Wednesday, November 30, 2005

God’s Word for Reformed Catholics – the Collect for Advent II

There is no better statement of the Reformed Catholic (Church of England & Anglican Protestant) approach and submission to the Bible as the Word of God written than the prayer composed for the Advent season by Archbishop Cranmer in the late 1540s. It is found in all authentic editions of The Book of [the] Common Prayer, beginning with the first edition of 1549, as the Collect for the Second Sunday in Advent. Let us take it part by part:

Blessed Lord, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel” cried Zechariah (Luke 1:68) and Paul wrote, “Blessed by the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1:3). Here we address God as “the Lord,” the ultimate “I am who I am,” the Lord of all being and the fountain of all goodness, wisdom and power.

Who hast caused all holy Scripture to be written for our learning; Paul wrote, “whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning” (Romans 15:4) and, “All these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they were written for our admonition upon whom the ends of the world are come” (1 Corinthians 10:11).

Here, by careful use of the relative clause, we recall reverently before God what we have been taught concerning the use of the Scriptures, that though written centuries ago, they were written (by inspiration and through God’s omniscience) for our practical use today. They exist for our learning, or our instruction in Faith and Morals. So we read the Scriptures in the humble confidence that God has foreseen our needs and will meet them as we receive his written Word.

Grant that we may in such wise hear them, Since we know why the Scriptures exist we ask God, in his mercy and grace, to place us in a position where we can truly profit from their existence and content, as the Word of God written and translated into our language. The verb “Grant” contains not only the theme of petition but also of submission to God, the Lord. And we ask that we may receive their content in such a way and fashion that the reception will be to our true edification. “Hearing” is the first way in which we receive the oracles of God, as they are read in the church services of Morning and Evening Prayer, in the Order for Holy Communion, and in Family Prayers.

Read, mark and inwardly digest them, Hearing the oracles is but the beginning of receiving them for as we hear them we can also read them, and when alone we can just read them. The purpose of both hearing and reading them (done at the same time or separately) is that we may mark, that is pay careful attention to, what we hear and read concerning God and his salvation in Jesus Christ. Marking, paying careful attention, leads to learning and understanding, and to being lodged in the memory and heart – “Thy Word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against Thee” [Psalm 119:11]. This whole exercise may be called meditation for it is the route appointed by God whereby his Word goes from the written page into our inmost souls. Merely to hear or merely to read the Bible is not enough; we are called dutifully and humbly to employ the means necessary to allow the Word of God to enter into our lives. We need to have both the spiritual appetite and the spiritual digestion in place to come to the experience of the Psalmist who declared: “How sweet are thy words unto my taste! Yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth” [Psalm 119:103].

That by patience, and comfort of thy holy Word, Here we begin a specific application to the Advent Season, when we look for the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus in glory even as we celebrate his Nativity in Bethlehem as the Son of God incarnate. St Paul wrote, “that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Romans 15:4), that is hope of that Second Coming and of the redemption of our bodies and life in glory. We need to bear in mind that the comfort and strengthening of the Scriptures particularly comes to those who are patient!

We may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, The Christian hope is a blessed hope as St Paul told Titus: “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). And having addressed God as the “Blessed Lord”, we now celebrate the “blessed hope” which he alone provides for us (if we were using Latin the first of God would be Benedictus and the second of his gift would be beatus).

Thus we ask God to help us rightly to use the Holy Scriptures as a means of preparing for the Second Advent and of life together with Christ in glory.

Which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. As the invocation of this Collect (to “Blessed Lord”) is unique in The Book of Common Prayer, so the conclusion is a very significant variation on the usual ending of these short prayers – “through Jesus Christ…” Instead of the proposition “through” we use “in” because the Christian hope is not merely through Jesus the Mediator but it is actually all bound up within him as our Prophet, Priest and King. In fact it is, “Christ in you, the hope of glory,” as St Paul told the Colossians (1:27). This Hope keeps us steadfast not only in Advent but throughout the whole Church Year.

Amen. So be it, O LORD, the Blessed One and blessed be thy kingdom now and always, even unto ages of ages.

Blessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; Grant that we in such wise hear them, read, mark and inwardly digest them, that by patience, and comfort of they holy Word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which though hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon MA., D.Phil (Oxford)

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The doctrinal basis of the “Anglican Communion Network” : Is a new doctrinal statement required?

Since it is a voluntary organization, made up of dioceses, parishes and persons, who already belong to an ecclesial body, the Episcopal Church [ECUSA], the Network decided to distinguish itself within that Church, by having its own statement of faith and vocation. In fact, because it came into being in a crisis situation it felt the need to specify wherein it is different from other bodies that use the names of “Episcopal” and “Anglican” in North America. The crisis was set in motion by actions in the ECUSA and Anglican Church of Canada which introduced innovatory doctrine and practice in sexual relations into these two Provinces of the Anglican Communion. In the ECUSA a divorced man, living in a same-sex partnership with another man, was consecrated as a bishop; and in Canada same-sex couples were given services of blessing on their union.

The “Confession and Calling of the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes” agreed in 2004 begins with a preamble wherein the crisis is described as “a threat to historic Faith and Order that defines”. Then follow the three sections of the document: 1. Stewards of a Trust (i.e., of the Gospel and the Mystery of Faith); 2. [God’s call to be] Trustworthy in Obedience and Communion; & 3. [The need for] Repentance, Reconciliation, Reform & Renewal. Many paragraphs begin, “We confess, hold and bear witness before God…” which form of words reminds us of the old Continental European style of confessing the faith -- “We believe, teach and confess…” Alongside the Statement, verses from the Bible are supplied as proof-texts of the assertions being made.

I will now offer some [critical] comments upon the document in the form it appears on the official website of The Network (I say this as there may be another edition somewhere else).

  1. It reads in such way as to give the impression that the crisis caused by the introduction of the homosexual agenda into the churches is the greatest crisis to face North American Anglicanism in modern times. And it is able to do so because the presence of an active homosexual bishop within the ECUSA is so offensive both to many American social conservatives and, oversees, to many African bishops for whom any form of homosexual practice is both socially and biblically offensive. Further, its citing of the Barmen Declaration from Germany against the Nazi ideology and policy adds to the impression of the unique gravity of this North American crisis. (It is unique, I suggest, only in that it is the latest of series of innovations, each one building, as it were, on the success of the earlier ones.)
  2. It provides the impression that its author(s) are more at home in the world of Karl Barth and a modern, warm neo-orthodoxy, and the approach to the Bible from this school of thought, than they are in the world of the standard Anglican divines and of traditional Anglican forms of statement.
  3. The author(s) is/are well aware of recent writing in official reports from the Anglican Communion (e.g., the Virginia Report) wherein the actual reality of the communion in sacred things and fellowship amongst the provinces is seen as in some ways participating in and reflecting the actual, ineffable communion within the Blessed, Holy, and Undivided Trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. I regard this attempt to link the communion of Churches with the Holy Trinity as a dangerous form of theologizing. The commitment to the Communion of Churches must be based on common Formularies not on the attempt to use the internal life of God the Holy Trinity as a basis!
  4. Though there is reference to our “common historical formularies, including the sixteenth and seventeenth century authorized Book of Common Prayer and Thirty-Nine Articles” there is no anchoring of these in the life and history of the Anglican Way in North America, either in the USA or in Canada. The first American authorized edition of the Book of Common Prayer was that of 1789 and of The Articles, was 1801. (Note that that there was also The Ordinal, not mentioned by the “Confession….”) Thus no claims are made for the orthodoxy of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the USA from the 1780s through to the present; and, significantly, there is no facing of the absolutely important question of the authority of the historic Formularies within the ECUSA (formerly PECUSA), that is of the classic BCP, Ordinal and Articles? One asks: Are they seen as authoritative by The Network? Or is the Network of the same mind as the official ECUSA which in 1976/79 abandoned the historic formularies and replaced them with the content of the 1979 Prayer Book, which belongs to a wholly different form of Anglican worship, doctrine, polity and discipline (and from this form has grown the fruit of the present crisis!)?
  5. Though there is a commitment in the Confession (at II.4) to the “ideal” of Christian marriage as between a man and a woman, there is no recognition at all that the laxity of marital discipline in the ECUSA, including within the dioceses of The Network, with regard to the marriage of divorcees in church (not to mention the cohabitation of many church members, a widespread commitment to a hedonist view of marriage where self-fulfillment is primary, procreation being seen as optional and so on) has actually paved the way for the entry of the homosexual agenda. Though there is perhaps no direct causal connection there is no doubt that serial monogamy with its related phenomena opened the door and created the climate for the homosexual activists to press their claimed rights.
  6. Further, there is no acceptance of the impact that the ordination of women (with its major support from the doctrine of human rights) had on opening doors for further innovations, especially when put in terms of rights for minorities or those previously left out.
  7. Also, there is no recognition that the Bible is interpreted by The Network differently with regard to the ordination of women and the re-marriage of divorcees, than it is with regard to homosexual practice. In the latter case, the use is basic and straightforward – the Bible condemns sodomy, therefore it is wrong in all cases. But in the former, ways are devised to get around the clear meaning of Bible verses and to find sophisticated means to neutralize them so as to allow the innovation. Which method of interpretation is favored by The Network?
  8. Though there are statements of penitence and sorrow for where the ECUSA has arrived doctrinally and morally, there is no sorrow expressed for the actual and specific sharing of the Network bishops in the serious innovations in the life of the PECUSA/ECUSA since World War II. The sorrow and penitence are too general to have real meaning and effect.
  9. The impression is given that if there is a major U-turn by the ECUSA and the Anglican Church of Canada in terms of the present crisis then there is a real possibility of a return to an acceptable reality. This may be so in Canada which has still in place the Solemn Declaration concerning the historic Formularies but in the USA the historic Formularies disappeared in 1979 and have not yet returned and will only return if the Network works hard to achieve this. And of course merely having the right doctrine in place in not enough; there must be worship and witness to go with it!


