Monday, May 28, 2007

WHY Holy Matrimony—rather than "Christian Marriage"—is so central to the solution of the current Crisis of global Anglicanism

...and why it is so seriously neglected by even "the orthodox".

A starter for serious discussion!

Certainly the innovation of claiming covenanted same-sex unions as "witnesses to holiness," and of blessing them in the Name of Christ, is a serious threat to biblically-based, natural-law based, and traditional Christian teaching on sexuality. Thus right-minded Anglicans are absolutely right to oppose this innovation in their midst, even as they should also, at the same time, treat all fellow Christians who embrace the innovation with respect and compassion.

However, what is not sufficiently widely recognized—indeed seems to be recognized only by the few—is that the widely-received doctrine of marriage set forth in modern canon law, in modern Marriage Services and in contemporary Pastoral Practice ( e.g., in those of The Episcopal Church) is below that standard which used to be called "Holy Matrimony" and is found, for example, as the doctrine of the complete Marriage Service in The Book of Common Prayer (1662), in the context of English canon law.

The difference between modern "Christian Marriage" and traditional "Holy Matrimony" may be stated generally in these terms: "Modern Christian marriage" sees marriage as a means to one or more ends and not an End in itself. "Holy Matrimony" sees marriage as an End and intrinsic Good in and of itself ."

Holy Matrimony is based on the word of the Lord God in Genesis (2:24), a word repeated and underlined by the Lord Jesus Christ (Mark 10:1ff.; Matthew 19:3ff.): A man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. The Good or End or divine Purpose of the marriage of a man and a woman is that they become one—that is, two-in-one-flesh. Here there is sexual complementarity, with permanence and fidelity; and as a result of the two-being-as-one-flesh there is union of hearts and bodies, with the openness to procreation. Then children are raised in the nurture and admonition of the Lord within the stability of this continuing, permanent union. Here divorce is an absolutely last resort and is only for the most serious of reasons ( e.g., sustained adultery) and re-marriage is only after the death of one spouse.

This approach of "two-as-one-flesh" may be expressed in a more philosophical way:

Marriage, considered not as a merely legal convention or cultural artifact, but, rather, as a one-flesh communion of persons that is consummated and actualized by acts that are reproductive in type, whether or not they are reproductive in effect, or are motivated, even in part, by a desire to conceive a child, is an instrinsic human good and, precisely as such, provides a more than merely instrumental reason for choice and action. The bodily union of spouses in marital acts is the biological matrix of their marriage as a comprehensive, multilevel sharing of life: that is, a relationship that unites the spouses at the bodily (biological), emotional, dispositional, and even spiritual levels of their being. Marriage, precisely as such a relationship, is naturally ordered to the good of procreation (and is, indeed, uniquely apt to for the nurturing and education of children) as well as the good of spousal unity.

Further, the procreative and unitive goods of marriage are tightly bound together. The one-flesh unity of spouses is possible because human (like other mammalian) males and females, by mating, unite organically—they form a single reproductive principle. Although reproduction is a single act, in humans (and in other mammals) the reproductive act is performed not by individual members of the species, but by a mated pair as an organic unit. [Professor Robert P. George, 2006]

And to this may be added:

Though a male and female are complete individuals with respect to other functions—for example, nutrition, sensation and locomotion—with respect to reproduction they are only potential parts of a mated pair, which is the complete organism capable of reproducing sexually. Even if the mated pair is sterile, intercourse, provided it is of the reproductive behavior characteristic of the species, makes the copulating male and female one organism. [Professor German Grisez, 1996.]

In this approach, marriage between a man and women in permanency and fidelity is not the means to anything else but an end or instrinsic good it and of itself; and the one-flesh union is the end and intrinsic good.

In great contrast, "Modern Christian Marriage," following the cultural trends in law and society, sees marriage as instrumental, that is, as the means to various possible ends or objectives (which may be judged by others as good, bad or indifferent). Prominent in modern approaches to marriage are those wherein it is seen in terms of a voluntary contract (made before witnesses or before witnesses and "God") between two persons primarily for their own happiness, fulfillment and satisfaction. Here the union as one flesh is seen not as an End in itself, a true, intrinsic and permanent Good, but as a means to various ends, primarily ones of erotic pleasure, and of friendship, and only sometimes one of procreation (as is well demonstrated by the low birth rate in the West). And the contract in place is not an enforceable one—as with contracts in most other areas of life—for it is governed by "no-fault" divorce law, which allows either partner to dissolve the instrumental union at will. Thus couples marry, recognizing that if it does not work out, then they can make use of divorce and start again, usually also knowing that they can go back to church a second or third time for the blessing of priest or bishop.

A study of the Canon Law of The Episcopal Church on Divorce and Re-Marriage (1973 and following), of its 1979 Marriage Service (cf., Canada 1985), and of the many Resolutions of its General Convention from 1970 to the present on Sexuality, clearly reveals that this Denomination is committed to "modern Christian marriage" (even though—thanks be to God--individual members may choose to live by the principles of "Holy Matrimony".) In fact, The Episcopal Church has in practice—if not yet in Canon law—taken the logic of "modern Christian marriage" to its apparent conclusion.

Here is how the logic works in this particular area of human experience. Since the coming together of two persons in marriage is not any longer taught as for the one and only Good, Purpose and End of being two-as-one-flesh (an End with various implications and fruit) but, rather, for one or more possible purposes which are self-chosen and which focus on self-fulfillment, then there is no reason why two loving same-sex persons should not also be united as a partnership (whether it is called "marriage" or "civil union") and given the blessing of a bishop or priest. This position makes very good sense when a Church has abandoned Holy Matrimony and is seeking to take into account the full impact of human rights legislation. Further, why should not God bless same-sex unions when apparently—says the modern Church--he blesses now opposite-sex unions which are entered for self-fulfillment and mutual support primarily or only.

From the point of view of the historical, received doctrine of Holy Matrimony, the real problem today is not what Bishop Gene Robinson and his partner are doing in New Hampshire. It is the rejection of Holy Matrimony in favor of diluted Christian Marriage by not only the Anglican Churches of the West but also of the so-called Global South as well. These so-called "orthodox" Churches/Provinces use Marriage Services from the 1979 Episcopal Book ( e.g., Southern Cone) or similar to it (e.g., Nigeria through its "modern" Prayer Book).

The tragedy of the present crisis of Anglicanism is that at its center is a battle between on the one hand a conservative reading and application of "modern Christian marriage" and on the other a radical reading of the same. The so-called "orthodox" and "traditionalists" are not standing on the platform of "Holy Matrimony" but, rather, at the high end of the one platform of "modern Christian marriage." This is most clearly seen in that all on the platform appear content with the 1979 Marriage Service of The Episcopal Church (or its equivalents). As the American Integrity leadership have said recently in all seriousness and with basic rationality: "The 1979 Service is fine for a same-sex couple if we simply change the words 'man' and 'woman' and 'he' and 'she' when necessary in the Service."

The tragedy is that the "orthodox" (be it "The Network" in the USA or "the Global Primates" overseas) have abandoned the sound ship, "Holy Matrimony," and are sailing—howbeit on a different deck—with their opponents on the unstable ship, "Modern Christian Marriage." May 25, 2007

Marriage in the USA & The Episcopal Church and for overseas Bishops

What is deemed "liberal," in one decade is often judged to be "conservative"--even "biblical" and "orthodox"--by a later one; and what is judged to be "conservative" in one decade is often deemed to be "way out" and "off the map" by a later one.

The treatment of marriage and sexual relations between human beings by The General Convention of The Episcopal Church, its Canon Law, and the common pastoral practice of the dioceses during the twentieth century, and on into the twenty-first, well illustrates how that which is once seen as liberal is later viewed as conservative, and what is once viewed as conservative is later seen, even by conservatives, as intolerable.

Sixty years ago there was intense debate as to whether it were possible at all to have a second marriage after divorce blessed in church by a priest. Conservatives said "no" or "yes, but only under extremely limited circumstances" while "progressives" said "yes; under specifically listed [and generous] circumstances."

Today, the progressive liberals press for most or all divorcees to be given a fresh start through a church wedding (serial monogamy) and they also press for the blessing of same-sex partnerships (considered as civil unions or "marriages"). In contrast, while conservatives or "the orthodox" totally oppose same-sex blessings, they are generally content—in pastoral practice if not in doctrinal statement—with serial monogamy, as long as it is not too blatant. (In 1947 it was difficult if not impossible to find a divorced and remarried priest in pastoral ministry; now up to one quarter of such are divorced and remarried.)

To be fair, most of this development of pastoral practice and public doctrine in the Church has paralleled or simply followed the changing marriage laws in the U.S.A. of both the Federal and State governments. In other words, it is a very clear example of the Church adapting its position to the changing culture which sociologists have called "a divorce couture." First, the Church allowed—even encouraged--a growing number of divorcees to be remarried in church and then, secondly, did much the same for sex couples so that they could have their partnership blessed.

Accompanying these very observable changes have been others which are there to be seen, but can be missed unless one is looking for them. There was a change of doctrine concerning "artificial birth control." What was once condemned was slowly accepted from the 1930s and this acceptance and use rose dramatically with the arrival of "the Pill" in the 1960s. This extensive practice contributed to, but did not cause, the change in the definition of marriage, which began from the 1960s to lose its close connection with procreation as a major purpose and adopted instead as its primary purpose the mutual happiness and satisfaction of the couple concerned, with procreation as optional. The emphasis upon personal fulfillment and satisfaction in turn opened the door to arguments not only in favor of easy divorce and remarriage but also the right of any type of "loving couple" to personal happiness according to their "orientation." Further, this "therapeutic" emphasis helped to make illegitimacy and one parent homes acceptable and even "normal." Finally, the availability of abortion served in the last resort as a perfect form of birth control for the married and unmarried woman alike.

