happily the opening Acclamation with its questionable grammar & content is optional in Rite 1 (not in Rite II) but the structure of the whole Rite is not and neither is the association of questionable ideas/doctrines.

If the desire is only for "traditional language" (and not full traditional style and content) then one can only have 95 percent of this (the 5% from the Psalter is modern). Yet traditional language in and of itself is no guarantee of doctrinal orthodoxy. Using Rite I, one has to be especially aware of possible pitfalls through association of ideas in order to remain doctrinally sound!

B. Let us now consider the new C of E prayer book, Common Worship. Here there is much greater supply of traditional language for there is provided (a) traditional language forms of modern Rites, and (b) the BCP service itself [with a few minor modifications] according to its own structure, not made to conform to the structure of the modern Rites as in the USA book.

Even so the Service of Holy Communion is not identical with that in the BCP because (a) the BCP Collects and Eucharistic Lectionary are missing to be replaced by those of the Common Worship scheme; and (b) the association of ideas and doctrines produced by a book of many options provides a strange context for the BCP Rite.

Therefore, those who want to keep the classic BCP in total use do so out of a strategy of thinking that this Prayer Book, with the Bible, is a unified whole. It represents the provision of a total means of public and private worship, daily prayer, celebrating of the Church Year, public and family spirituality & piety and provision for all the major events in life and of death and so on.

In other words, it is not just this or that service, this or that collect, this or that rubric, but the whole as an expression of the godly life for family and for parish that is cherished. Thus while a Rite I service from the 1979 book, and the BCP-type Rite from the 2000 book are not to be despised, yet they are not the same as the classic Service within the BCP. So the latter is to be preferred and should be kept available to Anglicans everywhere as part of the whole package that is the BCP.

The classic BCP in any of its major editions contains not merely traditional language but a certain style, doctrine and ethos within that traditional language of public worship & common prayer. It is the whole that is precious and it is the whole that must be preserved for posterity.

Rendering the services of the BCP into "contemporary language" if done faithfully can be a blessing to people entering the Anglican Way or Canterbury trail; but, it is difficult in a modern rendering to preserve the emphases contained within the much used and loved traditional language of prayer. Contemporary language is so unstable and is always open to reflecting the latest ideologies from popular culture.

The Prayer Book Societies of the Anglican Communion of Churches seek to keep in print and available the whole Book of Common Prayer, and they also seek to help people understand and use the same in public worship and at home. The American Society is ready to send its magazine to any who wish to receive it -- 1 800 PBS 1928 or on the website.

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

“ECUSA may be apostate but its Liturgy is OK.”

In the last 10 years of my 12 years of residence in the USA (1992 –2002) it always seemed odd – sometimes amazing -- to me that, amongst those members of ECUSA who bemoaned her downward spiral into apostasy, very few (Anglo-Catholic or Evangelical) entertained the possibility that her public, official Liturgy was a cause of, or a part of, or an expression of, that apostasy.

At the Atlanta Congress of Dec 4-7 2002 I met the same attitudes all over again! Thus I am more sad and more amazed in late 2002 than I was in early 2002!

If a Church is in doctrinal, moral and numerical decline, the probability is that anything she produces will be affected by that decline, especially if she produces a whole new prayer book and rejects her former formularies (BCP, Ordinal & Articles of Religion) in so doing.

It is hard for me to forget (a) the oft-repeated mid-Western anglo-catholic claim that the 1979 prayer book of the ECUSA is the “most catholic” [read “best”] edition of the prayer book since the short-lived first edition in 1549 of “The Book of the Common Prayer”, and (b) the persistent Evangelical claim that with the Rite II services they had a relevant means of evangelism & worship.

(a) A common anglo-catholic view has been that the first edition of the BCP was “catholic” but that it was heavily protestantised by Archbishop Cranmer to make what became the 2nd edition of 1552, which (with few changes) became the classic edition of 1662. The American Liturgical Commission (though filled primarily with modern liberally inclined liturgists) of the 1960s and 1970s had helped, it was said, to recover the truly catholic elements of the western tradition in their 1979 book of alternative services (called the 1979 BCP by the General Convention). They pointed to the new “Shape” of the Eucharist and to the inclusion of “the Peace” and the placing of the Gloria at the beginning; they also pointed to the availability of a rite for auricular confession and to the Holy Week and Easter Eve services.

