Sunday, September 30, 2007

Embarking on a hazardous route to a desired holy Destination

Common Cause Partnership Bishops agree to move towards establishing a Province in communion with the Global South

Dr Peter Toon September 30, 2007

I was present for the closing service (“Holy Eucharist” from the ECUSA 1979 Prayer Book, Rite 1, with Bishop Bob Duncan of Pittsburgh as the Celebrant) for the fifty or so Bishops of the Common Cause Partnership on Friday September 28, 2007 in Trinity Cathedral, Pittsburgh; then I stayed for the hospitality, the Press Conference, and, following that, for informal conversations with various bishops.

Here I want to reflect on the public Statement and commitment of the 50 or so Bishops rather then summarize its content, for it is available at websites (see e.g. ). Further, David Virtue, who was present with me at the Service and Press Conference, has written about it already (see.

What I say may seem critical to some—especially those who want to rejoice without restraint; but, I think that, to the discerning reader, my offering will be seen as truly encouraging, by suggesting important ways to improve what has begun, which like a seed, has the potential to grow and, when growing, to manifest different features, good and bad. I want to encourage firm growth and good fruit. So here we go:

• The whole LAOS, people of God, need to be brought into this movement very quickly and very openly. Anglican history from 1785 in the new USA had the unique feature of the full involvement of the laity and this is part of its genius. Perhaps there are practical, even strategic reasons, why this movement from the many jurisdictions of the present to the one province of tomorrow had to begin with Bishops—but why did they insist on ending their conclave by dressing up and processing in a service where they outnumbered the few laity and clergy present in the small congregation. How much more meaningful, it could have been, had the majority of them sat with the few laity and clergy in the nave! As things stand the procession stands as a symbol not so much of genuine Episcopal leadership but possibly of Episcopal self-importance. What now is urgently needed is the people of God assembled in their small jurisdictions and the together in a national congress to give their hearty “Amen” to this movement, for, after all, they are the majority shareholders and they are the ones to pay the bills.

• The movement—of laity and clergy—also needs a simple, uniting and centering message both to announce to America and to focus attention. It will be recalled that in Germany in the 1930s when National Socialism had virtually taken over the major Protestant Churches, a minority of pastors stood bravely against the tide for the uniqueness of the Gospel of Christ and issued what was called “The Barmen Declaration.” Now in 2007 we have a minority of Anglicans refusing to be involved in the take-over of the major, main-line denominations, including The Episcopal Church, by the Zeitgeist of modern, western, secular culture. Common Cause needs today a “Barmen-type” short Confession to declare what it really stands for, and what it is truly against, in the American situation and against the religion being developed in the Episcopal Church. ‘Here we stand, we can do no other…” “We believe, teach and confess….”

• The major post-1977 Congress of St Louis Continuing Anglican churches surely must be charmed so that they feel a need to be brought into this movement if It is to have integrity as being the replacement for the present “revisionist” Episcopal Church. Regrettably, a well known Bishop of the ACA/Traditional Anglican Communion asked to be present as an observer at this Pittsburgh Meeting (Sept 25-28) on behalf of his own bishops and he was refused. Whatever good reasons for his being refused, this was a mistake. Without the descendants of the brave Seceders of 1977 any new entity will be partial; it will be permanently impaired and failing in its vocation to manifest unity in truth and truth in unity. What it will take to get the post 1977 Continuers inside will require much charity by all; and will also include much more honesty about women’s ordination by all. It appears that there is not yet sufficient wisdom and activity being put into the move to dialogue with the post 1977 Continuers—perhaps because there is one part of the post 1977 Continuum in the Common Cause already, known as the APA, and perhaps also because they seem very rigid on women’s ordination and against the 1979 prayer book, favored still by many in Common Cause. But Let Brethren dwell together in unity!

• In order to begin to face the contentious matter of women’s ordination, and as a first step. I suggest that the unique but imperfect Anglican doctrine [expounded in successive Eames Reports in the 1980s and 1990s] of Reception be re-examined and improved by the Common Cause Partnership to become at least the starting point for possible deeper conversations and relations between those who are wholly against, and those who are for, the ordination of women. (I have addressed this topic of Reception in some detail in my Latimer Monograph from the Latimer Trust on this topic –available from – of London, U.K.) It would appear that beginning from this imperfect doctrine is the only means we have right now as Anglicans of engaging in dialogue and forging understanding.

• The Common Cause Partnership states that The Episcopal Church is unfaithful to the Gospel of Christ because of its innovations in worship, doctrine and discipline—fine!; BUT NOW it needs urgently to justify its own very major innovation! In fact it needs an apology—in the classic sense of apology, see Justin Martyr etc.—for its innovative claim that a Province in the One , Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church can be made up within one geographical region (North America or part thereof) of a multiplicity of denominations or jurisdictions or networks or ministries, each of which is autonomous (even though the autonomy in several causes rests not in US or Canadian hands but across the Atlantic ocean in African countries). This type of unity has never before been claimed by Anglicans, and it goes against a long tradition of teaching and claims made by Anglican Conferences, Synods, theologians and deep assumptions within Liturgy and within the classic Formularies. The creation of the Apology is a major and urgent requirement, for, right now, without this, the movement is extremely vulnerable to seemingly just criticism. In fact, already it is being described by friends as a like-minded but mixed group, who accept the realities of the competitive American supermarket of religions, and have made a pact to work together and form a kind of federation, which does not destroy their initial autonomy.

• Apart from the absence at Pittsburgh of Bishops from the classic Continuing Churches (e.g., the ACA, UEC, APCK & ACC), there were also no diocesan Bishops from the Anglican Church of Canada—apparently those who are loosely associated with the Essentials Movement in Canada have determined to maintain a positive stay in the Anglican Church of Canada at least for the next three years until the next General Synod and not be seen as potential seceders. The one Canadian bishop present, Don Harvey, is a retired diocesan bishop. Further, there was no representation from the Anglican Continuing Church in Canada. Thus right now this makes the movement exceedingly top-heavy from south of the border, which can hardly bode well for Canadians who have a different way of doing things than do the Americans!

• Those Bishops who are going to make the major sacrifices—perhaps the only ones of the 50 to make any very obvious sacrifices if this movement goes forward—are those presently within The Episcopal Church (the bishops from dioceses like Pittsburgh & Quincy & Fort Worth & others?). If dioceses led by their bishops vote to leave the Episcopal Church as a unit (or as a majority unit) the implications in terms of personal and family “safety” will be immense, for the leadership of the Episcopal Church will spend—if true to form—its last available funds to hound and hurt them by whatever means are available. To support them there surely needs to be in preparation a concerted commitment and effort of others in Common Cause (i.e., those whom we may call the Extra-Mural Anglicans, outside the Episcopal Church) to minister to their brethren when the pressures really begin.

• Finally, a doctrinal point, but important, I think. The Common Cause has committed itself to a Theological Statement as its basis. In this is a commitment to the classic Anglican Formularies, including the globally used Book of Common Prayer of 1662. The use of this book in its original form in the historic and beautiful English language of prayer, as well as in a suitably contemporary form using “You” of God and in so-called “contemporary” English, needs to begin now if words mean anything. (A major opportunity to hoist the flag was lost at the “Eucharist” of the Bishops, when they chose to use the prayer book of the very church that they say is revisionist, rather than one of the forms of the classic BCP—e.g., England 1662, USA 1928, and Canada 1962.) Very soon there will be available a form of the classic BCP in contemporary language for use in the U.S.A. and there are also plans—if financing available—to produce the classic BCP 1662 in attractive paperback edition (without prayers for the Queen etc) in order to introduce this globally used Prayer Book to the laity of the Common Cause Partner churches.

Enough is enough. I offer my suggestions in the hope that they may be of some practical use to the Common Cause Partners.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Forget about Sexual Innovations, Concentrate on the Basic Doctrine which motivates the leadership of TEC

A most serious suggestion to my friends from Dr Peter Toon, Sept 26, 2007

Back in 1991, when I was a colleague of Professor Charles Caldwell (now retired and living in Naples FL.) I was very impressed with his insight into The Episcopal Church and his evaluation of it.

Though he saw women’s ordination as a serious error, and though he also noticed all kinds of errors and faults in the 1979 Prayer Book, he maintained—I still think rightly—that the answers to three basic questions by Episcopalians would reveal where they were doctrinally and morally.
These questions did not involve anything about women’s ordination or the ordination of active homosexual persons, but they got to basic Christianity:

• Who is God?

• Who is Jesus?

• What is salvation?

How one answers these proclaims where one is in the spectrum from pantheism through to biblical Trinitarianism. In passing I may note that Dr Caldwell often demonstrated that the official Prayer Book of TEC had rejected the full, biblical Trinitarian Faith, even though it did so, to mislead the unwary, in nearly “orthodox” phrases.

The present TEC through its House of Bishops (Sept 25, 2007) has declared that it is officially not in favor of blessing same-sex unions or of ordaining people in such unions. At the same time, it is fully committed to the full rights of homosexual persons both in society and in church (so it is not clear if this includes supporting same-sex unions that are not actually blessed in church).

However, many bishops turn a blind eye and do not seek to prevent such events occurring in their dioceses, as all investigative reporters can demonstrate very quickly.

Thus TEC speaks out of both sides of its mouth simultaneously—a practice that has been in operation since the early 1970s.

Now back to doctrine.

If one reads the growing literature on “The Baptismal Covenant” (so beloved of the Episcopal hierarchy) and its duties (see the recent book of sermonettes by the lady Presiding Bishop), if one studies the theology being taught in most of TEC seminaries, if one studies the resolutions submitted to diocesan and national conventions, if one listens to the discussions of the House of Bishops, if one looks at the innovative liturgies being used in many places, if one listens to the sermons in most churches, if one studies the history of innovations in TEC since 1960, if one follows the web Episcopal blogs, and if one reads the learned articles and books of the professors in most TEC seminaries, then one comes to the conclusion quickly that the practical theology—that which makes TEC tick like a clock—is not biblical Trinitiarian Theism at all.