    In conclusion, I would suggest that this present Confession be seen as having a limited life and having now served its basic purpose, and that it be replaced by one that is truly Anglican in style and content and has a certain parallel nature to the doctrinal basis of the major African Provinces of the Communion of Churches:

    (a) which wholly commits to the authority of Scripture and the historic Formularies – classic BCP, Ordinal and Articles, and
    (b) contains a modern form of the Articles, addressed to the problems and heresies of today, to become a guide for Anglicans through the current mess (as were the original Articles in the 16th century).

    [See also the related essay on “The A-C Network: a reflection upon “Network” below] November 29, 2005

The A-C Network – an intriguing title!

Reflections upon what is a Network

My intention is to reflect upon the expression “the Network” as used in the phrase. “the Anglican Communion Network.” This meditation may serve to clarify for people in the USA and elsewhere what is this new society/organization and where it can or will go.

It is claimed by insiders that the formation of the Network was originally suggested by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, in a private meeting in London with two Americans. Initial plans for the Convocation were laid at a gathering of “mainstream” Anglican leaders (including four Primates) in London in November 2003. A Memorandum of Agreement came out of this meeting and was ultimately signed by thirteen bishops of the Episcopal Church. The Memorandum stated the intention of these bishops to begin taking steps toward organizing a network of “confessing” dioceses and congregations within the Episcopal Church [ECUSA]. The signing of the memorandum by a bishop did not indicate that his diocese had joined the network. Since then, a total of ten dioceses — Albany, Central Florida, Dallas, Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, Quincy, Rio Grande, San Joaquin, South Carolina and Springfield — have ratified their affiliation.

The Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes was officially launched on January 20, 2004, at the Network’s Organizing Convocation held at Christ Church, Plano, Texas. That meeting included representatives from 12 Episcopal dioceses, as well as persons from geographic regions and one non-geographic area that were designated as convocations. The gathering unanimously adopted a Structural Charter and affirmed a Theological Charter. The Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan was elected Moderator of the new Network and will serve for a three-year term. The Organizing Convocation also elected a 12-member Steering Committee composed of persons from across the country. The Network was given financial help to get started and to continue by the American Anglican Council, and the two organizations remain close but distinct.

We do not know what Rowan Williams had in mind when he suggested “a Network” and we do not know whether what he understood as a network was the same model in the mind of Americans present with him, the very men who brought back the message that he had suggested a network. The word is used today in a variety of ways, for example:
  • An openwork fabric or structure in which cords, threads, or wires cross at regular intervals.
  • Something resembling an openwork fabric or structure in form or concept, especially:
  • A system of lines or channels that cross or interconnect: a network of railroads.
  • A complex, interconnected group or system: an espionage network.
  • An extended group of people with similar interests or concerns who interact and remain in informal contact for mutual assistance or support.
  • A chain of radio or television broadcasting stations linked by wire or microwave relay.

Then there is the growing use of “network” by international companies to describe the relation to each other of offices, plants, distribution centers, factories and the like around the world.
In most uses of this word in modern discourse, the network is a primary thing and describes the relation to each other of primary realities – e.g., the railroads that cut across the country, or the spies in a country or region, or the various physical manifestations of an international company.

However, in the religious use being considered here, the network is very much a secondary, dependent and supportive thing. The dioceses are first of all dioceses of the Episcopal Church and the parishes are first of all parts of actual dioceses. Their membership of the Network is voluntary and can be ceased at any time. Further, though persons may feel a stronger level of moral commitment to the Network than to the original ecclesial structure/institution, the fact of the matter is that their primary existence derives not from the Network but from the ECUSA. This remains true even if it is conceded that the Network is planning (though there is no evidence for this yet) to become a Province of the Anglican Communion.

Certainly the country is organized into geographical regions and non-geographical interest groups (e.g., the Forward in Faith NA) and there are local officers (who assume ecclesial titles such as “Very Rev.” !) but again this is all voluntary and all who participate have a primary residence in and legal connection to a unit of the Episcopal Church of the USA or other ecclesial body. Such organization is not new, for not a few voluntary societies have had and still have diocesan or geographical chapters across the country and they are also “networks.”
What all this means is that this specific Network is not the visible Church as such (it is not a Province with dioceses and dioceses with parishes); but, it is to be likened to a missionary society or a voluntary, not for profit, organization, or an advocacy group for a special kind of Anglicanism, or a reform movement working for changes in the Anglican Way, or something else – or all of these.

Now the Network’s full title is, “The Anglican Communion Network.” Obviously this is intended to make a statement that, as half of the provinces of the Anglican Communion are not in eucharistic or doctrinal communion with the ECUSA, this group within the ECUSA wants to maintain full communion with those provinces which have anathematized the ECUSA. Yet, we must remember that communion is wholly dependent on the gift of the bishops, dioceses and provinces outside of the ECUSA and cannot be caused by the will of the Network membership, for as Episcopalians they are, as it were, under the ban.

The oddity of the title may be seen by reflecting upon the reality that being part of the ECUSA the actual membership of the Network is actually within the very Province with which a majority of Anglican Primates and Provinces are in impaired or broken communion. So the Network membership relies on the promises of Primates from the Global South that it (i.e., they as “the orthodox”) are excluded from the blanket condemnation of the ECUSA for its innovations and refusal to repent of them. Thus the use of “Anglican Communion” functions as a statement of intent and as an expression of hope for the membership of the Network. Yet it is a “loose” expression with flexible content.

To conclude this short meditation.

When you have a voluntary society, even one which has the verbal support of important people at home and overseas, you always run the risk (in a culture where private opinion is highly rated and where doing one’s own thing is celebrated) of losing momentum, of dividing into various interest and pressure groups, and of being taken over by external or internal stronger forces. Right now, the Network appears to have a variety of goals and purposes, all of which appear honorable and noble; but unless it has a clearly stated supreme goal that is seen as worthy of sacrificing for, a clear commitment doctrinally and morally to the full Anglican Way, and unless its leadership actually walks the walk as well as talks the talk right now, it will (as I have said before) probably, like the Episcopal Synod of the early 1980s fail in its declared vocation. The only clear goal that would take genuine sacrifice and wisdom, and that I can think of, is the creation of a new, orthodox province of the Anglican Communion on American soil – a province which would include (to use the unfortunate noun preferred by the Network) not only the Network but also the present diaspora of Anglican jurisdictions outside the present ECUSA and official Anglican Communion of Churches.

(see also the related essay on the Doctrinal Basis of the Network above) November 29, 2005

Monday, November 28, 2005

Patriarchy: Inextricably part of God’s revelation or merely the package in which it comes?

The contents of the Bible (when read in the Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek) are saturated with patriarchy (literally, the rule of fathers). God, the LORD, is pre-eminently “the Father” in the New Testament and the great heroes of faith and the covenant of grace of the first book of the Bible are patriarchs – e.g., Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Jesus chose only men to be his apostles; and the apostles ordained only men as presbyters (elders) and bishops (shepherds) in the churches they founded. In his Mere Christianity, Professor C.S. Lewis saw the “headship” of the father in the family as part of basic Christian doctrine and ethics.

If patriarchy is writ large in the Bible (not to mention being writ large in The Book of Common Prayer [1662] and Protestant Confessions of the Reformation era), why do these facts not genuinely bother and trouble modern American evangelical readers of the Bible, who claim that the Bible is “God’s Word written”? It would appear that they should be troubled because they are committed to equality of the sexes not only before God (which the NT certainly proclaims) but also for equality of opportunity, work and leadership in family, the world and the church (which the OT and NT do not affirm). In other words, they deny patriarchy in certain important, practical aspects; but, nevertheless, they proclaim the authority and inerrancy of the Holy Scriptures, which contain patriarchy as a major ingredient. How can this be? How can they (by implication) proclaim one thing and then deny its requirements in practice?

The answer would seem to be that they are so much a part of the modern world of civil and human rights and of therapeutic approaches to faith, things which are also a part of religion in their churches, that they are not really challenged by the way that patriarchy is inextricably intertwined into the biblical narrative. They just do not see it there and so there is no problem to face. Why? There are two or three possible answers.

First of all, they tend to use versions/paraphrases of the Bible translated into English using the method known as dynamic equivalency. This has the effect of removing the teeth of patriarchy as it provides not a literal translation of the original text but an approximation of it in modern terms (e.g., “brethren” becomes “sisters and brothers” & “Blessed is the Man…” becomes “Happy are they…”).

Secondly, they are told by evangelical experts on the Bible, that the patriarchy is part of ancient society and culture and is not part of the essential Word of God; rather, it is the package in which the Word comes and was the means graciously used at the time by God when the revelation was originally given. So, for example, the appointment only of men as apostles and elders was simply because women at that time did not do such things and, furthermore, they were involved in child-minding (after all, safe birth control only arrived in the second half of the 20th century!). In modern times, with all the advances in science, technology, anthropology and the social and behavioral sciences, women are in a very different position than they were in Biblical times –even early 20th century times and this the God of heaven surely knows.