It is fair to say that American law and culture—not too long ago—reflected an attitude towards marriage which included permanency along with sexual complementarity and mutual fidelity. In fact, the definition of marriage by John Locke was generally accepted at the Founding of the nation and long after. He wrote: "Conjugal society is made by a voluntary compact between man and woman; and though it consist chiefly in such a communion and right in one another's bodies as is necessary for its chief end, procreation; yet it draws with it mutual respect and assistance, and a communion of interests too, as necessary not only to unite their care and affection but also necessary to their common off-spring, who have a right to be nourished and maintained by them, until they are able to provide for themselves." In American law and culture, followed by in American churches, we have seen first the undermining of permanency, then of mutual fidelity and then of complementarity. Today in American law marriage is a contract but a less binding one than for virtually all other forms of contract.

* * *

I often wonder whether the African and Asian bishops who have been so upset—even enraged—by the acceptance by The Episcopal Church of same-sex unions truly realize that this particular matter has been discussed and debated within TEC since the 1970s, and that it is part and parcel of the massive change in attitudes to, doctrines of and practice of sexual relations in both the USA generally and TEC in particular. In other words, had not TEC liberalized its doctrine of marriage in canon law in 1973, in its Marriage Service (1979), in Resolutions of General Convention and diocesan conventions, and in pastoral care and practice, and if TEC had not allowed divorced, and divorced and remarried, persons to be ordained and engage in parish work and pastoral care, then TEC would never have come anywhere near to its present adoption of same-sex blessings and the like. For most clearly the latter are parasitic on the former and would not exist without the preparation of the way by them.

In other words, what needs to be put forward is a renewed doctrine of sexual relations and marriage, which brings all of us under the Law of Christ, declares to us what is not merely the ideal but the norm, and which judges equally those who unyoke and re-yoke marriages as well as those who engage in same-sex activities. Unless I am severely mistaken, there has been from "the orthodox" very little critique of the divorce culture within TEC and its offshoots, but much criticism of the "same-sex" culture. Indeed a crisis in the global Anglican family has been caused by excessive attention to this latter issue by the "orthodox," and the former—the invasion of the church by the divorce culture and of marriage by the therapeutic, self-fulfillment culture—has been treated pretty much as "normal," at least in North America, by the same people.

Regrettably the reports and resolutions of The Lambeth Conference from 1930 onwards up to 1998 concerning the doctrine and practice of marriage, the use of artificial birth control and same-sex relations do not provide a clear word for the global Communion to follow. Rather, this "instrument of unity" sends forth a mixed message when it come to clarity concerning holy matrimony and relations between the sexes. In contrast, the declarations (Encyclicals) of Popes since 1930 and the teaching of the recent R C universal Catechism present a very clear statement of the meaning and purpose of marriage and sexual relations. Happily, the Marriage Service in the classic edition of The Book of Common Prayer (1662) and the Canon Law of the Church of England in place till very recently, do/did testify to a full Christian doctrine of marriage.

I personally cannot see any revival of the Anglican Way in North America which does not include a readiness and resolve before God to face this situation where the whole doctrine of marriage and sexual relations is deeply affected by the American Zeitgeist, and where the Church is not only in the world but also of the world and for the world, and where morals are based on what sociologists call "rights-monism."

[For an excellent collection of essays on the changes in law, public policy and culture with respect to marriage in the U.S.A. over the last century see The Meaning of Marriage (edited by R. P. George and J.B. Elshtain, Spence Publishing 2006). And see also Allan Carlson, Conjugal America: On the Public Purpose of Marriage , Transaction Books, 2007, which is very useful. ]

-- The Revd Dr Peter Toon

Lambeth Conference, 2008—will it actually take place ?

Invitations have gone out from the Archbishop of Canterbury to over 850 Anglican Bishops of the Global Anglican Communion of Churches, made up of 38 Provinces. Whether all or most of those who receive invitations will accept will only be known in the long term.

However, if these invited Bishops act according to their stated principles, then it is probable that Lambeth 2008 will be cancelled or will take place as a much smaller and different type of Conference. Why? Because while the stated principles of many (say 500) allow them to attend the Conference under virtually any reasonable conditions, the stated principle of others forbid them to attend. And if they follow their consciences then they will refuse.

Let me explain, with respect to the latter point.

Bishop Gene Robinson of the U.S.A. has not been invited and this because he is an active, homosexual person living with his male partner. But who consecrated him as Bishop of New Hampshire? The answer is American Bishops for whom the admission to the Episcopate of such a man was a matter of conscience and not a matter of following the advice of over 90 per cent of the Anglican Communion. Those who consecrated and totally supported Robinson cannot on principle attend if he is not also invited. Thus maybe forty or fifty USA bishops may not accept the invitation sent to them.

Bishop Martyn Minns of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (an offshoot of the Church of Nigeria) has not been invited and this because he is functioning within the "territory" of The Episcopal Church without its agreement. He is, in Anglican ecclesiology, an "intruder" and even a "robber". But who consecrated him? The Archbishop of Nigeria and other Nigerian Bishops. And who authorizes his ministry in the USA? The House of Bishops of the Church in Nigeria . Thus, if he is not invited, the whole (large) House of Bishops in Nigeria cannot on principle attend.

The Bishops of the Anglican Mission in the Americas have not been invited. Like Martyn Minns they function in the USA as "intruders" in the "territory" of The Episcopal Church. They were consecrated by the Archbishop of Rwanda and other Rwandan Bishops and they are authorized to function by the House of Bishop of Rwanda. Thus, if they are not invited, the whole House of Bishops of Rwanda cannot on principle attend.

The Church of Nigeria and the Church of Rwanda have close bonds with other Churches in Africa ( e.g., Uganda) and elsewhere (S.E. Asia) and these bonds require that these Provinces stand together on important matters. Thus, if Nigeria and Rwanda decide not to attend on principle then these other Provinces on principle will also not attend.

In Provinces of the West (e.g., Canada) there are individual Bishops who are wholly supportive of the "theology" underpinning the election and consecration of Gene Robinson as an actively homosexual person (and proud of it). On principle, they cannot attend if he is not invited for to do so would be to betray him and their theology.

If we add up the numbers involved in these five categories, then they become a substantial number—even half of the nearly 900 Anglican Bishops worldwide. Without them the Conference will not be truly a global conference but only a meeting of those in the "center" of the varied theological positions found in modern Anglicanism.

The Anglican Crisis continues because nothing is being solved—despite much talking and many e-mails and much traveling---as burning issues continue to be in the spotlight and in the hearts of many Anglicans.

We can but pray" "Lord, have mercy," and again, "Lord, have mercy." [visit for prayers to offer]

If the Lambeth Conference were truly and really merely and only a Conference then matters of conscience would be of much less moment. In practice, what is called a Conference is regarded ny many in 2007 as the ecclesial Body with moral authority speaking for the Anglican world and thus rather more than just "an instrument of unity."

Dr Peter Toon, May 23, 2007

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Lambeth Conference 2008 Invitations go out

(apparently Gene Robinson, the "gay bishop" and Martyn Minns the CANA (Nigerian bishop in USA) are not invited --P.T.)

First invitations to 'reflective and learning-based' Lambeth Conference go out

Tuesday 22nd May 2007

The first invitations for the 2008 Lambeth Conference, to be held in Canterbury next summer, are being sent out today by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams. The gathering, which is set to be the largest Lambeth Conference in the history of the Anglican Communion, brings together bishops from the Churches in the 38 Provinces of the Anglican Communion together with ecumenical and other invited guests.

The 2008 Conference is intended to comprise nearly three weeks of shared retreat, common worship, study and discussion. It differs from previous gatherings in that the bishops will begin the conference with a period of retreat and reflection. It is planned that much of this retreat time will be held in and around Canterbury Cathedral.

The first set of invitations are being sent today to over 800 bishops of the provinces of the Anglican Communion. In his letter of invitation the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, pays tribute to the Conference Design Group whose members, led by the Archbishop of Melanesia, have, with his full support, proposed a programme with an emphasis on fellowship, study, prayer, the sharing of experience and discussion, all aimed at equipping bishops for their distinctive apostolic ministry:

"Their vision and their advice has been an inspiration at every stage so far. I am hugely excited by the possibilities the programme offers for a new and more effective style of meeting and learning, and for greater participation, which will help us grow together locally and internationally. … it will also be an opportunity for all of us to strengthen our commitment to God's mission and to our common life as a Communion. In connection with this latter point, we shall be devoting some time to thinking about the proposals for an Anglican Covenant, and about other ways in which we can deepen our sense of a common calling for us as a coherent and effective global Church family."

"The Conference is a place where experience of our living out of God's mission can be shared. It is a place where we may be renewed for effective ministry. And it is a place where we can try and get more clarity about the limits of our diversity and the means of deepening our Communion, so we can speak together with conviction and clarity to the world. It is an occasion in which the Archbishop of Canterbury exercises his privilege of calling his colleagues together, not to legislate but to discover and define something more about our common identity through prayer, listening to God's Word and shared reflection. It is an occasion to rediscover the reality of the Church itself as a worldwide community united by the call and grace of Christ."

Mindful of the speculation that has surrounded the issuing of invitations to the Conference Dr Williams recalls that invitations are issued on a personal basis by the Archbishop of Canterbury and that "the Lambeth Conference has no 'constitution' or formal powers; it is not a formal Synod or Council of the Communion", and that invitation to the Conference has never been seen as "a certificate of doctrinal orthodoxy". Nevertheless Dr Williams recognises in his letter that under very exceptional circumstances an invitation may be withheld or withdrawn. Under this provision, there are a small number of bishops to whom invitations are not at this stage being extended whilst Dr Williams takes further advice.

Other invitations – to ecumenical representatives and other invited guests – will be sent out in due course. Bishops' spouses are being invited to a parallel conference; invitations for this will be sent later in the year by Mrs Jane Williams, who is the host.


The text of the Archbishop's invitation is below:

'Dear Bishop,

I am delighted to invite you to the Lambeth Conference of 2008 and I very much look forward to our gathering together as bishops of the Anglican Communion.