Reduced to a short span it is: God is Love and all love (loving) in the world is God.

Stated in more technical terms, it varies from a dynamic kind of pantheism, through various kinds of panentheism (especially beloved of feminist theologians) to process philosophy/theology, where God and the cosmos are seen to be in an evolutionary process together.

So Who is GOD in the new religion? God may be neuter or feminine but not solely masculine—thus God is She or It and is never Father but is Parent or Mother/Father. Further God is not in God’s own being wholly Transcendent, above and beyond the cosmos—No! God’s being is integrated into the cosmos even while also being apart from it. (A simple picture of this is the Mother giving birth but always keeping what She births tied to her—the cosmos in God and God never wholly apart from the cosmos—pan-en-theism.)

In this way of thinking, the symbol of God as Trinity is retained but usually to present a “divine” picture of community and cooperation for communitarianism on earth.

And who is JESUS? Jesus is the Child of God even as also the child of Mary, a unique Event of cosmic evolution. Jesus is regarded as really androgynous, even while also being male in a male-dominated society, and “his” real saving work is the way “he” got alongside the poor, needy, outcasts, and hungry and ministered to them. Where regular religion and society stopped, there Jesus began to minister and this led to his martyr’s death. The resurrection is the symbol of new life arising from this Jesus, new life to change the world with justice and peace and enabling the value of all human beings of every kind and type to be recognized and affirmed.

And what is SALVATION? Since God is not separate from the cosmos, heaven is not “up there.” Salvation is cooperating with God in change to bring about better and better conditions on earth for people so that they live in dignity, without fear and poverty. The present millennial goals of the United Nations express part of this hope of salvation. Christians today in the Baptismal Covenant are charged to work for justice, peace and dignity.

I SUGGEST that from today onwards those who wish to engage with Episcopal leaders leave aside for the time being the sexuality agenda and move instead to the Basic Christianity agenda to ascertain what kind of sincere, religious people are the majority of the House of Bishop, Executive Council and General Convention of The Episcopal Church. They are sincere, please grant them this, and they are fervent, please grant them this—but move on and examine their theology that motivates them.

Then having done this to go back to the public Liturgies and new Canon Law of TEC since 1970 and read these in the light of the doctrine discovered.

(my own attempts to do this kind of thing are found in the content of several booklets available from or by calling 1-800-727-1928)

Dr Peter Toon

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Long awaited Statement of American Bishops

(Here is the long-awaited response of the House of Bishop of the USA Church to what has been asked of it by the Global Anglican Communion. For those of us who have been studying The Episcopal Church for a decade or more, this statement is one we could have written for the House of Bishops in advance.

What is hidden in this statement is the practical theology and the pastoral practice that goes on in many dioceses. Though there is no official doctrine of the blessing of same-sex couples these occur and though there is lip service to orthodoxy there is widespread commitment to doctrines of God, Christ and the world, together with salvation, that are far removed from traditional Anglican teachings and represent forms of pantheism, panentheism, universalism and process theology, with excessive commitment to rights-monism.

I suspect that the Global South primates will be guided in their response not by this statement but by what is commonly known of the real Episcopal Church on the ground daily, weekly and monthly. What this Statement does make possible is the remaining within TEC those bishops who take it literally and mean to stay with it and by it. So we expect no more than several departures of bishops and/or parts of dioceses in the next months, and the likelihood of the formation of a new province in the next year is not high.)

House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church
New Orleans, Louisiana
September 25, 2007

A Response to Questions and Concerns Raised by our Anglican Communion Partners

In accordance with Our Lord's high priestly prayer that we be one, and in the spirit of Resolution A159 of the 75th General Convention, and in obedience to his Great Commission to go into the world and make disciples, and in gratitude for the gift of the Anglican Communion as a sign of the Holy Spirit's ongoing work of reconciliation throughout the world, we offer the following to the Episcopal Church, the Primates, the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC), and the larger Communion, with the hope of "mending the tear in the fabric" of our common life in Christ.

"I do it all for the sake of the Gospel so that I might share in its blessings." 1 Corinthians 9:23


The House of Bishops expresses sincere and heartfelt thanks to the Archbishop of Canterbury and members of the Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates for accepting our invitation to join us in New Orleans. By their presence they have both honored us and assisted us in our discernment. Their presence was a living reminder of the unity that is Christ's promised gift in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Much of our meeting time was spent in continuing discernment of our relationships within the Anglican Communion. We engaged in careful listening and straightforward dialogue with our guests. We expressed our passionate desire to remain in communion. It is our conviction that The Episcopal Church needs the Anglican Communion, and we heard from our guests that the Anglican Communion needs The Episcopal Church.

The House of Bishops offers the following responses to our Anglican Communion partners. We believe they provide clarity and point toward next steps in an ongoing process of dialogue. Within The Episcopal Church the common discernment of God's call is a lively partnership among laypersons, bishops, priests, and deacons, and therefore necessarily includes the Presiding Bishop, the Executive Council, and the General Convention.


* We reconfirm that resolution B033 of General Convention 2006 (The Election of Bishops) calls upon bishops with jurisdiction and Standing Committees "to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion."

* We pledge as a body not to authorize public rites for the blessing of same-sex unions.

* We commend our Presiding Bishop's plan for episcopal visitors.

* We deplore incursions into our jurisdictions by uninvited bishops and call for them to end.

* We support the Presiding Bishop in seeking communion-wide consultation in a manner that is in accord with our Constitution and Canons.

* We call for increasing implementation of the listening process across the Communion and for a report on its progress to Lambeth 2008.

* We support the Archbishop of Canterbury in his expressed desire to explore ways for the Bishop of New Hampshire to participate in the Lambeth Conference.

* We call for unequivocal and active commitment to the civil rights, safety, and dignity of gay and lesbian persons.


Resolution B033 of the 2006 General Convention

The House of Bishops concurs with Resolution EC011 of the Executive Council. This Resolution commends the Report of the Communion Sub-Group of the Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates of the Anglican Communion as an accurate evaluation of Resolution B033 of the 2006 General Convention, calling upon bishops with jurisdiction and Standing Committees "to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion." The House acknowledges that non-celibate gay and lesbian persons are included among those to whom B033 pertains.

Blessing of Same-Sex Unions

We, the members of the House of Bishops, pledge not to authorize for use in our dioceses any public rites of blessing of same-sex unions until a broader consensus emerges in the Communion, or until General Convention takes further action. In the near future we hope to be able to draw upon the benefits of the Communion-wide listening process. In the meantime, it is important to note that no rite of blessing for persons living in same-sex unions has been adopted or approved by our General Convention. In addition to not having authorized liturgies the majority of bishops do not make allowance for the blessing of same-sex unions. We do note that in May 2003 the Primates said we have a pastoral duty "to respond with love and understanding to people of all sexual orientations." They further stated, "...[I]t is necessary to maintain a breadth of private response to situations of individual pastoral care."

Episcopal Visitors

We affirm the Presiding Bishop's plan to appoint episcopal visitors for dioceses that request alternative oversight. Such oversight would be provided by bishops who are a part of and subject to the communal life of this province. We believe this plan is consistent with and analogous to Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight (DEPO) as affirmed by the Windsor Report (paragraph 152). We thank those bishops who have generously offered themselves for this ministry. We hope that dioceses will make use of this plan and that the Presiding Bishop will continue conversation with those dioceses that may feel the need for such ministries. We appreciate and need to hear all voices in The Episcopal Church.

Incursions by Uninvited Bishops

We call for an immediate end to diocesan incursions by uninvited bishops in accordance with the Windsor Report and consistent with the statements of past Lambeth Conferences and the Ecumenical Councils of the Church. Such incursions imperil common prayer and long-established ecclesial principles of our Communion. These principles include respect for local jurisdiction and recognition of the geographical boundaries of dioceses and provinces. As we continue to commit ourselves to honor both the spirit and the content of the Windsor Report, we call upon those provinces and bishops engaging in such incursions likewise to honor the Windsor Report by ending them. We offer assurance that delegated episcopal pastoral care is being provided for those who seek it.

Communion-wide Consultation

In their communique of February 2007, the Primates proposed a "pastoral scheme." At our meeting in March 2007, we expressed our deep concern that this scheme would compromise the authority of our own primate and place the autonomy of The Episcopal Church at risk. The Executive Council reiterate our concerns and declined to participate. Nevertheless we recognize a useful role for communion-wide consultation with respect to the pastoral needs of those seeking alternative oversight, as well as the pastoral needs of gay and lesbian persons in this and other provinces. We encourage our Presiding Bishop to continue to explore such consultation in a manner that is in accord with our Constitution and Canons.

The Listening Process

The 1998 Lambeth Conference called all the provinces of the Anglican Communion to engage in a "listening process" designed to bring gay and lesbian Anglicans fully into the church's conversation about sexuality. We look forward to receiving initial reports about this process at the 2008 Lambeth Conference, and to participating with others in this crucial enterprise. We are aware that in some cultural contexts, conversation concerning homosexuality is difficult. We see an important role for the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) in this listening process, since it represents both the lay and ordained members of our constituent churches and so is well placed to engage every part of the body in this conversation. We encourage the ACC to identify the variety of resources needed to accomplish these conversations.

The Lambeth Conference

Invitations to the Lambeth Conference are extended by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Those among us who have received an invitation to attend the 2008 Lambeth Conference look forward to that gathering with hope and expectation. Many of us are engaged in mission partnerships with bishops and dioceses around the world and cherish these relationships. Lambeth offers a wonderful opportunity to build on such partnerships.

We are mindful that the Bishop of New Hampshire has not yet received an invitation to the conference. We also note that the Archbishop of Canterbury has expressed a desire to explore a way for him to participate. We share the Archbishop's desire and encourage our Presiding Bishop to offer our assistance as bishops in this endeavor. It is our fervent hope that a way can be found for his full participation.

