Monday, March 31, 2003


Here are my observations on the relation of the new Liturgy of the C of E to the earthly Head of the same Church!

It is a summary of the first part of my sermon at Evensong in Belvoir Castle on 30th March at the celebration of the 300th anniversary of the foundation of the Dukedom of Rutland.

In the Litany of The Book of Common Prayer (1662), which is appointed to be used on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, after Morning Prayer, we pray for the Sovereign, the Royal Family and the Nobility. There are three distinct petitions for the Sovereign, one for the Royal Family, and one for the Nobility. The latter is: "That it may please thee, O God, to endue the Lords of the Council, and all the Nobility, with grace, wisdom and understanding."

Further, each day in Morning and Evening Prayer, as we use this same Prayer Book, we offer the appointed prayers for the Queen's Majesty and for the Royal Family. Then each Sunday, again as we use this same Prayer Book, we always make two petitions for the Queen at Holy Communion, one before the Collect, Epistle and Gospel and one in the Prayer for the Church militant here on earth.

However, if we choose to use Common Worship (2000-2004), the multi-volume alternative to the one small volume which is The Book of Common Prayer, then we find that we are under no requirement or rubric to pray for the Queen either in Morning and Evening Prayer or in Holy Communion. We may do so if we wish; but, there is no obligation at all to pray for the Supreme Governor of the Church of England by law established. Though there are prayers provided for the Sovereign and the royal family to be used if we feel so moved, they are not required as necessary ingredients for Morning and Evening Prayer and Holy Communion. The same also is true of the new Litany which does contain one petition for the Queen of 22 words; yet it is in a section of the Litany which may be omitted! In this same Litany there is no prayer at all for the Royal family. And in the whole of the multi-volume Common Worship there are no prayers provided at all for the Nobility.

It is most surprising to me that the General Synod did not make sure that the modern ideology of contemporary liturgists concerning Shape and Content (or Structure and Ingredients) in relation to services was not modified to ensure that in an Established, National Church where the Queen is the Supreme Governor, the daily Liturgy required (not made possible according to whim and fancy) prayer for the Queen's Majesty and related petitions.

Regrettably the provisions of Common Worship can be interpreted as a sign of the Church calling for dis-establishment through the means of teaching people NOT to pray for the Queen, the royal family and the nobility!

Those who use faithfully The Book of Common Prayer (1662) will continue to pray fervently for the Queen, the Royal Family and the Nobility.

(Please visit the new Prayer Book Society on-line store (coming soon) -- below anglican marketplace)

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon

Saturday, March 29, 2003

ECUSA & Orthodox Liturgy 2003 onwards

What is the major challenge posed by the ECUSA in 2003 that the Prayer Book Society and all orthodox Episcopalians who want to preserve sound doctrine and an excellent form/idiom of language should address?

It is not any longer the 1979 prayer book, even though this has had a major impact upon the worship, doctrine and discipline of the ECUSA and changed its spiritual, moral and doctrinal character enormously - and perhaps for ever.

I believe the challenge is found in embryo in the 1979 prayer book and will be very evident when the proposals for the new plans for provisions for public worship in the ECUSA are released in a month's time and then voted on in July at the General Convention. That is plans to produce the new multi-volume, multi-CD of structures/shapes and contents/ingredients for public worship in the ECUSA for the next decade to replace the 1979
(already) book of alternative services.

The embryo in the 1979 book is to reduce a service to a shape or structure into which the local church can place its own ingredients or those recommended in national provisions (see page 400).

What we find now to be the case is that the whole idea of common prayer has been reduced by modern liturgists (and the ECUSA pioneered this practically) to a basic shape or structure for the Daily Office, for Holy Communion and for Baptism etc. This shape is so brief that it can be put down on one side of a small sheet of paper ( see pages 400-401 in 1979 prayer book) and one then can go to numerous places to find satisfactory things to put into the structure or shape. At the local level the worship committee does the pasting up of the liturgy weekly, or as they are moved. ELCA folks are most happy about this arrangement for it fits in with their liturgical history.

This procedure can be seen or claimed as satisfying for everyone; at one end you can have worship of Sophia with an apparent ORTHODOX SHAPE and definitely heretical ingredients, and at the other you can fill the SHAPE with ingredients from the classic Book of Common Prayer 1662 or 1928.

What this new approach to liturgy means in practice is (a) the total abandonment of Common Prayer as that has been known in the English speaking world since the middle of the 16th century, and (b) a claim of unity around a common structure, and (c) an open door to heresy of all kinds, and (d) to chaos in the long term, and (e) to easier ecumenical agreements with churches that have not had a fixed liturgy.

I hope I am wrong in my prediction; but this is the mood and mind of liturgists and bishops at this time; and the English have produced a first run of this type of thing in COMMON WORSHIP (five or more volumes already in it), although here the conservatism of the C of E (with its relation to Queen in Parliament) has made the offered ingredients for the required structure/shape to be moderate not radical, even if often banal and dumbed down.

Such inhibitions will be less obvious in the USA (even though for Rowan Williams's sake there will be some restraints) and the elevation of structure/shape to the equivalency of commonality will be a very major open door to every kind of recent innovation and immorality.

Whether we actually use the classic Book of Common Prayer or one of the sober alternatives from the 1979 prayer book, orthodox Anglicans truly need now to provide an apologetic for the CONCEPT of Common Prayer as historically understood and we also need to provide an apologetic for the classic IDIOM of public prayer that is part of the whole concept of Common Prayer.

We cannot surely allow the notion that common refers only to a vague shape or structure to triumph; and we surely cannot allow (even if we do not use it) the traditional idiom of public worship to be pushed out completely.

I believe that in the book, "NEITHER ARCHAIC NOR OBSOLETE, The Language of Common Prayer and Public Worship", by Dr Tarsitano and myself (available from the Prayer Book Society - website sales address below) a start has been made on the second of these two aims; and I believe that in my (not yet published) COMMON WORSHIP EXAMINED (due in the summer from a British publisher) I have indicated clearly where the new divide in terms of what is "Common" lies, and what is involved in this divide. This book takes apart the COMMON WORSHIP (5 vols) in order to see what is involved in the new era of liturgy. There is much work to be done and we have only just begun. Others more able than I am need to join the campaign.

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

The Fourth Sunday in Lent: Refreshment Sunday & Mothering Sunday


A meditation for the coming Sunday on the traditional collect, epistle and Gospel.

"Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that we, who for our evil deeds do worthily deserve to be punished, by the comfort of thy grace may mercifully be relieved; through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen."

Epistle: Galatians 4:21-31 Gospel: St John 6:1-14

The Gospel, Epistle and Collect for this Sunday, the mid-point in Lent, are a threefold cord. The Epistle spiritualises the Gospel; the Collect takes it up as spiritualised and turns it into a prayer.

The Gospel provides the account of the feeding of the 5,000 - thus the ancient title for the day, Dominica Refectionis, Refreshment Sunday. This miracle of providing bodily sustenance and physical healing to weary souls may be seen as a fulfilment of the promise of Jesus: "Come unto me all that travail and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you" (Matthew 11:28). The bodily refreshment is symbolical of our higher refreshment by his grace.

The Epistle describes another kind of weariness, that of guilt under the law of God, which Christ also relieves. There are two covenants, that of the Law and that established in and by Christ. The terms of the covenant of the Law are, "The man that doeth the works of the law shall live" but none of us can fulfil it! In contrast, the terms of the new covenant are "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ (who fulfils the Law and bears it curse) and you shall be saved". So there is comfort and refreshment for the guilt-laden soul in union with Jesus Christ and in membership of the new Jerusalem, the heavenly Mother of those who believe the Gospel (so this Day is also called Mothering Sunday - "Jerusalem above is free and is the mother of us all" [Galatians 4:26]).

The Collect begins by recognizing that before God's court we all stand condemned as those who both break his commandments and fail to obey them; thus in our consciences we know that we deserve his punishment ( as the Covenant of the Law clearly states). But it does not stop there. It prays that by the comfort of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ we shall be relieved and refreshed (here we hear the invitation - Come unto me all that travail.).

This is a perfect Collect for mid-Lent if we have been taking Lent seriously and are much aware of our sins though self-examination and penitence.

This Sunday is a day when the Church encamps in a green pasture to be relieved, refreshed and fed by the Lord Jesus Christ so that we may serve his Father not only in the rest of Lent but in Easter power and grace unto our life's end with out Mother, the new Jerusalem which is above.
P.S. There is a great sermon to be preached on the theme of Refreshment from Exodus 15:27 -- the Israelites came to an oasis called Elim after making bitter trial of the waters of Marah and there they found refreshment with the twelve wells of water and the 70 palm trees...

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

March 25th a most holy day


March 25th is nine months before Christmas Day and is thus the day the Church commemorates the conception of Jesus by Mary. However, since Mary was a pure Virgin, and since she conceived when and as the Holy Spirit in Person and present caused her to do so, the conception was miraculous and outside the laws of nature for no male semen was involved.

St Luke provides us with the account of the conception in his Gospel, 1:26-38. The angel Gabriel descended from heaven to earth as the messenger of YHWH, the Lord God, to the young, unmarried maiden and told her that she had found favour with God. This meant that she would conceive and bear to termination a son, to be called Jesus, and he will be called "the Son of the Most High".

When amazed and frightened, Mary asked how this could be, she was told that it would occur by direct, divine intervention. The Holy Ghost, not a man, would [as it were] come upon her, and (put in a parallel way) God whose Name is "the Power of the most High" will hover over her so that she shall conceive solely and miraculously by divine intervention. Her son will thus be unique and holy, the Son of God incarnate.

Mary accepted her calling and submitted to the will of Heaven: "Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to thy word." Then she conceived and the Incarnation occurred.