The dates of the Conference are 16 July-4 August 2008 and I trust you will already have heard something of the vision for the Conference as it has been unfolding. It will focus on our equipping as bishops for leadership in mission and teaching, and it will also be an opportunity for all of us to strengthen our commitment to God's mission and to our common life as a Communion. In connection with this latter point, we shall be devoting some time to thinking about the proposals for an Anglican Covenant, and about other ways in which we can deepen our sense of a common calling for us as interdependent members of the body of Christ.

This will be my third Lambeth Conference and I am very confident of the quality of the programme being developed for it. I want to offer my warm public thanks to all those from across the world who have worked so hard at planning this – especially the devoted Design Group under the Archbishop of Melanesia, those who attended the St Augustine's Seminar last year, and our Conference Manager, Sue Parks. Their vision and their advice has been an inspiration at every stage so far. I am hugely excited by the possibilities the programme offers for a new and more effective style of meeting and learning, and for greater participation, which will help us grow together locally and internationally.

Because there has been quite a bit of speculation about invitations and the conditions that might be attached to them, I want to set out briefly what I think the Conference is and is not.
The Conference is a place where our experience of living out God's mission can be shared. It is a place where we may be renewed for effective ministry. And it is a place where we can try and get more clarity about the limits of our diversity and the means of deepening our Communion, so we can speak together with conviction and clarity to the world. It is an occasion when the Archbishop of Canterbury exercises his privilege of calling his colleagues together, not to legislate but to discover and define something more about our common identity through prayer, listening to God's Word and shared reflection. It is an occasion to rediscover the reality of the Church itself as a worldwide community united by the call and grace of Christ.

But the Lambeth Conference has no 'constitution' or formal powers; it is not a formal Synod or Council of the bishops of the Communion, which would require us to be absolutely clear about the standing of all the participants. An invitation to participate in the Conference has not in the past been a certificate of doctrinal orthodoxy. Coming to the Lambeth Conference does not commit you to accepting the position of others as necessarily a legitimate expression of Anglican doctrine and discipline, or to any action that would compromise your conscience or the integrity of your local church.

At a time when our common identity seems less clear that it once did, the temptation is to move further away from each other into those circles where we only related to those who completely agree with us. But the depth and seriousness of the issues that face us require us to discuss as fully and freely as we can, and no other forum offers the same opportunities for all to hear and consider, in the context of a common waiting on the Holy Spirit.

I have said, and repeat here, that coming to the Conference does not commit you to accepting every position held by other bishops as equally legitimate or true. But I hope it does commit us all to striving together for a more effective and coherent worldwide body, working for God's glory and Christ's Kingdom. The Instruments of Communion have offered for this purpose a set of resources and processes, focused on the Windsor Report and the Covenant proposals. My hope is that as we gather we can trust that your acceptance of the invitation carries a willingness to work with these tools to shape our future. I urge you all most strongly to strive during the intervening period to strengthen confidence and understanding between our provinces and not to undermine it.

At this point, and with the recommendations of the Windsor Report particularly in mind, I have to reserve the right to withhold or withdraw invitations from bishops whose appointment, actions or manner of life have caused exceptionally serious division or scandal within the Communion. Indeed there are currently one or two cases on which I am seeking further advice. I do not say this lightly, but I believe that we need to know as we meet that each participant recognises and honours the task set before us and that there is an adequate level of mutual trust between us about this. Such trust is a great deal harder to sustain if there are some involved who are generally seen as fundamentally compromising the efforts towards a credible and cohesive resolution.

I look forward with enthusiasm to the Conference and hope you will be able to attend, or your successor in the event that you retire in the meantime. My wife Jane will be writing with an invitation to the Spouses Conference which will run in parallel to the Lambeth Conference. Further communication to bishops will follow soon from the Lambeth Conference Office, including details of the costs and a reply slip on which you can respond formally to this invitation. It would be a great help if these replies were received by 31 July 2007. In the meantime, should you have any queries about the Lambeth Conference itself, or if you will be retiring before the Conference, please contact the Lambeth Conference Manager at or consult the Lambeth Conference website

I trust you and your diocese will join with me in praying for God's gracious blessing of our time together.
Yours in Christ,
+ Rowan CANTUAR: '


Tuesday, from 12 Noon – 6 p.m.
The Revd Canon Kenneth Kearon,
Secretary General of the Anglican Communion
will be available for press media briefings (no interviews)
DIRECT LINE: +44 207 313 3925
FROM UK 0207 313 3925


The Press Office – Lambeth Palace
London Se1 7JU
The Revd Jonathan Jennings
Ms Marie Papworth
0207 898 1280

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0207 313 3909

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Pentecost—Festival of the Arrival of the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete

A devotion starter, from Peter Toon

From where do we get this word "Pentecost"?

It is in the Jewish Calendar the fiftieth day (Greek, pentekostos) after the presentation of the first harvested sheaf of the barley harvest—that is, the fiftieth day from the first Sunday after Passover (cf. Leviticus 23:15ff.) Amongst Jewish people it was known as the "feast of weeks" (cf. Exodus 34:22a; Deuteronomy 16:10), and also as "the day of the first-fruits" (Numbers 28:26; Exodus 23:16a) because it was the day when "the first-fruits of the wheat harvest" (Exodus 34:22a) were presented to God. In later Judaism it also was reckoned to be the anniversary of the giving of the Law at Mt Sinai (a deduction from the chronological note in Exodus 19:1).

Coming out of Jewish roots, the early Christian Church gladly incorporated the fact of the season of Pentecost into its own Calendar because it was, significantly, at the festival-- fifty days after the Resurrection of Jesus on Easter Day--that the Holy Spirit as the Paraclete of Jesus (see John 14-16) descended upon the assembled disciples and the mission of the Church in and to the world truly began. For details of the events concerning Jesus in the fifty days from the Resurrection to the Day of Pentecost, Christians turn to the final chapters of all the Four Gospel, to 1 Corinthians 15 and to Acts 1. Here they read about various appearances of the resurrected Lord to his disciples, leading up to his final appearance on the fortieth day, which became his Ascension; then they learn that during the final ten days the disciples met together to choose a replacement for Judas Iscariot, to engage in sustained, unified prayer and to wait for the promise of Jesus that he would send the Holy Spirit to them. It is in Acts 2 that what occurred on the Day of Pentecost, the arrival of the Holy Spiirt, is described in vivid but restrained terms.

So within the Christian Calendar there is, after the all-important Festival Day of Easter Sunday, what has been called "the great Fifty Days" which climaxes on the Day of Pentecost (later called "Whitsuntide" in the western Church because of the use of white baptismal robes).However, there is within these special fifty days a most important, indeed a unique Day, the Day of the Ascension of the resurrected Lord Jesus. So the Jewish fifty becomes--because of Jesus the Jewish Messiah--the Christian forty plus ten, making fifty. And the fortieth day is a most important focal point, for the regular and remarable visits or/appearances of Jesus to his disciples ceased on that very day, and, it is, as such, the last of the great festivals of the Lord Jesus, for his appearance became his Ascension into heaven (thus Birth, Epiphany, Baptism, Transfiguration, Resurrection and Ascension).

The descent of the Holy Spirit, sent by God the Father in the Name and at the Request of the Exalted Lord Jesus, was a unique moment in human history and of God's saving activity in the world, and, therefore, it is not surprising that various extraordinary phenomena proclaimed that Arrival. The three supernatural signs were: a sound, a sight and strange speech. The sound was like the blowing of a violent wind; the sight was of what seemed to be tongues of fire, which separated and rested upon each one present; and the speech was the speaking in languages that were recognized by the visitors from all parts of the Roman Empire, present in Jerusalem for the feast. The experience was more than real and it was so because the new era of the presence with the disciples of the Holy Spirit as the Paraclete of Jesus had begun—the Spirit of power (wind), of purity (fire) and of universality (many languages) was indwelling and resting upon chosen human beings.

And the immediate effect of the Spirit's presence in and upon the disciples was to cause them to engage enthusiastically and heartily in evangelism and mission to the many Jewish pilgrims in the city of Jerusalem at that time. The Gospel of the Father concerning his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, was proclaimed in many languages at various points by the disciples and then it was proclaimed to all in one place (probably the Temple precincts) very publicly in the language all understood by Peter, the leader of the apostles. Converts were made and they were baptized in water for the remission of their sins. The Christian Church was now truly up and running, with a mission to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth.

And the nature of the kingdom (saving reign) of God known in the Church is declared to be—in the best senses—multi-racial, multi-national, and multi-lingual. Further, the curse of Babel was reversed. At Babel (see Genesis 11:1-9) languages were confused and peoples scattered. In Jerusalem the language barrier is supernaturally overcome as a sign that in Christ all the nations and people will be gathered together in Christ, when finally the ingathered, new people of God is "from every nation, tribe, people and language" (Rev 7:9).

For people entering the Church in repentance, faith and by Baptism after this first amazing Day of Pentecost, the gift of the Spirit from the exalted Lord Jesus was (and is) very much present, available and ready to be given in fullness, not only to bring everlasting life and virtuous, graceful living ,but also for empowerment in worship, witness and service. We recall that there are fruit and gifts of the Spirit and both are available from the Head of the Body!

By the arrival of the Holy Spirit, the emerging Church came to know truly that the LORD our God is truly the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Three Persons and One, a Trinity in Unity and a Unity in Trinity. Thus Trinity Sunday immediately follows Pentecost or Whitsunday.

An excellent poem/hymn by John Keble contrasts the descent of God to Moses at Mt Sinai and his descent upon the waiting disciples in Jerusalem—"When God of old came down from heaven…" And for praying about the Holy Spirit as the author of renewal in the Church, and in the baptized believer, Charles Wesley's " O Thou whom camest from above, the pure celestial fire to impart…" is wonderful.

Let us pray (in traditional or "contemporary" form):

"Send, we beseech thee, Almighty God, thy Holy Spirit into our hearts, that he may rule and direct us according to thy will, comfort us in all our afflictions, defend us from all error, and lead us into all truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who, with thee and the same Holy Spirit, liveth and reigneth one God, world without end."