Then, of course, there is the tendency in all of us to choose from what is on offer before us that which is acceptable or pleasing to us. This is part of our inherent self-preservation and selfishness. So, if we are tied into a home-life, educational system and culture that insist on the full rights of women in employment and leadership, and we regard all this as what should be, even ought to be, then we assume that God also approves of the status quo. And if HE approves then His Word will surely not say otherwise and when we read it we do not expect it to say anything but that which we have come to see as His way through our experience in the modern world. (This is an important point worth pondering!)

But there is one area where Evangelicals keep traces of patriarchy and that is in the addressing of God as “Father”. They see it as the term Jesus used and therefore one which they should use as his disciples.

So it would seem to be the case that those (e.g., the Evangelicals in the ELCA, ECUSA and AMiA) who proclaim loudest the final authority of the Bible for faith and conduct are yet are unable to see much of the content of the Bible, because of the types of spectacles they use in reading it and the blinkers that their commitment to modern cultural norms causes them to wear. “Headship” of the male is for most if not all only a talking point; it is not a practical doctrine in family or church as the empirical evidence of the latter makes more than clear.

Cross References

I would suggest that there is much the same mindset at work when it comes to the acceptance of the right of divorced persons to have a Christian service of Holy Matrimony in church or conducted according to the rites of the church. We live in a divorce culture and we are so used to serial monogamy that we read the Bible without seeing that if (and it is a big if) remarriage after divorce is actually permitted by Jesus (and thus approved by God) it is only in a limited area and thus involving only a few persons – not multitudes. The themes of chastity, and “one man and one women as one flesh for life” are noticed but not emphasized (except as an ideal, which is different from a standard). So here again the message of the Bible is missed or avoided through either inability to see or the lack of will to see.

However, and this is a big however, a different mindset is at work when it comes to the rights of homosexual persons of the same sex to form a covenanted union and receive a church blessing. This is condemned strongly and loudly – to put it minimally -- by most Evangelicals and done so by using the clear biblical texts against sodomy in the way they were used in ancient times. That is, no allowances are made as they are for women’s rights and for the rights of divorcees. The Bible as it was read by the Fathers, the Reformers and the Revivalists is used to denounce the homosexual agenda as of the devil and sinful before God. No allowance is made for the claim that the covenanted union of homosexual persons is a new phenomenon, is part of modern civil rights and justice, and that the Bible does not even address it as such.

I am puzzled by all this. I am not defending homosexual practice and neither am I attacking women in leadership in society and church. I am asking questions about what seems to me to be an odd situation.

Maybe some evangelicals who fit into the description above will tell us how they square up their use of the Bible for doctrine and morality. November 28, 2005

Sunday, November 27, 2005


The Christian season of Advent (Latin, adventus, “Coming”) runs from the fourth Sunday before Christmas until the eve of Christmas. It is also the beginning of the Christian Year.

One way of thinking about its purpose and meaning is to take each letter of the word, a-d-v-e-n-t, and let it represent a theme or aspect of this season. So let us try this method.

A – Arrival

During the season of Advent the Church of Christ joins the remnant of Israel (such as Simeon & Anna) through liturgy in preparing for the Arrival of the Messiah, the Son of David & the Son of God, even Jesus, Son of Mary. Further, the Church joins Israel in listening to John the Baptist, who prepared the way of the Messiah.

Also, during the season of Advent the Church of Christ as the Bride of Christ looks for his Return to earth, his Arrival as the Lord of lords and King of kings to raise the dead, judge the nations and inaugurate the kingdom of God.

So the Church prays on Advent III

O Lord Jesu Christ, who at thy first coming didst send thy messenger to prepare thy way before thee: Grant that the ministers and stewards of thy mysteries may likewise turn so prepare and make ready thy way, by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, that at thy second coming to judge the world, we may be found an acceptable people in thy sight, who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

D -- Devotion

The four weeks of Advent provide the possibility of a period of intense and deep Devotion both in the public liturgy of the Church and in personal times of prayer and meditation. This consecration to walking with God in humility and obedience is summed up in the Collect for the last of the four Sundays:

O LORD, raise up (we pray thee) thy power, and come among us, and with great might succour us; that whereas, through our sins and wickedness, we are sore let and hindered in running the race that is set before us, thy bountiful grace and mercy may speedily help and deliver us; through the satisfaction of thy Son our Lord, to whom with thee and the Holy Ghost be honour and glory, world without end. Amen.

The Collect is addressed to God, the Father, and it is an earnest request that he will gather up his power and descend to his people (by the Holy Ghost) in order to help, succour and sustain them in the race they are running in their earthly pilgrimage towards the goal & fullness of the kingdom of heaven (see Hebrews 12:1).

In making this petition, God’s people recognize that due to their sins of omission and commission they have failed to run in God’s grace as gracefully and swiftly as they are called to do and ought to have done. Thus they look to the Father to provide them through his Son and by his Spirit, and in grace and mercy, the help they need. In particular they look to the “satisfaction of thy Son”, to his perfect obedience of the Father in his life and in his death, as the basis for asking for divine mercy and assistance (i.e., to his active and passive obedience).

If God’s people are to live as those who expect the return of the Lord Jesus Christ, then they need not only to watch and pray but also to live as the obedient and faithful servants of God, engaged daily in his service and running the race that is set before them. This requires true Devotion!

V. Volition (the act of willing or resolving)

God is merciful and gives us grace but we have to be willing to receive that grace and to commit ourselves to his will and purpose. The Devotion of Advent requires definition Volition! But this we prayed for in the week before Advent: “Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people…”

The season of Advent may be viewed as a short Lent as a time when strict discipline over the body through Fasting is one means of deepening awareness of God and devotion to him. The colour for this season, like Lent, is purple pointing to asceticism and the words of the Advent Collect, “Give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness” also suggest the need for discipline & Fasting. Further, it is possible for four weeks to omit “Gloria in Excelsis” from the Eucharist as a sign of liturgical asceticism – but to do this without developing the interior Devotion of asceticism is to miss out!

Yet Volition, the commitment of the will resolved to do what God requires and to please him, is the real thing here! That is, the will as it is graciously turned towards the Lord to obey him and to do his bidding.

E – Expectancy

As the righteous remnant in Israel waited for the Messiah in hopeful expectancy, so Christian worshippers in the Liturgy throughout Advent grow in expectancy for the arrival of the Son of God Incarnate. And their expectancy is joyfully fulfilled at the first service of Christmas as either they hear the words of the angel first spoken to the shepherds: “To you is born this day in the city of David, a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord,” or the majestic words of John 1, “And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth…”

Further, liturgically Expectancy is communicated by the great “O’s” used during the last week of Advent.

O WISDOM, that camest out of the mouth of the Most High, reaching from one end to another, firmly and gently ordering all things: Come and teach us the way of understanding.

O ADONAI, Captain of the house of Israel, who didst appear to Moses in the flame of the burning bush, and gavest him the law on Sinai: Come and deliver us with thine outsretched arm.

O ROOT OF JESSE, who standest for an ensign of the people, before whom kings shall shut their mouths, to whom the nations shall seek: Come and deliver us and tarry not.

O KEY OF DAVID, Sceptre of the house of Israel, who openest and no man shutteth, and shuttest and not man openeth; Come and bring forth out of the prison-house him that is bound.

O DAY-SPRING FROM ON HIGH, Brightness of Eternal Light, and Sun of righteousness: Come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death.

O KING OF NATIONS, thou for whom they long, the Cornerstone that makest them both one: Come and save thy creatures whom thou didst fashion from the dust of the earth.

O EMMANUEL, our King and Lawgiver, the Desire of all nations and their Saviour: Come and save us, O Lord our God.

N – Narrative

The Scripture passages, the Bible narrative, read, heard and pondered during Advent are most important. In the Daily Offices of Morning and Evening Prayer, the Book of Isaiah the Prophet is prominent and is read extensively throughout the four weeks as the Old Testament Lesson. In this book, not only are there many passages addressed to ancient Israel but there are also prophecies that look into the future to proclaim the arrival of the Messiah, the nature of his kingdom, his exaltation through suffering, and the triumph of his cause.

The Anglican Collect for Advent II refers to this relation to Holy Scripture:

Blessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark ,learn and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast, the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

T – Thanksgiving

Though there is a strong element of penitence accompanying the fasting and asceticism in Advent, there is a stronger element of Thanksgiving! For God is praised and thanked for his saving deeds and his inspired words recorded in the Old Testament, all of which point to their climax in the arrival of the Messiah, the Saviour, who came to “fulfil the Law and the Prophets.” There is celebration of God’s mighty salvation experienced by the Israelites and there is anticipation of the even mightier salvation wrought in the Lord Jesus Christ.

And of course the meaning of the word, “Eucharist”, is “Thanksgiving” and thus in the Sacrament each week there is profound thanksgiving offered to the Father through the Son and with the Holy Spirit.

The Advent Collect to be used throughout the four weeks

Almighty God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious Majesty, to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and ever. Amen.

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon MA., D.Phil (Oxford)

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Report from Peter Toon November 23rd 2005

Thanks for your best wishes and prayers for my bracytherapy.

I am now back home drinking gallons of water and putting ice-packs on the bruised parts of my body where the long needles went in to deliver 125 seeds.

Naturally I feel tired but the professor told me that they managed to get the seeds where they wanted them and they counted it a success. These expensive little seeds begin immediately to release their energy but one really feels it in several weeks time and the life of these seeds is about 6 months.