SO IMPORTANT did Christendom regard this day that in England, for example, the secular year (as we call it) began on this day and this practice was not changed until the eighteenth century (when the Enlightenment was having its influence) to January 1st. Christendom truly could be said to have its immediate origins in the conception by Mary of the Lord Jesus Christ.

One of the great tragedies of modern church life and of the translating of ancient Creeds has been the rendering in both the Apostles & Nicene Creeds "conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit" (a translation now rejected but widely in use in prayer books produced in the 1970s and 1980s). Jesus was not conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost but by the Holy Ghost himself, in Person. You and I, and all the creation, are procreated by the power of the Holy Spirit, working through and in the laws of nature. Jesus was not so conceived. The Holy Ghost, the Holy Spirit, was personally present in heavenly grace and power to effect the conception. Further, the conception by Mary was also the Incarnation, the assuming of human flesh and nature by the eternal Word and only-begotten Son of the Father.

To say "conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit" is thus, strictly speaking, to reject the Incarnation of the Son of God!

The Collect for this Day in the classic Book of Common Prayer (1549 etc) is not the Collect in the old Latin Missals but is rather the Post-Communion Prayer for this Day. Archbishop Cranmer and his colleagues judged the Latin Collect to be corrupt and thus used instead the Post-Communion Prayer for the new The Book of the Common Prayer of 1549. This Collect connects the Incarnation with the vocation of the Suffering Servant of God who redeems his people through death and resurrection.

"We beseech thee, O Lord, pour thy grace into our hearts; that as we have known the Incarnation of thy Son Jesus Christ by the message of an angel, so by his cross and passion we may be brought unto the glory of his resurrection, through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

The Latin Collect rejected may be translated as follows:
"O God, who didst will thy Word to take flesh from the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, at the announcement of the angel; grant unto us they suppliants that as we believe her truly to be the mother of God, so we may be assisted by her intercessions with thee, through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

Here the emphasis is upon Mary as the Intercessor and not on her Son!

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon

Monday, March 24, 2003

Forward in Faith NA to Presiding Bishop Griswold


(The influence of Rowan Williams in the background may serve the F in F interests here) -- P.T.

March 19th, 2003

The Most Rev'd Frank T. Griswold
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church Center
815 Second Avenue
New York, NY 10017-4503

Most Reverend Father in God:

Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Council of Forward in Faith, North America, was glad to receive your letter of December 11th. It was discussed at the Council's February meeting, and I was directed to respond on its behalf.
The Council is cognizant of the Covenant adopted by the House of Bishops, which offers the possibility of 'supplemental episcopal pastoral care' within the existent Constitution and canons of The Episcopal Church. But we note that the Covenant speaks of 'the visitor', without stating who 'the visitor' is to be. It was to provide such visitors that FIF/NA's Assembly put forward the names of two godly priests, in the hope that one or more might be consecrated to fulfill that ministry.
We are aware that, under the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church, a Presiding Bishop cannot simply choose and consecrate a bishop. Any bishop chosen for this ministry must be duly and canonically elected by a diocese. But while you do not have metropolitical jurisdiction, you do have a 'bully pulpit'. You have said that you are committed to providing the 'appropriate episcopal care' which the Communion has promised those we represent, and to the House of Bishops' resolution as a means of doing this. We enclose a proposal which we believe would achieve that end in a manner entirely consonant with the Constitution and Canons. We call upon you to use the considerable influence of your office to bring this proposal to fruition.
However, we would be less than forthright with you, and fail in our responsibility to those we represent, if we did not go on to say that the House of Bishops' proposal for 'supplemental episcopal pastoral care' seems to us to fall far short of the 'appropriate episcopal care' which the Communion has promised and our constituency requires. We have enclosed a statement outlining what we consider its deficiencies, and suggesting a remedy.
On behalf of those we represent, the Council implores you, as our father in God, to use the full force of your office not merely to provide for the consecration of one or more bishops to serve as 'visitors' under the Covenant, but to take the actions necessary to establish a binding system of alternate pastoral care within The Episcopal Church.

Yours sincerely,

(The Rev'd Canon) Warren Tanghe, SSC
Secretary, Forward in Faith, North America

A Proposal from the Council of Forward in Faith, North America, to the Presiding Bishop for the implementation of the Covenant

The Covenant adopted by the House of Bishops speaks of 'the visitor' who is to provide supplemental pastoral care, without defining who that 'visitor' is to be.
The number of bishops who do not ordain women, and thus would be acceptable to those the Council represents, is small. Age and infirmity limit the availability of those who are retired. At the same time, a number of diocesans have openly stated their hesitancy to have another diocesan minister in their jurisdiction.
The Assembly of Forward in Faith, North America, has therefore suggested to the Presiding Bishop the names of two worthy priests, acceptable to and affirmed by the only organization representing those who adhere to the historic all-male priesthood of the Church, in the hope that one or both of them may be consecrated to care for those we represent.
The Council of Forward in Faith, North America, therefore calls upon the Presiding Bishop to take the following or similar steps to secure the consecration of one or both of the priests whose names the Assembly put forward or of other suitable persons to serve as bishops visitor to those who affirm the historic, all-male priesthood of the Church.
* to get financial provision for the support of one or more bishops visitor included in the national church's budget;
* to contact FIF/NA diocesans, American Anglican Council diocesans, and even diocesans who would not consider themselves conservatives but might be open to such an idea (the Bishop of Bethlehem, for example) to find one or more willing to set in motion the process leading to the election by their dioceses of one or more bishops suffragan partly funded by the national church, whose stated duties would include serving as a bishop visitor wherever invited; and
* to urge both the church's acceptance of such a plan, and the consents of the bishops and dioceses to the election and consecration of the person or persons so elected. We believe this proposal is entirely consonant with the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church.

A Proposal from the Council of Forward in Faith, North America to the Presiding Bishop for the provision of Alternate Episcopal Care

The Council of Forward in Faith, North America, respectfully submits that the House of Bishops' proposal for 'supplemental episcopal pastoral care' falls far short of the 'appropriate episcopal care' which the Communion has promised and the loyal Anglicans we represent require. In particular:
* the House of Bishops' resolution says that 'the provision of supplemental episcopal pastoral care shall be under the direction of the bishop of the diocese', but in fact, under the existent canons, the diocesan not only directs it but decides at his discretion whether or not to offer it in his diocese, or to a particular congregation within his diocese. Thus, the provision is inadequate and inequitable, both in that not all congregations which wish it have access to it, and in that the person who decides whether or not they will have access is the person whose actions gave rise to the request for such care in the first place.
* the term 'supplemental episcopal pastoral care' is not defined, and would therefore seem to mean whatever each diocesan deems it to mean. For instance, it is by no means clear that it should include the administration of the Sacraments. Again, this is inadequate and inequitable.
* the House of Bishops deems the provision of supplemental episcopal pastoral care to be 'a temporary arrangement'. But the impairment of communion created by a diocesan's including women among the ordained is not temporary, and the process of reception recognized by the Communion is one that the Eames Commission has stated will last generations, not months or years. The matter at issue is not a temporary dispute between a bishop and a congregation or priest, but, as the Anglican Communion has recognized, a deep and long-term rift which impairs their communion.
Insofar as 'supplemental episcopal pastoral care' means the provision of sacramental and pastoral care in addition to that provided by the diocesan rather than in its stead, it does not address the central issue of impaired communion. For it may still be expected that one will receive the Eucharist from the diocesan - in the case of clergy, given recent threats and actions, on pain of being judged to have abandoned the Communion of this Church and deposed. If the diocesan is male, we publicly affirm the validity of the sacraments he celebrates. But if he has impaired the unity of the diocese by obtruding into its ordained ministry those whom not all recognize to be validly ordained, or those whose conduct is unworthy of the ordained, then conscience demands that we refuse to receive the Sacrament from him as a sign of our impaired communion with him.
The Council is aware that you have contacted a number of congregations which presently enjoy supplemental pastoral care, and have been told by at least some of them that their present arrangements are acceptable. But surely you realize that those you contacted may fear that, were they to say otherwise, word might get back to their diocesans and create problems for them. They may want something different, something more, but are fearful of jeopardizing what they have in the absence of a secure system to provide what they seek, just as a number of congregations known to the Council are fearful of requesting even supplemental episcopal care lest they damage their relationships with their bishops and their dioceses.
That is why The Episcopal Church needs to go beyond what the Covenant provides. Perhaps the present provisions of the Constitution and Canons do not provide for it; but just as they have been amended to other ends, so they can be amended to this end. The Council wishes to offer the full resources of Forward in Faith, North America, to work with those who serve on your staff and advise you to devise amendments to Article I of the Constitution, and complementary canons, in such a way as to allow the election of a bishop or bishops suffragan to the Presiding Bishop to serve our constituency, parallel to the provision for 'national' bishops suffragan to serve the Armed Forces and the Convocation of American Churches in Europe. Such provisions would need to include a mechanism whereby a congregation could assert that its communion with its diocesan is impaired, and the exercise of pastoral and sacramental care of that congregation and its clergy would thereupon be placed in this suffragan's hands, much as the Suffragan Bishop for the Armed Forces and the chaplains under his authority exercise pastoral and sacramental care even in domestic military facilities.
The Episcopalians and Episcopal congregations represented by Forward in Faith, North America, have proved themselves loyal to their church. In spite of dismissal, hostility and even persecution, we remain within it, and do not wish to leave it. The Council looks to you, Presiding Bishop, to use the 'bully pulpit' which your office affords to call the church and its leaders to restore us to our full and rightful place in this community of faith, embracing and affirming both us and the place which our understanding of God's truth holds in the church's life. We further look to you not just to call upon the church, but to lead the church, to reward our fidelity by taking the actions necessary to provide the 'appropriate episcopal care' which the Communion affirms is our due as loyal Anglicans.

Archbishop: pastoral letter to Anglican Primates


The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams has written to the most senior Bishops and Archbishops of the worldwide Anglican Church to express his concerns about the conflict in Iraq and his hope for a positive future for the region.

In his letter to the Primates of the Anglican Church's 38 Provinces, Dr Williams spoke of his concern for Christian communities of the Middle East, and of his prayers for them and their neighbours of other faiths. Acknowledging Iraq as the homeland of Abraham, Dr Williams also voiced hopes for reconciliation and justice in the region.

Text of letter to Anglican Primates

We have entered on a time of acute suffering for some and of anxiety for all peoples and nations round the world. As leaders of our Churches within the Anglican Communion, we must pray that, whatever the many and varied misgivings expressed, the military action now being undertaken may help to bring about a more stable future for the whole region, with justice for all.

We shall be thinking especially of our fellow Christians throughout the Middle East, and praying that they and their neighbours who belong to other faiths will find the strength and vision to go on working for a shared future of understanding and respect. Let us also hold in our prayers Christians in others parts of the world, who may feel vulnerable and uncertain at this time of tension.

Those in the front line of conflict and their families face particular challenges; and in praying for them and those who seek to support, let us also remember the many clergy from different countries who are charged with pastoral responsibility for men and women on active service.

The prayers of the whole world will be focused in the days ahead on hopes for an early end to armed conflict and a settlement that will honour the freedom and dignity of the people of Iraq.

May God our redeemer bring good out of the passions and tragedies that have scarred that country, the first homeland of Abraham our father in faith. With Abraham, we look forward to 'the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God' Let us commit ourselves to working under God for the signs of that city to become manifest among us in reconciliation and justice.

With my love and prayers,


Archbishop: pastoral letter to Forces Chaplains


Lambeth Palace has released the text of a pastoral letter sent by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, to UK military chaplains serving in the Gulf as part of the current operations.

In his letter, written before the start of the military campaign, Dr Williams said that they and those serving with them would be in his thoughts and prayers and he paid tribute to their difficult role:

"You stand in a long and honourable tradition of Christians bearing witness to the love of Christ in hard and dangerous places."

The text of the letter:

Amidst all the preparations for armed conflict possibly involving British military personnel, I wanted, in the light of my own pastoral responsibilities, to write to assure you and those under your care of my thoughts and prayers in these difficult and testing times.

There has been a great deal of public discussion about the events now unfolding; the decisions that have been made have been hard choices between different kinds of risk and cost. But that is not the focus of this letter and we pray for those who carry the great burden of responsibility for making key judgements in these matters.

Those who are deployed with their units will, I am certain, acquit themselves with courage and dedication. Few join the armed forces without having thought deeply about the personal cost of service or of the possibility of being put in harm's way and the Church has never shrunk from sending its clergy to serve as chaplains wherever military people find themselves. You stand in a long and honourable tradition of Christians bearing witness to the love of Christ in hard and dangerous places.

You and I are both charged, in our different ways, with the pastoral care of members of the armed forces and their families. As you exercise your ministry with them, please be assured that prayers are being offered here for you and those under your care. We pray for your swift and safe return.

Every blessing,


Notes for editors:

The Archbishop met recently with the senior chaplains from the Navy, Army and RAF and the Bishop to the Forces, the Rt Revd David Conner, and was briefed about the work of chaplains in the Gulf
For details about the Enthronement of the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Rowan D Williams, visit

Friday, March 21, 2003

Joint Statement by Religious Leaders in the UK


...not a religious war

We have gathered against the backdrop of military action in Iraq involving British forces. They, their families and everyone caught up in this conflict are in our thoughts and prayers-especially those whose lives or loved ones have been lost.

As religious leaders from several faiths, we are here to signal the common ground on which we stand and to reaffirm the values we share at this time of tension, conflict and discord.

We pray that almighty God will grant wisdom, judgement and compassion to the political and military leaders who carry the immense burden of responsibility for the way this war is prosecuted.

Respect for every human being in times of armed conflict, as set out in the Geneva conventions and protocols, must be guaranteed on all sides. The rights and needs of civilians innocently affected by the conflict must be fully protected.

This is a conflict neither about religion nor between religions. We completely reject any attempt to misrepresent it in this way. As Christian, Jewish and Muslim religious leaders in this country, we believe that it is vital, amid so much uncertainty and turmoil, to resist any attempt to drive our communities apart.

We commend the continuing efforts being made in Britain to build a society in which different faith communities can flourish side-by-side in mutual respect and harmony.

We urge all communities to maintain their commitment to this goal, at a time when it may come under strain. We commit ourselves fully to strive to that end, for the sake of our shared well-being and as a mark of our commitment to a more harmonious, less conflict-ridden world.

Although, sadly, the diplomatic road is currently blocked, military action can only be a limited means to an end. We pray that early efforts to achieve a just, lasting and secure peace both in Iraq and throughout the Middle East may follow swiftly in the footsteps of war. We urge those with the power to help make real this vision, to remain true, amid the clamour of conflict, to that noble and vital purpose.

It is a vision which we commend in the confident belief that by so doing we are acting in the true interests of our God given humanity.

This joint statement has been issued by:

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams
The Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor
The Free Churches Moderator, the Revd David Coffey
The Chief Rabbi, Dr Jonathan Sacks
Chairman of the Council of Mosques and Imams UK, Shaikh Dr Zaki Badawi
Co-President of Churches Together in England, the Revd Esme Beswick

War & Peace, Prayer and the BCP

As far as I can tell the vast liturgical provision or multi-volume Directory for worship called COMMON WORSHIP of the Church of England provides no prayers for use in time of war. This of course does not stop bishops issuing such prayer for use, which they are doing. In contrast THE BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER of 1662 does envisage war and conflict as real possibilities and does provide petition in the traditional Litany as well as a prayer to be used at the end of Morning and Evening Prayer entitled, "In the Time of War and Tumults". Then, there is the fixed Collect for Peace daily required at Morning and Evening Prayer and within the Collects for the Christian Year not a few of them have petitions to be saved from enemies (physical and spiritual).

The 1928 BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER of the PECUSA has several prayers for a time of war (pages 41-2 of the pew edition), but the 1979 Prayer Book of ECUSA in "Prayers and Thanksgivings" 814ff. does not have a specific prayer for use in time of war. It does have prayers for peace, for country, for the government, for social justice and for prisoners of conscience, as well as a prayer for those in the Armed Forces, but nothing specifically for a time of war.

It would seem that the classic BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER (1662 etc) provides for prayer in war but assumes that any such war is a just war. (If a church of a nation using the classic BCP believed that a war was not just then there are problems using the set prayers.)

It would seem also that the American Prayer Book of 1979 does not want to face the ugly fact of war (after all it was put together in the aftermath of the Viet Nam conflict) and so provides only general prayers for international peace, peace with justice and the well being of the members of the armed forces. It has the 1960s ring of protestors for peace about it.

Right now pastors face the real difficult situation of framing public prayers for Sunday worship which rightly capture the known will of God and rightly make petition for all those managing, fighting in and affected by war. And we cannot avoid the fact in our thinking that war reveals both the dark/evil and well as the light/compassionate side of human nature and thereby shows that man though made in the image of God is nevertheless depraved and degenerate and will only be perfected in the age to come. Victors and the conquered share the same fallen human nature.

The following note (below) may be help to some as they prepare prayers for public worship -- but perhaps more useful to traditional congregations will be such collections as "Parish Prayers" edited by Frank Colquhoon, which has prayers that were composed in World War II.

[The Invitation to Prayer website,, exists to support both individual prayer and collective worship. Special prayers for use in time of war have been added to the site on 20th March. There are resources for clergy and laity, for use individually and collectively, and for use at different times of day. These may form the basis for a short act of prayer in church or at home, at a regular time each day or week, at the start or conclusion of a silent vigil, or whenever people meet together to pray.]

In Britain with half the population vocally against the war against Iraq, pastors who open their mouths need to have prepared carefully what they offer to God on behalf of their congregations!
The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon

Piracy by Liturgists


We have witnessed over the last twenty-five years in the Anglican Communion, from the West Indies through the United States of America to England, the use of piracy by liturgists and bishops. Not that the latter are sea-robbers but that they are pirates in this sense of the word: "One who appropriates or reproduces without leave, for his own benefit, a composition, idea or invention that he has no right to; especially one who infringes on the copyright of another" (Oxford English Dictionary).

First of all, the Episcopal Church of the USA pirated the expression "Common Prayer" and used it for a form of public prayer which was not its original meaning and purpose. That is, it called by the traditional Title that which was in shape and content, in structure and ingredients, a prayer book in which were multiple alternatives - and thus choice of service/rite at the local level from the available provision. So there is not one Eucharistic Prayer but many. Since 1979 when it called a book of alternative services by the title of "The Book of Common Prayer", as if this new book were in the direct lineage of the English Prayer Book of 1662 and the first American of 1789, this Church has sought to make respectable its piracy. But having become a pirate and living in lawlessness this Church has continued to defy natural and divine law in various ways and is universally known for its innovations ("sin") and its rejection of "the old paths and ways". Regrettably a good proportion of its membership rejoices in its piracy, lawlessness and innovations in worship, doctrine and discipline. The new Prayer Book (on which work has begun) to replace that of 1979 will be a multi-volume and several CD's affair, and it will make ever clearer to the world, if the world be still interested, how far the Episcopal Church has departed from the Anglican Way and how defiant a pirate it is.

In the second place, the Church of the Province of the West Indies imitated the Episcopal Church ( a near neighbour) and also proceeded to use the title of "The Book of Common Prayer" for its new book of alternative services from 1996. The effects of this piracy will become clearer as the years pass by.

What both the ECUSA and West Indian Province could have done was to keep "The Book of Common Prayer" (USA, 1928, WI 1662) as received intact, and to place alongside it a "Book of Alternative Services", called by that or a similar name, as happened in other places (e.g., Canada in 1985).

The Church of England, Mother Church of the Anglican Communion, seems to have done what I have indicated the Churches on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean ought to have done. In 1980 she called her new prayer book "The Alternative Service Book, 1980. Services authorized for use in the Church of England in conjunction with The Book of Common Prayer". "The Book of Common Prayer" (1662) remained as the primary Prayer Book and also the doctrinal Formulary of the Church of England and so some parishes used only the 1662 Book, others used only the 1980 Book and yet others used both from 1980 until 2000. At the beginning of the new millennium, the Church of England ordered that the 1980 Book be recycled (the pew edition was 1290
pages!) and that parishes acquire the replacement, or at least the first volume of the multi-volume replacement, given the general title of "Common Worship."

Now the legal status of "Common Worship" is the same as that of the 1980 Book but on the title pages of the various volumes the words, "Services authorized for use in the Church of England in conjunction with the Book of Common Prayer" are not to be found. However, if one looks inside the volumes one can find this recognition although it is not anything like as prominent as it was in 1980. Inside the first volume of Common Worship, which has provision for Sundays services, there are many options provided and amongst these are services (only slightly revised) from the Prayer Book of 1662 both in its own idiom and in a modern, contemporary idiom. Obviously the aim of this enterprise is to provide one source (howbeit multi-volume) for the Church of England and to leave the "Book of Common Prayer" on the shelf or in the cupboard to be referred to as and when required. This is an enterprise one of whose aims is to incorporate the major services of the classical Prayer Book into the general mix and match of the new order. The General Synod is not seeking to get rid of "The Book of Common Prayer" (of which it is proud as a historical relic) but merely, for practical purposes, making it a part of the general provision of ingredients from which a parish can choose.

In pursuing this aim, the liturgists and bishops have become pirates, as are their colleagues across the Atlantic. They have taken the word "common" (which has been inextricably connected in English tradition for four centuries with a specific Book and the specific texts in that Book) and, with deliberate and careful calculation, they have used this adjective to accompany the word "worship" and multiple choice. How they did this is, looking back, is easy to plot. First of all, they wrote and spoke of common structures/shapes to services and also of common contents/ingredients for services and then began to tear the word "common" away from a specific book with specific texts within in it, in order to refer more vaguely to anything used with the permission of the Church. That is, they convinced themselves and taught others that commonality lay in a whole Church using only those approved shapes or structures of services authorized by its Synod. So "common prayer" is not seen (as it had been) as the whole Church using (with varied ceremony) the same basic texts for Daily Prayer, Holy Communion, Baptism, Confirmation, Burial of the Dead and so on, but the whole Church using the same basic structure for services while each parish chooses what ingredients to place within the basic structure from the growing provision of alternatives available in the supermarket which are the growing volumes of Common Worship and explanatory books, booklets and essays. Thus common worship unlike common prayer means that two parishes a mile apart have services which have nothing in common except (behind or underneath the details and not necessarily obvious) a common structure or shape.

The title "Common Worship" is so near to "Common Prayer" that the word piracy is applicable as much to the liturgists and bishops of the Mother Church as it is to the Churches of the former colonies of England/Great Britain. Regrettably there is no evidence that the pirates on either side of the Atlantic regret their action or intend to restore the stolen property. Their strategy seems to be not to talk about it but to divert attention elsewhere. Churches cannot prosper if they are built upon lies for which there is no repentance.

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon

Prayers in time of war


Prayers in time of war

The Church of England has published a range of prayers suitable for use in churches and in the wider community following military operations in Iraq.

The Invitation to Prayer website,, exists to support both individual prayer and collective worship. Special prayers for use in time of war have been added to the site today. There are resources for clergy and laity, for use individually and collectively, and for use at different times of day. These may form the basis for a short act of prayer in church or at home, at a regular time each day or week, at the start or conclusion of a silent vigil, or whenever people meet together to pray.

Many people feel a sense of uncertainty and concern in time of war. The site includes prayers for peace and justice, for the Armed Forces, for the victims of war, for the leaders of the nations, for friends and loved ones, for the dead and for those who mourn.


The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon

Thursday, March 20, 2003

The God of ECUSA?

ECUSA and Prayer

Who is God?

At the close of the recent report on sexuality for the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church, this prayer is printed.

"Guide us, O God, in our continuing consideration of human sexuality to be responsive to and respectful of all persons, their ideas and experience. Convert and empower us to listen penitently and, with humility, to speak honestly with one another. Set our disagreements within the mutual knowledge and love which we experience in you as Holy Trinity. Whenever we experience fear, anger, or mistrust with one another, give us new hope and consolation in your never-failing love for your children. In all things, let us submit our ideas to your thoughts, our desires to your will, and our actions to your purpose. In our diversity as members of the Body of Christ, help us find our way, through Jesus Christ, Our Redeemer. Amen."

The "O God" of the opening line is, as identified later, "you, the Holy Trinity". So this is one of those very rare occasions (Trinity Sunday is one & the Litany is another in the classic BCP tradition) where the Trinity is addressed. But is it really the Trinity (who is revealed in sacred Scripture and declared and affirmed in classic dogma and historic creeds/confessions) that is being addressed? Or is it One God who is known to us in three modes of being and/or by three prominent names (in old times "Father, Son and Holy Ghost", but in new times as "Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier" or their dynamic equivalents)?

Though the prayer seems to end in the classic way of a collect, "through Jesus Christ." yet it does not do so for the "through Jesus Christ." here is part of the petition to "you as Holy Trinity". Thus it is addressed to "O God" and does not make use of the traditional role of the Mediator and High Priest, Jesus Christ who is the Lord, in its ending.

Then one wonders as to how "we experience mutual knowledge and love" in "you the Holy Trinity". Are we here thinking of the ineffable Love which is the Substance of the Godhead? Surely not for we as creatures cannot know this Love! Are we thinking of God's love towards man made known in Jesus the Incarnate Son and experienced by man within the universe and church? Probably so, but the words suggest more than this normal experience of grace and loving kindness in Jesus.

It is an extremely odd prayer. Perhaps the commitment of the ECUSA to inclusivity, and to making women visible as it were, prevents this church from praying to the Father through Jesus Christ the Lord and with the Holy Spirit, and thereby saving us such speculation as we now engage in. Perhaps therefore it gets itself into all kinds of contortions of language because it is fundamentally disobedient to the way of Scripture and the example of the Fathers and Reformers. Preferring not to name "the Father" and "the Lord" because they are supposedly sexist deeply affects not only the possibilities of naming the Holy Trinity aright but also of thinking appropriately of the Three Persons of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost!

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon

Statement from the Bishops of Lichfield, Shrewsbury, Stafford and Wolverhampton


This is what my bishop and his suffragans have released to the press.
Today I bury a Lt-Colonel with appropriate military honours.

For Immediate Release: 20th March 2003

Statement from the Bishops of Lichfield, Shrewsbury, Stafford and Wolverhampton

The Bishops of Lichfield, Shrewsbury, Stafford and Wolverhampton express their great concern about the conflict that has now begun over Iraq, and call all people of good will to pray for just, peaceful and rapid solution. We ask our parishes to open up their churches for special times of prayer, and to take initiatives of friendship and hospitality in their local communities.

We acknowledge the burden of decision-making that rests on our political leaders, and we pray for them.

We have questioned whether this military action is justified, and history alone will reveal the truth. Now that the conflict has started, we entrust the outcome to Almighty God, who is the final judge of all our motives and actions.

We pray that just war principles will be observed in the way in which the conflict is conducted, so that there will be a swift resolution with minimal casualties.

We pray for our armed forces at this difficult and dangerous time. We pray for their safety and safe return, and we will stand by them and their families in this period of great anxiety.

We pray for the people of Iraq, Muslims and Christians of all ethnic groups, and for the re-building of their shattered country.

We stand by the communities in our own country most closely affected by the conflict, including Iraqi refugees and all Muslims. We offer them the hand of friendship, and invite them to join with us in prayer and action for the re-building of trust and mutual respect.

We pray that the conflict will not further polarise attitudes across the world, and lead to further escalation of terrorism.

We pray that the wisdom of God will guide us to a just and peaceful solution, to the reconstruction of the damaged fabric of international co-operation, and to a comprehensive and even-handed resolution of the difficulties of the Middle East, especially relating to Israel and Palestine.


The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon

Saturday, March 15, 2003

Scruton on Loyalty (as war approaches)

(Scruton is a genuine English conservative, a lawyer & philosopher and always worth reading --P.T.)

Where does England's loyalty lie?
Roger Scruton says that our tradition of common law - which we share with America - is the best defence against tyranny

In his widely commented-upon book, The Shield of Achilles, Philip Bobbitt tells us that the nation-state will soon be a thing of the past, that humanity is evolving inexorably in the direction of the market-state, in which the bond between citizen and state is conceived not as a hereditary obligation like that of family or tribe, but as a freely chosen contract, where the state is expected to deliver benefits (security, prosperity and other secular goods) in return for obedience.

This kind of 'end of history' analysis of the modern world is familiar in other terms - for example, those of Daniel Bell, Francis Fukuyama or Jean-François Lyotard - but in all cases it seems to me to leave one crucial matter out of account - namely, human beings. People don't die to uphold contracts; in emergencies contracts are repudiated, loyalties deepened. It is because the USA exists as a nation-state, determined to defend its people and its territory, that war on Iraq is now conceivable. No American soldier who takes part in that war (should it occur) will see himself as carrying out some clause in a political contract. He will be preparing to sacrifice himself for those that he holds dear - family, country, nation.

Writing on - the webzine edited by Anthony Barnett - in a fascinating series in which writers discuss the likely war, Bobbitt argues that 11 September made the difference, since it imbued America with the will to take decisive (and, in Bobbitt's view, necessary) military action. This will was, he plausibly argues, absent from America at the time of the Gulf war. He is surely right. But another way of putting the point is that the Gulf war was not really fought by the American nation. It was fought in the spirit of Bobbitt's 'contract state', by a military that was 'doing a job', trying to minimise risks and to get out alive. Hence it was more or less futile. If Saddam is the kind of threat that Bobbitt believes him to be, then he can be unseated only by a genuine war, in which a nation commits itself to victory. The conditions for that are now in place, and they are the conditions which refute Bobbitt's political theory.

Of course, the Iraqis won't put up a fight, since they do not see themselves as citizens of a nation-state, bound each to each by a trans-generational loyalty that demands the supreme sacrifice on behalf of strangers. They see themselves as members of families, of religious sects, of national minorities, all groaning under the yoke of a madman. Whether that justifies war on their behalf I don't know. But it fully illustrates the inapplicability of Philip Bobbitt's view of modern politics, in those circumstances where political loyalty is put to the test.

Where does that leave us, the British people? We too are turning towards war, and we too are being compelled to confront the question of national loyalty and national identity. Nor is it only war that is forcing this question on us: the mass immigration of uninvited people reminds us that our country is our home, that you do not offer hospitality in your home to those who impose themselves upon you, and that there comes a point where you must fall back on inherited loyalties if law, order and mutual protection are to survive.

Even without the threat posed by mass migration, we might reasonably wonder how long our country will exist. By 'our country' I mean first and foremost England, the place whose name is commemorated in our language, our literature, our Church and our crown, and which has been the object of the patriotic sentiments that have seen us so far into the modern world without suffering the indignity of conquest. Of course, England is only one part of the United Kingdom, but it is the part that gives sense and order to the kingdom as a whole. Without England the parliamentary democracy to which we remain collectively wedded would lose its meaning, for its meaning is that of a nation-state.

England gave us other good things besides the richest language and most powerful literature in modern Europe. In particular it gave us the common law. Our law is not a collection of decrees dictated by the sovereign but a developing set of answers to concrete human conflicts, discovered by impartial judges in the courts. It embodies the old idea of natural justice, according to which law stands in judgment over the sovereign and does not merely transmit his decrees. The common law is the true origin of our freedoms, of our safety in the face of state power, and of our ability to lead our own lives, however eccentric, without asking anyone's permission. The EU has been built upon a conception of legal order that takes the decree (or 'directive') rather than the particular case and its ratio decidendi, as its paradigm. This, in my view, is the real reason why the English rebel against it - even those who have no knowledge of the history and the inherited conception of justice that make this rebellion inevitable, obligatory and right.

England is not recognised by the EU, even though it is supposed to be a part of the EU, politically, socially and geographically. Our country has no place on the official map, which mentions only historically meaningless 'regions'. These correspond neither to traditional loyalties nor to existing county boundaries. The Labour party endorses this balkanisation of our country, and has rapidly and covertly installed the regional assemblies that the EU would like to see, so as to kill off all hope of an English Parliament. The Welsh and the Scots have assemblies, and can be relied upon to send anti-English representatives to Westminster. But if the English had an assembly of their own, not only would it have a permanent Conservative majority, but it would facilitate the revival of the old English patriotism that would bring the EU's ambitions for our country to an end. It is to Mr Prescott's credit that, despite having exhibited very few other signs of native intellect to date, he has understood the temporary advantage to his party in the plan to abolish England.

The artificers of the new European Constitution are not like the Founding Fathers of the American Constitution, who were serious thinkers, profoundly attached to the common law and steeped in the thought of Locke and Montesquieu. The European Constitution is being prepared by obscure apparatchiks - people sufficiently ill-educated to think that 'subsidiarity' offers some kind of substitute for our ancestral freedoms. An unscrupulous belief in progress is the natural refuge of the bureaucratic mind. Hence, while the Founding Fathers looked back to a tradition of liberty, public spirit and patriotism that they sought to safeguard, the Eurocrats look forward to a future order which is defined so abstractly as to engage with no historical loyalty at all. The goal is not merely to extinguish the local sovereignties of the existing nation-states, but also to eliminate the very idea of the nation-state from the consciousness of Europe. In the thinking of the Eurocrats, nation-states mean nationalism, and nationalism means war. This little equation was of course true of Germany; but it was never true of England, Scotland or Wales; not true of Poland, the Czech Republic or Slovakia; not true of Italy, Greece or Spain; not true, in particular, of the United States of America.

Our Bill of Rights was taken up and re-affirmed in the first Ten Amendments to the American Constitution. This fundamentally backward-looking document did not destroy the common-law jurisdiction, but upheld it, both endorsing its principles and ensuring that the courts remain the final source of law - which is why the American Constitution can now be understood only through 400 or so volumes of case law. In this and many other respects the US Constitution is heir to the Anglo-Saxon experience of law, as the voice of the people against the sovereign, and the defender of individual freedom against the state. This experience separates both us and the Americans from the history of Continental Europe since the Reformation.

We the English have a crucial choice to make. Do we hold on to our national loyalty, and to the democratic state that has been built on it? Or do we submerge our identity in that of the European Union (supposing that it retains the name)? In the first case we will join the United States in upholding the Anglo-Saxon idea of common law, common language, common territory and common loyalty as the foundation of political order. In other words, we will continue to be a nation-state. In the second case we will become a disenfranchised minority in a continent governed by institutions that command no loyalty from its 'citizens'.

That this choice has become a real one can be witnessed in recent events. The collapse of Yugoslavia did not merely offer a lesson about what European federalism will really mean in the long run. It showed the impotence of the EU either to defend the interests of its members or to offer help to its friends. The UN took action, but only because the UN means (in any case where action rather than passion is required) the US. Exactly the same is happening in the matter of Iraq. The EU is unable to make a decision of its own. Its deliberations reveal a collective retreat from serious decision-making, and a refusal to take responsibility for the new global order that it claims to embody. But the Anglo-Saxon world, for all its doubts and hesitations, is re-affirming its historical experience of an empire acquired 'in a fit of absence of mind', and its willingness to face up to threats, from wherever they might emanate. Blair may not have his party behind him. But then, his party is anti-English, enjoying a carnival of denial towards our country and its past. He himself is expressing a gut reaction which I suspect is that of the English majority. In standing by the United States, rather than by Europe, he is following the American example in choosing the nation-state, against the market-state of Philip Bobbitt and the Eurocrats.

Thursday, March 13, 2003

Why I became a conservative

from a leading intellectual & conservative in Britain, a prof of philosophy in London a very informative piece to ponder as the west braces for war

Why I became a conservative
by Roger Scruton

I was brought up at a time when half the English people voted Conservative at national elections and almost all English intellectuals regarded the term "conservative" as a term of abuse. To be a conservative, I was told, was to be on the side of age against youth, the past against the future, authority against innovation, the "structures" against spontaneity and life. It was enough to understand this, to recognize that one had no choice, as a free-thinking intellectual, save to reject conservatism. The choice remaining was between reform and revolution. Do we improve society bit by bit, or do we rub it out and start again? On the whole my contemporaries favored the second option, and it was when witnessing what this meant, in May 1968 in Paris, that I discovered my vocation.

In the narrow street below my window the students were shouting and smashing. The plate-glass windows of the shops appeared to step back, shudder for a second, and then give up the ghost, as the reflections suddenly left them and they slid in jagged fragments to the ground. Cars rose into the air and landed on their sides, their juices flowing from unseen wounds. The air was filled with triumphant shouts, as one by one lamp-posts and bollards were uprooted and piled on the tarmac, to form a barricade against the next van-load of policemen.


From The New Criterion Vol. 21, No. 6, February 2003
©2003 The New Criterion The URL for this item is:

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Products from the Prayer Book Society


I think I may have told you about products available from the American PBS which will interest you


Of BCP 1928 Evensong - St John's Savannah, Ga
Of BCP 1928 Morning Prayer & Litany - St Thomas' Houston
two fine recordings in classical style

PDF of The Annotated Prayer Book by Canon Blunt (700 pages or so of text and excellent commentary, much used in the 19th century) and in Adobe Acrobat format.

HOMILETTES from Biddulph Moor, Diocese of Lichfield. Six addresses on Prayer Book Basics by Peter Toon.

SIX EDWARDIAN HOMILIES. The First Six of the Homilies of the C of E of 1547 read by Peter Toon (2 CD's) and giving the reformed Catholic position of the C of E on Bible, grace, faith anf good works (splended sermons, several by Cranmer)

The first 2 CD's are $15.00; but the others are $10.00 Send a check to Prayer Book Society, Box 35220, Philadelphia, Pa. 19128- 0220 (1 800 PBS 1928)

then I urge you to read the book which Lou Tarsitano and I have written (and representing our thinking and studying for some years) on the language we use in church and read in the Bible:

NEITHER ARCHAIC NOR OBSOLETE. THE LANGUAGE OF COMMON PRAYER AND PUBLIC WORSHIP. This explains where both traditional language, so called, an contemporary language, so called, came from and how the latter has sought to displace the former since the revolutionary decade of the 1960s. Again $10.00 only from the PBS

(anyone in the UK please contact me for copies of the above)

I will be pleased to receive any comments from those who obtain the above and use them.

Thanks and happy fasting in Lent.

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon

Tuesday, March 11, 2003



A little more information on the Confirmation & Holy Communion, BCP 1662 at Canterbury for teenagers which the official news service seemingly is not making known

Less than a fortnight after his Enthronement, Dr Rowan Williams has conducted his first Confirmation service as Archbishop of Canterbury - according to the Book of Common Prayer.

At the service, which took the place of the main Sunday morning service in Canterbury Cathedral, 61 pupils from the King's School, Canterbury, along with one member of the School's staff, were confirmed with the words that have been used in the Church of England for 450 years. Immediately after the Confirmation, the Archbishop celebrated Holy Communion, also according to the 1662 rite.

The request to use the Prayer Book order was made by the School's Chaplain, Prayer Book Society member the Revd Fredrik Arvidsson, with the backing of the Headmaster, the Revd Canon Keith Wilkinson. The Archbishop is, nevertheless, understood to have been fully supportive of the move and, in his sermon, made reference to the fact that the words of the Prayer Book had been tested by many generations of use.

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon

Sunday, March 09, 2003

Rowan Williams and BCP 1662


In Canterbury this weekend, the new Archbishop conducted a Confirmation service (for King's School) in Canterbury Cathedral ACCORDING TO THE BCP 1662. It was his first one as Archbishop, and is therefore significant! He has shown by a dramatic gesture that the BCP is the Formulary of the Church and that Common Worship is an alternative to it but under its doctrinal authority!

Can we imagine the Presiding Bishop of the ECUSA using the 1789 or 1892 or 1928 editions of the same classic BCP?

we press on

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon

Thursday, March 06, 2003

First Sunday in Lent

O Lord, who for our sake didst fast forty days and forty nights; Give us grace to use such abstinence, that, our flesh being subdued to the Spirit, we may ever obey thy godly motions in righteousness and true holiness, to thy honour and glory, who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.

Epistle: 2 Corinthians 6: 1-10 Gospel: St Matthew 4:1-11

This is one of three Collects in our Prayer Book addressed to the Lord Jesus Christ instead of to his Father. The others are for Advent 3 and St Stephen' s Day. The reason why this Collect is addressed to Jesus is because of the desire at the beginning of Lent to identify with him in his 40 day & night fast and reap the spiritual benefits of union with him.

It was composed for the first Book of the Common Prayer of 1549 and replaced one, addressed to the Father, that had been used in the medieval Church. This Latin prayer in the judgment of Archbishop Cranmer put too much emphasis upon the value before God of fasting, in and of itself, as a good work. As translated it is: "O God, who purifiest thy Church by the yearly observance of the Lenten fast: Grant unto thy household, that it may follow out in good works those holy inspirations which it endeavours to obtain from thee by abstinence. Through Jesus Christ our Lord."

So the new prayer does not lessen the obligation to fasting but identifies fasting with the Lord Jesus (the Gospel for the Day describes this event) who as the New Man, the Second Adam, fasted in body by abstinence from food and drink, and in soul, by his bearing our sins. In our Lord there was no sin and since fasting is the expression of penitence, humiliation and mourning, his fasting was not for himself. He fasted for us both in his identification with man as a sinner before God, his Father, and also as providing an example of godliness to man.

Perhaps the petition in this Collect is inspired by Romans 8:13. "If ye live after the flesh [as your natural bodily desires and affections propose] ye shall die; but if ye through the Spirit (by his presence, power and guidance) do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live." By the discipline of fasting in Lent, which is offered in love to the Lord Jesus as a service unto him, we place ourselves in the position where the Holy Spirit is able to help us mortify, or put to death, the worldly, fleshly desires of our human nature and body, and in their place follow the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Ghost causing us to obey Christ's teaching. In all this Christ is our Strength and our Example.

The Collect ends with an ascription of praise and glory to the Holy Trinity for the Lord Jesus Christ is the Second Person thereof.

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon

Tuesday, March 04, 2003

American bishop urges prayers and aid for Iraqi Christians

ACNS 3334 | USA | 3 MARCH 2003

by Jan Nunley

[ENS] The Rt Revd Pierre W. Whalon, bishop of the Convocation of American Churches in Europe, received an invitation to Iraq February 19-23 to pray with, meet and talk with the leaders of major Christian groups in that country. Traveling with him were Jean-Michel Cadiot, Iraq specialist for Agence France-Presse, and Yako Elish, a Chaldean Christian businessman who served as guide and translator.

Whalon met with bishops of the Chaldean, Syrian Catholic, Armenian Catholic, and Assyrian churches; the Latin Archbishop (Roman Catholic); a Protestant church council; the mullah of the Mosque of al-Kadham; and the Shaik of the Mandaeans (disciples of John the Baptist). He declined an invitation to meet with Deputy Prime Minister Tarik Aziz and the Mufti of Baghdad as both are officials of the Saddam Hussein regime. He also led an ecumenical prayer service at the National Protestant Church in Baghdad and inspected the closed Anglican church in the city, St. George's. On his return, Whalon spoke with Jan Nunley of Episcopal News Service.

ENS: What motivated you to go to Iraq at this time?

WHALON: It wasn't my idea. I got an invitation, along with the president of the French Catholic Episcopal Conference, the president of the Orthodox bishops, and the president of the French Protestant Federation, and me, being the Anglican bishop living in France, from the Patriarchate of Babylon, which is the Chaldean Church--they're uniate Catholics.

ENS: And represent a considerable percentage of Iraqi Christians.

WHALON: The Chaldeans are 85 percent of the Christian population, yes. You have a very small percentage of Roman Catholics and Protestants there, Presbyterians--very small numbers on those. Then the rest, you have the Assyrian Catholic Church; the Nestorian Church, which is a result of a split in the 19th century; the Armenian Catholic Church; the Syrian Catholic Church; and also then you have the Armenian Orthodox and the Assyrians also have an Orthodox church.

ENS: Any Anglicans?

WHALON: I was told there was only one in Baghdad when I was there.

There is a church, St. George's, in Baghdad. It's been closed since the Gulf War. In terms of permanent chaplain presence they do come by every once in a while to see if the building is still standing. I asked to have it reopened so I could look at it and take some pictures so I could report back to Clive Handford, the bishop of Cyprus and the Gulf.

The Protestant church where I led the ecumenical service [on February 21] was once an Anglican church, and when it became clear that they were going to be under the Diocese of Jerusalem in those days and Jerusalem was going to become the capital of a new Israeli state, they decided they really didn't want to be Anglicans any more. But they asked me to start talking about 'can we come back,' because they've had a lot of trouble going it alone.

I was going to decline this invitation, because I thought, who am I? The Convocation of American Churches in Europe is my mandate. But when I talked it over with the presiding bishop and John Peterson [of the Anglican Communion Office in London] they were very encouraging, and so my mind changed as a result of that. The other invitees did not go.

It was strange being the only American bishop who's been to Iraq since the crisis began--of any stripe. So it took on an importance that I had no amazing experience.

ENS: What was your sense of the mood of Iraqi Christians?

WHALON: They have a very significant problem. Like all Iraqis, of course, the prospect of another war is very scary. But on the other hand they're all resigned to wars--they've had a lot of them. But for the Christians, what they're really afraid of is after the war, the reason being that the government that Hussein essentially completely co-opted is based on the Ba'athist principles--like Syria is. In other words, the state should be secular, it should not be run by the Muslims, and that there should be religious tolerance.

So they have official tolerance. There are about 50 church buildings in Baghdad. Nobody bothers them, they don't bother other people, and the bishops walk around town in their clerical garb. I walked around, nobody gave me a hostile glance or gesture. And they think that after Hussein is gone and after the Americans are gone, it's going to be a hard-line Muslim government who's going to expel them, massacre them, persecute them.

They're between a rock and a hard place because they end up looking like supporters of Hussein--Tariq Aziz is probably the greatest example of that; certainly he is a collaborator. So they're afraid if there's an American military government they'll be seen as a million collaborators with Hussein. Whereas privately could hardly call them enthusiastic supporters.

ENS: Is Saddam someone to fear?

WHALON: Saddam really is somebody who's a menace. The stories I got told would curl your hair. He and his sons have profited enormously from the embargo. They do not want the embargo to be lifted. We're always talking about how we're killing these kids with medicine that we're not giving them and all this other stuff. But on the other hand, they were very clear with me--in private, of course--that the last person in the world who wants the embargo lifted is Saddam Hussein, because he's made more money off this, because he controls the black market, than anyone else.

Meanwhile, his people go without all kinds of things. If you can imagine everybody test-driving the worst used cars you'd ever seen at once, that's what Baghdad's streets look like. We were driving in the car of the brother of the Chaldean who came with us from Paris, and he had a new car, a Peugeot. I said, 'You like your new car?' and he said, 'Yeah. It took me 20 years to get it. In 1983 I put a down payment on this car and about three months ago it arrived. Sometimes they lift the embargo to let some cars in.'

ENS: Do you think Saddam can be fairly compared to Hitler, as he often is?

WHALON: If you think about Hitler you also have to think about the entire philosophy of the Nazi party, the racial component, the weird mysticism of it. And in that sense, no, Saddam is not like Adolf Hitler. He certainly is as ruthless as Hitler or Himmler or Goebbels--or Stalin, for that matter.

But on the other hand, unlike Hitler, Hussein has no knowledge of the outside world. He's never really been educated outside of Iraq. He really sees everything mostly on his own personal canvas: 'what it means to me.' And whatever you think of Hitler, Hitler at least thought in big terms; Saddam doesn't. He thinks in terms of 'me,' I was told.

And he mostly lives underground now. He's got about 20 palaces and each one of them has a very deep subterranean living space and he moves from each one unpredictably. Each palace has to have a meal and a woman waiting for him, should he happen to show up, and if they don't then they just throw out the food and tell the lady to come back or something. So he is really cut off from anything now.

I also was told that his grip seems to be loosening. The Muslims have gotten him to accept portions of sharia law, which are now applied to the Christians - intermarriage, for instance; if there are any intermarriages, the Muslim always wins and always gets the kids to become Muslims. We were hit up for baksheesh [bribes] by the border guards, and my friend who went with me, a French Iraqi specialist, said that didn't happen before. We were also asked for money by beggars, and he said there were never beggars 20 years ago or street crime. So in that sense, Saddam isn't totally in control, as he once was.

ENS: Did anyone give private indications that Saddam does have weapons of mass destruction?

WHALON: When I went to visit the mullah at the al-Kadham mosque, he launched into this diatribe about 'we have no weapons of mass destruction, they'll never find any because there aren't any, all Bush wants to do is kill us,' on and on. Of course, French TV was filming him, and there was a guy from the ministry of religion sitting there.

Whenever I talked to Christians more informally, they always started out by saying, 'What are these weapons?' and I would say, 'they're the ones Iraq declared after the '91 war.' 'Oh.' And either the discussion would end there or they would say, 'Well, yeah...maybe he had some stuff...' One person said to me, 'Well, of course he has these things, and when your troops come he's going to set them off on you. But they're going to blow back to our people and all our civilians are going to get killed, and it will be your fault.'

The other thing they said is that, while nobody's really willing to die for Saddam, they are willing to die for their homes. And it occurred to me that, while Arab soldiers in pitched battles are apt to drop their guns and run if they think things aren't turning their way, in front of their wives they'll fight to the death. I remember when the Israelis used to have women in combat. As soon as the Arabs found out they were going to surrender to women, they became the best fighters in the world.

So if we think we're going to waltz into Baghdad and everyone is going to say 'thank you for liberating us,' after a bloody street battle, it's not going to work. Baghdad's five million people, and it's a very spread-out city, about 50 kilometers in diameter or 30 miles. That's a lot of miles--about twice the size of Paris. So to have that kind of fighting is just a nightmare.

And the worst part for me is now that I went and met these people and started to become friends and was extremely warmly greeted, now I have a personal problem when we start to shoot. I'm going to be dying to find out what's happened to all these really nice, fine, hardworking people. They have the best hospitals, they have the orphanages, the nursing homes--Muslims don't do those things, or they do them minimally.

[Christians] are the elite of the country. I met the wife of the president of the Protestant Council. I asked her what she did. She said, 'I teach medicine. Let me introduce my sister, the pediatrician, and my other sister, the dentist.' If the Muslims take over, they're not going to be exercising any more.

ENS: Can they leave the country?

WHALON: I think the last thing they want to do is leave. They've been there for two thousand years. The official language is Aramean--like Jesus'. One person said to me, 'We used to be 100 percent Christian in Iraq. Then the Muslims came. Now we're five [percent].' They've seen people continue to leave, and they think they're going to have a warm welcome from people overseas and they don't. So I don't know about evacuation.

They took me to their seminary - all the churches have one big seminary and it's packed. A number of women students, by the way, even though at this point none of the churches ordain women. Nevertheless, they were there, studying theology along with the men, and they asked me questions just like the men did. They want to build a library, and I knew right away one thing they need is some technical help in how to build a modern theological library. We really need to support the hospital efforts with medicine, if we could gather up medication. And of course if the churches get damaged in the bombing, help rebuild them--maybe a diocese could take on a church to rebuild.

The most important thing is to get to know these folks, because we don't have any contacts with them. We don't know them, they don't know us, and I just scratched the surface there. There need to be a lot more people besides me that go.

ENS: Is the church in Iraq a 'persecuted church'?

WHALON: In the sense that they're not perfectly free. They have to deal with encroaching sharia provisions. The problem with 'selling' that right now is that some people will say the Christians are involved in the government, because you have Tariq Aziz, so they're not really persecuted. By the time they become candidates for being in that list of persecuted churches, there's not going to be anybody left.

ENS: How do they feel about American Christians supporting a war with Iraq?

WHALON: I was asked about that, and the way the question was framed was, 'isn't it true that the non-Catholic Christians are strongly influenced by the Jews?' The person who asked this was a very serious and well-educated person, and I burst out laughing. And I said, 'Why do you say that?' And he said, 'Well, among other things, don't they really control all the support for Israel, and fundamentalist Christians are also interested in the survival and prosperity of Israel for their own reasons?'

And I said, 'You know, whether there were fundamentalist Christians or not, the Jewish people in America who support Israel would give a quart of blood a day if they felt it was necessary for the survival of Israel. You've got to understand, these people are very, very serious in the United States about Israel. They see themselves as temporary residents of the States, when their hearts are in Jerusalem."

I don't think that has anything to do with fundamentalists. Yes, there certainly is some connection there and some of the people around [President] George Bush are in that camp. But to see it as some kind of plot or conspiracy or some kind of big joining of forces is really unrealistic.

ENS: There is a perception, though, that this conflict represents 'the clash of civilizations,' Christian versus Muslim.

WHALON: What I'm trying to get across to people in France, and I also said to al-Jazeera and Abu Dhabi and the other Arab networks that interviewed me--I said I don't think people really understand that what's driving general American support for this war is fear. Specifically, having been attacked twice in a couple of months in spectacular ways--the 9/11 attacks and then the anthrax in the envelopes attacks. Americans are reacting in fear, saying 'We are going to make sure and we are going to use all our power to take out anybody who can threaten us in this way again.' And that has broad support across the board and it has nothing to do with religion.

And you know, people don't understand that. They're just not used to thinking of American foreign policy or anything being driven by fear. They don't see us the French say to me, 'We always see the Americans as sort of a cut above, and we don't understand that they would be afraid.' Well, of course--think about your own history!

ENS: How do the French react to increasing criticism of France? Does this surprise them, dismay them?

WHALON: I think both. The viciousness of it is rarely seen before, and they're bemused by it more than anything else. Personally, being somebody who's a citizen of both countries and raised in both cultures, it's been extremely difficult for me to deal with. But I also think that one thing is for sure: in France, if you want to sell papers, say something against America; if you want to sell papers in America, say something against France. It's a formula that both media are very good at exploiting whenever their income's down.

I think the other thing that Americans aren't aware of is that the French are very quietly marshalling their forces. French troops are on maneuvers right now in Qatar, and the De Gaulle, the new nuclear aircraft carrier, has just finished maneuvers with the [USS Harry] Truman, and has gone home but it's not giving anybody leave; they're filling up again and turning right around and going somewhere, they're not saying where. I can't see the French wanting to be sidelined if it comes down to it, it's just not their style.

ENS: What, if anything, can Christian communities do to support Christians in Iraq?

WHALON: I think there's several things we can do.

The first is that we can start to publicly pray for them, so that, among other things, besides God hearing about them from us, we will begin to tell ourselves, 'Hey, there are a million Christians in Iraq' - because I don't think most people know that.

Secondly, I think we need to start thinking right now about what kind of aid we can give them post-war. It's possible that there won't be a war. War's not inevitable till the first bomb is dropped, and nobody knows how this endgame is going to play out now. But in the event of a war, and probably then an ensuing American military occupation, I think we need to make it very clear to the general staff that we expect that the Christians of Iraq will be protected, and they will not be accused generally of collaborating with Saddam any more than anyone else in Iraq.

We took a flight on this Boeing 707, must be 50 years old, in an airport with exactly one flight leaving--huge airport; of course it's called 'Saddam International Airport.' I went in the duty-free shop, where there was a young woman cashier who asked my guide in Arabic, 'Is that the bishop who was on TV last night?' He said yes, and she asked him to have me come over, and when I came closer she grabbed my hand with my ring on it, kissed it, pressed it to her forehead and said in English, 'Thank you, thank you, thank you,' and started to cry. She was wearing this little cross around her neck. She was a Christian.

She asked for my blessing, she asked for my autograph, and she explained that an American bishop coming to Iraq to pray for peace really strengthened her faith, and that maybe this war could be avoided. Then she grabbed my hand again and kissed my ring again. I had to sit down, I was so overwhelmed.

If we can scream loudly that there are a million Christians in Iraq and they're really in a tough spot, if we start doing that, start praying for them publicly and get that word out, I think that's the most important thing we can do for them. And the second part is to plan how we might be able to help them.

[The Revd Jan Nunley is deputy director of Episcopal News Service]


Monday, March 03, 2003

Afternoon Sermon by Archbishop Rowan Williams at Canterbury Cathedral

ACNS 3333 | ACNS | 3 MARCH 2003

Checked against delivery

Sunday 2 March 2003, 3:15pm

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

"We do not proclaim ourselves," says St Paul. "We proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus' sake."

Now the first part of that is wonderful. That's a nice edifying text for a bishop to preach on, or indeed for anybody to preach on. "We do not proclaim ourselves. We proclaim Jesus Christ." And so we should. And then you read on and you begin to worry. "Ourselves as your slaves for Jesus' sake." Do we, teachers and preachers of the faith really, actually, truly want to be your slaves? It might be even more edifying but it's a lot more difficult. What does St Paul mean when he talks about the apostle here being a slave to God's people? Now, I suspect it has something to do with the fact that, as Jesus Himself reminds us in St Luke's Gospel, a slave doesn't know exactly where the next request in coming from, or what is going to be asked of them next. And that, I think, will be a very familiar experience for the pastors and teachers of Christ's church. You don't know what's going to hit you next. And that puts into perspective very sharply, all the ways in which the pastors and teachers of the church tend sometimes to think 'this is what I've got to offer to the church, here is my great list of contributions I am going to make to the revival and the health of the church.' Sometimes, really enthusiastic candidates for ordination come to you and give you a ten point plan for the revival and the renewal of the church which may be terrific but doesn't make you feel any better, it has to be said. And somehow that's something rather different from what St Paul seems to be talking about: "we are your slaves." That's to say we don't know quite what you're going to ask and we don't know quite what's going to be drawn out of

us. And I, beginning a new ministry here in the diocese, can resonate, as they say, with all of that. But it's a very important dimension of how we think about the gifts that Christ gives in His church. Sometimes we can run away with the idea that we simply catalogue the gifts we see in ourselves and present them, take it or leave it, to the rest of the Christian community. But much more deeply, much more truly, I think all of us will find that we don't actually know in advance what God is likely to give when God's call comes. We know we can trust God to give; that's what God does. God gives eternally, necessarily, out of the very depth of His being. And so God will always give, through me to you, through you to me, and so on in the great circle of life that is the church. But woe betide us if we think we know in advance exactly what is going to be given.

One of the great joys of living in the church is that we surprise not only one another but ourselves by the grace of God. What on earth am I doing here! You may put that last remark in inverted commas or not as you please. And then, you see, St Paul goes on to explain a bit more about what he means. It's the God who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. What God gives is light. The radiance and the beauty of His own being made flesh and blood through Jesus Christ. That is what God gives eternally, necessarily, from the very depth of His being. And, of course, light shining from here may not be something I see. It makes sense of the world for somebody else and I may not know what's going on, and that's how it should be. The light is there, by God's grace, to light up a whole landscape. If I see lots of light around me that may very well be because I have built such high walls around myself that all the light's reflecting back. But when it's God's light that's at work I may have very little sense of what's going on. I may have no idea what words or acts of mine are making what kind of difference and the same is true of each and every one of us in the church: we don't always know. What we do know is the light of Christ that comes from the neighbour's face and sometimes we can tell them that and it helps. And so on, yet again, in the great circle of life. I don't know what's going on, but I trust the God who makes the light shine out of darkness and in your face I see that light shining. You may not know what's going on but you turn to the next person and say, "Your face shows the light of God shining," and so forth.

To me one of the most moving stories of the Christian enterprise of the 20th century is a very simple one about a priest dying. He'd had a stroke on the fortieth anniversary of his ordination as deacon and he never recovered consciousness though he lived on for some seven weeks. During that seven weeks several visitors to his sick room said that they were conscious of light in the room. In the darkened and oppressive atmosphere of the sick room they simply knew that there was light coming from the face of the dying priest. He didn't know what God was doing with him and through him, but the light was there and others bore witness to it. And that perhaps puts more starkly than anything the distance between what we think we might have to give and what we think our gifts might be and what we think God will ask of us and the mysterious and surprising things that God actually does with us and through us. Even in today's Old Testament lesson we have a rather strange moment when Elijah says to Elisha that he doesn't know whether he will be able to give him a portion of his spirit. Wait and see how it turns out. Not even the greatest of the prophets can guarantee what he has to give. So a reminder to us all of the kind of community the church is: a community of people, not one of whom knows exactly what God is going to do with them. And that can be very frightening or it can be the most exciting and exhilarating thing in the entire world. If we had an idea of who we were and what our gifts were and what God would do and how God would appreciate what we did for him, and all the rest of it, what a desperately boring place the church would be. It would be millions and millions of people, each one of them working to their own agenda. And if there's one sure way of not letting the light of God through, it's millions of people, each one working to their own agenda. But the other side of it, of course, is that we are asking in the church that our eyes be kept open to each other: the gifts and the glories and the beauties of each other. And that we become a community where people are not afraid to say thank you for each other. The church is not always brilliant at this but it seems that the implication of what St Paul is saying and what so much of that great second letter to the Corinthians is about, the implication is we need to have that fundamental thankfulness for each other that allows us to acknowledge the surprising gifts, the unexpected glories that arise in the church. And it's because of that that we can rightly, in the church, surprise one another. "Why don't you think of doing that?" we might say to one another. "I think you're capable of doing this." "I think, from what I've seen of you - you may not believe it - from what I've seen of you, you could do that." And we are amazed and perhaps alarmed and then discover that God will indeed, after all, do something with us that we had never expected.

And so finally to the Gospel. Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John and led them up a high mountain and He was transfigured before them. He surprised them. They had been around with Him. They were getting a bit of the message of who He was and they were beginning to think, with mounting panic probably, that He was going to ask quite a lot of them. And suddenly the skies opened and a light brighter than the sun at noonday dawns upon them, and they are very frightened. If Jesus is going to be this surprising; help. Our lives may be surprising too. But that great surprise of Jesus' glory, laid bare on the mountaintop in that wonderful story, that surprising quality of glory is also for us a promise that, in the words of St John in His letter, "we don't know what we shall be." We get a glimpse, it keeps us going, but we don't know what Jesus will do with us. The only way of living with that knowledge, with that anxiety, is to keep our eyes on the beauty, to keep our eyes on the light. The surprise of Jesus is a shock and even a terror, but it is also the most beautiful, the most worthwhile, the most real thing in the entire universe. If we can trust Him for that, then perhaps we can take a deep breath and swallow hard and say to Him, "Alright, I'm prepared to be surprised and I'm prepared to surprise my fellow Christians."

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


For details about the Enthronement of the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Rowan D Williams, visit

Morning Sermon by Archbishop Rowan Williams at Canterbury Cathedral

ACNS 3332 | ACNS | 3 MARCH 2003

Checked against delivery

Sunday 2 March 2003, 11am

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

It's only fairly recently that our church has begun to commemorate the transfiguration of Jesus on this Sunday just before Lent. We associate it in the calendar with the festival in August. But here we are, before Easter, celebrating, commemorating, this story in the Gospel, in a way which, at first, seems rather puzzling. But if you think of it, the effect of hearing the story of Jesus' transfiguration this morning - just before Lent - has the effect of framing the whole of Lent between two parallel stories. A story of Jesus going into a lonely mountainous place to pray, attended by his three closest friends: Peter; James; and John. A story in which Jesus, as he prays in solitude, enters into a mystery so great that His friends shrink from it and have no words for it. Because, you see, at the beginning of Lent we have that story of the transfiguration and at the end of Lent the story of Jesus going to pray alone in the garden of Gethsemane. The same story? Yes, but how very different. In both Jesus prays alone; in both there is a revelation of the Father; in both those three friends shrink in terror.

To frame the season of Lent in that way is to tell us that out Christian life is always, so to speak, lived between those two stories, between those two poles, those two moments of prayer and revelation. On the mountain of transfiguration, as the Gospel tells us, Peter, James and John see the veil lifted. They see, as it were, that behind and within the human flesh and blood of Jesus there is an unbearable light and glory: a radiance better than any light on earth. They see that His flesh and blood - though it is flesh and blood just like ours - is soaked through with that glory and brightness which is the work of God. They see that His human nature is shot through with God's own freedom. And then at the other end of Lent they see that that radiance, that glory and brightness and liberty, is exercised and made real in accepting the pain of the cross for the love of humankind. They see that the blinding power of God is exercised not in crushing and controlling, but in the sacrifice of love. Perhaps it begins to make sense that we live between those two visions. We can't understand the glorious brightness of God unless we see that God's power and splendour is entirely focused on that sacrifice of love which sets us free and gives us life. And we can't understand the darkness and the terror at the end of the story, at the end of Lent, unless we see that in the depths of that is the glory of God. And that, of course, is why St John, in his Gospel, again and again, refers to the crucifixion itself as Jesus being made glorious. The dazzling freedom of God, the total weakness of God, bound together, woven together, in one vision, in one person, in Jesus Christ.

If our Christian life, like Lent itself, is framed between those two points, that teaches us something of the vision that we need to have as Christians. Things are dark, things are threatening. What do we do, like good Christian human beings? We panic. Or things are going well, things are successful. What do we do, like good Christian human beings? We gloat. But if our lives are lived indeed between those two stories, then both panic and gloating should be impossible for us. Things are dark and difficult. The world is a terrible place, full of the threats of violence. The church is a terrible place. Do we panic? We look into the depth and see how the freedom of God is there even in failure, even in crisis, to bring life and love. Things are going well: this is a little less usual, I grant you. Things are going well, the church looks wonderful, the world looks peaceful. What do we do? We think of how power and peace and security must be turned by our sacrificial giving into love. So these stories tell us not only of how glory and sacrifice are blended together, woven together in Jesus. They tell us how to understand His church and His world. How in our discipleship we have to weave together the vision of glory and the call to sacrifice. Black armbands and champagne are equally only a part of the story because the mystery of Jesus Christ is precisely that glory is most fully opened up, its depths revealed and, in the very darkest moment of Jesus' self loss and self sacrifice, all of that infinite power which is God's is directed like a laser beam, to the welfare and the healing of you and me and the very weakest and most forgotten of God's children.

William Blake, a couple of centuries ago, prayed to be delivered from single vision and Newton's sleep. By Newton's sleep he meant the scientific world view as a thing in itself which gave you a one-eyed vision of the world. But it's not a bad image to think about. It's very easy for us to have one-eyed vision and the Gospel requires us to have full, binocular vision.

Just to finish, I can perhaps share with you a memory from my time in Wales when I made a visit to a primary school and, a week or so later, met one of the parents of a child in that school who told me that she had been very puzzled when her little girl had come home and said they'd had a visit that morning from the optician. She was a bit puzzled about this, she didn't know that opticians regularly went round schools but investigation revealed, in fact, that the visit had in fact been from the optician of Wales no less. Opticians correct your vision, opticians help you to see properly out of both eyes. It may be that modest redefinition of the task of an Archbishop by a primary school child in Gwent is a vocation worth thinking about.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.


For details about the Enthronement of the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Rowan D Williams, visit