"We humbly ask You, Almighty God, our heavenly Father, to send Your Holy Spirit into our lives, that he may direct us according to Your perfect will, comfort us is all our troubles, defend us from all error and lead us into all Your truth, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, your Son, who with You and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns one God, for ever and ever. Amen."

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Joy, Joy, Joy as the CANDLE is extinguished on May 17

Usually the lighting of the candles in the Sanctuary is a joyful thing, as the ancient hymn of light, "Phos Hilaron," [Hilarious Light!] sings; or as the lighting of the two candles for the beginning of the Eucharist today indicate.

However, the Feast of the Ascension (in 2007 on Thursday 17th May) is a Day when the extinguishing of the Candle, which has burned since Easter Morning, is also ceremonially done with exceeding great joy in the Eucharist after the Epistle (Acts 1). Why? In order to demonstrate that on the fortieth day since his Resurrection, the Lord Jesus having taught, made promises to, and blessed his disciples is now ascending into the Glory-Cloud (Acts 1:11). In other words, he is leaving space, time and earth to be with his Father as co-Regent and to send with him from the Heights of Glory the Paraclete (Counselor, Comforter & Advocate) to the expectant disciples, after a suitable period of waiting by them (see Acts 2). The Paraclete who is the Holy Spirit, acting in the Name of Jesus and bringing his virtues and gifts, will come to be with them and all the baptized people of God, even as the exalted Lord Jesus continues to rule his Church from heaven.

The lighted Easter Candle portrays the presence of the Resurrected Lord Jesus from Easter Day till his Ascension, forty unique days. Its extinguishing after the Epistle, which proclaims the Ascension, on the 40 th day proclaims that the Risen Lord is also now the Ascended and Exalted Lord.

So why do the rubrics of modern, post 1960s liturgies instruct that the Easter Candle be kept alight for fifty days, until the Feast of the Descent of the Holy Spirit, Pentecost? Because the liturgists were greatly taken in the 1960s and later with the notion of a unitary feast of Easter, being a fifty day feast, from the Day of the Resurrection to the Day of Pentecost. So, imitating what they thought was early Church practice, they called the Sundays in this period the Sundays of Easter (instead of after Easter) and they taught that public confession of sins in this long Easter is not appropriate for it is a 50-day event of joy. And in this context they said that the Candle burns for the 50 days for it is the Easter Candle.

Much is lost theologically and liturgically and symbolically by this supposed reversion to early Church practice; most obviously the clarity of the festival of the Ascension as a real Feast and as a necessary event in the life and ministry of the Incarnate Son of God is diminished--as is seen in the transfer of this festival to the following Sunday by many parishes and then its getting lost in that day!.

Let us revive the Festival of the Ascension in its fullness, for it celebrates the most glorious exalted Lord Jesus and his heavenly Session as the unique King, Priest and Prophet, who is the One Mediator between God and man!

May 15th 2007-- The Revd Dr Peter Toon

Monday, May 14, 2007

Liturgical "Spin" from Anglican Leaders

How we are misled in the basic area of Prayer

In the U.S.A. in 2007 we hear much about "spin" in politics, by which we seem to understand the obvious manipulation of facts to serve the advantage of a political party or government agency. And in the "spin" we note that the use of images and pictures is often very important, determining the way people look at a given subject or topic.

From the liberal establishment within western Anglicanism, we are subject continually to "liturgical spin" through which the attempt is made to persuade us that there is a definite family likeness to all Anglican Prayer Books around the world and that "the law of praying" is always to be the "law of believing" (or in Latin, lex orandi, lex credendi). We note that the image increasingly being used by professional liturgists—and bishops, clergy and laity who listen to them—for the relation one to another of the massive variety of official Prayer Books in use in the Global Anglican Communion is "Family Tree." That is, we are told originally that there was The Booke of The Common Prayer of 1549, and from this original shoot has come a whole series of Prayer Books, both in English and in other languages, and all these have, despite differences, the same essential nature ("bloodline" and "family characteristics"). In 2007, we are further informed, there is truly a very large tree with many branches and a variety of fruit on each branch, and the tree is still growing, with some pruning there and there.

Here the underlying view is that when any of the thirty-eight or so autonomous Provinces of the global Anglican Communion produces a Prayer Book and officially authorizes it, then, whatever its structure and content, it is an Anglican Prayer Book and within the one Anglican Family Tree of Prayer Books, whatever its content and title.

This image is used as a basic organizing tool in the recent publication from Oxford University Press in the U.S.A. of The Oxford Guide to THE BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER, A worldwide survey (2006). Since this book is being, and no doubt will be, used as both a text-book and a reference text by thousands of people, the influence of this image will probably be huge, both initially from the text itself and later through those who have read the text uncritically and absorbed the image. And this is most regrettable for in its simple straightforward form it is grossly misleading: it is "liturgical Spin." The Prayer Books in use in the global Anglican Communion do not belong to one type, even if they have certain things in common as, for example, use of the Apostles' Creed and Lord's Prayer (just as different types of cars all have windows). In fact, to avoid "spin" the image of the family tree has to be developed in particular ways in order for it truly to represent the flow of official Anglican Prayer Books in Great Britain and around the world. But this makes the image more complicated and thus more difficult both to present and to remember accurately. Thus here "the spin doctors" with the simple image have the advantage in terms of communication and they appear to be winning the argument, as it were, amongst liberals and conservatives, as well as those in the middle.

With this is mind let us develop the image of the tree.

1549 to 1962

If we think first of all of the editions of The BCP from 1549 through to 1662 in England; and then from 1662 to 1928 in the U.S.A., from 1662 to 1962 in Canada (and likewise in Ireland, Scotland and Wales), we have very clearly what can be called a Family Tree. And branches from it have reached into many parts of the world where there were translations of the basic text, or parts of the text, into other languages. It is therefore a large tree with many branches and twigs and with over 150 types of fruit (languages); but it is recognizable as one tree. (For example, it contains one text of each service/rite and the only basic variation in all editions is in the Psalms and Bible readings appointed daily and weekly.) Common Prayer is thus in the form of common texts intended for use by all, and all of the time.

Alongside this huge tree, we may see various seedlings, which are related to it as hybrids, each one unique. Here we think of the adaptations of The BCP of 1662 made chiefly by anglo-catholics in the West and as missionaries abroad as they translated The BCP into various languages, specifically, languages in the Indian sub-continent, Japan and Korea. In general, their aim was to make The BCP conform to the structure and content of Eucharistic Rites of the Roman Church (thus various "Missals" in Great Britain and the U.S.A .) and of the ancient Church in the Eastern Mediterranean area (thus "the BCP" for India in 1961). Where these hybrid seedlings still grow they are used by few people, and often within "continuing Anglican" churches.

So to cover the period from 1549 to 1962 we need the image of one large family tree with several seedlings growing apart from it. And we need to be clear that the seedlings are the deliberate results of changing the internal character of the tree from which they were taken.

1963 to 2007

Before noticing the flow of Anglican Prayer Books in the period from 1962 we need to recall significant "winds of change" that were blowing through the Churches in the West in the 1960s and afterwards. To explain these would take much space and thus I simply list a few of them:

(a) With the moves to translate the Bible into "contemporary English" there were calls, which were soon heard, to prepare new Prayer Books in "contemporary English." And the pursuit of "dynamic equivalency" became a common aim in translation of ancient texts.
(b) Professional liturgists were calling for a "renewing" of liturgy by making use of the liturgical texts from the Early Church, especially those associated with Hippolytus of Rome, and supposedly from the third century.
(c) Following Vatican II (1962-65) the Roman Catholic Church began to produce new Liturgy and this was studied and imitated.
(d) The 1960s was a period of social and cultural revolution in the West and caused the Churches to press for relevance and simplicity in their public worship, with much more congregational participation than in the past.

The Lambeth Conference of Bishops of 1968 gave the green light to the move to create new liturgy to "supplement" that available in The BCP of the Family Tree. And thus from the late 1960s liturgists in the West entered a new era when they came out of the shadows, effectively to become not only the people driving the agenda of the churches but also the ones creating its new doctrine, for everywhere the cry was heard, lex orandi, lex credendi. Very few of them were learned in a real sense, but they were enthusiastic and they had been given green lights by Synods and House of Bishops. Thus they tended to follow the "leading lights" — e.g., Gregory Dix, author of The Shape of the Liturgy. Though there was some cooperation and various international gatherings, each Province, being autonomous, had its own team of "experts," which produced texts for trial use and then amended them for "permanent" public use in books of texts. So there was not one new Prayer Book (with minor local variations as with The BCP) but a growing variety of similar but different Prayer Books, many showing the particular opinions of the primary drafters of the texts.

Thus if we have to use an horticultural image it cannot be that of the family tree; for the situation is that of a variety of seedlings, some small and some large, and each one (in some cases two) growing in an individual province. To complicate the task of identifying the new seedlings, some provinces called them by titles to distinguish them from the family tree, The BCP, while others actually used the name of the family tree, calling the new, "The BCP." In England, for example, the new seedlings were called Alternative Service Book 1980 and Common Worship (2000), to distinguish them from The BCP (1662). But in the U.S.A., West Indies, Nigeria and Ireland, for example, the new seedlings were all given the title, "The BCP" as if they were simply a new edition of the classic BCP—which is what not a few liturgists apparently believed and wanted people to believe!

Practical consequences

People notice similarities between the modern Roman Catholic Mass and Easter Eve Liturgy and the same services in modern Anglicanism. And most realize that the reason for this is imitation by Anglicans as well as use by each group of similar ancient texts and principles in the 1970s. However, there is one massive difference between the two Churches and it is this: while Roman Catholicism has one central authority and one basic Liturgy everywhere (with of course local music and ceremonial guided by cultural factors), Anglicanism has multiple authorities and so there is no single modern basic Liturgy that is used everywhere. Rather, each province has its own provisions and these may be like or unlike neighboring provinces.