I have been given a Letter to present at the security at airports etc to explain why I set off the alarms.

THANKSGIVING, USA style, tomorrow, will not be for me a time of special eating but eating a little and drinking a lot of water – not wine!

I have two ladies to look after me and drive me where I need to go, like to the Library for a few books!

Again thanks for your interest and your prayers

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon MA., D.Phil (Oxford)

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Women's Ordination Book Available Online...

My book on the ordination of women from 1990, Let Women be Women, Gracewing, is now on line:

--Peter Toon

Are we as “orthodox” Episcopalians complicit in the errors of the “revisionists”?

(This is my last discussion starter until after Thanksgiving! Thanks for your patience. I appreciate your visits to the Blog at the PBS website and your comments sent to me by e mail; from December lst it is possible that there will be in place an opportunity for comments from you to be placed on the Blog at the website at
A thoughtful person who cares for the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Way wrote to me yesterday (Nov 19) and stated:

I do think several of the pieces you've sent out in recent days are right on the mark -- and I imagine have infuriated some on the "orthodox" side.

We are so much happier when we are blaming all our ills on the Griswolds, Spongs and Robinsons of the world; we are filled with righteous indignation when someone suggests that we ourselves are complicit in the same errors and heresies that afflict them.
This person summarized succinctly what a reasonably large number of people, from bishops to vestry members, has written to tell me over the last week since I wrote my first evaluation of the American Anglican scene, after returning from the “Hope and a Future Conference, Nov 10-12” in Pittsburgh.

Looking back, I think that the highlights of the Conference for me were the exhortations by the two African Archbishops and the talk by the famous Rick Warren. On a personal note, I did not realize that Rick Warren knew me; but he took the time after the Conference to write to me and thank me for various books of mine he had read and to state he missed seeing me. I felt obliged to explain to him in a kindly manner that I am on a slightly (!) different wavelength to the leaders of The Network, in that I think that they are not acting sufficiently decisively in reforming worship, doctrine or discipline and are too wedded to the 1979 prayer book as their Formulary, when it is such a deeply flawed book, and certainly not worthy of the adjective “orthodox.”

What strikes me, sometimes quite forcibly, is that all of us who are directly or indirectly connected to the Episcopal Church, whether we regard ourselves as orthodox, conservative, traditional or whatever else, actually share in its apostate spirit and condition. At one level, this is so simply by belonging as clergy and laity, by using its Liturgy (as, to my horror and surprise, did the Conference including the REC, APA etc!) and sharing in its various agencies and provisions. Thus we need to cover ourselves, as it were, figuratively but spiritually in sackcloth and ashes regularly in penitence. And until there is a new Province based on impeccable worship, doctrine and discipline this penitence will need to continue – unless, miracle of miracle, there is a massive change and amazing U-turn in the ECUSA.

And we need to be penitent not only because of this general inescapable sharing in the corporate reality that is the ECUSA Province, but also, as I have pointed out on many occasions, because we actually share in and strengthen some of its innovations on a daily basis. Amazing but true! These are just as serious, if not more so, than the innovations with regard to homosexuality. I have pointed out many times what these are – e.g., the falsehood before God and man in the statement that the 1979 prayer Book is truly an edition of the real and true Book of Common Prayer of the Anglican tradition and way; the actual rejection of the historic Anglican Formularies which came with the adoption of the 1979 book; the consecration of women as bishops; the lack of any discipline with regard to the remarriage of divorcees in church; the mandating of women’s ordination as an article of faith for officers; and so on. The blessing of same-sex couples is merely one in a long line of innovations, and though very serious, is nothing like as serious as compared with the rejection of the historic Anglican Formularies by the General Convention of 1976/79.

It is easy for any of us to attack “the revisionists” and their notorious bishops who have inspired the moves into one innovation after another. Such activity may enable us to pretend and fool ourselves that we are “the orthodox” who both believe and practice what is right before God in obedience to Jesus Christ as Lord. However, the truth is that we are miserable sinners to whom much light has been given but in whom our wills are apparently in bondage to the Episcopal ethos and innovations [sin?] and thus are not yet truly free to reject them and seek to love and serve God with joy in a “purpose-driven life” and in a “purpose-driven church [new province]” – to quote Rick Warren – to the greater glory of God and the edification of the Church and the increase of the kingdom of God on earth.

Thank God meanwhile that we can take holy refuge within “the communion of saints” and the “Church invisible” of the total elect of God from all space and time! November 20, 2005

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Liturgical Freedom, Anglican humanity come of age?

From submission to control in parish life
A discussion starter

Episcopalians of the USA seem to have forgotten that what bound the dioceses of the Protestant Episcopal Church together from the eighteenth well into the twentieth century was a common constitution, with a common liturgy (the Book of Common Prayer in its editions of 1789, 1892 & 1928), a common set of ordination rites (printed and bound with the BCP), and a common confession of faith (in the Creeds, Catechism and Articles of Religion, printed and bound with the BCP). True enough there were different schools or theological emphasis and churchmanship from Latitudinarian to Anglo-Catholic, but generally speaking, and despite a civil war, there was unity in comprehensiveness because of the use of a common liturgy and common formularies.

Clergy felt duty bound by their ordination vows to use the services from the Prayer Book and these only. So a visitor making the rounds would expect and hear the same service everywhere but of course with differences in music, ceremonial and preaching. And what was true in the USA was also true in Canada and Britain and throughout the British Empire and Commonwealth of Nations, where Anglican provinces and churches were found.

The point to note is that the bishops and clergy took it as normal and as a duty to God and Church to submit to the use of the printed, set liturgy and in doing so they saw this submission and usage as a distinguishing mark of being Episcopalian or Anglican.

Regettably, there was a revolution in Liturgy within Anglican Provinces of the West/North in the 1970s and it followed bad advice given by the Lambeth Conference of 1968. They all began separately within their own autonomy and by their own liturgical commissions to produce “alternative services” in “modern style and structure” and also in “contemporary language”. Eventually these all looked alike but were by no means identical in content and size! So by the 1980s the Church of England and other western Provinces had for use the classic Book of Common Prayer and alongside it a much thicker book containing a variety of alternative forms for all the basic services of the Church. Bishops urged parishes to use the new in preference to the old! (The ECUSA was more radical for it abandoned the classic BCP and had only a Book of Varied services which it dishonestly named the BCP and forced it on many unwilling parishes! – and since 1979 it has produced various sets of further services to add to the variety.)

Recently, most of these initial services have been revised and new books have been published of supposedly improved alternative services – e.g., in England there is now the multi-volume Common Worship. Thus, at the parish level, the rector and vestry are faced with a tremendous choice, which they are encouraged by the experts to make use of and not be tied down to just one form week by week – after all, is not liturgical variety the spice of modern church life? So the modern books/websites of options for liturgy have elevated the rector (or the rector with worship committee) to the position of virtually total control of what amounts to liturgy for the congregation, for it is claimed he/she and they know best.

So, remarkable, in thirty years there has been a dramatic move from submission to control at the parish level by clergy. No wonder we have a major crisis of hun proportions in modern Anglicanism in the West/North!

And to keep up the appearance that this massive variety is still “common prayer” the definition of common prayer has been revised by the experts to mean – not texts used in common by all – but a common simple structure with a few required elements. So, get the shape right and put in the necessaries like the Lord’s Prayer and you have Anglican Liturgy and “common prayer”!

So the autonomy of the Province to decide worship, doctrine and discipline is now matched by the autonomy of the parish in matters liturgical. And thereby what both bound parishes together in dioceses and national Provinces and what bound Provinces together as the Anglican Communion until the 1970s, has virtually disappeared. No wonder the Windsor Report of 2004, aware of the confusion and divisions called for a greater emphasis on the Instruments of Unity (e.g., the role of Archbishop of Canterbury and the Primates’ Meeting) with the making of a common covenant of membership for all to sign!

What is missing is, of course, that which served as the glue for a very long time, the presence of a Common Prayer/Liturgy through the use of one Book (in local editions), a common way of ordaining clergy and bishops (the Ordinal) and a common Confession of Faith (the Articles and Creeds and Catechism) in all Provinces and all parishes (allowing for a comprehensiveness of churchmanship and a variety of languages).

Probably we have gotten so used to the freedom involved in local control (and with it the questionable claims by clergy that modern people need modern forms of service with variety to feel that what they are doing is relevant and meaningful) that it will take nothing short of a miracle for clergy and lay leaders to be willing to return to submission for the sake of truth and unity, and truly, for the greater glory of God. Let us be clear, submission to anyone or anything is not a virtue in the estimation of most westerners. It is there of course in the armed forces and elsewhere out of necessity, but, as a voluntary activity seen as a virtue, either in marriage or in the church, it is rare and is even declared to be a weakness when seen in action!

On what basis can the Anglican Family be a genuine Fellowship, locally and internationally, except by the possession of common Formularies which are themselves based upon the Sacred Scriptures and contain the Creeds?

The use of the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral has been suggested as a means to unify parishes in dioceses and Provinces as a Communion. But this document from the late 19th century is all about the basics required for the union of Anglican Provinces with other Churches (e.g. Lutheran or Methodist or Old Catholic). It is not sufficient in its scope to be the internal bonds that unite Anglicans.

If there is a willingness in the West/North to submit to a norm as a means to unify the one jurisdiction known as the Anglican Way, then that norm has to be the Common Prayer and the Formularies. The real Common Prayer, which is now only available in traditional English, could be rendered carefully into contemporary English so that there would be a choice of traditional of contemporary forms of the one service at the local level, with variety in churchmanship, music etc. This choice, however, would be minimal in comparison with the vast possibilities for choice now there.