The Revd Dr Peter Toon
President of the Prayer Book Society 2007

Monday, September 24, 2007

Whom shall we trust? A reflection on trusting Primates, Bishops and GOD

American Anglicans, who are painfully aware of the crisis through which they are now passing, are constantly tempted to look to one or another local or overseas leader—e.g., Akinola, Orombi, Duncan or another—as the “savior.” That is, as the one who—despite all the problems and difficulties—will somehow be the means to unite into one, new, ecclesial entity, all those who, in recent times, have had to exit The Episcopal Church on grounds of conscience.

It is true, of course, that God does use human beings to achieve his holy purposes and sometimes in the Church these have been those holding the office of Bishop. So there is some basis for looking to a Primate or Primates, or to a Bishop and a Primate, as the deliverer(s) of this “exodus people” to the “promised land” of a new province of the Global Anglican Family.

However, and this is a big however, the people of God are most clearly instructed in the sacred pages of The Scriptures that only when they really and truly trust in the LORD (YHWH who is The Holy Trinity) does God as The LORD act on their behalf, for their good and for His glory.

In Psalm 118, which celebrates a victory of a king of David’s linr, the psalmist communicates in poetry the profound truth that however good the king, and however good the army, and however supportive the nation, the ultimate trust of the covenant people is to be solely and only in One and One alone, The LORD, their God. He is the One who is The Savior and The Redeemer.

It is better to seek refuge in YHWH than to trust in man.
It is better to seek refuge in YHWH than to trust in princes.

Here the psalmist addresses his fellows by appealing to their reason. They could seek refuge in a human being or in human beings as a group; or they could take refuge in the authority and ability of the King or his sons, the princes, or in the royal family as a whole. That is, they could look to these persons to shelter and protect them from harm and danger and keep them together as a united, prosperous people.

In our situation, where we are so deeply affected by the mindset and culture of politics, political campaigns and debate over the authority of president, congress and supreme court, it is so easy to seek refuge for the salvation of Anglicanism in political means, that is, looking to individual persons (Primate or Bishop) or special entities (“the Global South” or “The orthodox Primates”)—and to do so even as God is generally acknowledged as the Lord.

To Israel, the psalmist declared that it is better—indeed, we may add, best of all—to trust in The LORD and allow Him to use whatever means He ordains to achieve what is His will.

To American Anglicans, the same psalmist declares that it is better—indeed best of all—to trust in The Holy Trinity (in the almighty Father through His incarnate Son and by His Holy Spirit) and look to this LORD our God to use whatever means and whichever persons He ordains to do His will.

It is because of this fundamental duty of TRUSTING in THE LORD that American Anglicans URGENTLY need to find a way of coming together as a whole to wait upon THE LORD to seek His will and then to do it. At present, the variety of activities by different groups looks more like the political realities of competitive American politics than a humble, corporate submission to the Lord God to know and to do His will together.

It is because of this analysis which constantly returns to me, as I read the Psalms in the Daily Offices, that over the last five years and more (and together with Dr Lou Tarsitano before his untimely death) I have suggested that there needs to be a national Congress of all Anglicans who seek a new beginning for the Anglican Way in America, based on classic Anglican doctrine, worship, polity and principles, and in step with the Global Communion.

At such a gathering, I suggest that all bishops and groups would surrender before and to the Lord our God their titles and offices; and then together, through common consent and election after prayer, a new entity with three of four dioceses would be created to replace the dysfunctional mixture of groups and denominations that presently exist, with up to a hundred bishops. We would not know in advance who would be the small number of (and TEC bishops would have no special rights) elected bishops for the small number of dioceses of the new province; but we would go to such a Congress (held as it were at the foot of Mt Sinai or Mt Tabor!) singing, “It is better to trust in the LORD than in man or in human leaders.” I hasten to add that from the moment of the creation of the new entity all former bishops would henceforth act only and always as presbyters under the new bishops, even as they trusted in the LORD. (I recognize that all this would take a miracle but without a miracle there will be no united Province for the problems and difficulties in the American situation are too many and complex!)

“Names and Sects and Parties Fall
Thou, O Christ, art all in all.”

Dr Peter Toon September 24, 2007

(written as the House of Bishops of TEC finalizes its written response to the Primates’ Meeting Request in New Orleans and just before the Bishops of Common Cause meet in Pittsburgh to reflect on their vocation together in the light of the continuing shake-up of the Anglican Way.)

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Bishop Steenson on his way to Rome?

(Jeffrey is an honest and good man and he is now about to do what his friends--and I count myself one—have been expecting, making the journey across the Tiber into the Roman Catholic Church. But rightly he seeks to put into good order what he leaves behind. It has been my privilege to know him since he became an Anglican and then attended Christ Church, Oxford) --P.T.

To the Clergy of the Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

This is a very difficult letter to write as your bishop and colleague in the ordained ministry, and I hope that you will receive it in the prayerful spirit in which it is offered. A pastoral letter to the people of the diocese will follow in a few days. At the House of Bishops meeting about to be convened in New Orleans, my intention is to ask them for permission to begin the process to resign as diocesan bishop. The bishops must give their consent, and then I will step down by the end of the year.

The reason for this decision is that my conscience is deeply troubled about where the Episcopal Church is heading, and this has become a crisis for me because of my ordination vow to uphold its doctrine, discipline, and worship. An effective leader cannot be so conflicted about the guiding principles of the Church he serves. It concerns me that this has affected my ability to lead this diocese with a clear and hopeful vision for its mission. I also have sensed how important it is for those of us in this position to model a gracious way to leave the Episcopal Church in a manner respectful of its laws.

I believe that God’s call to us is always positive, always a to and not a from. At the clergy conference next week I hope to be able to share something of this. Many of you already know of my love for the Catholic Church and my conviction that this is the true home of Anglicanism. I will not dwell on this, however, so as not to lose sight of my responsibility to help lay a good foundation for the transition that you must now lead.

I also want to acknowledge with gratitude the pastoral support I have received from the Presiding Bishop and her office during this time. She has offered to visit, and I have invited her to be with us at the clergy conference the afternoon of Wednesday, Sept. 26, and perhaps also for that evening, for mutual conversation and the opportunity to know each other better in this time reserved for the clergy. I hope that you all can be present.

This has been an extraordinarily difficult decision to make because of the bonds I share with you and the people of this diocese. It has indeed been a privilege to serve alongside you these past seven years. With deep feelings I write, with regret for how this may complicate your own ministry, with profound gratitude for your prayers and support, and with much love for you. I pledge to you my prayers and friendship in these days to come.

Your brother in Christ,

+Jeffrey Steenson

Sept 21

How TEC confesses “the Faith” -- And what would Richard Hooker make of it all?

In modern times, denominational conventions, synods, commissions and working parties have developed the ecclesiastical art of vagueness, doublespeak and expediency. That is, they seek to avoid public controversy by offering statements and reports that can be read in a variety of ways by people looking for different things. (On how the Church of England has nearly perfected this art see Edward Norman, Anglican Difficulties, 2004.)

The Episcopal Church of the U.S.A. is no exception to this culture and also, like the C. of E., excels at it.

Those who have observed TEC in the last two or three decades know that it speaks in two different ways.

(a) To itself, when only the initiated and committed are around, it is clearly, unambiguously and without shame progressively liberal—worshiping the Deity which, in everlasting union with the cosmos, is in the process of change and evolution and, in being so, is revealing Godself to those with eyes to see and ears to hear.
(b) To others, when in ecumenical and global Anglican meetings, it speaks the cultivated language of vagueness, doublespeak and expediency so that it may be heard as either semi-traditional or semi-liberal or both.

[Watch for the Statement, due on September 24/25, from the House of Bishops about The Windsor Report and responding to the Archbishop of Canterbury for an example of (b).]

TEC also expresses this twofold character in its use of Liturgy.
(a) When the occasion is public, with ecumenical guests and/or a wide range of Anglicans present, then the form of Liturgy in its 1979 Book is used in a semi-traditional way, with little or no expression of excess. However,
(b) when those present belong to the inner membership of TEC, those committed to progressive liberalism, then the liturgy reflects the commitment to the Deity of change, process and evolution, masculine names and images disappear, Jesus becomes androgynous, salvation is equated with the realization of the millennial goals of the United Nations and the full liberation of human beings to be truly themselves, and unions of same-sex couples are celebrated as signs of the holiness blessed by the Deity of change.

Let us be honest with ourselves. For the foreseeable future TEC is going to remain this way, with two faces and two forms of speech. Therefore a small minority, who claim to be traditional or orthodox (e.g. Bishops Howe and Stanton), will feel wholly justified in staying within the fold, and also those who are publicly committed to progressive liberalism (e.g., the Presiding Bishop and most of the House of Bishops) will also surely believe that they are more than justified in staying where they are, as they are. Yet—let us be clear—the real character of TEC has been, is, and will be progressively liberal.

In terms of constitutional documents, TEC is still generally orthodox in that it accepts the authority of the Bible and the Two Creeds as summaries of basic Christian doctrine. However, in terms of its practical theology (what is set forth by the Executive Council, the General Conventions, the seminaries, most of the House of Bishops, and priests in their pulpits) it has abandoned traditional Faith, Morality and Worship.

This raises an important question which in a different context was faced by the great Anglican theologian, Richard Hooker, in 1586! What is the foundationof the Church?