This embarrassing fact for Anglicanism is becoming more apparent and public at the present time due, in part, to the crisis over innovations in sexuality in North America, and the repercussions globally. There is a generally felt need for stronger ties to bind autonomous provinces together, and from this has emerged the idea of all provinces covenanting together to uphold and share one and the same Faith—just as individual provinces have covenants with Lutheran and Methodist churches. So there exists in 2007 the draft of a proposed "An Anglican Covenant," which has the general approval of The Primates' Meeting, and which will come before the Lambeth Conference of 2008 for debate and possible commendation.

At this point, we need to notice how the "liturgical spin" claiming that there is one basic Anglican form of public prayer has been written into this draft document, and how that to accept it in its present wording will be to accept this "spin" to the long-term detriment of the Anglican Way. Here is the portion of the proposed text (which may be revised at the Lambeth Conference 2008) together with a very significant footnote attached to it:

(5) that, led by the Holy Spirit, it [Anglican Communion] has borne witness to Christian truth in its historic formularies, the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordering of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons 1;
(6) our loyalty to this inheritance of faith as our inspiration and guidance under God in bringing the grace and truth of Christ to this generation and making Him known to our societies and nations.
1 This is not meant to exclude other Books of Common Prayer and Ordinals duly authorised for use throughout the Anglican Communion, but acknowledges the foundational nature of the Book of Common Prayer 1662 in the life of the Communion .

One way to read this text from within the image of the family tree is to agree that The BCP (1662) has been very important, but that in reality it has been superseded at least in part by later editions of "The BCP"—such as those in use in Japan, Korea, West Indies, U.S.A., Nigeria and other provinces. In this way, the function of The BCP (1662) loses its place as the one primary doctrinal formulary of the Anglican Way and as a means to unite all genuine Reformed Catholic Anglicans. And we are thrown back to where the Anglican Way is situated in practical terms in 2007—not one Lex Orandi as the basis for one Lex Credendi, but many laws of prayer supporting many laws of believing. In other words—if you like—one tree but a unique tree bearing a bewildering variety of different fruit from a massive range of branches (and thus an unreality!). So the question is raised: What really unites Anglicans globally, even nationally? And in answer we say that the proposed "Covenant" cannot unite and at best can cement an uneasy and fragile alliance.

If the liturgical spin and the image of the one family tree are abandoned (as truth surely requires), then, of course, the footnote will have to go and (5) will have to use the present tense (as it should now have in the C. of E.!) so that the classic Formularies of 1662 (which already are in the constitutions of many of the provinces) will actually and actively become the basic doctrinal foundation of the global Anglican Way and provide the Liturgies to be used when there are international gatherings—e.g. the opening Eucharist at Canterbury Cathedral for the Lambeth Conference and for Primates' Meetings. Further, part of the Covenant would be to use the title, The BCP, only and solely for the original and genuine Family Tree of authentic editions of this book, and require provinces to provide titles to other Prayer Books, which reflect their recent origins and provenance. So then there will be the One Family Tree and many seedlings but all will accept and respect the priority and authority of the Family Tree. Over time the number of seedlings would diminish and the practical authority of the Family Tree increase.

Certainly if the Lambeth Conference leaves intact the section printed above on the Formularies then it will be very clear that The Anglican Way will have no common doctrinal base even if it claims to have one. And I can see two apparently powerful reasons why the section may stay as currently drafted: (1) the reference to the 1662 Formularies is taken directly from the Declaration made by Ministers of the Church of England when ordained, and instituted to parishes, and so has a certain authority from the mother Church of the Anglican Communion; and 2) the large (20 millions) Province of Nigeria has chosen to call its own modern Prayer Book by the title, "The Book of Common Prayer" (1996) and its leadership is very proud of this book and will not be keen to diminish it in any way.

In closing one is reminded of words of Jesus:

. . . every tree which bringeth not good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Matt 3:10
. . . every good tree bringeth forth good fruit, but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. Matt. 7:17
. . . these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground? Luke 13:7. May 14, 2007

RENEWAL of VOWS--in Marriage, Ordination, and Baptism? What is the modern activity all about?

A discussion starter.

Christian talk about "renewal" in the Church over the centuries up to the "charismatic renewal" of recent days has normally been of the work of the Holy Spirit bringing new life, vision, commitment and hope to the people of God and renewing them for worship, discipleship and mission. That is, "renewal" has been seen as—at least in first instance—the initiative and action of The Holy Trinity, to whom believers individually and corporately respond.

However, since the 1970s some Christian talk about "renewal" has been phrased as to suggest that it is something that baptized Christians should do and can do for themselves. This has been particularly evident in increasing references to "the renewal of Baptismal vows" or, with Episcopalians in particular, to "the renewal of 'The Baptismal Covenant'." To a lesser degree there has also been talk of "the renewal of marriage vows" and "the renewal of ordination vows."

I want to suggest that to talk in the modern way is only really possible because of the arrival and presence in the churches in recent times of two things. First, notions of human autonomy and rights; and, secondly, a doctrine of God as One who is always well disposed towards human beings and thus can be counted upon to affirm and bless them without question, when they approach him/her. So a relationship with God can be understood in basic contractual terms where the love of God for humanity is seen as constant and, in response, human beings make commitments (based upon how they read the Bible and the activity of God in the cosmos and human experience) and the result is "the Baptismal Covenant" or the like.

Let us consider this, beginning with marriage and moving on to ordination and baptism.

Holy Matrimony

Marriage is seen in modern civil law as a contract between two persons, a man and a woman. In the Church it is seen as this but also much more. At the center of the marriage service is the making of vows and promises by each person to the other—the man to the woman and the woman to the man. These are made in the presence of God and the Minister (with witnesses or congregation). Further, they are made in the context of prayer, hearing the Word of God and receiving a Blessing. Once made they bind each person to the other in a one-flesh union for life, "until death us do part." That is, they are binding promises.

The vows and promises are thus of such a nature as not to be repeated for to repeat them would be to deny their binding nature when first given and made. However, they can be recalled, remembered, brought to mind and meditated upon in order to seek to fulfill them in practice the better, And, good could possibly come from the couple doing this recalling together on the anniversary of the wedding.

But, if we view the husband and wife as simply united contractually (as does the law in the USA) and we see them only as autonomous beings with rights and free will, then we can see that "renewing" (in the sense of making a new start) is possible at any time.

Holy Ordination

Services of Ordination have various preliminaries of a responsive nature, before there is the actual laying on of hands with prayer and accompanying words; however, the Ordination as such is a one way event. It is the action of God upon and within his servant, setting him apart for a particular office of Ministry in the Church. True enough God acts through already ordained Ministers to perform this action, but it remains his action and not merely and only a human, ceremonial, ritual activity. So we can say that Ordination as such cannot be renewed by man. Yet man—either understood as the one ordained or the Christian person viewing the same—may recall the act of ordination and see in it the Lord Jesus Christ providing a Minister for his Church. And, again, on the anniversary of the ordination, it could be beneficial for the ordained person to recall, remember and call to mind for meditation the content of the service, commitments made and vocation and blessings given.

Before a person is ordained he answers various questions and in so doing makes various promises as to how he will live, behave and perform his ministry as a deacon, priest or bishop. By these his calling to the office is examined and confirmed and his readiness to be and do what is required is made. The questions and answers are specifically designed as the preliminaries for public ordination that by its nature occurs once for the person ordained; thus the questions and answers are not appropriately asked and answered in other contexts. Thus the deacon, priest or bishop cannot "renew" his vows and promises for he cannot start over anew, begin again, as an ordained minister. However, as noted already, he can and should recall and remember what is his high calling and vocation in the Church of God.

Thus the adding of "the Renewing of Ordination Vows" to the traditional Maundy Thursday services in Cathedrals, begun in recent times by Roman Catholics and imitated by others, is not to be commended. But meditation upon the nature and duties of the offices given in ordination is much to be commended.

Holy Baptism

Baptism is an act of the Holy Trinity, where the Father forgives and adopts, the Son receives, and the Holy Spirit regenerates the repentant, believing sinner. It is a Sacrament that occurs once and must not be repeated. Before the actual baptizing in the Triune Name takes place, there are various preliminaries, one of which is to establish that the candidate is turning away from sin (and from the evil world and Satan) and is embracing the promises of the Gospel of salvation to believe the Faith. Thus Renunciation of Satan and sin and Profession of Faith are not to be seen as the human conditions of a baptismal covenant, but rather as recognizing that the candidate comes to the Font in pure receptivity, in faith trusting in God's grace and mercy, and without any claims whatsoever upon God, knowing that all he deserves is wrath. Thus the vows and promises made are public assurances to the local church, assembled in God's presence, of the fitness of the candidate for Baptism, and they express his absolute need of divine forgiveness and regeneration. He has no right, in and of himself, to be baptized and made a child of God; but he can, by God's help, respond to the gracious invitation in the Gospel and become that which is his—an adopted son of God—only by pure mercy.

In this context, once more, the recalling, remembering and meditating upon the meaning and purpose of Baptism by the baptized is a good and holy thing. But "renewing" the vows and promises does not make sense at all, for one is never placed ever again in the unique position of being a candidate for Baptism, which logically is the only place where "starting over afresh" makes any sense.

The modern (post 1970s) Roman Catholic Service of the Easter Vigil provides for the "Renewal of Baptismal Promises" in which the celebrant speaks to the congregation of the baptized in these words: "Now that we have completed our Lenten observance, let us renew the promises we made in baptism, when we rejected Satan and his works, and promised to serve God faithfully in his holy catholic Church." Then follows, from the Baptismal Service, the "renunciation" and the "profession of faith" which are undertaken as if Baptism would actually follow them, but it does not. Here what is happening is that the congregation, and each baptized person within it, are stating that they remain repentant and believing (faithful). But they are not beginning afresh the Christian life; rather ( I hope) they are dramatically recalling—at the end of Lent—that the baptized are always to be penitent and believing people, who are disciples of Christ and children of God.