If these route were adopted it would take a massive effort in education first of clergy and then of congregations, for the right to local choice is deeply embedded right now in the mindset and spirituality of modern Episcopalians. Only a spiritual earthquake or a mighty spiritual hurricane could possibly bring needed change. And only very sensitive pastoral care could cause it to come in smoothly.

My judgment, however, is that it is the only way to unite the people of the Anglican Way and in saying this I am glad to be able to state that the Anglican Church of Nigeria has publicly stated much the same thing – unity on the basis of the Scripture and Formularies, not via the instruments of unity, so called.

In this assertion I look for support from the Network, the American Anglican Council and other evangelical and anglo-catholic “orthodox” groups in the USA. If they all have a different strategy that they believe will work then I ask them to publish it so that we can all ponder it cartefully. November 19, 2005

Let Wo[men] be Wo[men]

Should gifted Christian Ladies be Presbyters and Bishops in the Church of God?
A discussion starter for those without high blood pressure

At the “Hope and a Future Conference” at Pittsburgh, November 10-12, 2005, the Moderator of the Third Session on the Friday was, as stated in the program, “The Rev. Canon Dr. Mary Maggard Hays, Canon Missioner, Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh.” She is “the right hand man”, as it were, of the Bishop, Robert William Duncan, who is the Moderator of the Anglican Communion Network.

Here are three significant facts which are also powerful symbols about Mary – Ms Hays is called “Rev.Canon” and thus a presbyter and a canon of the cathedral; she was placed on the Platform in a position of leadership for three hours; and her weekly job is to be the primary assistant of the bishop and thus involved in leadership in the diocese.

I do not want in any way to doubt the character, knowledge and ability of Ms Hays. What I do want to do is to use the symbolism of her role to reflect upon where The Network is and where its Bishops are in their approach to Scripture, the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and holy Tradition.

It was stated not once but often at the Conference, as a kind of rallying cry, that the “orthodox” of the Network (unlike the “revisionists” of ECUSA) are committed first and foremost to the authority of Scripture (for Faith and Morals) and to the Lordship of Christ in home, church and personal life.

This is fine, but it leaves not answered the quite serious matter of how the sacred Scriptures are to be read and how their message becomes the expression of the Lordship of Christ. If we look back thirty or forty years we find that Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics read and interpreted the New Testament to teach that there is a divine order in creation of male and female, that while they are equal before God as his adopted children by grace, there is nevertheless a “headship” given to the male in home and church. Thus women should not practically speaking, and ought not morally speaking, to be ordained to the position of pastors of the flock of Jesus the Lord – despite the fact that more and more women were taking leadership positions in education, medicine, business and so on.

Then very soon, following the turbulent 1970s, a growing number of Bible-based Episcopalians began to claim that the better and more enlightened way to read the Scriptures was to advance the view that the doctrine of divine order of the priority of the male, in his equal relation with the female, was applied in NT times by the churches in cultures where there was an endemic “patriarchy and sexism”; and it was this cultural situation, and not the intention of the Lord Jesus and his apostles, that was the real reason why women were not called as apostles and appointed as presbyters and bishops in the apostolic age and Early Church. So some Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics began to affirm that to ordain women as pastors was according to the mind of Christ the Lord, even though against the common-sense reading of the New Testament. When asked for biblical evidence by doubters of this innovation, the reply was to point to the truth under the surface as it were and to quote baptismal texts like Galatians 3:28 which proclaim the equality of female and male in Christ and before God. However, such quoting of texts teaching equality before God, was usually connected, implicitly or explicitly, to the emerging, powerful rhetoric of rights that the contemporary culture was proclaiming for women.

Now in adopting this new approach to the reading of Scripture (which was then prevalent in academic circles), the pioneers of women’s ordination were not using a wholly new methodology within the Episcopal Church. If we go back to the 1950s and 1960s and read the arguments advanced for the Episcopal Church to change its discipline concerning the remarriage of divorcees in Church we find the same type of thing happened. The significant NT texts were read in the most liberal way possible and contrary to their interpretation in Tradition & Canon Law, and were also, and significantly, read within the developing culture of human rights and freedoms. So the ECUSA was able, after some bitter debate, to maintain its teaching that fornication and adultery are wrong but at the same time innovate, that is, allow, with very few exceptions, the remarriage of divorced persons in Church, and furthermore, allow clergy, who are ministers of the sacrament of marriage, to be divorced and remarried. As we all know, the “divorce culture” is now endemic in the ECUSA and in The Network membership, and to question it is just not the thing to do.

Modern westerners, indeed most Episcopalians, read the NT in 2005 with a mindset that is deeply influenced by the doctrine & practice of human rights and thus they assume that the Word of God written teaches what to them is so obviously clear -- the equality of women in all areas, and the right of a man or women to have a second or third chance in marriage with the blessing of God and his church. Their theology, ethics and spirituality embrace these things as the norm. So the matter of ordination of women or the remarriage of divorcees in church become only matters of like or dislike or of political expediency or preference; it is not a crucial matter of obedience to the Lord Jesus and of his authority.

What seems most clear is that the New Testament interpreted in its literal, straightforward and common sense meaning forbids the ordination of women as presbyters and bishops as it also forbids the remarriage of many who now claim that right. (See the Westminster Confession of Faith, 1648, XXIV, “Of Marriage and Divorce” for the one exception allowed by the Protestant Reformers.)

Now this new methodology and way of interpreting the Bible has very important implications not only for Ministry and Marriage but also for the current response by the Church to the LesBiGay agenda, and particularly to the claim that God blesses same-sex, faithful, covenanted partnerships and that persons in such are eligible for ordination as a presbyter and consecration as a bishop.

It is very clear that the Evangelicals of the Network and the Primates of Nigeria and Uganda are using Scripture to oppose and condemn the innovatory doctrine of the LesBiGay lobby; it is also clear (or seems clear to me) that their “party” has reverted to the way it used the NT for proof texts and doctrine back in the 1960s. In other words, the sophisticated approach to interpretation of the sacred texts (in the context of human rights) that allowed the acceptance of innovations of the marriage of divorcees in church and the ordination of women is not being used in this battle! Why? Because, if it were, the possibility is that it would open the door to one or another of the claims of the LesBiGay lobby!

In fact, what the biblical scholars who write for the LesBiGay movement may be said to be doing is applying the same methods of interpretation used by Evangelicals to support remarriage in church and ordination of women, but using them in an advanced way and within the continuing powerful context of human rights.

If the Evangelicals were to read, interpret and apply Scripture as participants in the homosexuality debate as they do with respect to their commitment to remarriage and ordination, then it is possible, maybe probable, that they would find it very difficult to oppose reasonably the claim that God may bless the covenanted, faithful union of two persons of the same sex, while at the same time agreeing with the leaders of the Christian LesBiGay movement that any other form of same-sex activity (e.g. sodomy) is sinful.

Put in another way, it is one thing for African bishops to oppose the homosexual agenda for they are consistent in reading Scripture as generally not allowing either the marriage of divorcees in church or the ordination of women; yet it is a very different thing for the Network to do so for it has generally allowed the marriage of divorcees and the ordination of women and thus does not appear to read Scripture consistently. In order to be taken seriously, what the Network states about homosexuality and same-sex relations has to be matched by a recovery of the pre-1960s Evangelical & Catholic approach to marriage and ordination and by a clear statement of how Scripture is to be read and interpreted with regard to the formation of doctrine and moral practice!

I wholly realize that to do such a U-turn would need tremendous courage and massive pastoral sensitivity, especially to the women who are in orders now. But is there any other way for there to be a genuine reform and renewal of the Anglican Way in America and in the West generally? November 19, 2005

p.s. my book from 1990 on ordination entitled, Let Women be Women (Gracewing, Dublin) is being digitally copied and will be available for downloading within 14 days or so.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Anglicanism – what kind of future?

Post Pittsburgh Conference Reflections:
A discussion and prayer starter!

To make suggestions as to what future the Anglican Way has in North America, and especially within a nation that has a major, competitive supermarket of American religions, one needs to begin by asking and answering a question.

It is this: What does the Anglican Way have to offer to people, who are searching to know God, that will enable them to love and worship Him and also love and serve their neighbor? And more particularly, What, if any, are the features or distinctives of the Anglican Way, which make this Way not only different from other similar groups but a true means of coming to know God and enjoying communion with Him?

[Questions like these are asked by the Roman Catholic and Orthodox authorities when small “Anglican” jurisdictions (e.g., the Traditional Anglican Communion and the Charismatic Episcopal Church) come to them asking for a uniate status or similar relation of association. The authorities wish to know what is truly worth preserving for the generations to come in the tradition of worship, doctrine and discipline of the petitioning jurisdiction.]

So what is unique, or at least very special, about the Anglican Way as a major jurisdiction in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church of God? Why should people seek membership of the Body of Christ through its administration of the Sacraments and proclamation of the Gospel? And, why should Anglicans engage in the great commission of the Lord Jesus to evangelize, teach and baptize and thus seek to enlarge the membership of the Church of God through this jurisdiction?

One way to answer this question is via the empirical method, to study as a social scientist what goes on in the churches called Episcopalian or Anglican in the USA. The strength of this approach is that it provides you with information which then can be compared with that from Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, Mega-churches, Community churches, and so on.