Hooker wrote in 1586 a major Tractate on the subject of faith, good works and the foundation of the Church. The latter topic was addressed by him because of difference of opinion in the Church of England about the Church of Rome. Puritans said that Rome has ceased to be a visible Church of God and was wholly apostate. In response, Hooker asked, “What is the basic foundation of the Church”, and came to the position that the foundation is—in one sentence—“Jesus Christ, Son of God, is the only Savior of the world.” So he argued that since Rome obviously held this foundation (despite it many errors concerning faith, works, sacraments, the papacy and so on) it was still in a basic sense a visible Church of God on earth, even though it was necessary to separate from it. (To read this important, 20,000 word Tractate, very recently published in modernized English, go to or call 1-800-727-1928 and look/ask for Hooker, “Salvation and the Church of Rome.”)

What would Hooker say of TEC, which in its constitution states that Jesus Christ Son of God is the only Savior of the world and then in its widespread, practical theology effectively denies this belief?

My suspicion is that he would say, “If TEC is not reformable and is by common judgment wholly unlikely to recover its original Faith, then for the salvation of your souls, depart from it and seek a safe haven.”

Dr Peter Toon September 23, 2007

Rowan & The Baptismal Covenant

During his conversation on September 20-21, 2007, with the American Episcopal House of Bishops, Archbishop Rowan heard various arguments for the recognition, blessing and deployment of persons in same-sex relations and for the holiness under the Gospel of Jesus of such arrangements. One form of the argument—as he indicated at the press conference— was new (or unfamiliar) to him and that was the exceedingly common American Episcopal claim that this innovation in sexual conduct and relations is morally supported and required by The Baptismal Covenant [TBC].

The Services of Holy Baptism in The Book of Common Prayer (1662) and Common Worship (2000) of the Church of England do not contain “The Baptismal Covenant” and so this “contract with God” is not familiar to Anglicans in Britain. The Archbishop has probably never taken a baptismal service in which there is an explicit TBC like there is in the American 1979 Prayer Book.

Enter Pelagianism

From a theological perspective, the placing of TBC before the actual Baptism in water with Christ’s words creates the heresy historically known as Pelagianism (even though Pelagius himself may never had held it). It is the belief that man is able in his freedom to negotiate with God terms of his salvation from God and for his duties to God. Also it is the belief that God actually takes serious such actions of [sinful, arrogant] man.

In the baptismal service in the 1979 Prayer Book those to be baptized establish a contract with God wherein are certain duties and these are taken on by them before they are actually baptized—that is before God has received them as repentant sinners, forgiven them, regenerated them and adopted them as his children through the sacrament of Baptism. In contrast, in the normal Anglican baptismal service, it is only after the Baptism is completed then those baptized are told of their high privileges and their solemn duties unto God the Father in the Name of Christ. All that comes before Baptism is rejection of Satan, the evil world and sin with profession of the Gospel, already proclaimed and heard.

Justice, Peace and Dignity

TBC was created by liturgists in the 1970s as they felt the strong cultural wind of the revolutionary 1960s. Especially were they keenly aware of the widespread call from the 1960s for “peace and justice” and the affirmation of “the dignity of each and every person” what his or her background, ethnicity and appearance. So in their confidence that they could set the terms of human relations to GOD, they created TBC in which is a mixture of traditional duties and novel (i.e., 1960s) ones. The latter are a commitment “to strive for justice and peace among all people” and “to respect the dignity of every human being.” Further, these novel ones were understood from the beginning (as virtually every agenda of every General Convention since the 1970s shows, and as the very public commitment and agenda of the present lady Presiding Bishop demonstrate) in terms that arose from the social, political, economic and cultural agenda of “left of center” idealist pressure groups of the 1960s and 1970s.

So today the millennial goals of the United Nations are seen and commended as if they are equivalent to the arrival of the kingdom of heaven on earth. And respecting the dignity of human persons is seen through the lens of human rights and therapeutic models of human nature and happiness. Inevitably such an understanding and commitment requires advocacy and support of the rights of people of varying “sexual orientation” not only in society but also in the Church.


Further, and importantly, because the priority of TBC, understood as indicated above, is most of the time integrated into a novel doctrine of God, those who are deeply committed to TBC (as are many bishops) see this commitment as given to them personally by God and they, as his apostles and prophets, have to teach and commend it. (Note here that the doctrine of God can be any which sees God as Deity in a relation of evolution, development, and change to and with the cosmos—e.g., panentheism and/or process theology. So the new prophets see themselves as together with God in the mission of God as agents of change (for the better) in the universe and in the church. Eschatology for them is the realization of the millennial goals and the exercise by each and every person of his or her rights.

The point to be made here forcefully is that anyone, who has a novel doctrine of God (rejecting classical Trinitarian Theism and embracing a God who is tied to the cosmos eternally), and who is also committed to TBC is bound by conscience to support the momentum of innovation and change that is occurring in western Christendom and specifically in The Episcopal Church. And the full rights of homosexual, lesbian and bi-sexual persons is but one part—howbeit right now a focal part—of the general commitment.


Thus the position of the liberal progressives of The Episcopal Church, led by the competent lady Presiding Bishop, is a deeply religious and moral one, with implications in many directions. However, it is not in any way at all the traditional Christian Religion & Morality, known from Scripture and Tradition. That it is not so, does not mean that these people do not want to be in close touch with traditional Churches and peoples. Since they see themselves as prophets of the new order they need people to whom they can prophesy!

September 22, 2007 Dr Peter Toon

Saturday, September 22, 2007

What Rowan Williams said, Sept 21

Before leaving New Orleans Archbishop Rowan Williams said at a news conference:

“It has been a valuable opportunity to listen carefully to the thinking of the bishops here on the problems that face the Communion; and also for us to share with the House some perspectives from elsewhere in the Communion. I think that in the light of the conversations we have come to a better understanding of the House in response to the questions and proposals of the Dar es Salaam Primates' Meeting. I hope that the House, equally, has understood more fully what those questions and proposals were meant to achieve. The House will continue to reflect on them over the weekend.

Despite what has been claimed, there is no "ultimatum" involved. The Primates asked for a response by September 30 simply because we were aware that this was the meeting of the House likely to be formulating such a response. The ACC and Primates Joint Standing Committee will be reading and digesting what the bishops have to say, and will let me know their thoughts on it early next week. After this I shall be sharing what they say, along with my own assessments, with the Primates and others, inviting their advice in the next couple of weeks. I hope these days will result in a constructive and fresh way forward for all of us.”

So we await the full text of the House of Bishops response to the Primates on 25th and then it will take several weeks after that until there is anything like an agreed global mindset on how the A of C and Primates will proceed in relating to TEC—and there may not be any agreement amongst them. It is very significant that two of the major players in the Global South are doing the rounds in the USA right now, the very time when the House of Bishops is meeting, and their words and actions suggest that their minds have been made up, and that TEC is out of their game. That is, they are set on creating new bishops and new structures in the USA and they regard the TEC as no longer a Christian Church. In fact, Nigeria is set to consecrate four new bishops in the very near future and to do so on USA soil.

St Matthew’s Day evening, Sept 21

The Revd Dr Peter Toon
President of the Prayer Book Society 2007

Friday, September 21, 2007

Sex & Bishops

As I write on St Matthew’s Day 2007 The Episcopal Church House of Bishops meets in New Orleans, with the Archbishop of Canterbury as a primary guest.

I submit that this meeting—and indeed the writing of The Windsor Report with the frenzied activity it generated—would never have taken place had not TEC (then PECUSA)not changed dramatically its canon law on marriage in 1973.

The General Convention of PECUSA in 1973 set aside (a) the long tradition of canon law on matrimony, going back through the 1604 Canons of the Church of England to the medieval Church, and (b) the liturgical expression of Holy Matrimony—as seen most obviously in the Service of Holy Matrimony in The Book of Common Prayer of 1662. Instead it made marriage in church into a pastoral matter to be settled locally by pastoral care.

Then the General Conventions of 1976 & 1979 approved a marriage service in the new Prayer Book of TEC (which totally replaced The Book of Common Prayer of 1789/1892/1928) which allowed in subtle ways the entry of (a) the divorce culture—remarriage in church now easy; (b) the artificial birth control mindset, 1960 being the beginning of the availability of “the Pill”; and (c) the purpose of marriage not necessarily including for healthy people the duty and privilege of procreation. It highlighted mutuality and self-fulfillment in relationship.

What the General Convention also did in the period from 1973 to 1979 was, without everyone realizing it, to set in place the basis for the blessing, even “marriage” of same-sex persons, through the reducing of marriage to whatever the participants felt was right for them, with procreation as an option not a divine calling. And resolutions on behalf of homosexual rights came at every Convention from 1979 onwards.

So the membership of TEC has had since the 1970s a very high percentage of divorced and remarried persons; and serial monogamy is common both amongst laity and clergy. Indeed it is all so common that it is virtually taken for granted. A major revolution in sexual morality and practice occurred in TEC beginning in the 1960s and now most members hardly know it occurred for it is the context of their lives.

Thus it was nothing strange a decade ago for ten so-called “orthodox bishops” led by Bishop Stanton of Dallas to bring to trial an assistant bishop of Newark, for ordaining an active homosexual man; and, at the same time, not even bothering at all that this bishop was thrice married with all three wives alive and well (I sat next to the third of them at the trial in Wilmington DE.) In real church law this bishop ought to have been deposed for his adultery before being charged as he was!

So what we have on September 21 in the packed House of Bishops of TEC in New Orleans is not a mixture of “revisionists, “ “moderates” and “orthodox” as is suggested by conservative Episcopal leaders. In fact, what we have is a spectrum of “revisionists” from the radical to the conservative, but all revisionists. For all of these bishops exercise their episcopates within the Canon Law of TEC and with the 1979 Prayer Book of TEC, but using them in varying degrees of revisionism (that is revision of traditional Anglican canon law and Christian morality). At one end, the liberal progressives, working within human rights provisions and psychological insights, press for full acceptance of the blessing of same-sex (faithful, covenanted) couples in the church; and at the other end, this is opposed and sexual relations are said to be allowed only between married couples (which means in serial monogamy for many). But from left to right and right to left there is agreement to (a) the new post-1960s form of marriage and (b) the rejection of holy matrimony as set forth in traditional canon law, liturgy and reading of sacred Scripture.