The modern Episcopal Service of the Easter Vigil is similar to the Roman one for it is based upon it. Thus it also has what it calls "The Renewal of Baptismal Vows" but includes in them more content than does the R.C. Service. The additional content relates to the late 1960s themes of "striving for peace and justice" and "respecting the dignity of every human being" which are in what is called "The Baptismal Covenant" within the Episcopal 1979 Prayer Book. This "Covenant" is placed in the Baptismal Service before the actual Baptism and thus gives the distinct impression that a covenant is being made with God by the baptized, even if the latter is the junior partner in the contract.

Anyone who is familiar with The Episcopal Church since the 1970s will know how prominent is "The Baptismal Covenant" as a charter of the agenda and mission of the Church, and how often it is used, outside of the Easter Vigil, as a means of gaining commitment to the radical program of the Church in the USA and overseas.

Now here, thinking of Episcopalians particularly, it is perhaps correct to speak in terms of the "renewal" of the covenant because the logic of the Baptism Service and the public attitude of the leadership of the Church for decades points to the belief that a real contract exists between the baptized and God, and because God is constant in his/her love, then the other party may as desired renew the covenant whenever and wherever convenient or appropriate.

So while the R C use may be tolerable but not wise; the Episcopal use is –from a traditional viewpoint—wholly unacceptable. [I may add here that the suspicion remains that the creators of both the Vigil in the R C Church, and later in the Episcopal Church, wanted there to be a Vigil every year, because for them it was a central part of their supposed recovery of Early Church worship patterns. Thus they included the renewal of baptismal vows to make it possible to have the service even when—as is often the case these days—that there are no persons to be baptized!]

A problem to solve from the BCP 1662

In the various editions of The BCP from 1549 through to 1662 there is to be found a Service of Baptism for Infants, a Catechism and a Confirmation Service. In the baptizing of an infant, Godparents stand in the place of the infant and make on its behalf the renunciation of sin and Satan and the profession of faith. But it is the child himself who is actually baptized! Then the baptized child is brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord as a Christian and when he reaches an age of discretion (say 12) he is taught the Catechism ( i.e., the meaning for him of The Commandments, The Creed and the Lord's Prayer) before he is confirmed by the Bishop.

In all the editions of The BCP up and including that of 1662, it was made clear that before being Confirmed by the Bishop (and thus by God through the Bishop of being spiritually strengthened by the presence of the Holy Spirit) that the baptized child, now a young person, had to ratify the solemn promise and vow made by its Godparents at its Baptism, and to acknowledge himself "bound to believe and to do all those things, which his Godfathers and Godmothers then undertook for him." In other words, this once and only this once, he had to go back in time, as it were, to place himself with his Godparents at his Baptism and with them to make the renunciation of evil and profess the faith of Christ. Only he could not go back in time and so he did it in the present and it was as if his Baptism was brought forward through 12 years to the present moment.

So the verb ratify is used in all the editions—ratify meaning "give formal consent to what has been accepted by others on my behalf." Also, and here is the problem, in the 1662 edition and this edition alone the verb "to renew" is used and in this way. The Bishop asks of the candidates for Confirmation: "Do you here, in the presence of God, and of this congregation, renew the solemn promise and vow that was made in your name at your Baptism….?" Exactly why this verb was imported into the text I do not know, for "ratify" is used later in the sentence. However, if there is one occasion, and one only, where one may be said to be able to renew a vow and promise it is here—where one as a 12 year old is consciously and deliberately taking to oneself permanently and really that which was done for one vicariously when one was an infant and not conscious of it. In fact, it is not truly a renewal for it is the very same vow and promise, moving as it were here permanently from the Godparents to the baptized young person.


Despite the one occurrence of the verb "to renew," albeit in a unique sacramental context, in The BCP 1662, the notion, so common in the churches today, that one can renew baptismal vows, marriage vows or ordination vows is based on views of the nature of God the Holy Trinity and of the covenant of grace that are deeply flawed, That is, they allow too much for the autonomous power of man to act as though he can negotiate a covenant with God concerning his salvation.

It is surely a better way to revert to that which is encouraged and pressed so much in the Old Testament (e.g. with regard to the Exodus) and is featured by the Lord Jesus in his institution of the Lord's Supper, the act of remembering and recalling in order to receive from God the covenanted grace deriving from his saving deeds and words.

I close with the words from what is said to the baptized immediately after the Baptism in The BCP 1662 service:

Remembering always that Baptism representeth unto us our profession; which is to follow the example of our Saviour Christ, and to be made like unto him; that as he died and rose again for us, so should we, who are baptized, die from sin and rise again unto righteousness, continually mortifying all our evil and corrupt affections, and daily proceeding in all virtue and godliness of living.

To represent (re-present) is to signify, symbolize or embody; and the act of Baptism, which is an act of God performed by his Minister, signifies much, including union with Christ who died and rose again, forgiveness, justification, adoption and regeneration. To recall, to remember our Baptism is to follow St Paul's command, "Reckon ye yourselves dead indeed unto sin but alive unto God in Christ Jesus" (Romans 6:11).

May 12, 2007

Lambeth Conference 1968 on Artificial Birth Control declaring against Pope Paul VI's Humanae Vitae

(The 1930 Conference opened the door to the use of Artificial Birth Control, this was confirmed in 1958 and resoundingly confirmed again in 1968--see below. North American bishops were a clear majority of voters at all three Conferences. Maybe this mindset is the root of the innovations in sexual conduct pioneered within the North American Church since 1968!)

Resolution 22
Responsible Parenthood
This Conference has taken note of the papal encyclical letter "Humanae vitae" recently issued by His Holiness Pope Paul VI. The Conference records its appreciation of the Pope's deep concern for the institution of marriage and the integrity of married life. Nevertheless, the Conference finds itself unable to agree with the Pope's conclusion that all methods of conception control other than abstinence from sexual intercourse or its confinement to periods of infecundity are contrary to the "order established by God." It reaffirms the findings of the Lambeth Conference of 1958 contained in Resolutions 112, 113, and 115 which are as follows:

112. The Conference records its profound conviction that the idea of the human family is rooted in the Godhead and that consequently all problems of sex relations, the procreation of children, and the organisation of family life must be related, consciously and directly, to the creative, redemptive, and sanctifying power of God.
113. The Conference affirms that marriage is a vocation to holiness, through which men and women may share in the love and creative purpose of God. The sins of self-indulgence and sensuality, born of selfishness and a refusal to accept marriage as a divine vocation, destroy its true nature and depth, and the right fullness and balance of the relationship between men and women. Christians need always to remember that sexual love is not an end in itself nor a means to self-gratification, and that self-discipline and restraint are essential conditions of the responsible freedom of marriage and family planning.
115. The Conference believes that the responsibility for deciding upon the number and frequency of children has been laid by God upon the consciences of parents everywhere; that this planning, in such ways as are mutually acceptable to husband and wife in Christian conscience, is a right and important factor in Christian family life and should be the result of positive choice before God. Such responsible parenthood, built on obedience to all the duties of marriage, requires a wise stewardship of the resources and abilities of the family as well as a thoughtful consideration of the varying population needs and problems of society and the claims of future generations.

The Conference commends the Report of Committee 5 of the Lambeth Conference 1958, together with the study entitled "The Family in Contemporary Society" which formed the basis of the work of that Committee, to the attention of all men of good will for further study in the light of the continuing sociological and scientific developments of the past decades.

-- The Revd Dr Peter Toon

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Renewing Baptismal Promises (Covenant?)—when did this practice begin and is it a good thing?

A discussion Starter from Dr Peter Toon

In recent times it has become high liturgical fashion to have congregations "renew" their "Baptismal Promises" or "Baptismal Covenant." As far as I can tell this was not done by Catholic, Anglican or Protestant before 1951, when it was made part of the "revived" Easter Vigil of the Roman Catholic Church. Now, it is part of the post-Vatican II Easter Vigil and Easter season services of the R.C. Church; and amongst American Episcopalians it has become a common feature not only inside but also outside of the Easter season. It featured prominently in the installation of the new lady Presiding Bishop in November 2006 by her own specific choice. One major reason for its widespread use here is because of the unique content of the "Baptismal Covenant" in the Episcopal Church rite, by which Episcopalians are committed to a radical agenda as God's agents in the world.

What I want to argue here—and can only do it briefly—is that this practice (whatever its claimed benefits) is a huge mistake, having an erroneous doctrine of the new covenant sealed by the blood of Jesus, the covenant originally established by promise with Abraham and his "seed" forever, and the same covenant into which God the Father places repentant believing sinners at their holy Baptism, as he regenerates and adopts them to be his children.

The Easter Vigil as the end of Lent

First, we need to notice how the "renewal" functions within the Easter Vigil of the Church of Rome, for upon this other churches have modeled—but not slavishly followed—their own versions. The renewal of baptismal promises at the Easter Vigil is directly related to the observance of Lent, which is said to have a twofold purpose. Lent prepares the candidates for Baptism at Easter through a period of spiritual preparation, and it engages the faithful in a period of repentance and renewal. Likewise, the holy water of Easter also performs a twofold purpose. It baptizes the catechumens, and it seals the period of renewal for the faithful. It brings to a head and conclusion the spiritual journey of Lent. Throughout Lent, the faithful have undergone a period of repentance because they realize they have not been completely faithful to "their baptismal covenant." They perform penance to repent of their sins and to strengthen their resolve to be better disciples. At the Easter Vigil, they refresh that "covenant" with God in Christ through the renewal of their baptismal promises and the sprinkling of baptismal water. The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults says, "At the Easter Vigil, [the faithful] should attach great importance to renewing their own baptismal promises" (9/4).

During the Easter Vigil, after the proclamation of the readings, a procession to the font forms. There, the priest blesses the water. If there are catechumens or infants, the Rite of Baptism follows. The catechumens, as well as the parents and godparents of the infants, make the renunciations as a group ( e.g., "Do you renounce . . . ?"). Parents and godparents of infants may also respond as a group to the questions professing faith (e.g. "Do you believe in God . . . ?"), but catechumens answer this second set of questions individually. The adults and infants are baptized and receive a white garment and a glowing candle. Adults and children of catechetical age are then confirmed on the forehead. Infants are anointed with chrism on the crown of the head, as they are when the Rite of Baptism for Children takes place at any other time of year. (If there are no catechumens or infants for Baptism, these ceremonies, obviously, are omitted.) After the anointing, the priest invites the people to renew their baptismal promises and sprinkles them with holy water.