Another way is to look at the formation of the Anglican Way as Reformed Catholicism in the sixteenth century and seek by looking at these origins and developments from them to ascertain what are its foundational principles, doctrines and standards.


If we go the route of descriptive social science then we shall probably receive a picture of a denomination that is united in several things – e.g., in having sacred space at whose center is a holy table or altar, of making the Eucharist its major service, of reciting a Creed and the Lord’s Prayer in it, having a basic structure or shape to this Eucharist which includes a “sharing of the Peace”, giving Communion in two kinds, calling its clergyperson a Rector, having someone in ultimate charge outside who is the Bishop with a diocese, being ruled locally by a vestry of ten or so people and belonging to a diocese.

At the same time we shall also probably learn that there is great variety – e.g., in the type of music used, the layout of the building, the way people dress for church, the size of congregations, the provision of facilities for children and for education; the actual prayer and doctrinal content placed within the common structure of the Eucharist, the forms of ceremonial used, the way the clergy dress, the amount clergy are paid, the types of theology and doctrine taught and preached, the approach to sexual ethics and relations, especially homosexuality, attitudes to other churches, including fellow Anglican/Episcopal groups, preferences in politics, and commitment to evangelism, mission and social service locally.

Probably a general impression arising from such study would be that of assuming that the Anglican Way is such a mixed bag that its appeal is not national but local, that is a local parish is found attractive for one or another specific reason by local people. These reasons for attracting people locally will probably usually be those very things which are common to all churches such as right location, right times of service, right size of congregation, right provision of facilities for kids and the elderly, good music program and so on. A person attending would tend equate what is Anglican with what he experienced and thus would probably be wholly out of place and sorts at another different Anglican congregation ten miles away, unless it happened by chance to work from a similar model (e.g., the purpose-driven church created by Rick Warren of the famous Saddleback church).

Now we would probably also find in the study that some people travel a long way to a given Anglican church because of its claim to be preserving and continuing as far as it is able the basic distinctives of the long Anglican tradition. That is, this church uses for its worship an edition of the Prayer Book that is based on the original Book of Common Prayer from 1549 and 1552 [e.g. the English 1662, the USA 1928 and the Canadian 1962]; it has music which was specifically composed for use with this Prayer Book; it provides on the Lord’s Day the series of services from that Prayer Book – Morning Prayer, Litany and Holy Communion, and then in the afternoon or evening, Evening Prayer, and all in the traditional language of English Public Prayer. It teaches a form of Christianity based on the Bible supplemented by the Creeds, Catechism and the historic Anglican Formularies. And that in its general use of symbol, ritual and ceremonial it follows one of the long-standing approaches, either “low” or “high” or somewhere between.

If this church has all the facilities that the others do – good parking, provision for children and elderly – and is friendly, it has as much chance of growing as do the others, even though initially new people will need to adjust to the use of traditional prayer language and of set liturgy as well as dressing in a way that does not suggest they are attending a religious leisure activity.

A suggestion

Since the advent of a variety of services and liturgies beginning in the 1970s, and with the new definition of “common prayer” as a common shape rather than common whole texts having entered the scene, the unity of the Anglican Way as it is gathers on the Lord’s Day for worship of the Holy Trinity is most difficult to identify and see because the variety is so intense. This situation will surely continue and intensify unless there is determination and will to find a common center and agree some basic rules of deviation from that center.

I suggest that the only reason for the Anglican Way to exist in such a vast supermarket of religions is to be what it said it was in 1549 and what it continued to say it was until the 1970s in the West and still says it is in places like Nigeria and Uganda. That is, it is an expression of Reformed Catholicism, and (to quote Canon A5 of the mother Church, the C of E) “the doctrine is grounded in the holy Scriptures, and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church that are agreeable to the said Scriptures. In particular, such doctrine as is to be found in the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordinal.” [Regrettably the ECUSA abandoned this commitment in 1979 with its rejection of the Anglican Formularies and the making of a book of varied services with a false title into its new formulary.] Anglican uniqueness as a jurisdiction before God in the one Catholic Church is in this grounding and commitment of Reformed Catholicism. If it departs from this foundation, style and ethos then it has no real reasons for being a separate reality at all.

To recover a genuine Anglican identity, evangelical and anglo-catholic Episcopalianism belonging to The Network and the American Anglican Council has a long route to take in the USA. It has to recover not only the authority of the Scriptures in a wise and godly way but also the secondary authorities, the historic, classic Formularies. It has to recover a way of worshipping that is truly Reformed Catholic and not imitative of popular charismaticism or generic evangelicalism or Tridentine Rome or ecumenical norms from the World Council of Churches. It has to develop ways of evangelism and instruction that lead converts naturally into classic liturgical ways of worship with godly habits and devotion [and not into generic Protestantism or the like].

In all this, to meet people where they are, Episcopalians will need to have a contemporary language form of its classic Book of Common Prayer (a contemporary form of the 1662 BCP as also of the 1928 & 1962 editions). They will need to think out ways of using the classic services in either the traditional language or the contemporary equivalent in such a way as to use the gifts of the congregation, in music especially. One can think of new music settings for the whole services, e.g., for the Canticles and Psalms, the Litany, the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer and the Sursum Corda. The local band or orchestra can exist along with the organ. The main thing is that they need to envisage a situation for the future where there will be a common text in use in two parallel forms which contains a common doctrine that is Reformed Catholic and in this unity there will be comprehensiveness of churchmanship, style, and ethos. The place of female clergy if any and the use f any Alternative or additional forms of services can be worked at later when the actual reality of Reformed Catholicism is on its way to being restored.

Right now what can be done is this: the contemporary version of the classic BCP can be prepared. Some of the work has already been done but there is yet much to do, and it will require a small dedicated team, including one or two with a real feel for language to be read in public. [go to and look at the book, Worshipping the Lord in the Anglican Way….Parallel texts]

Further preparation could begin by clergy and lay leaders studying and using for their devotions the services of the classic BCP. [Please note that at there are CD’s for sale on which in pdf form are collections of first-class books by leading Anglican theologians expounding the BCP, Ordinal and Articles.]

I personally optimistically look for some organization or church or society to take up the challenge to provide – at first for devotional use and then when refined for public worship – the full text of the BCP in contemporary English, so that it can be seen and felt by many who need to use contemporary English to address God what is Reformed Catholicism and how it is expressed in worship, prayer and devotion. To date many have expressed interest in this project but no specific group has yet volunteered to sponsor the project and raise the say $25,000.00 needed to produce a good edition of multiple copies of the book.

If the above be in God’s will for the Anglican family, may he show us the way. November 18, 2005

Stir up our wills, O LORD: Today please, not in the far distant future!

(The Collect for the last Sunday of the Christian Year)

Have you ever been comfortably seated watching TV, or reading a good book, and yet also been aware of (a) various necessary jobs to be done in the kitchen or elsewhere, and (b) a lack of will power to get up and do what has to be done?

It is common for human beings to experience in their moral and spiritual lives what Luther called in a famous book, “the bondage of the will”, a seeming lack of power to do what is known to be a duty and requirement. In the soul, as it were, there is not always a smooth gear change between what the conscience declares to be right and what the will alone can set in motion.

The weakness of the will of baptized believers in the Christian life of obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ was well recognized by the apostles (see Romans 7-8) and by the bishops and teachers in the Early Church. This is why they called upon all to use the means of grace provided by the Gospel and to pursue sanctification before God. He who knows his own heart well knows that it is prone to lethargy; that it seems always ready to relapse into slumber as if it were satisfied with present attainments in the moral sphere. It needs constantly to be re-charged as it were and prompted to godly action.

Regrettably in much modern forms of Christianity, this truth and practical experience are not taken seriously (because there is such a low doctrine of human sinfulness) and it is assumed that people are free to do what is right if they so wish (see the Catechism or Outline of Faith in the ECUSA 1979 Prayer Book for such teaching, which we may call Pelagianism if we want to give it an ancient title.)

The Collect [set prayer] for the last Sunday of the Christian Year in the ancient Gregorian Sacramentary [service book] and in the medieval Sarum Use [service book used in medieval England] and in The Book of Common Prayer (1549 and later editions) took this bondage of the will to sin for granted as a reality experienced during the past year and prayed for the empowerment of the will by the Holy Spirit for the coming year. In its English form as translated by Archbishop Cranmer, it prays:

Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The will is stirred up whenever by the presence and influence of the Holy Spirit (directly or through the means of grace) the internal affections of reverence before God, hope in God and love for God are set in motion so as to give strength and motivation to the will. Yet, it remains within our power even when our wills are set in motion not to follow the lead of these godly affections; that is, we may resist and avoid their direction. The lethargic will, aroused by grace, can, as it were, turn over on its side and try to back to sleep. When this happens there is regression in the Christian life.

But Christ calls his disciples to follow him, to love God and the neighbor, to fulfill the great commission to evangelize and teach, and thus they ought, as and when aroused, to follow the direction of the Spirit and in his power do whatever duty is set before them, with joy and thanksgiving, bringing forth the fruit of the Spirit in practical Christian living. And a constant duty and vocation is to abound in good works for the benefit of men and the glory of God. [We recall that Dorcas is commended as having been “full of good works and alms-deeds which she did” (Acts 9:36); that Paul declared that we are “created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10) and we are to be “a peculiar people zealous of good works” (Titus 2:4).]

I would not work my soul to save for that my Lord has done;
But I would work like any slave for love of God’s dear Son.

Let us allow the Holy Spirit to stir up our wills and to inspire us to follow His lead into the production of the fruit of the Spirit & into good works to the glory of the Father.

An application at the corporate level for USA Anglicans/Episcopalians.

It would seem reasonable to affirm that at the recent “Hope and a Future Conference” in Pittsburgh (Nov 10-12) there was truly a stirring up of the wills of many people in the direction of good works in Christ’s name specifically towards the reformation and renewal of the Anglican Way in North America.

When a people is united, it is as though they have one will which can be stirred up, set alight and activated to do courageously what God is calling to be done. However, this one people has to have godly leadership to map out what exactly is to be done and how. Without such, their godly energy is dissipated. Bishops, as their pastors, must also have the experience of the stirring of the will and then freely decide to go with the godly motion of the Spirit, and, in so doing, lead their flocks into deeper engagement with God in Christ unto sanctification and consecration.

My great fear is that in waiting for leadership to show where to go and how and when, the Pittsburgh people will, as it were, eventually turn over in their beds and allow themselves to fall asleep again - thus losing another opportunity (as one was lost by the failure of the Episcopal Synod in 1990) to bring renewal to the Episcopal Way! Shepherds have to lead their flock and from in front!

O Lord Christ, do Thou not only stir up our wills but also give us a firm but gracious push into the doing of what Thou wouldst have us be and do; and not tomorrow,but today. Amen. November 18, 2005

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Real Sex! An exercise in self-examination

I am an advocate neither for the LesBiGay agenda nor for same-sex unions. Further, I do not approve the ordination of active homosexual persons in such unions. (See e.g., my Same-Sex Affection, Holiness and Ordination, from or call 1 800 727 1928.) Nevertheless, I do believe that dialogue with homosexual persons who advocate same-sex covenanted unions in the churches in a right and good thing to engage in. In our present state to dialogue with them is preferable to preaching at them.

However, what is becoming clearer to me is this. That we, who take it upon ourselves to judge as misguided, misdirected and participating in sin those who advocate and live in same-sex partnerships, need to be wholly aware of the very high standard of sexual morality and purity to which the Gospel and the Church of God through history calls all of us. Put another way, unless we are both proclaiming and striving to keep the full Christian norm as our standard, goal and ideal, we really have no right to say anything much at all in criticism of the lives and claims of homosexual persons who seek to live in covenanted, faithful unions. Otherwise we run the danger of being hypocrites and of telling others to live by a norm that we do not fully accept for ourselves.

Obviously what I am referring to is the whole Christian approach to sexuality which includes

(a) chastity and purity of soul and body and thus, for example, a limited and careful use of “dating”;
(b) no live-in arrangements for a short or long term by heterosexual couples, for this is a sophisticated form of fornication;
(c) a commitment to marriage as a one-flesh union of two persons, male and female, until parted by death;
(d) divorce as a rare and painful separation and certainly not a right for everyone;
(e) no automatic church marriage for a divorced person if she or he wishes to remarry;
(f) the understanding of being made one flesh in terms of a commitment to procreation in a responsible way;
(g) the rejection of the use of marriage as simply a means to personal sexual fulfillment and companionship through the use of birth control appliances and means, with no intention to procreate;
(h) the rejection of the use of abortion in any form as a means of birth control for this is an aspect of the culture of death.

Now where are we as regular Anglicans, as “orthodox” Evangelicals and as good Anglo-Catholics in this important sphere of personal relations and sexual morality? Generally speaking it would appear that we fall short of the norms both in our teaching and our living. In our forgetting or neglecting of the call to chastity, in our connivance in live-in arrangements for our church members and friends, in our common use of marriage primarily as a means of sexual fulfillment, in our use of birth-control methods to aid this fulfillment, and in the prevalence of abortion on demand in our circles, not to mention the very high divorce rate with many second marriages in our circles (including bishops and clergy), we stand under the judgment of God just as surely as do those “gay” church members whom we believe to be misguided and sinful.

Do we have any right to tell homosexual persons what to be and do except we do so with streams of penitent tears flowing down our face and drowning our voice?

“Let him who is without sin cast the first stone,” is maybe a word in season to all of us.

In conclusion

I do think, and I stand to be corrected, that in the present crisis of Anglicanism over sexual ethics, the reforming groups active now in Episcopalianism and Anglicanism in the West are most probably doomed to failure in their goals of creating a renewed Anglican Way, unless and until they are prepared to face this matter of their own internal practice of sexual relations. Is not the Church called to be the pure Bride of Jesus the Bridegroom? Or put in an altogether different way, Is Gene Robinson really any more off the mark than many of us are if the pure law of God is the judge? November 17, 2005

Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) announces a covenant with two North American church bodies


Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) announces a covenant with two North American church bodies

The Church of Nigeria has released the following two press statements:

Covenant Between The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) and the Reformed Episcopal Church and the Anglican Province of America.

In an historic moment, as part of the realignment of global Anglicanism, on November 12, 2005 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the Most Rev. Peter J. Akinola, Primate of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), the Most Rev. Leonard W. Riches, Presiding Bishop of the Reformed Episcopal Church, and the Most Rev. Walter H. Grundorf, Presiding Bishop of the Anglican Province of America, entered on behalf of their three Churches a Covenant Union of Anglican Churches in Concordat.

The purpose of the covenant of concord is to work together in the common cause of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, pledging to each other their mutual cooperation, support, discipline and accountability. Recognizing that all three Churches share a common heritage of faith and order within the Anglican tradition, they are united by saving belief in Jesus Christ as the Way, the Truth and the Life, and by their commitment to the Faith once delivered, based on the irrevocable Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the final authority for faith and life.

It was agreed that ministers of these Churches, subject to the respective regulations within the jurisdictions, may be eligible to exercise pastoral ministry in each Church. Archbishops and bishops of the Churches in concordat may also be invited to conduct episcopal duties within the other jurisdictions with the blessing of the appropriate provincial authorities.

The three Churches have united specifically for joint mission in North America. Archbishops Riches and Grundorf welcomed the Church of Nigeria's CANA initiative. They assured Archbishop Akinola that, wherever possible, individual congregations of all three jurisdictions, within proximate geographic locations, would work closely and cooperatively together to demonstrate their commitment to one another and their desire to witness to a consistent Biblical, Evangelical and Catholic expression of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Covenant Union of Anglican Churches in Concordat among The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) The Reformed Episcopal Church, and The Anglican Province of America.

Whereas the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), the Reformed Episcopal Church and the Anglican Province of America share a common heritage of faith and order within the Anglican tradition; be it understood that:

Article 1: The Churches, recognizing the fact that they are working together in the common cause of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, pledge to each other, their mutual cooperation, support, discipline and accountability.

Article 2: Wherever possible, individual congregations within proximate geographic locations will work closely and cooperatively to demonstrate their commitment to one another and their desire to witness to a consistent Biblical, Evangelical and Catholic expression of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Article 3: As evidence of our union in Christ and the Common Standards of the faith existing among the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), the Reformed Episcopal Church and the Anglican Province of America, a delegation of ministers and laity may be sent to attend each other's Provincial and General Synods or Councils. As a further demonstration of our union, bishops of the Churches may attend each other's episcopal meetings with the expectation that they will be invited to speak but not cast votes.

Article 4: The Ministers of the Churches may, subject to the respective regulations of the Churches, be eligible to exercise pastoral ministry in each Church. Archbishops and Bishops of the Churches in the concordat may also be invited to conduct episcopal duties with accountability, discipline and the episcopal blessing of the local appropriate provincial authorities.

Article 5: Communicants of the Churches may be received into the other Churches on presentation of letters of transfer, or their equivalent.

Article 6: It is also our declared intention to initiate a process that will permit us, in due course to enter into an agreement of full communion with a clear and common understanding of all of its implications.

The miracle of CANA continues!

From the Primate of all Nigeria, Archbishop Peter J. Akinola:

Greetings in the name of our risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

Earlier this year we announced CANA - a mission of the Church of Nigeria, a Convocation for Anglicans in North America. We see this as a creative way to provide pastoral and episcopal care for those alienated by the actions of ECUSA. As we said in our letter of April 7th, 2005, "Our intention is not to challenge or intervene in the churches of ECUSA or the Anglican Church of Canada but to provide safe harbour for all those who can no longer find their spiritual home in those churches." While CANA is an initiative of the Church of Nigeria it is our desire is to welcome all those who share our faith and vision for the Church.

In September 2005 at its 8th General Synod of the Church of Nigeria made the necessary constitutional changes to permit the formal establishment of the Convocation in the USA and we have just completed the necessary legal framework to establish CANA as a recognized Anglican Church structure in the USA. Abraham N. Yisa, Esq., Registrar of the Church of Nigeria will serve as chairman of the board of trustees, Chief Gboyega Delano of Chicago will serve as secretary and Mrs. Patience Oruh of Maryland will serve as treasurer. I am profoundly grateful for their willingness to serve and look forward to adding additional members to the Board as our work expands

We are beginning a process of formally incorporating clergy and congregations into CANA and we will shortly be selecting and consecrating episcopal leadership to oversee further growth and development and enable us to more effectively respond to the pressing needs within the USA. We are working closely and cooperatively with the Anglican Communion Network and others who are committed to orthodox Anglican faith and practice. It is our hope to find more creative ways to strengthen our common witness as we seek to remain faithful to our Gospel mission. One example is our recently adopted Covenant agreement with the Reformed Episcopal Church and the Anglican Province of America.

In the first miracle of CANA Jesus transformed a disaster into a glorious celebration and it is our desire to see God use CANA again to transform the crisis in the Communion into an occasion of great blessing.

For further information about CANA please contact the Rev'd Nathan Kanu, Oklahoma City, CANA Interim Communications Officer,

Editors Note:

The Reformed Episcopal Church and The Anglican Province of America are Churches that are not in Communion with the See of Canterbury.

Is Schism is the worst form of Heresy? Reforming the Church – the USA way!

A much recited mantra chanted especially by Mid-West ECUSA Anglo-Catholics has been and remains: “Schism is the worst form of heresy.” They resorted to this when some of their friends left the ECUSA in 1977 to form the Continuing Church in St Louis and they have held to it since, chanting it now as increasing numbers of mostly Evangelicals leave the ECUSA to join what is now often called “the Diaspora” of Anglicans outside the ECUSA.

What these Anglo-Catholics exhibit is a certain pride in what they have achieved in the ECUSA, including the “catholic” features of the 1979 Prayer Book, and also a concern that their claims to Catholicity may well be diminished or obliterated by an existence out there in the competitive supermarket of American religions.

What they, and many others of different churchmanship, seem not to take into account is the simple fact that -- excluding the massive Roman Catholic Church, which seems to have mechanisms to reform itself and stay united -- the one and only way that reforming groups within American churches and denominations have found to achieve their ideals is to separate from the mother institution and create a new institution wherein what they regard as fundamental, necessary and important is securely present. If one reviews the history of all the major denominations which were present from colonial times one sees example after example of the secession of a group in order to create afresh what has been lost or eclipsed. Many of the current denominations in the American supermarket of religion are not imports from abroad but are the result of secessions from denominations which were imports – Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Methodists, Lutherans, Episcopalians and so on. In fact, in the examples of thousands (yes thousands) of churches in the supermarket it is difficult, probably impossible, to find even one that took seriously the progressive liberal path and then did a complete U-turn back to a basic evangelical orthodoxy!

So the prevailing and dominant message in USA Christianity since the 19th century has often been, not “schism is worse than heresy”, but rather, “schism is the only way to avoid and get away from heresy.” Secession is the American Way!

Which brings us to the situation in the ECUSA as we know it in late 2005!

There have been secessions from the Episcopal Church in the last thirty years to create the Continuing Churches, the Anglican Mission in America, and a variety of congregational forms of relating to overseas bishops and archbishops -- The Rev. Fr Kim calls these “the alphabet of affiliations”. In all cases these groups fled from heresy, be that heresy the ordination of women or the consecration of a gay man in a partnership with another man as a bishop. Likewise the exit of what became the Reformed Episcopal Church some 130 years ago was also to flee from heresy – catholic ones!

Back in 1989-90 when the Episcopal Synod was at its height and it had the capacity and moral power to lead a major secession from the ECUSA, its leadership resorted to the old mantra: “Schism is the worst form of heresy.” So the marching army returned to base and gradually the troops went home. A few stayed on, especially women soldiers, to keep the organization going as the Forward in Faith movement.

Now The Network (with the American Anglican Council) is in a similar but not identical position to that of the Episcopal Synod in 1990. What is its basic mantra? Is it “Schism is the worst form of heresy” (a position that most of its bishops appear to hold, howbeit in a weak not a strong form) or “Secession from the ECUSA is the only way to keep the Anglican Way of Christianity alive and viable”? Many of us would like to know where it stands and what advice the overseas Archbishops of Nigeria and Uganda give as to whether they think that secession to form a new province is the right way.

What seems abundantly clear is that the ECUSA will NOT engage in any real and true reform. Its commitment to its innovations and the ideology under-girding them seems to be virtually total. So while it may engage in tactical moves to seek to accommodate some of its critics, it will not change as to become what it once was, a Reformed Catholic Church of the Anglican Way. To think and say that good organization and the spending of a lot of money, even with prayer warriors in attendance, will change the direction of the ECUSA at its Convention next year is to engage in wild imagination.

Thus if the “orthodox” do not secede from “the revisionists” of ECUSA it seems that the leaders of the Network will, like those of the Episcopal Synod before them, simply find ways to live reasonably peaceably within the ECUSA, making compromises and adjustments as necessary to preserve their existence, and allowing their army to return home from barracks. Of course, and this would surprise many, they may decide to take a strong and valiant and courageous stand for the Reformed Catholic Faith within ECUSA, and wait in due time to be sent to trial, found guilty of “heresy” [rejecting the liberal and progressive orthodoxy of ECUSA] and then sent forth into exile. November 17, 2005

A Duty for the “Orthodox” if they decide to remain in the ECUSA? Dialogue between “The Network” and the “Gay” members of ECUSA

If The Network Bishops do not declare themselves out of communion with those bishops and dioceses where the innovatory sexuality is in sway, and if they have decided to stay within the Episcopal Church for as long as is possible, working and hoping for reform and renewal, then I suggest that they are duty-bound to engage in dialogue with the leaders of the “Gay” lobby. In fact, such a way forward has been recommended by the Lambeth Conference, Primates’ Meeting and other bodies.

But before the dialogue begins, I suggest that the representatives of the Network should read at least four documents: The Windsor Report; the submission of June 2005 of the Presiding Bishop’s theological team to the Anglican Consultative Council entitled, To Set Our Hope on Christ ; my response to it entitled, Same-Sex Affection…A Response to Presiding Bishop Griswold (available at and from 1-800-727-1928), and the recent, substantial book, Gays and the Future of Anglicanism: responses to the Windsor Report ( edited by Andrew Linzey & Richard Kirker, O Books, New York, 2005, ISBN 1-905047-38-X).

The latter book has essays in it by over 20 well-known academics from the UK and the USA. Not all are homosexual persons but all believe that the time has arrived for such persons to be fully recognized in the Church. Further, all believe that the plans to centralize the Anglican Communion in the Windsor Report will destroy the Anglican Way as it has been known.

From my study and observations, it seems to me that a dialogue could take the following form. I offer it as a starter to serious discussion not as a final statement:
  1. Agreement as to the authority of Scripture, the truth of the Creeds, the truth of the classic Anglican Formularies of the Province.
  2. Agreement that sexual norms and relations are secondary doctrines in that they presuppose not only the great dogmas of the Trinity and the Person of Christ, but also the doctrines of revelation, creation, sin, salvation, redemption and sanctification.
  3. Agreement that the two great commandments are to love God and to love the neighbor and that the Church is to obey the Great Commission to evangelize, teach and baptize.
  4. Agreement that right now each Province is autonomous and has the right to make its own decisions before God, even as it is seeks advice from other Provinces, always attempting to stay in meaningful communion with them.
  5. Agreement on the following areas of sexuality and human relations:
    (a) That God has made all of us in his image and after his likeness.
    (b) That God has made all of us to be in a right relation with him in order to serve and obey him in this life and the life to come.
    (c) That each of us is biologically a male or a female.
    (d) That it is possible that some of us have a sexual drive or orientation that is not wholly in accord with our biological make-up.
    (e) That each of us as a baptized child of God and with the help of the indwelling Spirit, is to remain chaste, avoiding all forms of fornication.
    (f) That isolated, irregular sexual intimacies with the same or opposite sex are sinful before God. Fornication and/or adultery are always sins.
    (g) That living-in arrangements between a man and a women, a man and a man, or a woman and a woman, which are not within a clear, covenanted and blessed union are sinful, one aspect of fornication.
    (h) That the Scriptures and the Lord Jesus call for the union of a man and woman as one flesh for life in holy matrimony as that which is pleasing to God.
    (i) That serial monogamy and easy divorce and remarriage for church members as practiced in the ECUSA is not right or pleasing to God.
    (j) That God calls some people to a deliberate celibacy as a vocation before him.
    (k) That holy friendship between persons of the same sex can be wholly good.
  6. Agreement that there is substantial disagreement in two areas: first, whether God calls all who do not marry to a life of purity and chastity with sexual abstinence; and second, whether God does bless faithful, covenanted unions of same-sex couples who genuinely seek to love God and service him.

If the Gay leadership were to hear from the Network leadership a genuine commitment to a traditional, biblical and high view of sexual relations then I do no doubt but that it would recognize that its “opponents” were changing, ready to abandon their own lax discipline in terms of pre-marital sex and remarriage of clergy and laity in church after divorce. Right now the Network leadership seems very hypocritical to the Gay leadership for it condemns same-sex partnerships while tolerating in its midst living-in arrangements by heterosexual couples and serial monogamy amongst clergy and laity.

If the Network leadership were to hear from the Gay leadership how they read and interpret Scripture, that they claim to use the same methods as those which led to the acceptance of women’s ordination, and that they believe that human experience testifies that same-sex covenanted unions can be blessed of God, then it may be more understanding & tolerant of this one and only one aspect of homosexuality – the possibility that some genuine, faithful, covenanted unions can and do exhibit signs of the love of God.

It is possible that this Dialogue will not achieve any specific resolutions and agreements. However, it will increase understanding and it should enable the Network to be clear as to why it will either stay in the ECUSA or leave it to attempt to form a new North American Province of the Anglican Communion of Churches.

A final comment. If The Network chooses to leave the ECUSA very soon, then it still needs to sort out its doctrine and practice of sexuality for there is some truth in the charge of hypocrisy made by the Gays in terms of the lax attitudes to heterosexual relations tolerated by the Network in its membership, its teaching and its pastoral practice. November 17, 2005