One of the amazing things about the support of the Primates of the so-called Global South for conservatives within TEC, and conservatives recently seceded from TEC, who also use the 1979 prayer book, is that effectively a blind eye is turned to this very serious aberration in terms of holy matrimony. It seems that the opposition to sodomy and same-sex relations of any kind is so intense in the Global South that they are ready to overlook the blessing of serial monogamy which is accepted and practiced by the conservatives they support—as long, that is, as the conservatives profess the Lordship of Christ and are committed to ”the Great Commission” to evangelize and plant churches (which they do and are to their credit).

The world waits to see whether the presence in the Theological Statement of Common Cause (accepted by the conservative Episcopalians in The Anglican Communion Network) of the Formularies of 1662 will lead to a rejection of what presently is called “Christian Marriage” and an acceptance of what 1662 calls “Holy Matrimony”—that is to the acceptance of what was effectively rejected by PECUSA/TEC in 1973!

Many of us hope so! And with God all things such as this are surely possible.

One further matter: what do we make of the doctrine and practice of the Continuing Anglican Churches, which were formed after 1977, and which have forms of Episcopal canon law pre-dating that of 1973. On paper they reject the marriage of divorced persons in church and they are opposed to serial monogamy—as was PECUSA before 1973. But, in their churches there are percentage-wise as many divorced and remarried persons as in TEC. That is, their membership reflects the culture. How so? By the claim of their bishops to have (the Pope’s) power to annul marriages if they are judged not to have met certain criteria—e.g. not blessed by a priest or not passing psychological tests. Thus a high proportion of bishops and clergy, not to mention laity, are, in civil law, divorced and remarried; but in their canon law are only married the once. For example, the Archbishop of what is called “The Traditional Anglican Communion” has been married twice but his first marriage was annulled by some of his fellow bishops and so he is in their law married once only. In fact if all the twice married clergy in the Continuing Churches stood down, there would be a major gap in the provision of ordained ministry!

Perhaps the divorce culture and the hedonistic view of sexuality are so endemic in American life and culture that the Churches cannot hold back the tide and to have any members at all must submit to these cultural realities at least in minimal expressions!

Again, to believe this is to reject the power of the Gospel to transform persons and relations between persons. Surely, over time through true renewal holy matrimony can be recovered!

St Matthew’s Day 2007 Dr Peter Toon.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

St. Matthew The Apostle (Sept 21)

Matthew was a tax-collector for the hated Roman occupying power and at the call of Jesus he became a disciple, and later an Apostle and Evangelist (hence the Gospel bearing his name). The Collect for his Feast has in The Book of Common Prayer been stable since 1549:

O Almighty God, who by thy blessed Son didst call Matthew from the receipt of custom to be an Apostle and Evangelist; Grant us grace to forsake all covetous desires and inordinate love of riches, and to follow the same thy Son, Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.

What we see here is that after recalling the identity and vocation of Matthew, the petition, which is the center of the Collect, is related to the calling and duties of disciples whom Matthew as Apostle and Evangelist made, and still by the Gospel name for him makes for Jesus. In fact the petition recalls what is basic to the Service of Holy Baptism when converts are made members of the kingdom of God—“Dost thou renounce the devil and all his works, the vain pomp and glory of the world, with all covetous desires of the flesh, so that thou will not follow nor be led by them?” And with this renunciation is, of course, the embracing of the Gospel which is a word for all peoples.

It is good to notice the basic doctrine in the opening of the Collect. It is assumed that God the Father actually called Matthew and did so by his incarnate Son, the Lord Jesus. This points to the intimate union between the Father and the Son and that the mission and work of the Son on earth is done in the Name of and for the Father: “The words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works” (John 14:10). Further, as the ending of the Collect assumes and proclaims, the Father together with his Son and the Holy Ghost (Spirit) is One Deity, The Holy Trinity, from ages of ages unto ages of ages.

Thus the work of the apostles and evangelists and their successors through space and time is set in the context of the Mission of The Holy Trinity, Missio Dei.

In closing it will be helpful to note what was the wording of the Collect in the medieval Service Book for the contrast reflects in part what the Reformation was about:

Grant, O Lord, that we may be assisted by the prayers of thy blessed Apostle and Evangelist, Matthew; and what we are not able of ourselves to obtain may be bestowed upon us by his intercession. Through Jesus Christ. Amen.

Here we are deeply into the medieval world where sinners on earth, although they pray in the Name of the Lord Jesus, the One Mediator, also are judged to need the special help to, and unique intercessions for, them of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Apostles and Martyrs. Asking for the intercession of the blessed dead was totally removed from services in the Church of England from 1549.

The Revd Dr Peter Toon

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A radical analysis leading to a radical proposal for the recovery of The Anglican Way in the U.S.A.

Thinking aloud in response to a variety of suggestions and comments received concerning the vocation and place of bishop in American Anglicanism.

I am fast coming to the conclusion—which I am trying my best to avoid—that there is a near total lack of adherence to historical Anglican ecclesiology in American Episcopalianism and Anglicanism. This situation has been developing at least since 1973 and seems to have reached its zenith in 2007. It appears that ecclesiology based on The Ordinal, The Articles, the classic BCP and the writings of the standard Anglican divines (from John Jewel onwards) is being wholly disregarded in large areas of church life.

In fact, so serious has the situation become that it is very possible (God only knows in his perfect wisdom) that all those who are called “Bishop” in 2007, whatever their gifts, virtues and pedigrees, are not really genuine Bishops at all—that is, they are not Bishops, who are both successors of the Apostles in terms of personal succession in sees and most importantly not in terms of being guardians of the Faith and symbols of the unity of the Church of God. In other words, while they may be good Administrators, Preachers, Pastors and much more, they are not the presence of apostolic Ministers and Ministry.

Why do I raise this possibility?

I raise it because Anglicans have normally believed, taught and confessed since the publication of The Ordinal in 1549/1550 that Bishops are successors of the apostles (or of those who immediately succeeded the apostles) in,

(a) Order – succession through space and time and in relation to sees or bishoprics;
(b) Teaching—succession in propagating, teaching and guarding the Apostolic Faith;
(c) Unity—being the sign of unity within the diocese and for the diocese to the larger Church so that there is unity through space and time;
(d) Sacramental Ministry, especially chief Celebrant of the Eucharist where the people of God are one with Christ and each other; and
(e) Maintaining the Ordained Ministry through the power to ordain.

If we look at the Episcopate within what is known as The Episcopal Church it may be claimed that—in terms of worship, doctrine, and discipline as these have been understood through the centuries—this Episcopate has ceased to be apostolic because of its own choices and designs through adopting and propagating error, heresy and infidelity on a wide front. All recent consecrations are probably the passing on not of apostolic ministry and teaching but of modern “prophetic” and secularized ministry based on post 1960s teaching on a wide variety of fronts. (It may be that within TEC there are a few of the older Bishops who being consecrated a long time ago have managed to escape this powerful disease of infidelity.) Modern TEC Bishops are religious leaders, CEO’s and much more but one thing, generally speaking, they are not and that is apostolic Ministers.

If we next look at the Episcopate within what is known as The Continuing Churches (originating in 1977) what we find here are bishops within four major and various minor denominations, mostly of Anglo-Catholic persuasion and many making the highest claims for their exercise of the office of bishop—including what was once only the Pope’s claim to annul marriages and give the permission to re-marry. Again it may be suggested that these “Bishops” who are of varying ability and virtue are not truly Bishops of apostolic pedigree but are religious leaders in small denominations. Why? Because they knowingly and consciously—even flagrantly—break the simple rules that the Bishop is the center of unity in his own diocese and a symbol of unity to the wider church.

Let us recall that these Continuing Anglican Churches are found in competition with each other in the same geographical areas of this land and thus break fundamental rules of the Church through history, established by common consent in councils. In fact in general terms they are in schism not only from TEC but from each other. Now if it were the case that these churches were not many but one (as originally intended by them in 1977) and they were competing with TEC as an Infidel Church then that would be a different situation altogether. In reality, they are competing with each other and, as we shall see, with other Anglicans claiming the same territory. But it is their competing with each other on the same territory as they make exceedingly high claims for their office which probably places them outside true Catholicity for they are not behaving as Catholic at all.

Before we come to the latest form of the American Episcopate for Anglicans we need to notice The Reformed Episcopal Church which dates from 1873 and is still small, but has had a kind of renewal in terms of Anglican ideals in the last decade or so. This has it own Bishops who find themselves also in competition territorially with both TEC and Continuing Churches Bishops and facing their own unique problems with the arrival of the “African” mission.

Now to the third phase of Bishops. First from Rwanda and more recently from Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda there have arrived and are arriving on American shores American citizens who have been consecrated as bishop by Anglican Archbishops overseas. This is a totally new phenomenon in Anglicanism, where bishops are sent from several overseas Provinces into another Province, without the agreement or welcome of that Province, against the direct rules of the Anglican Family of Churches stated often in the Lambeth Conferences and in some cases without consultation with each other.

It is important to note that,

(a) there is a very mixed reception of this innovation within the Global Anglican Family and very few welcome it at this stage in time;
(b) there is only minimal cooperation in mission and pastoral care between the bishops who have been sent;
(c) what seem to be permanent or semi-permanent structures (networks, convocations and dioceses) are being created by some of these bishops (e.g. AMiA, CANA);
(d) that these missions and structures are in competition not only with TEC, the Continuers and REC, but also with each other for there is no stated agreement on territorial spheres by the African Provinces for the USA.

Thus it seems clear that these bishops, whatever their devotion and gifts, are by the very reality of the situation into which they have come and where they function, the very opposite of signs and symbols of unity of the Body of Christ. In fact, they have entered into what may be called a chaotic situation of American Anglicanism, and they have added without intending to do so to its chaos and dysfunctionality. One may say that this is not how apostles or their successors act even if there is a rescue operation of disaffected and disenfranchised Episcopalians to undertake!