What they did not often mention was that in general terms all these “catholic” provisions came in a reduced or revised form and did not have their full patristic or catholic flavour (as my learned friend Professor Caldwell often pointed out). Also they did not mention the novel expressions of the doctrine of the Triune God and of the Person of Christ found here and there in the Rite II material (see the Catechism for summaries of them) or the doctoring of the Psalter and some Canticles in order to make them serve a liberationist agenda ( e.g., “Happy are they” for “Blessed is the Man [Jesus]…” in Psalm 1) or the great changes in the Ordination Services, allowing women to be priests and bishops.

(b) At the other end of the scale the Evangelicals were all taken up with the themes of intelligibility, simplicity, accessibility, relevance and meaningfulness and so they saw in the Rite II material of the 1979 book in so-called modern English a means of making their services and outreach popular and attractive. So they paid little attention to the actual doctrinal content – i.e., they did not check it against the doctrinal content of the classic BCP & the Articles of Religion in terms of who is God, who is Jesus and what is salvation. Further, being persuaded by theories of dynamic equivalency they did not seriously consider whether the 1979 Psalter could be used for genuine Christian worship or whether the NIV and NRSV etc were suitable versions for reading in public worship.

So while Catholics were deeply upset by the feminist agenda & movement in the ECUSA with its ordination of women and the changing of God-language to please women, and while the Evangelicals were upset by the seeming setting aside of the authority of Scripture, it did not seem to occur to them that the 1979 prayer book with its additions in the 1980s, and the momentum of liturgy and doctrine it expressed, created & encouraged, actually was a vehicle for the promotion of what they disliked or hated. That is, while they used the 1979 rites in their own ways for their own churchmanship, the larger church constituency was using the rites, and those spawned after 1979 and approved by the General Convention, to promote the very agendas that the traditional catholics and evangelicals hated! And this did not seem to bother them or alert them to the true nature of the 1979 book as an encouragement on the way to apostasy.

Various reasons come to mind for the support of the 1979 book by those who claimed to be orthodox and biblical -- some knew nothing else but the 79 book and it gave them a certain measure of freedom in their own situations; others felt committed to the 79 book for it is the official Prayer Book of the Church in which they were ordained and in whose pension fund is vested their future livelihood; then the bishops had gone to great lengths to force this prayer book on to parishes; further it was the ECUSA which had (in many cases) allowed priests and laity a second marriage in church with a blessing and thus their very daily life and relations were dependent upon that Church, whose liturgy they were thus not quickly disposed to criticize.

What I have also noticed is how many persons (claiming to be biblical and orthodox) quickly come to the defence of the 1979 book and its innovations if someone, like my good friend Professor Caldwell or myself, dare to warn against what we see as its doctrinal innovations

Whatever be the fundamental reasons, it is an amazing phenomenon that those who are so critical of the ECUSA – of its bishops, its general convention’s legislation and so on -- should both use the 1979 book as though it were fully and truly orthodox, and further should call it by a name that is a huge lie (it is not a Book of Common Prayer at all but a book of varied services). It is also amazing to me that much of the AMiA seems to use this ECUSA book in their separation from the ECUSA without too much concern! But, on the other hand, the genuine Continuing Anglican Churches of America keep far from it and use only classic editions of the BCP or of the Missal; and the Reformed Episcopal Church uses the BCP 1662.

Had the ECUSA made the 1979 book (as the C of E made its 1980 book and the Anglican Church in Canada its 1985 book) to exist alongside but not to replace the classic edition of the BCP (1928 USA; 1662 England; 1960 Canada) and to be dependent upon the classic BCP for its doctrinal integrity & interpretation, then the story of the demise of the ECUSA would certainly have taken a different routing. Maybe there would not have been a demise at all! God only knows, and to him be praise and glory unto ages of ages.


The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon

Monday, December 09, 2002

On the Continuing Churches & the Atlanta Congress:

My friend David Kletzing wrote the other day:

Regarding David Virtue's post on the 16 bishops who signed the ecumenical statement. I must say it's wonderful to see these Godly leaders putting pen-and-ink where their mouths are. May God bless their efforts!

On the other hand, conspicuous by their absence are the many continuing Anglican bishops of various other jurisdictions throughout North America and the world. From the USA we had only four representations: ECUSA, AMIA, REC, and APA. The latter two already have a concord to unite within several years. Where are all the other continuing Anglican jurisdictions? Their absence speaks so loudly that one wonders about the real meaning of this declaration to the Anglican world at large.

On the other hand [we have three hands!], Seeing the absence of so many other jurisdictions helps those who signed to focus their efforts to incorporate those who for one reason or another didn't sign. So let's be optimistic.

In response, on my return to the UK, may I say that like David I have studied and tasted the phenomenon of the anglican witness outside the PECUSA and that in articles for the Prayer Book Society and the Anglican Communion Secretariat I have listed up to 40 such anglican jurisdictions, of which the largest are the PCK, the ACA & the ACC. There are around 100 bishops in these jurisdictions.