So in official Roman Catholic teaching, the renewal of the promises and vows made in Baptism comes at the end of Lent—that is, not anywhere and not anytime but in the Vigil or in the immediately following Easter season. Though it is the baptized who are intentionally making this renewal of vows and promises, the sprinkling over them of the consecrated baptismal water by the priest from the font possibly (?) has the symbolism of God also moving towards them renewing his promises to them of regeneration, justification and sanctification, with adoption as his children.

The verb "to renew" seems to be unproblematic for thousands today who hear it used in churches. But a quick look at a Dictionary reveals that it has the following meanings:

1) to make like new: restore to freshness, vigor, or perfection. 2) to make new spiritually: regenerate 3) a: to restore to existence: revive b: to make extensive changes in: rebuild 4) to do again: repeat 5) to begin again: resume 6) replace, replenish 7) a: to grant or obtain an extension of or on b: to grant or obtain an extension on the loan of .

It would seem that "renew" in the context of promises and vows has the meaning of 5) to begin again, or perhaps 3) to revive. But it is difficult to decide, for it appears that there is a variety of views around concerning what it is that "the faithful" are actually doing—let alone intending.

What makes it difficult even to consider, let alone to decide, the meaning of "renew," is that Baptism (as also The Eucharist) are set within the context of not any covenant but the new covenant (testament), established by God the Father with his Incarnate Son as the Representative and Substitute for mankind. The Father has established his Covenant of grace through, by and in Christ Jesus,who is the new Adam; and, by the Gospel, he calls believing, repentant sinners to enter this already established Covenant. And they enter in by his actually placing them in. They do not make a contract or negotiate entry conditions before entry for the Covenant with its conditions already exists and has been sealed by the blood of Jesus at his Cross. Being the divinely appointed means of entry into the one Covenant of grace, Baptism is therefore administered when there are persons, who are repenting of sin and believing the Gospel, and that is why the renunciation of Satan and sin and the recital of the Creed are the preliminaries in the Liturgy before actual Baptism in the Triune Name.

Obviously, as the New Testament often exhorts, it is the duty and privilege of each baptized Christian to recall his Baptism each day and to live in the light and strength of it as a child of God and disciple of Jesus Christ. This is not "renewing" the Baptismal promises but it is recalling and remembering what God provided and expected in Baptism. And then having recalled, it is praying for grace and wisdom to live daily as a genuinely repentant and believing person.

We need to ponder and ask: In what sense can a forgiven sinner renew his baptismal promises and vows? If he had made a contract with God, or if he himself had actually closed a covenant with God, then perhaps he could negotiate to start again with the keeping of the promises. But as the covenant is one sided—from and by God the Holy Trinity alone—then only God can renew them for and in us, in the sense that by his Word and Spirit he both makes the meaning of Baptism clearer and also provides the fruit of the Spirit to live by the promises.

Certainly the end of Lent is a good time to make a very special effort to remember the fact and content of one's Baptism and to recall what it meant and means still. And this ought to be done, just as the Israelites of old were urged at their Fetsivals to remember what God had done for them at the Exodus and at Mt Sinai and what they had committed to in response to his mercy. However, what is done very specially at Festivals ought to be done regularly as well, and certainly in public worship through the General Confession and other means of grace.

Renewal after Baptism seems to suggest that candidates for Baptism had some kind of contractual rights or covenantal negotiating powers. Let us remember our Baptism and in remembering live as the baptized children of God; but let us not think that we have any claim upon God or rights before his tribunal. We rely wholly and totally on his grace revealed and offered in the Lord Jesus Christ, which we humbly accept. When we sin and fall, there is an appointed way back to God and that is the way of penitence, confession of sin and clinging to the gracious promises of the Gospel of Christ—and this is a way that we need each week (each day!) not occasionally.

The Anglican Way has this to say in Article 16 of The 39 Articles:

Sin after Baptism

Not every serious sin committed after our baptism is an unpardonable sin against the Holy Spirit. Therefore persons who fall into sin after baptism should be encouraged to repent. After we have received the Holy Spirit it is possible for us to turn away from the grace we have experienced and to fall into sin, and it is possible for us who have fallen to rise again and amend our lives by the grace of God. Therefore persons who say that they cannot sin any more as long as they continue in this life (claiming to have attained sinless perfection), or who deny any opportunity of forgiveness to those who truly repent, are to be condemned.

This Reformed Catholic approach does not allow for "renewal" of promises and vows, made once and one only as God places us in his one Covenant of grace, but it does call for lives continually adorned by the Gospel, where there is continual turning away from sin and turning to righteousness.

While the post 1951 Roman approach is misguided in general and in particulars (e.g. in the granting of an indulgence in the right renewal of the promises), the Episcopalian approach which has politicized the whole matter and made the "renewal" into a commitment to a radical social agenda is dangerous.

Both are wrong because they do not truly celebrate the reality and content of the New Covenant, the Covenant of Grace, which was established by and is maintained by the sovereign grace of the Holy Trinity! May 8, 2007

Ascensiontide —a precious season of 10 days before Pentecost

Heaven was reconstituted by the Arrival there of the Lord Jesus

The Antiphon for Ascension Day in the medieval Church of England was addressed to the exalted Lord Jesus and (in traditional English) reads:

O Lord of hosts, the King of glory, who today didst ascend in triumph far above all heavens, do not leave us as orphans, but send upon us the promise of the Father, even the Spirit of Truth."

It was sung before and after the Psalm of the Day. Here there is a combination of themes from Psalm 24 and John 14-16.

To create a Collect for the Sunday following Ascension Day (because the Latin one from the medieval Church made no reference to the Ascension), Archbishop Cranmer took this Antiphon and made it into a Collect, but he composed it so that it is addressed to the Father not to the exalted Son.

O God the King of glory, who hast exalted thine only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph into thy kingdom in heaven; we beseech thee, leave us not comfortless; but send to us thine Holy Ghost to comfort us, and exalt us unto the same place whither our Saviour Christ is gone before, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen .

We recall that Jesus rose from the dead on Easter Sunday – not merely a spiritual resurrection but a truly bodily resurrection, which was very much more than bodily resuscitation. His resurrected body was an immortalized, glorified body, a human body wonderfully perfected.

For Forty Days on various occasions and places he appeared in this amazing body to his apostles and disciples until his last appearance recorded in Acts 1, which also became his marvelous Ascension into heaven.

For ten days afterwards the apostles and disciples waited for the Gift promised by the Lord Jesus – the Paraclete, the Holy Ghost/Spirit, coming from the Father in the Name of the Lord Jesus, bearing his gifts and virtues for his Church. So fifty days from Easter Day, at the Jewish Feast of Pentecost, and called Whit-Sunday by the western Church, the awaiting disciples received the Gift from above, the descent of the Holy Spirit (see Acts 2). And from this day the message of salvation in and by Christ was proclaimed first in Jerusalem and then throughout the surrounding world.

Returning to the Ascension, by this glorious Event the resurrected Jesus was exalted by the Father to his right hand on high and crowned as the Lord of lords and King of kings—as Psalm 24 sings and prophesies.

It is most important to affirm that in this Ascension and Exaltation, the Lord Jesus did not lose or shed his human nature and body. He entered heaven—the sphere where the angels and archangels worshiped the Holy Trinity—with his full humanity, now in an immortalized and glorified form, yet real humanity still. And heaven was transformed by his arrival and session at the Father's right hand. For now, as belonging fully and uniquely to the Second Person of the Trinity, human nature (humanity) was in heaven and the Lord Jesus, as the One Person made known in two natures (divine and human) became the One Mediator between God and man. Within the Triune Life of the Holy Trinity there was and there remains glorified human nature! An amazing thought and truth, with most holy and saving consequences for human beings, not least the possibility of the beatific vision of beholding the glory of the Father in the face of Jesus Christ.

Previously the angelic hosts and choirs alone praised and magnified the Holy Trinity with their, "Holy, Holy, Holy," but now joined to them was the human voice of the exalted Jesus—High Priest, Son of God, Lord and Mediator. And through, in, by, and with this same Jesus there arrived in heaven also, from now onwards, a constant procession of redeemed and sanctified human beings, first the saints from the Israel of the Old Covenant and then the martyrs and saints of the Church of the New Covenant. So now in heaven the heavenly choir has both angelic and human voices and all joyfully sing in the Name of Jesus to the one glory of the one God, who is the Blessed, Holy and Undivided Trinity.

Let us rejoice and be exceedingly glad that Heaven was eternally changed, was marvelously developed and expanded, through the Arrival and Coronation of Jesus, Messiah, Savior and Lord at his Exaltation. It is now the most holy sphere and place whose entry is "through Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life" and in this place "there are many mansions" for the multitude of redeemed human beings.

So we ask: Why, O Why is the Festival of the Ascension so neglected today? It is the Festival without which the other Festivals cannot fulfill their meaning and purpose. For unless the Lord Jesus is exalted into heaven, his work is incomplete and thus there is no salvation, redemption, divinization and beatification for the human sinners whom he came to save.

Jesus is risen from the dead. Alleluia.
Jesus is exalted to the Father's right hand. Alleluia.
Jesus has transformed ands remade heaven. Alleluia.
The Father sends the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, in Jesus' Name. Alleluia.
Jesus will come to judge the living and the dead at the end of the age. Alleluia.

-- The Revd Dr Peter Toon, M.A. M.Th. D.Phil

Feast of the Ascension—why a much neglected Festival?

Please keep it this year on May 17!

If there is one feast of the Incarnate Son of God that is most seriously undervalued and under-celebrated it is the Ascension of the Lord Jesus.