In conclusion a radical proposal for a very problematic situation.

Probably the only way forward that will have a chance of restoring the unity of the Episcopate as apostolic in pedigree and teaching for the U.S.A. is as follows:

(a) TEC to go its own way with other churches as a Federation of modern Episcopalian Churches;

(b) all the rest from REC through Continuers and former TEC folk to Africa based groups to meet in Congress, to form a Province (based on sound Anglican comprehensiveness) where the first act is for each and every bishop to resign permanently and fully, and then, after a season of cooling off and prayerful consultation, for the minimum number of bishops to be elected in a godly way for the whole united people in order for there to be a viable province with three dioceses as a starter. Then American Anglicans get back as it were to 1785-9 and to reconstitute the American Episcopate which was originally created in those formative days of the Republic and PECUSA.

The Revd Dr Peter Toon
President of the Prayer Book Society 2007

GOD as The LORD is invisible to our eyes, but is the Church as really Church also INVISIBLE?

If the answer is in the affirmative then life in the supermarket of religions in the USA may be tolerable!

Let us begin with a contrast between “theoretical doctrine” and the “practical reality.”

The Lord Jesus Christ taught that there is one Church – “upon this rock I will build my Church”; his apostles taught that there is one Church and they identified this Church through the use of various metaphors or models – e.g., the Body of Christ, the Bride of Christ and the royal Priesthood; and the ecumenical Creed declares in summary of the biblical teaching that there is “one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.”

However, what the eyes see in the USA is not one Church, not even one Anglican, one Lutheran, one Presbyterian, one Baptist, or one Orthodox Church. They behold a vast array of denominations, which are distinguished from each other by name, by size, by what they stand for, by their polity and organization, by their ethnicity and so on. Each of them claims either to be the whole of, or a part of, the one Church of God and some but not all of them are in fellowship with others. It is veritably amazing sight to behold and ponder.

So the question arises daily: How can we maintain belief in the One Church of Scripture and Creed, and, at the same time, live within the massive variety of competitive denominations and congregations in the West, particularly in the U.S.A.? More specifically, how can we as Anglicans live within the multiplicity of Anglican denominations, networks, groups and jurisdictions in “the homeland”?

We may recall that it was after the Reformation of the sixteenth century that the proliferation of separated Christian groups really took off—first National Churches broke off from the Papacy, then religious toleration within nation states led to various nonconformist and dissenting groups being active, and further toleration led to the multiplication of denominations and sects. In the USA with the separation of church and state and with religious freedom, the proliferation is immense and gets more so.

In England, the questions of what is, and where is, the Church were faced by the Anglican/Puritan/Presbyterian divines who met in Westminster Abbey, London, in the 1640s, and who produced the Westminster Catechisms and Confession of Faith. In Chapter XXV of the Confession they wrote this “Of the Church”:

1.The catholic or universal Church, which is invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect, that have been or are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ the Head thereof; and is the spouse, the body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all.

2. The visible Church, which is also catholic or universal under the Gospel (not confined to one nation, as before under the law), consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion; and of their children; and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.

3. Unto this catholic, visible Church, Christ hath given the ministry, oracles, and ordinances of God, for the gathering and perfecting of the saints, in this life to the end of the world: and doth by His own presence and Spirit, according to His promise, make them effectual thereunto.

4.This catholic Church hath been sometimes more, sometimes less, visible. And particular Churches, which are members thereof, are more or less pure, according as the doctrine of the Gospel is taught and embraced, ordinances administered, and public worship performed more or less purely in them.

5. The purest Churches under heaven are subject both to mixture and error; and some have so degenerated, as to become no Church of Christ, but synagogues of Satan. Nevertheless, there shall be always a Church on earth to worship God according to His will….

In making a distinction between (a) the One true Church of God, known only in its entirety to God and thus invisible to man who belongs to space and time, and (b) the variety of visible national Churches (or later of national Churches and denominations) together making up the One mixed and divided Church of God visible on earth, this Confession stated what was held in common by all Protestants at that time. (We may note that Roman Catholics made the same essential distinction between the invisible and visible but stated the relation between the two in terms which effectively identified the visible only with the jurisdiction on earth of the R C Church.)

So we return to the present day and the supermarket of Christian groups in the USA! One the one hand, we believe in the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church” and on the other, we practically believe in or accept a vast variety of denominations, effectively in competition with each other. And, for Anglicans, there is the added embarrassment of having separated missions and groups of churches (networks, dioceses or convocations) not only home-spun but also founded recently by African provinces on U.S.A. soil.

Let us be clear: for 99 per cent of Americans the vast variety of religious groups in the amazing supermarket of religion is part of the glory of America, relating to its foundation in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Thus for the majority what I raise as a problem is rather a necessary and good part of the reality that is the U.S.A.

However, for the thoughtful, who take the New Testament and Creed seriously, there is a dilemma of reconciling what seem to be two irreconcilable things—One Church and a multitude of denominations.

It would seem that the only real option—unless one accepts the classic Roman Catholic claim and joins that ancient Ecclesia—for facing this dilemma is to accept in broad terms this distinction between invisible and visible—and for Anglicans we may say that the distinction is actually presumed though not explicitly stated by the Articles of Religion and The Book of Common Prayer (1662) of the Anglican Way.

How else, I frequently ask myself, can one make any sense of the complexity of the situation in the USA in terms of the massive variety of denominations, all claiming to be under Christ the Lord, all preach the Gospel and all based upon the revelation recorded in Holy Scripture?

Of course, to accept the distinction between the Church as invisible and as visible, does not mean that one should use it to justify the existence of thousands of denominations or to justify starting a new one when we feel like it.

However, one value in accepting it means that we can sleep at night and not be overwhelmed by the burden of the total disunity of the baptized Christians in the U.S.A.; another is that we see brothers and sister in Christ in groups and congregations other than our own, and we can view them as future neighbors in the heavenly Jerusalem! And, further, such considerations will surely lead us to desire to work for practical unity locally amongst the professing Christian people of the area—to serve the needy and poor and so on.

But, before I close, I need to indicate one major way in which the doctrine of the Church as invisible is often wrongly used. This is when someone acts as if, as a “born-again believer,” she or he has a kind of direct individualistic link as a human person to God the Father through Jesus Christ (a kind of dial-up instant link). Note how the Westminster Confession states in (2) that ordinarily there is no salvation outside the belonging to and being a full member of the visible Church—a local congregation where the Word is preach and the Two Sacraments administered.

In these days when individual autonomy is assumed as basic to living in the West, there is the real danger of linking this sense of autonomy to a doctrine of the Church as invisible and thereby misunderstanding the relation of the individual believer to Christ, to the members of Christ’s Body, to the local church and to God the Father! New birth, being born from above by the Holy Spirit, is birth into the position of a child of God: it is Salvation as an individual person into the family of God so that one has brothers and sisters from then and on into eternity! Thus the relation to God is together with others and not in a solo performance and existence—members one of another!

It will only be at the Parousia of the Son of Man in glory at the end of the age that the problem of the multiplicity of denominations will be solved. Till then we have to live with it, seeking in and through it to serve the Lord Jesus according to our best lights and will. This makes being a genuine Christian in America extremely difficult and demanding—not impossible but seemingly sometime nearly so.

Sept 19 2007

The Revd Dr Peter Toon

Focus of Unity, Sound Doctrine and Order: The Episcopate as it is intended to be & can be

When Anglicans think of the Episcopate and defend it to Congregationalists and Presbyterians, and explain it to their own people, they usually claim that its importance and strength derive from the combination of the following considerations:

1. The Episcopate symbolizes and secures in an abiding form the apostolic mission and authority within the Church of Christ; historically the Episcopate became in the Early Church the organ of this mission and authority.

2. In early times the continuous successions of Bishops in tenure of the various Sees were valued because they secured the purity of apostolic teaching as against, for example, the danger of the introduction of novel and erroneous teaching by means of written or secret traditions, falsely ascribed to apostolic authors. It has remained a function of the Episcopate, even after the era of the promulgation of dogma by Ecumenical Councils, to guard the Church against erroneous teaching.

3. The Bishop in his official capacity and vocation represents the whole Church in and to his diocese, and his diocese in and to the Councils of the Church. He is therefore a living Representative of the unity and universality of the Church.

4. The Bishop in his diocese represents the Good Shepherd; the idea of pastoral care is inherent in his office. Both clergy and laity look to him as Chief Pastor, and he represents in a special degree the paternal quality of pastoral care (“father in God”).

5. In as much as the unity of the Church is in part secured by an orderly method of making new Ministers, and the Bishop is the proper organ of unity and universality, he is the appropriate agent for carrying on through ordination the authority of the apostolic mission of the Church.

It is the coalescence of all of these elements in a single person (man) that gives to the Episcopate its peculiar importance in traditional Anglican doctrine. And it is such an Episcopate that has been the ideal—and often the norm—in the Anglican Communion of Churches until the ecclesial troubles of the twentieth century on into the twenty-first brought disorder into the Office.