The bishops of the few jurisdictions outside of PECUSA represented at the Congress make up possibly 7 per cent of Anglicans outside the PECUSA. The leaders of the remaining 90 per cent or more see PECUSA as apostate, and for them to attend a congress which is slanted towards PECUSA charismatic evangelicals who in general see no errors/heresy in the 1979 prayer book and who favor the ordination of women from the PECUSA, is neither an obvious duty nor a priority. Only gracious and persistent charm would have engaged them to consider attending in any capacity!

Whilst the momentum of the REC and other groups is towards the conservative end of the PECUSA and acceptance therein (e.g. the diocese of Pittsburgh), the momentum of the other 90 per cent of non-ECUSA anglicans is the opposite direction, away from what they see as the apostasy of the ECUSA, although they tend to remain friendly especially with the bishop of Quincy and some members of FinF NA. Then the venue especially -- a cathedral of an apostate church - was hardly a selling point to them!

I myself was very disappointed that there were not observers from the major Continuing Churches present. I think that it will now be nearly impossible to get them to join in this project especially since a Reformed Episcopal Bishop is the leader of the steering committee for the future and (for all kinds of historical and churchmanship and doctrinal reasons) the major Continuing Churches tend not to take this jurisdiction too seriously ( I merely repeat here what I have often been told).

It may be that as David says a little start has been made. But I am not optimistic about success on a scale that makes sense to observers & outsiders since the major Continuers were not fully engaged in the project from the word go. In fact had I been organizing it I would not have gone ahead with a Congress, without their promised presence at least as observers. (In fact I wish that all organzing this Congress had taken very seriously the writings of Lou Tarsitano on the topic of a national Congress.) One must get the momentum right from the word go and without the major Continuers and their 1977 St Louis Affirmation (which it seemed I was the only one publicly to mention) there can be no real beginning of the bringing together of Anglicans who desire to be orthodox in doctrine and faithful in practice.

No doubt many who were in Atlanta felt uplifted and blessed. I myself appreciated the fellowship and signs of grace but felt deeply sad because the euphoria concerning unity generated especially on the Saturday morning seemed to me to be built, as it were, like a house on sand.

It may be not too late for a major attempt to be made to engage the major Continuing Churches in preliminary discussion with a view to doing some practical things in common and thus growing in respect one for another. I hope that this will be done as a major priority.

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon

Monday, December 02, 2002

CD Offer

Good friends,

Best wishes for Advent, Christmas and Epiphany.

I write to tell you that this little parish has just completed making a CD. It is in an attractive presentation box and lasts for 70 mins in all with six tracks.

We began with creating a web site in 2002, then we added to it a sound facility, and now we have recorded some talks by me on themes from the Book of Common Prayer and in defence of its classical language of public prayer and made them into a CD. Believe me this is a great achievement for a working-class small semi-rural parish in Northern England!

I say "we" but the major work has been done by a lady, Barbara, who is disabled and all this is a triumph to her perseverance and skill. I have merely encouraged her.

We are charging only what it costs us to make it -- £2.50 plus post per copy or 2 for £5.00 post free.

However, for those in the USA we can send a copy by air mail if you send me a $10.00 bill. 2 copies for $15.00 by air.

For people in Canada, we will do the same for a $10.00 bill or $15.00 bills.

Checks are not much use to us for it costs more to negotiate them than they are worth.

Please encourage the good lady in her important ministry and listen [I hope!] to some authentic expositions of prayer-book religion.

My address is:
The Rectory, Hot Lane, Biddulph Moor,
Stoke on Trent ST8 7HP Great Britain.

Thank you for your patience

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon



One gentleman in our midst wrote:

"Peter Toon makes the very serious charge that,

Regrettably, when we move into the new type of Anglican prayer books - the books of alternative services (e.g. ECUSA 1979 prayer book) - we find that to these two meanings there is added at least one further meaning. This is the doctrine that GOD IS ONE PERSON who has three dominant Names/Modes/Aspects ("God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit") of expression. Anyone who knows the history of doctrine will known that this Modalism is heretical and it has been anathematized as such by the Church in days past! Yet happily, it seems, modern Episcopalians embrace it."

I am on my way to the Anglican Congress in Atlanta, but here is a quick response. I shall not be able to reply to any further correspondence for 6 or 7 days.