Until recently Christians in western Europe could not forget the annual Festival of the Ascension of the Lord Jesus because the "holy Thursday." forty days after Easter Day, was a public holiday—at least for government institutions and the schools. In church schools it was a holiday for most of the day after the celebration of the Ascension first thing in the morning (and this practice was also sometimes the case over the Atlantic in R C schools in the U.S.A.).

In the U.S.A. the Ascension Day has never been a public holiday and, further, since it has been transferred in recent times by most R. C. parishes to the Sunday following, the largest denomination in the country no longer clearly and unambiguously sets an example of celebrating the Ascension of Jesus on the fortieth day! This is contrast to the Church in the West—at least from the fifth to the twentieth century—where this Festival has been seen of strategic Christological and soteriological importance.

There is also a reason why some Christians—especially modern Anglicans, Lutherans and Methodists—pay little attention to this Festival. The word "Easter" has been stretched in meaning to cover not only Easter Day and the week following, but the so-called "great fifty days" from Easter Day to the Day of Pentecost, and the Sundays between are called "Sunday of Easter" rather than "Sundays after Easter." One direct implication of this (for the West) new arrangement is that the event of the fortieth day is made into just another resurrection appearance—and this is seen in the fact that the Pascal Candle (which was always extinguished on the 40 th day after the reading of the Epistle and Gospel which proclaimed the ascension of Jesus) is now usually kept lit until Pentecost. In other words, the Ascension has got lost in the "great fifty days" and is rarely seen within them.

Obviously, looking at this more generally, it is easier to believe that Jesus just spiritually moved from the "seen" to the "unseen" without any specific bodily transfiguration, than to see him actually raised from earth into a luminous cloud of glory in the sight of the apostles on the fortieth day.. That is, there are all kinds of pressures from the modern Zeitgeist to negate the account in Acts 1:11 as a literal account and make it into a kind of metaphor of what happened to Jesus.

Surely we have now reached the time in the use of modern liturgies, lectionaries and calendars, and the various theories behind them, to ask whether the negating and dumbing down of the Festival of the Ascension of Jesus is a sin against God and against the people of God. The biblical narrative of the Ascension is at the end of Luke's first book and at the beginning of his second (Luke-Acts) and the fact of the Ascension is assumed and proclaimed in many places and ways in the New Testament and in the Collects, Litanies and Hymns of the Church through time.

I do heartily commend the prayerful study of the Collect, Epistle and Gospel for both Ascension Day and the Sunday after in the classic Book of Common Prayer.

P.S. I fear that this year the secular festival of Mother's Day on May 13th will also serve to eclipse the Christian festival of the Ascension of Jesus

Lambeth Conference: Resolutions on Sex, Marriage, Birth-Control and Abortion, 1908 and 1930.

(It will be noticed that in both 1908 and 1930 there is a high doctrine of marriage as a one flesh union for life; resistance to acceptance of remarriage in church after divorce; rejection of abortion; and, interestingly, total opposition to artificial birth control in 1908 and then limited acceptance of it in 1930 —this acceptance was the first official Protestant embrace of artificial birth control and led to the response of Pope Pius XI with Casti Connubii, four months later. If it difficult to imagine a resolution opposing either artificial birth control or remarriage in church after divorce in the forthcoming Lambeth Conference of 2008—in fact, up to a quarter of the bishops present will be in favor of blessing of same-sex partnerships.)

(a) 1908

Resolution 39
This Conference reaffirms the Resolution of the Conference of 1888 as follows:
(a) That, inasmuch as our Lord's words expressly forbid divorce, except in the case of fornication or adultery, the Christian Church cannot recognise divorce in any other than the excepted case, or give any sanction to the marriage of any person who has been divorced contrary to this law, during the life of the other party.
(b) That under no circumstances ought the guilty party, in the case of a divorce for fornication or adultery, to be regarded, during the lifetime of the innocent party, as a fit recipient of the blessing of the Church on marriage.
(c) That, recognising the fact that there always has been a difference of opinion in the Church on the question whether our Lord meant to forbid marriage to the innocent party in a divorce for adultery, the Conference recommends that the clergy should not be instructed to refuse the sacraments or other privileges of the Church to those who, under civil sanction, are thus married.

Resolution 40
When an innocent person has, by means of a court of law, divorced a spouse for adultery, and desires to enter into another contract of marriage, it is undesirable that such a contract should receive the blessing of the Church.
Voting: for 87; against 84.

Resolution 41
The Conference regards with alarm the growing practice of the artificial restriction of the family, and earnestly calls upon all Christian people to discountenance the use of all artificial means of restriction as demoralising to character and hostile to national welfare.

Resolution 42
The Conference affirms that deliberate tampering with nascent life is repugnant to Christian morality.

Resolution 43
The Conference expresses most cordial appreciation of the services rendered by those medical men who have borne courageous testimony against the injurious practices spoken of, and appeals with confidence to them and to their medical colleagues to co-operate in creating and maintaining a wholesome public opinion on behalf of the reverent use of the married state.


Resolution 10
The Life and Witness of the Christian Community - Marriage and Sex
The Conference believes that in the exalted view of marriage taught by our Lord is to be found the solution of the problems with which we are faced. His teaching is reinforced by certain elements which have found a new emphasis in modern life, particularly the sacredness of personality, the more equal partnership of men and women, and the biological importance of monogamy.

Resolution 11
The Life and Witness of the Christian Community - Marriage and Sex
The Conference believes that it is with this ideal in view that the Church must deal with questions of divorce and with whatever threatens the security of women and the stability of the home. Mindful of our Lord's words, "What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder," it reaffirms "as our Lord's principle and standard of marriage a life-long and indissoluble union, for better or worse, of one man with one woman, to the exclusion of all others on either side, and calls on all Christian people to maintain and bear witness to this standard."*

In cases of divorce:

1. The Conference, while passing no judgement on the practice of regional or national Churches within our Communion, recommends that the marriage of one, whose former partner is still living, should not be celebrated according to the rites of the Church.

2. Where an innocent person has remarried under civil sanction and desires to receive the Holy Communion, it recommends that the case should be referred for consideration to the bishop, subject to provincial regulations.

3. Finally, it would call attention to the Church's unceasing responsibility for the spiritual welfare of all her members who have come short of her standard in this as in any other respect, and to the fact that the Church's aim, individually and socially, is reconciliation to God and redemption from sin. It therefore urges all bishops and clergy to keep this aim before them.

Resolution 12
The Life and Witness of the Christian Community - Marriage and Sex
In all questions of marriage and sex the Conference emphasises the need of education. It is important that before the child's emotional reaction to sex is awakened, definite information should be given in an atmosphere of simplicity and beauty. The persons directly responsible for this are the parents, who in the exercise of this responsibility will themselves need the best guidance that the Church can supply.

During childhood and youth the boy or the girl should thus be prepared for the responsibilities of adult life; but the Conference urges the need of some further preparation for those members of the Church who are about to marry.

To this end the Conference is convinced that steps ought to be taken:
1. to secure a better education for the clergy in moral theology;

2. to establish, where they do not exist, in the various branches of the Anglican Communion central councils which would study the problems of sex from the Christian standpoint and give advice to the responsible authorities in diocese or parish of theological college as to methods of approach and lines of instruction;

3. to review the available literature and to take steps for its improvement and its circulation.

Resolution 13
The Life and Witness of the Christian Community - Marriage and Sex
The Conference emphasises the truth that sexual instinct is a holy thing implanted by God in human nature. It acknowledges that intercourse between husband and wife as the consummation of marriage has a value of its own within that sacrament, and that thereby married love is enhanced and its character strengthened. Further, seeing that the primary purpose for which marriage exists is the procreation of children, it believes that this purpose as well as the paramount importance in married life of deliberate and thoughtful self-control should be the governing considerations in that intercourse.

Resolution 14
The Life and Witness of the Christian Community - Marriage and Sex
The Conference affirms:

1. the duty of parenthood as the glory of married life;

2. the benefit of a family as a joy in itself, as a vital contribution to the nation's welfare, and as a means of character-building for both parents and children;

3. the privilege of discipline and sacrifice to this end.

Resolution 15
The Life and Witness of the Christian Community - Marriage and Sex
Where there is clearly felt moral obligation to limit or avoid parenthood, the method must be decided on Christian principles. The primary and obvious method is complete abstinence from intercourse (as far as may be necessary) in a life of discipline and self-control lived in the power of the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless in those cases where there is such a clearly felt moral obligation to limit or avoid parenthood, and where there is a morally sound reason for avoiding complete abstinence, the Conference agrees that other methods may be used, provided that this is done in the light of the same Christian principles. The Conference records its strong condemnation of the use of any methods of conception control from motives of selfishness, luxury, or mere convenience.
Voting: For 193; Against 67.

Resolution 16
The Life and Witness of the Christian Community - Marriage and Sex
The Conference further records its abhorrence of the sinful practice of abortion.

Resolution 17
The Life and Witness of the Christian Community - Marriage and Sex
While the Conference admits that economic conditions are a serious factor in the situation, it condemns the propaganda which treats conception control as a way of meeting those unsatisfactory social and economic conditions which ought to be changed by the influence of Christian public opinion.

Resolution 18
The Life and Witness of the Christian Community - Marriage and Sex
Sexual intercourse between persons who are not legally married is a grievous sin. The use of contraceptives does not remove the sin. In view of the widespread and increasing use of contraceptives among the unmarried and the extention of irregular unions owing to the diminution of any fear of consequences, the Conference presses for legislation forbidding the exposure for sale and the unrestricted advertisement of contraceptives, and placing definite restrictions upon their purchase.

Resolution 19
The Life and Witness of the Christian Community - Marriage and Sex
Fear of consequences can never, for the Christian, be the ultimately effective motive for the maintenance of chastity before marriage. This can only be found in the love of God and reverence for his laws. The Conference emphasises the need of strong and wise teaching to make clear the Christian standpoint in this matter. That standpoint is that all illicit and irregular unions are wrong in that they offend against the true nature of love, they compromise the future happiness of married life, they are antagonistic to the welfare of the community, and, above all, they are contrary to the revealed will of God.

-- The Revd Dr Peter Toon