Within The Episcopal Church the College of Bishops (by its majority vote) has since the 1960s rejected the historical vocation and role of the Episcopate and is the cause of error, heresy and division because it has chosen to pursue and put in place innovations in doctrine, worship, order and discipline. Tragically, not a few of the Bishops believe that they have a modern “prophetic role” to use the office to propagate teaching which is contrary to the plain sense of Holy Scripture and to the doctrines within sacred Tradition. So they are in reality creating a denomination which finds divine revelation in contemporary Experience and worships the God of evolution and process. So in TEC the Episcopate is the sign of innovation which causes confusion and disorder. (See further my Episcopal Innovations 1960-2004 from

Within other Anglican jurisdictions in the USA and Canada, groups that claim to preserve orthodox and biblical truth, there are eighty or more men in the office of bishop. Since they are not in one Church with territorial dioceses, they are in a varying range of parallel and cross-over dioceses and networks, seemingly competing with each other. Some but not all are loosely aligned in Common Cause. No doubt each bishop has a very high doctrinal view of his office and vocation and makes sacrifices to pursue it; but the sad reality is that what is meant to be the sign and symbol of unity is in day to day reality the very opposite – the Episcopate in the varied Extra-Mural Anglicanism of North America is right now the sign of dis-unity and dis-order! (Within Extra-Mural one includes the descendants of the seceders of 1873 and 1977, as well as the seceders of the last few years. Regrettably there is very little connection between the seceders of 1977 and those of the late 1990s and 2004-7.).

Therefore the situation in which we find ourselves is that whether as Anglicans we be revisionist or orthodox, progressively liberal or conservatively traditional, we live with the most regrettable and embarrassing reality of the Episcopate as the sign of the very opposite which God in his providence intended it to be – see the Preface to the Ordinal in the BCP (1662). And if the Episcopate as a body is in such a dysfunctional state how can we expect the flock of Christ to be also anything other than dysfunctional—like shepherd so the sheep.

The Lord Jesus Christ, the Bishop of bishops, surely expects better of us all then this!.

Sept 17 2007

The Revd Dr Peter Toon

Cautionary Tale from the Orthodox Churches for Anglican Seceders

Food for thought about schisms and divisions even amongst those who are “orthodox” in doctrine.
A correspondent, himself a former Orthodox priest and now an Anglican, believes that there is a very powerful cautionary tale for contemporary Anglican seceders to receive concerning the many splits within Orthodoxy in North America. Here are extracts from notes he has sent to me. (Note that the splits are not about basic doctrine or liturgy as such but about other things including ethnicity.)
“I have read the comments at David Virtue's posting regarding your [Peter Toon’s] article and I stand by your observations. I hope that these bishops [from overseas and within Common Cause] take a lesson of what not to do from the Orthodox who have been divided in the US and Canada since the Russian Revolution. There have been only two, albeit, uneasy reaties/reconciliations, those being the split in the Serbian Orthodox Church which lasted thirty-five years and the recent unification of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia with the Moscow Patriarchate, which itself has caused at least three more splits within the ROCOR since July. It is always much easier to break Humpty Dumpty than to put him back together.”

Then he explains in more detail:

“To understand anything about the current divided state of Eastern Orthodox Christianity as it exists in the diaspora, one must go back to its first efforts here in the New World. Prior to the purchase of Alaska from Russia, missionaries of the Russian Orthodox Church had been quite active amongst the native peoples of that region for some time. Wherever Russians went they brought along their church. Because the Russians constituted the largest and most influential political power in the Orthodox World it was quite natural that they had assumed the leadership role amongst all Orthodox in both Canada and the US. It was only much later that other Orthodox nationalities began to have their own bishops in North America. Besides the Russians there were Greeks, Serbians, Romanians, Bulgarians as well as Syrians; but there were smaller groups of Orthodox Hungarians, Albanians, Georgians as well. Not to speak of Ethiopians, Copts, Assyrians and others as well. At the time of the Russian Revolution there was a lot of problems in the Russian Church in the entire diaspora. At first most sided with the emigre bishops, who later found themselves under the leadership of Metropolitan Anthony Krapovitski of Kiev who moved to Constantinople and later to Sremski-Karlovatski in Serbia. At the time of the Revolution the Russian Church was still operating under the old Synodal system without a Patriarch since the abolition of the Patriarchate under Peter the Great. In 1918. Patriarch Tikhon was elected to the restored office, but he was martyred under the Soviets in 1921. In America, and elsewhere, other Orthodox Churches began to appoint their own bishops and thus began the separation that exists to this day. The Greek Archdiocese of North America, the Antiochian Archdiocese, The Serbian Orthodox Church and others began to administer themselves and there began the overlapping of jurisdictions. There were further disintegrations when the Patriarchate of Constantinople adopted the "New" calendar. There began to appear numerous Greek bishops each claiming to be the lawful hierarchs who continued to observe the Julian or "Old" Calendar. To this day there are several Greek bishops each claiming to be the bishop of Astoria, New York. Some were good men while some were completely uncanonical by any stretch of the imagination. By the 1940s the Russians in North America had for the most part been under the authority of the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. I think it was at the Cleveland Sobor that the American Metropolia broke off from the Synod and there began to be two churches both claiming to be the true Russian Orthodox Church in North America. Meanwhile the Moscow Patriarchate held control of several churches. By the late 1960s the American Metropolia sought autecephaly from Moscow and were granted it, we know them now as the Orthodox Church in America. The OCA had some parishes which were Romanian, Bulgarian, and Hungarian, but for the most part they were Russians and Ukranians. There was no independent Ukranian Orthodox prior to 1918. Another group which played a big role in the history of the OCA were the Carpatho-Russians who had been for the most part uniates with Rome but who had joined the Orthodox in a wave of converts spearheaded by Father Alexis Toth. As I indicated there were further jurisdictional break-ups including Macedonians, but in the early 1960s there was a major split in the Serbian Orthodox in North America. This split was so harsh that families exhumed their family members from cemetaries and formed there own. I know this personally because before I became Anglican I had been a priest in the Serbian Orthodox Patriarchate.”

“The whole mess can be characterized in the following story. There was an English ship sailing past what had been thought to be a deserted island when the watch spotted smoke. The captain ordered a landing party to check it out. When they arrived on the island they were met by a Serb, the only survivor of ship which had sunk long before. The English sailors said that they would rescue him. Before leaving the island the Serb insisted on showing them what he had done while he was marooned. He had built a little house with a small library of books he had salvaged and a small farm with animals he had managed to capture. The sailors were impressed and insisted on getting back to the ship; but the Serb insisted on showing them his greatest achievement. They humored him and followed him through the jungle to a small clearing where before them stood two identical Orthodox churches next to one another. The sailors applauded the Serb's piety, but "why", they asked "did he ever build two identical churches when he was the only person on the island"? The Serb answered that he did so because he was Orthodox, therefore this church I go to and that one I don't go to. So you see the Orthodox situation is very much like that.”

The Revd Dr Peter Toon
President of the Prayer Book Society 2007

American Anglican Chaos (September 2007) & The Windsor Report (Paragraphs 154-155)

The Windsor Report (2004), accepted by three of the four Instruments of Unity of the Global Anglican Communion (Lambeth Conference not yet having met), has been much quoted in terms of what it laid as a moral requirement upon the two North American Provinces, especially The Episcopal Church [TEC]. However, it has been much less cited in terms of the moral requirement it laid upon other Provinces, which have been taking a particular interest in the internal affairs of these two North American Provinces.

First of all, the Report states what has always been a generally held doctrine by Anglicans since the sixteenth century.

The Anglican Communion upholds the ancient norm of the Church that all the Christians in one place should be united in their prayer, worship and celebration of the sacraments. The Commission believes that all Anglicans should strive to live out this ideal….We do not therefore favour the establishment of parallel jurisdictions.

We call upon those bishops who believe it is their conscientious duty to intervene in provinces, dioceses and parishes other than their own:

• To express regret for the consequences of their actions
• To affirm their desire to remain in the Communion, and
• To effect a moratorium on any further interventions.

We also call upon these archbishops and bishops to seek an accommodation with the bishops whose parishes they have taken into their care.

The Report also rightly goes on to call upon the American bishops to be much more cooperative with parishes that hold a different view of the Anglican Way to their own.

Since the publication of the Report and its acceptance by the Instruments of Unity, the call of the Commission has not only NOT been heeded, but the number of interventions from abroad in North America has rapidly increased. Where only Rwanda had bishops in “Networks” in the USA in 2004, now in 2007 the Provinces of Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda have bishops with “convocations” or “dioceses” in the USA and Canada. And over and above these groupings, various congregations are directly related to a foreign bishop in South America or Africa—and there are associations of Indian congregations having visits from Indian bishops.

Nigeria, Uganda and Kenya could have stood behind Rwanda’s Anglican Mission in the Americas and given it full support in order to maintain unity in intervention, but instead they choose to set up their own jurisdictions and ordain half a dozen or so bishops. And, let us be clear in their defense, that this rapid increase in foreign intervention has occurred as TEC and ACC have shown little or no inclination to express regret for and turn from their commitment to innovations in doctrine and practice, especially in sexual ethics. Further, at the local level some TEC and ACC bishops have acted totally against the spirit and letter of the Report in their treatment of traditional Christians. (In fact, many North American bishops see their role as prophets of a new form of Christianity with a world mission to implement the millennial goals as set forth by the United Nations and to establish the full dignity of all people whatever their “orientation” sexually.)

Without doubt both those who have intervened on a massive scale along and those who both invited and welcomed them believe that the infidelity and apostasy of TEC and ACC justify this innovative action (which in their clearer moments they recognize is totally against—in normal times—the received understanding of Church unity and of Bishops as the sign and symbol of unity, for right now Bishops are clearly the sign of chaos and disunity in American Anglicanism).

Living within crisis and chaos and dysfunctionality, it is most difficult for even the wisest amongst us to discern when asking for intervention or engaging in intervention in another’s territory is justified.

And because of the pressure of modern communication, especially e-mail, the ancient virtues of careful discrimination and godly patience have been made nearly impossible to exercise. At the same time the internal recognition by the African Provinces that their position has been totally reversed from being the subjects of colonialism to calling the tune in the Global Anglican Family has caused a kind of irrational euphoria to arise in their midst and cause them to take actions that they may regret down the line.

Thus though Lambeth Conference 2008 (the chief Instrument of Unity of the Anglican Communion) is not far away there is not the readiness amongst the seceders in North America or by their friends abroad to restrain actions until that date—in fact there is not the readiness on the part of four African Provinces to wait even until September 30, 2007, when TEC Bishops are required by the Primates’ Meeting to come clean on where they stand and will stand.

There were all kinds of other possible ways of caring for the seceders from TEC and ACC by overseas bishops as we all waited patiently for Lambeth 2008, after which there could have been if necessary concerted action. Though TEC and ACC have behaved badly and continue to do so, the exercise of Christian virtue by the displaced and the seceders could have been increased by the abundant grace of God in this crisis. Perseverance and patience (see Romans 5:1ff) could have been in place in the relatively short wait until Lambeth 2008—and as long afterward as necessary to set in motion healing and edifying actions and institutions.

It is much easier to destroy a house than built a new one; it is much easier to consecrate bishops and send them into the vast territory of the USA and Canada than it is, in a couple of years time, to bring them all together into unity in a new province—unity together with former bishops of TEC, of REC, of APA, of the Canadian Church and of various Continuing Anglican Groups.

It is possible—in fact likely if we take the history of religion in the USA as a guide—that we are now witnessing the permanent multiplication of Anglican jurisdictions in North America, adding to those caused by the schisms of 1873 and 1977 (the REC and the variety of Continuing Anglican Churches).

This is extremely sad and brings grief and sorrow to genuine Anglican hearts. It seems as though the whole Anglican Way has been blown apart not only by the infidelity of leaders in TEC & ACC but also by the excessive zeal of African Provinces. (Lest anyone should doubt my evaluation of TEC as being in infidelity let him/her read my Episcopal Innovations 1960-2004 from or 1-800-727-1928.)

I deeply feel for Archbishop Rowan Williams (who like others has made some serious errors of judgment in this whole crisis but who is of tender heart) as he encounters TEC House of Bishops in a few days time. In fact I implore the almighty Father to have mercy upon that whole gathering in New Orleans.

Sept 16 2007 Dr Peter Toon

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Bishops & the Collects for Trinity XV & XVI

Common Cause, an affiliation of ten ecclesial groups in the USA & Canada, has in its theological basis a commitment to The BCP 1662 as a Formulary.

Before the meeting of the Bishops from these ten groups in Pittsburgh on September 26-28, 2007 (occurring immediately after TEC House of Bishops Meeting in New Orleans) I suggest that all Episcopalians/Anglicans concerned for Truth in Unity and Unity in Truth in American Anglicanism pray fervently the two Collects in The BCP for Trinity XV (Sept 16) and Trinity XVI (Sept 23).

I shall print them in their original Cranmerian form and then in the kind of language many in Common Cause prefer for worship, before offering a few explanatory comments as to their profound meaning for us.

First of all, here is the Collect for Trinity XV which is to be prayed during the week of the meeting of TEC House of Bishops, with the Archbishop of Canterbury as guest:

Keep, we beseech thee, O Lord, thy Church with thy perpetual mercy; and, because the frailty of man without thy help cannot but fall, keep us ever by thy help from all things hurtful, and lead us to all things profitable to our salvation; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Lord God, guard and maintain your Church, we pray, with your never ending and unchanging mercy; and because we always in our weakness need your constant help, keep us ever by your help from everything that can hurt us and at the same time lead us into everything that is profitable to our salvation; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Here we acknowledge the following theological, spiritual and practical facts:

• We pray not merely as servants but as undeserving sinners and servants, and so we “beg” and “beseech” for we have no rights before God. Only in and through Jesus Christ do we approach the heavenly Throne.
• The Church belongs uniquely to God the Father, the Lord our God, for he brought it into being through his mercy and by the saving work of Jesus Christ.
• Thus the Church can only be what it is intended to be and do what it is intended to do by the divine will, through the constant presence of the mercy and grace of the Father.
Baptized members of the Church still retain their “fallen” natures and thus in their moral and spiritual weakness can at any time fall from the way of faith and holiness into the ways of error and darkness.
• Likewise the local manifestation or branch of the Church can fall from the same way of faith and holiness into infidelity, schism and confusion.
• The Church as the local household of God with each and all of its members can only stay on the narrow way that leads to the Holy Trinity and everlasting salvation by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, bringing the grace and mercy of God to his people, and causing the baptized to be true disciples of the Lord Jesus.

And further, we assume (as does The BCP) that in one region there is one only branch of the Church—at least one Anglican branch.

Now we move on to the next Collect for Trinity XVI, which is actually prayed the week of the Common Cause Bishops Meeting in PA,

O Lord, we beseech thee, let thy continual pity cleanse and defend thy Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without thy succour, preserve it evermore by thy help and goodness, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Lord God, let your continual, gracious kindness cleanse and defend your Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without your constant protection, preserve it always by your help and goodness, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Here we acknowledge the following:

• We bring no merits or rights to God the Father and thus we beg for mercy through the mediation of his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
• The Church is a divine institution but inhabited by human beings who are prone to sin and thus contaminate the Church by their sin.
• Only the gracious intervention and action by God the Father through his Son and by the Holy Spirit is sufficient to purify and strengthen the Church on earth.
• The Church can only fulfill its vocation as it is guided, cleansed, empowered and sanctified by the Holy Trinity.

One may note that there is no sense of triumphalism (only begging!) in these Collects for none of us whether we be from Africa or the USA has anything to boast before the Blessed, Glorious and Undivided Holy Trinity as we approach HIM only in the Name of Jesus, God Incarnate and sole Mediator.

Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to thy Cross I cling.

The renewal of the Anglican Way begins at the foot of the Cross, the Cross that towers over the wrecks of time, and here there is saving truth with unity, and unity in Christ with truth, through the shed blood of the sinless and pure Saviour, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

September 15, 2007. Dr Peter Toon

The Book of Common Prayer as only Prayer Book or as Formulary also

--a discussion starter for those who use the classic Book of Common Prayer with its own language of prayer.

I want to suggest, if not prove, that amongst traditionalist Anglicans, of the kind who support the Prayer Book Societies in Great Britain or in North America, there are two different ways of receiving, using and interpreting any of the basic editions of the one Book of Common Prayer.

(A) One approach is to see The BCP standing alone in its own right as a/the Prayer Book. Here The BCP is said to contain excellent Liturgy and to fulfill the worshipping needs of people both in public and in private and for all occasions in life. Its language is said to be of such a quality that it helps to separate one from the normal things of the world and to be able to concentrate upon praying to God and meditating upon his works and words. In terms of its teaching it is seen as being illustrative and expressive of the basic doctrines of the Apostles and Nicene Creed and thus of being “central” and not supportive of enthusiasm or extremes.

Because this approach tends to dwell on the fine language, which, of course, is not the same as that spoken outside the assembly of the worshippers, there is a tendency here not to see or unconsciously to avoid the basic doctrines that those, who composed The BCP from medieval liturgies and the Bible, regarded as very important. That is, the aesthetic appreciation of the language becomes the very means whereby what the language actually shapes and presents is missed.

All students of The BCP 1662 would agree that, for example, from the hands of Cranmer and associates, it assumes the doctrine of original and actual sin and thus denies all forms of (English) Pelagianism; it presents and embodies justification by faith alone, denying any possibility of salvation by works even though it calls for good works as the expression of true faith; it assumes the gracious headship of the male in family and church, and it understands that godly fear (awe and reverence) of God is a basic mark of the Christian life.

My point is that not a few of the doctrinal assumptions of the Reformed Catholicism of the Church of England from the Elizabethan Settlement, which are truly writ large in the edition of The BCP of 1559, 1604 and 1662, can be missed when the same BCP is viewed standing alone and primarily in aesthetic terms and without reference to what its authors and editors believed it taught.

(B) Another approach, which the Canon Law of the Church of England has always assumed, is that The BCP is not only a Prayer Book but it is also a Formulary (giving Form to the Doctrine of the Church) along with The Ordinal (services for ordinations) and The Thirty-Nine Articles. And, further, that these three are complementary and present essentially alone and together the same form of doctrine—Reformed Catholicism.

In this way of looking at The BCP, it is seen as doxology, the expression of doctrine in adoration, praise, thanksgiving, confession, intercession and petition. It expresses the doctrines found in The Articles not in propositional terms but in the language of prayer. Thus the people of God confess the Holy Trinity by praying to the Father through the Son and with the Holy Spirit and they look for salvation and blessing from the Father through the Son and by the Holy Spirit. In terms of the Minister, his identity and calling is read from The Ordinal and from there into The BCP so that what each of the Three Orders is and does is based upon what The Ordinal presents and teaches.


If any of the Three is separated from the others then the genius of Reformed Catholicism of the Anglican Way is lost in full or in part.

Without the Ordinal and Articles, The BCP can be set in a context wherein it is simply the prayers of social conservatives who think of its language as poetic and metaphorical and not as teaching doctrine.

Without The BCP and The Articles, The Ordinal sets apart Ministers for a Church without form and shape.

Without The Ordinal and The BCP, The Articles can become like a continental confession of faith, thereby removing doctrine from an intimate relation to worship and living.

So there are modern two ways in the West to tame The BCP and make it seem like a sweet poetical collection of words about God that decent, conservative people use in preference to modern liturgical compositions that lack quality and tend towards progressive liberalism:

One is to separate it from the other two Formularies, as not a few do in the West today, in order to be able to forget or overlook its built-in doctrines and allow it to be a satisfying cloak to social conservatism.

And the other is the way of some modern liturgists—especially those of the C of E liturgical commission right now in 2007—and that is to smile kindly and paternalistically upon The BCP, to say good things about it, to commend its use occasionally, and to make sure thereby that its doctrinal thrust is partly or fully negated by heaping on it feigned praise and thus making sure that this “lion” cannot roam free and roar.

The BCP is doxology but it is also doctrine and the doxology is not truly expressed unless it is informed by the doctrine, for who God is, who Jesus Christ is and what is salvation from sin into glory, are supremely important in both prayer and life.

The Revd Dr Peter Toon Sept 13 2007