Please read what follows:

The Christian doctrine that there is one Godhead/Deity/Divine Nature yet Three Persons, A Trinity in Unity and a Unity in Trinity, is difficult to grasp and easy to falsify. Therefore, the Church in the 4th & 5th centuries - and since - went to great troubles to find the best way to express the Unity of God together with the Trinity of Persons (see the Dogma of the Councils of Nicea, Constantinople and Chalcedon, St Augustine's De Trinitate, the Quincunque Vult).

The same careful statement of the doctrine of the blessed, holy and undivided Trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, is found in the classic Liturgies of Rome and Constantinople [here most beautifully expressed], in the Scholastic Divinity of the middle ages and in the Protestant Confessions of Faith & Liturgies of the 16th & 17th centuries.

Truth matters and thus we must aim for the most truthful propositions. There is no place for carelessness and simplification in the statement of the Church dogma of the Trinity in Unity and Unity in Trinity.

One heresy that the early Fathers faced and wrote against (and composed the Quicunque Vult to oppose) was Modalism, which came in various forms. In essence it emphasised that there is One and One only Deity, the Lord God, and that he has made himself known in Three modes of being, named in the NT and by the church as Father, Son and Holy Ghost. (In other words God is One Person, with one Nature but with three ways of expression to the world.)

In order not to allow in either Modalism or Tritheism (Arianism) the Church went to great pains to state precisely the orthodox dogma so as to exclude it.

Moving into the 20th century, we find that a form of Modalism is present in several of the much read liberal theologians in the 1950s & 1960s ---e.g. Tillich & Macquarrie, who sought to make the Faith acceptable to the post World II mindset. Episcopal Seminaries in the 1950s-1970s had everyone reading Tillich and Macquarrie in systematic theology.

So when the process of liturgical revision began in earnest in the ECUSA we find that for the 1967 Order for Holy Communion, there is a new acclamation or greeting at the beginning, never before found in Anglican Liturgy or Roman Litrugy, and that this acclamation stayed throughout all the revision and occurs multiple times in various services in the 1979 ECUSA prayer book of alternative services.

This acclamation (as far as I can tell) is nowhere found in public liturgy in English or any other European language before 1967. It is "Blessed be
God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit." Note that a COLON divides the sentence into two halves and Note that there are no definite articles. Note also that the English translation of the beginning of the Roman Mass has always been "In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost."

Obviously a dominant person on the Liturgical Commission wanted the new formula and got it and it remained through to 1979 ( I suggest Massey Shepherd). If you read the explanation for it in the commentaries on the 79 book, you find that it is supposed to be a shortened form of the Greeting in the Greek Liturgy. Now this great Blessing is always translated: "Blessed be the kingdom of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, now and always, even unto ages of ages!" In the Greek there is no colon and there is the very obvious presence of the definite article.

The high probability is that in the liberal elite of the ECUSA, where Tillich and Macquarrie had much influence, Modalism was incipient and thus in adopting the acclamation, "Blessed be God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit" no one really saw that this was an innovation in terms of stating the Name and Presence of the Triune Lord.

If we examine it grammatically what it is saying is that there is a God who has three Names or Modes of Being or Attributes. After God it is not a comma but a colon! And there is no definite article before "Father" etc. In its grammatical form, standing alone, it is not the orthodox dogma of the Blessed and Holy Trinity, but Modalism.

Maybe for those, who in using it, already possessed a sound understanding of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity in mind, this expression could be seen as a short-cut expression. But for those without any grounding in the classic dogma of Holy Mother Church, this expression gives them the mental picture of one Deity or God, who is one Person as it were, and who has three dominant Names or three only Names.

Now it is true that in other places of the 1979 book the right and proper doctrine of the Trinity is set forth (but not in its Catechism!). So at best the situation is confusing.

Happily there are some clergy in the ECUSA who say, "Blessed be God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit" (changing the colon to a comma and adding the definite articles) in order to seek to make the acclamation sound like genuine orthodox doctrine - I confess that I am responsible for much of this revisionism! Some modern liturgists hate me for it, and this tells one quite a lot about how important it is to them in its original form and in its modern variations -- e.g. "God: creator, redeemer and sanctifier" and variations on this theme. There is now no attempt even to pretend that it is orthodoxy. And it never was orthodox.

In the present ECUSA those who minister and want to preserve orthodoxy ought to do all that they can to ensure that the basic doctrines of the Trinity and the Person of Christ be rightly stated in acclamation, prayer, blessing and sermon. If there is doubt then go for the well tried and the classic, not for the innovation!

I have written about this matter on numerous occasions - see e.g., my book on the 7 ecumenical councils, "Yesterday, Today & Forever, Jesus Christ and the Holy Trinity in the teaching of the 7 Councils", (Appendix 2). Also in my book on the Holy Trinity, recently republished by Regent College Vancouver BC; "Our Triune God".

