Friday, October 29, 2010

Statements from the Lambeth Conferences of 1878 and 1888: The Book of Common Prayer is Central to Worship and Doctrine

Resolutions from Lambeth 1878
Recommendation 7

Union Among the Churches of the Anglican Communion - Encyclical Letter 1.11-12: Of diversities in worship
Your Committee, believing that, next to oneness in "the faith once delivered to the saints," communion in worship is the link which most firmly binds together bodies of Christian men, and remembering that the Book of Common Prayer, retained as it is, with some modifications, by all our Churches, has been one principal bond of union among them, desire to call attention to the fact that such communion in worship may be endangered by excessive diversities of ritual. They believe that the internal unity of the several Churches will help greatly to the union of these one with another. And, while they consider that such large elasticity in the forms of worship is desirable as will give wide scope to all legitimate expressions of devotional feeling, they would appeal, on the other hand, to the apostolic precept that "all things be done unto edifying," and to the Catholic principle that order and obedience, even at the sacrifice of personal preferences and tastes, lie at the foundation of Christian unity, and are even essential to the successful maintainance of the faith.

They cannot leave this subject without expressing an earnest hope that churchmen of all view, however varying, will recognise the duty of submitting themselves, for conscience' sake, in matters ritual and ceremonial, to the authoritative judgements of that particular or national Church in which, by God's providence, they may be placed; and that they will abstain from all that tends to estrangement or irritation, and will rather daily and fervently pray that the Holy Spirit may guide every member of the Church to "think and do always such things as be rightful," and that he may unite us all in that brotherly charity which is "the very bond of peace and of all virtues."

[NOTE: The Lambeth Conference of 1878 did not adopt any formal Resolutions as such. The mind of the Conference was recorded by incorporating the Reports of its five Committees, received by the plenary Conference with almost complete unanimity, into an Encyclical Letter which was duly published. Recommendations embodied in the Committee Reports were evidently accorded equivalent status to formal Resolutions, and they are reproduced here as they appeared in the course of the Encyclical Letter, under appropriate reference.]

Resolutions from Lambeth 1888
Resolution 19

That, as regards newly constituted Churches, especially in non-Christian lands, it should be a condition of the recognition of them as in complete intercommunion with us, and especially of their receiving from us episcopal succession, that we should first receive from them satisfactory evidence that they hold substantially the same doctrine as our own, and that their clergy subscribe articles in accordance with the express statements of our own standards of doctrine and worship; but that they should not necessarily be bound to accept in their entirety the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion.

The statement of Lambeth 1878, echoed in 1888, that it is worship which most firmly binds together bodies of Christian men is one of great importance for the communion today. The Book of Common Prayer was seen to be the single most important bond of union. It was not a matter of contract, or covenant, or even agreement about the totality of the Thirty-Nine Articles, it was the practice of prayer.

It is worth pondering the motivation behind such statements.

Do these resolutions not suggest that the doctrine of the Anglican Church is in the Book of Common Prayer itself, in the worship?

It also seems to me that these Resolutions suggest that the very antiquity of the pattern of daily, weekly, and seasonal worship found in the Book of Common Prayer was in itself a reason for obedience and submission.

Finally, it would seem that behind these Resolutions might lie that idea common to the Magisterial Reformers and the Anglican Reformation, Cranmer and Calvin included, that while we are first justified by faith, we also require the sanctifying grace available through the work of prayer and sacrament in order to work blessedness among us.

It particularly seems to me that they are assuming that as humans err, their reason is fallen and their will contrary, knowing the 'faith once delivered from the saints' requires following "the apostolic precept that 'all things be done unto edifying,' and to the Catholic principle that order and obedience, even at the sacrifice of personal preferences and tastes."

--Roberta Bayer, PhD, Editor, The Mandate