May we be both orthodox in doctrine in holy in living.

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon

Sunday, December 01, 2002


(a meditation in Advent in preparation for Christmas)

For many centuries, the Church of God in her liturgy and her theology has used the expression "one God" to bear two distinct meanings, both of them with roots in the Bible.

There would be no Christmas without the initiative of the one God who is the Father and without the presence of "Emmanuel", God with us.

1. The FIRST meaning is found in the Nicene Creed and also in prayers as the One to whom prayers are addressed. We say: "I believe in one God, the Father almighty." This One God who is the Father has an unique and eternal relation to "the Son" who is the only-begotten Son of the Father. Prayer is offered to the Father (who is often just called "God") through the Son and with the Holy Ghost.

This usage takes up the meaning of the One God in the New Testament where He is named by the Lord Jesus Christ as "the Father' and "his Father."

Thus the Christian Confession is to believe in God the Father, together with His only-begotten Son and together with His Holy Spirit. This God, who is the Father, is worshipped in, through and with the only-begotten Son and by and with the Holy Ghost.

This FIRST meaning has never left the Church and is most clearly present in the Eucharistic Prayers of East and West (addressed to the Father through the Son and with the Holy Spirit) and in most Collects for the Christian Year.

At Christmas we think of God [= the Father] sending his only and eternal Son to take our nature & flesh in the womb of the Virgin and to be born as Jesus, her Son. "God so loved the world that He have his only begotten Son."

2. The SECOND meaning became more prominent in the Church after the debates and controversies surrounding Arianism and is found in the famous statement "Three Persons, one God" or "one divine nature/substance and Three Persons." Here "God" ceases to be the personal Name and the equivalent of "the Father" who is the First Person of the Holy Trinity and becomes the word for the ONE "Divinity" or "Deity" or "Divine Nature/Substance", the very Godhead possessed entirely and wholly by each of the Three Persons. Thus the formulation: One in Three and Three in One, A Trinity in Unity and a Unity in Trinity.

Here the Persons of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost are seen as different from each other because of their differing relations to each other; but they are wholly equal to each other in that each one possesses in full and undivided the one and the same, the identical Godhead/Deity/Substance/Divine Nature. The Divine Nature is not divided into Three but is possessed wholly and totally by each of the Three Persons, and thus there is One God or Godhead only.

A wonderful statement of this SECOND meaning, and based on the teaching of St Augustine of Hippo, is found in the Creed called The Quicunque Vult (= the Athanasian Creed).

At Christmas when we look to Jesus as Emmanuel, meaning, "God with us", it is possible that we are thinking that eternal Deity & Divinity & Godhead are revealed in this babe, whom later the Church will call the Second Person of the Holy Trinity.

In this tradition of understanding the noun "God", then THE TRINITY, or THE HOLY TRINITY becomes a proper Name for Deity. Thus Churches and Colleges and Hospitals are consecrated in the Name of THE TRINITY and prayers are addressed to this TRIUNE GOD.

"O holy, blessed and glorious Trinity, three Persons and One God: have mercy upon us miserable sinners" (Litany).

If you turn to the Proper Prefaces for Trinity Sunday in the Order for Holy Communion in the 1928 BCP of the Protestant Episcopal Church USA, you find that both these meanings are present.

In the traditional Anglican Preface (p.79) we have both meanings run together:

"Who [the Father], with thine only-begotten Son, and the Holy Ghost, art one GOD [Godhead], one Lord in Trinity of Persons and in Unity of Substance. For that which we believe of thy glory, O Father, the same we believe of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, without any difference of inequality."

Then if you look at the Collect for Trinity Sunday you see that the Second meaning is prominent:

"Almighty and everlasting God, who hast given unto us thy servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of the Divine Majesty to worship the Unity, we beseech thee that thou wouldest keep us steadfast in this faith..who livest and reignest, one God, world without end."

Only on Trinity Sunday does the Church in her Collect address the Holy Trinity as the One God.


Regrettably, when we move into the new type of Anglican prayer books - the books of alternative services (e.g. ECUSA 1979 prayer book) - we find that to these two meanings there is added at least one further meaning. This is the doctrine that GOD IS ONE PERSON who has three dominant Names/Modes/Aspects ("God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit") of expression. Anyone who knows the history of doctrine will known that this Modalism is heretical and it has been anathematized as such by the Church in days past! Yet happily, it seems, modern Episcopalians embrace it.

Let us worship the Father, through His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and with His Holy Spirit, our Advocate & Comforter. Amen. AND, therefore, "Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost, Three Persons and One God."

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon