Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween and Reformation Day

Today marks the vigil of the feast of All Saints on the Christian calendar and is a fast day in the 1662 BCP.  It also commemorates the beginning of the Reformation when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the church door in Wittenberg.

God bless.

The Collect.

O ALMIGHTY God, who hast knit together thine elect in one communion and fellowship, in the mystical body of thy Son Christ our Lord; Grant us grace so to follow thy blessed Saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those unspeakable joys, which thou hast prepared for them that unfeignedly love thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Epistle.

AND I  saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea, Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads. And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel.
    Of the tribe of Juda were sealed twelve thousand.
    Of the tribe of Reuben were sealed twelve thousand.
    Of the tribe of Gad were sealed twelve thousand.
    Of the tribe of Aser were sealed twelve thousand.
    Of the tribe of Nephthalim were sealed twelve thousand.
    Of the tribe of Manasses were sealed twelve thousand.
    Of the tribe of Simeon were sealed twelve thousand.
    Of the tribe of Levi were sealed twelve thousand.
    Of the tribe of Issachar were sealed twelve thousand.
    Of the tribe of Zabulon were sealed twelve thousand.
    Of the tribe of Joseph were sealed twelve thousand.
    Of the tribe of Benjamin were sealed twelve thousand.
    After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.

The Gospel.

JESUS, seeing the multitudes, went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Rebuilding a Broken House: The Foundation

I want to begin a series of posts which will lay out for you, the reader, some suggestions that I have as to how we can begin to rebuild Anglicanism, from the ground up.  This blog has been dedicated to exploring some of the historical issues associated with Anglican churchmanship; now I want to offer my ideas about how to solve some of the problems which have crept up over the past hundred years with little challenge, especially in the Protestant Episcopal Church.

I compare our Church to a crumbling house, one that is imploding on itself.  The question arises, what causes a building to fall?  The answer I think of is that the foundation is not sturdy enough to hold the building up.  I think this is exactly what has happened to our Church over the years.  We have the problem as conservatives, especially, of claiming that liberals have misinterpreted Anglican theology but on what basis do we make that claim?  Therein lies the problem, from my perspective, the theological and liturgical authority of the Book of Common Prayer and the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion has been eroded over time, since the Oxford Movement, so that now they are ignored by clergy and unknown to many laity.  This is simply unacceptable for a Church.  What other Church ignores her foundation?  Most people know the Episcopal Church as being "Catholic lite" that is only because we have willfully ignored our own tradition to the extent that no one knows what our Church is really all about, except, perhaps, somewhat of a liturgical appreciation society for disaffected Romans who dislike their own Church's marital discipline.  My friends, this is simply unacceptable.

There is a theological authority in the Anglican tradition and that is found in several documents, which together make up what we call formularies.  This word is not a commonplace word in contemporary English parlance, thus I will quote an excellent summation of the nature of formularies from an older Prayer Book Society article, "Anglican Formularies - Are Evangelicals really missing out?":

"Perhaps here is the right place to reflect for a moment on the word “Formulary”, which is not a word in common usage, but an important word, nevertheless, as it has been used in serious Anglican discourse consistently since the sixteenth century. The Latin word, formularius (liber) [=a book of formulae], on which it is based, pointed to a collection of set forms or instructions for the performance or direction of a ceremony or an official duty. Thus a “formulary’ within a national Church is a book which contains the set forms and rules of what the Church believes, teaches and confesses, the liturgy it uses, and the way it creates the ordained Ministry. In reforming itself in the sixteenth century, the Ecclesia Anglicana reformed its Formularies (those which had been in force in the medieval period) to create three new ones – The Book of Common Prayer, The Book of Ordination Services [Ordinal] and The Thirty-Nine Articles, along with a new edition of Canon Law. Under the authority of Scripture, these summed up and presented the standards, norms and means by which the reformed Church of England sought to be the national jurisdiction of the Catholic Church of God. These Formularies not only provided the way to worship and serve God daily but they also distinguished the Church of England from other jurisdictions in Scotland and Europe. Take away the Formularies and leave only the Bible and what you have is a Church without shape, form and substance for there are no common standards or guidelines to govern all the many parts and keep them together as one."

Peter Toon (I presume wrote this) adequately defines what a formulary is and I think presents it in a good contrast to a confession.  This will serve to ease the objections of certain Churchmen to an allegiance to the Articles, for to them it stinks of Puritan confessionalism.  While I would contend this definition of confessionalism, it is fine by my book to distinguish between formularies and confessions (for that reason they are called Articles).  The formularies are not as exhaustive as other Protestant confessions and allow for that sense of comprehensiveness which is characteristic of our tradition.  The article does a good job of pointing out that there are more than one source for the formularies: the Book of Common Prayer, the Ordinal, the Articles of Religion, and the Homilies (Toon doesn't mention them).  Also, historical canons should be considered; the more important volume is the set of 1604, which were the canonical standards in England until the 20th century.  I will treat each source separately to consider how its use would be benefitial for us.

The Book of Common Prayer

Arguably the most important document for Anglicans, I will not consider its history or contents here as this deserves its own time and space.  The Book of Common Prayer is primarily a liturgical document meant to define and set boundaries to our public and private prayer.  But as Anglicans we know that liturgy is shaped and shapes theology according to the principle of lex orandi, lex credendi.  Therefore, the BCP is also a theological document for us.  The BCP has important things to say about Baptism and Communion and other important theological matters.  However, considering its liturgical purpose, the Prayer Book defines biblical worship by limiting our prayer to those things which are agreeable to Scripture.

The BCP should be reinstituted in our minds as the liturgical standard for Anglicanism.  Let me be clear as to what I am not saying.  I do not think that the solution for Anglicans is to begin using an edition of the classical BCP tomorrow, although I don't think that would hurt us.  The real issue is to absorb the theology of the BCP first and then use its forms.  I am not of the mind that adopting Elizabethan English will solve our theological problems for I know of many heretics who can read Elizabethan English.  I think eventually the restoration of truly Common Prayer needs to be accomplished but I think that is a "phase two" aspect of Anglican restoration.  The BCP in its traditional form requires a certain sense of decency lacking in modern circles which has to be acquired by abandoning all forms of Popery and newfangled pop religion.

The BCP limits us from these departures from historic Anglican practices such as Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, Rosaries, Novenas, Purgatory, unreformed Masses, Requiems, "hymn sandwiches," conference-style worship, etc. all which are departures from our tradition.

The Ordinal

Nowadays the Ordinal is printed in the BCP but it used to be a separate booklet.  It is primarily concerned with Ordination.  The Ordinal keeps us in a godly frame of mind when thinking of the Christian ministry.  The apostolic order requires the orders of bishops, priests, and deacons serving in ministry in Christ's Church.  The Ordinal guards us against unorderly conduct in ordination such as to think we can ordain our own ministers as is the case in Nonconformist churches and also from the error of sacerdotalism common in Romanism and Eastern Orthodoxy.  The classical Ordinal also guards us from the error of the ordination of women, which is a departure from apostolic order and witness.

The Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion

Arguably the least known of the formularies and often most ignored, deliberately.  The Articles are meant to give a theological interpretation of the BCP and also address certain issues of the time in which they were written.  In fact, this is one of the arguments against their applicability today.  Many argue that they are a relic of the past, only drawn up to answer 16th century problems (tell that to an African primate!).  While it is true that the Articles of Religion were written in response to sixteenth century problems, they still hold today as the authoritative, theological standard for Anglicanism.  A similar line of argument could be used to justify liberal theology, was not the Nicene Creed a response to fourth century issues?  It is important to note here that the 39 Articles do not necessitate Calvinism for the holder (although they do not preclude it).  The Articles are subject to interpretation as are all written documents.  The important thing here is to adopt interpretations which are faithful to the original text, which excludes fanciful interpretations such as that of Mr. Newman.  At this point, I must point out some excellent commentaries on them, from differing theological stands.  Griffith-Thomas offers the classic Reformed interpretation (Boultbee is a good alternative to him), Browne offers a classical High Church interpretation, Bicknell is one of the more popular editions but he was influenced heavily by Newman and I would discourage the use of his work without comparison with other works.

The Articles prohibit unbiblical theology such as works salvation, Purgatory, the Mass as a propitiatory sacrifice, seven sacraments, images, relics, invocation of saints, memorialism, consubstantiation, transubstantiation, Anabaptism, etc.  However, they allow flexibility in areas such as soteriology (between Calvinism, Arminianism, Armyraldianism, etc.), eschatology (although classically amil/postmil), exact nature of baptism and Communion, (receptionism vs. dynamic virtualism), the exact nature of the eucharistic sacrifice (commemoration of a sacrifice vs. commemorative sacrifice, etc.), which shows the depth of theological comprehensiveness allowed by Anglicanism.  The function of the Articles is to limit that comprehensiveness to an ecumenical and Protestant creedal orthodoxy.

The Homilies

I must be honest in that I do not know much about the Homilies.  They were written to provide orthodox sermons for those priests who were not well educated enough to compose their own sermons.  They generally elaborate on points made in the Articles.  The most famous example is in the Article on Justification which refers to the Homily for further clarification.

The Canons of 1604

Although not a technical formulary in the classical sense, the 1604 Canons are a fascinating read and provide further clarity, generally of a liturgical and ceremonial matter.  For instance, they interpret the Ornaments Rubric officially to mean a surplice at the least and a cope at the most as the officially-sanctioned vestments for Anglican priests.  They define that every church must have a holy table, font, and be kept decently.  They require communion three times a year (very frequent for that time) and much more.  I think a thorough re-evaluation of our canons in relation to the 1604 edition should be considered.

I hope I have provided a case for the theological foundation of our Church, grounded upon Holy Scripture and our formularies.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Thoughts on Choral Evensong

I have returned home from Choral Evensong at the Cathedral of All Saints downtown just now.  The cathedral offers choral evensong once a month.  Today, the service was sung in remembrance and thanksgiving for the gift of the King James Bible, which has been around for four hundred years this year, in 2011.  The Cathedral has a boys and men choir which glorifies God through its offering of choral music.  The Cathedral has been offering choral worship since its foundation in 1888 in downtown Albany (Also, the Cathedral of All Saints was the first cathedral built for the Episcopal Church), although the Choir of Men and Boys predates the building of the Cathedral, beginning in 1872.  The choir consists of boys age 7-14 who sing the soprano parts and a group of professional older singers who sing the alto, tenor, and bass parts.  The choir sings weekly at the main Cathedral service, Choral Evensong and other choral services and also in special concerts.  The choral setting chose this evening was William Byrd's "Great Service," which is a considerably challenging piece, even for an experienced choir.  If any of the readers of this blog are ever in New York's Capital Region, the Cathedral is a sight to see, located at 62 South Swan Street, Albany, NY 12210.

That serves as my advertisement for the Cathedral of All Saints (although there are other excellent and talented choirs all over the country!).  Now I want to advertise Choral Evensong.  I think Choral Evensong is one of those experiences which one has to experience.  It must seem quaint to the non-Anglican observer being an intricate expression of Anglican cathedral worship, which tends to express itself in a peculiar English manner of pomp unknown in other liturgical churches, even Rome.  The English cathedral tradition includes insights from the Reformers, the Caroline Divines, Tractarians, and Dearmerites, which creates a ceremonial which cannot be experienced elsewhere.  It is a peculiarly Anglican service for several reasons.  First, it is based on the Book of Common Prayer, although it diverges from this standard in certain points (including an introit and Office hymn, typically).  It is rooted in English culture and expresses itself as such.  It is also one of those services which bridges Anglican churchmanship battles, for just about everyone, even the staunchest Puritan can enjoy a good evensong on a summer night (even atheists enjoy it, as my last sentence alludes to a quote from Richard Dawkins).

Beyond the historical, liturgical, and cultural associations with Choral Evensong, there is also the theological richness of the service.  Even when modified, the Book of Common Prayer is a nearly flawless service appropriating glory to God through praise, thanksgiving, and prayer, with a thorough dose of Scriptural content, in fact, I can think of no better way to honor the King James Bible than to sing the Prayer Book Office for Evening Prayer.  I can only imagine at the service tonight, maybe some non-Christians had stumbled in to hear the choir, but at the same time, they were exposed to two Psalms, two readings, two biblical canticles, and a sermon exhorting the congregation to read the Scriptures in order to know God through Christ.  Perhaps an effective way to evangelize in a different manner.

Not every church can afford a choir but I think every church can hold regular and well-performed Evensongs, if we remove the "choral" adjective, for "evensong" implies a sung service in contrast to "Evening Prayer" which can be said or sung.  I think every parish should consider having an Evensong service as a way to reach out to unchurched people.  One, it eliminates the awkwardness for newcomers to church when they approach the Communion rail, often not ready or not knowing how to receive.  In addition, many are not baptized or in a state of sin and should not approach the rail.  It creates a Gospel culture based on the reading of Scripture and prayers through the Prayer Book which exposes the unchurched crowd to the story of Scripture, using the power of music, which is a universal element in all cultures as something people enjoy.  There are simple chant tones and hymns out there to start right away so that your parish will come to treasure this time-honored tradition in Anglicanism and join in mission together in a new way.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

A Balanced and Charitable Response to Bishop Mathes and Virtue Online

I hope to present to you a balanced and, above all, charitable response to an article on Virtue Online, which, in my opinon lacks both.  I pose a question to my readers, what good does it serve to be orthodox and lack charity?  We all know that many bishops, clergy, and laity in the Episcopal Church have gone down a path that many cannot follow, but for those who have departed, can we not agree to, "speak the truth in love"?  I have the unique opportunity of serving the Lord in the Anglican Mission and in the Episcopal Church, in that order, and I thank God for that opportunity, as I have learned much during my journey.  Perhaps my greatest concern in this whole mess is that those who have left have taken their orthodoxy with them but it has been coated with a hatred for the Episcopal Church which blinds the heart from Christian charity.  Does not Scripture say, "And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity."?  I am not contesting the orthodoxy of those in ACNA nor the heterodoxy of many of our bishops but rather the attitude of the heart of those involved in leaving and likewise our bishops' response, which has been less than charitable to those departing.  "Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?"

In particular, this response stems from a recent post on VirtueOnline which intends nothing less than to contend everything that the Bishop of San Diego, James R. Mathes, who makes several good points in his response to the Wall Street Journal article, "Twenty-First Century Excommunications," an article which did present some misinformation.  I do not know the Bishop Mathes's theological stances, nor does it matter, we are to love saints and sinners alike, and as a bishop in the Church, he deserves our respect nonetheless.

I will post Bishop Mathes's comments in bold, David Virtue's comments in italics, and my own in normal font.

In an online story published by The Wall Street Journal, titled "Twenty-first Century Excommunication," and accompanied by a video interview of the reporter, Mollie Ziegler Hemingway, the recent property disputes of The Episcopal Church were grossly mischaracterized. I have served as the Episcopal bishop of San Diego for almost seven years, and, in that capacity, dealt with three congregations in which the ordained leaders and their followers attempted to leave the Episcopal Church with parish property. In these dealings, I was threatened with death and told I will go to hell by those who claim to love Jesus more than I do. Other colleagues have had similar experiences, from death threats to being spit at during church services. Ms. Hemingway would have you believe that the animus we have received is about scriptural interpretation, but make no mistake: this is about power.

It is partly about power - power wielded by liberal and revisionist bishops who have "another gospel" that is not the genuine Good News proclaimed in Holy Writ. As a result, tens of thousands of Episcopalians have left the Episcopal Church and are forming orthodox Anglican communities of faith that do proclaim the Good News that does not include endorsing a variety of pansexual behaviors, is not accepting of sexual sin and demands that all repent and come to a knowledge of Jesus Christ. It IS primarily about "scriptural interpretation" and theology and the wielding of power is a part of it.

Bishop Mathes has lost fully one quarter (nine) of his parishes (Episcopalians) to other Anglican jurisdictions because of the Episcopal Church's apostasies.

On the issue of power. 

No Presiding Bishop has wielded more power in the history of The Episcopal Church than Katharine Jefferts Schori. She has deposed more bishops than any other Presiding bishop in American ecclesiastical history. 

She has spent more money (upwards of $22 million) on lawyers to litigate for properties that she and her bishops will ultimately be forced to sell than any other Presiding Bishop in history.

Recently, Bishop Paul Marshall of Bethlehem came out blasting her silence over l'affair Bede Parry (a pederast former RC priest Jefferts Schori admitted into TEC) threatening to tell all in an article, maybe even a book, on cover-ups in the Episcopal Church that he knows about. She has intimidated her bishops into silence about the real goings on behind the scenes in TEC, according to the Bethlehem Bishop.

Jefferts Schori is a bully who bullies bishops who don't fall into line with her revisionist gospel.

What is happening to South Carolina Bishop Mark Lawrence is a pure power play to wrest the diocese from him and turn it over to a liberal bishop.

Both Bishop Mathes and Virtue have made good points here.  First, in response to Bishop Mathes, I do not doubt that he has been displayed unpleasant and thoroughly unChristian messages from over-enthusiastic departing members.  I hope that they are few in number but I suspect that this is commonplace.  This behavior is juvenile and immature for Christians, much less adults to engage in, however, without seeing the comments I will have to end my comments on this matter at this point.  Bishop Mathes is completely right about the nature of this fight:  power.  It seems a strange coincidence that Robert Duncan became Archbishop so quickly.

In response to Virtue, I think he obviously has harvested a grudge in his heart some time and would do him well to seek forgiveness.  However, in spite of his harsh language, he does accurately portray misuse of constitutional power in the Episcopal Church, particularly by the Presiding Bishop.  There has been a surge in power given to the Presiding Bishops of the Episcopal Church since the early 20th century, partially due to the unchecked influence of Anglo-Catholicism on this body.  The Protestatnt Episcopal Church was originally a confederation of independent, soverign dioceses who elected a presiding bishop to lead the General Conventions.  This office has slowly morphed into a prelatical power, similar to an Archbishopric, save name only.

To fully understand this situation, it is important to grasp the canonical (i.e. legal) structure of The Episcopal Church. Parishes are creations of the diocese in which they are situated, in some cases deriving their tax-exempt status because they are an irrevocable part of the diocese. As a condition of ordination, clergy vow obedience to their bishop. Congregations begin as mission churches under the direct supervision and financial support of the bishop with property held by the diocese. When such a church becomes a parish, by vote of diocesan legislature, the congregation pledges to be subordinate to the constitution and canons of the Episcopal Church as well as the constitution and canons of the diocese. After becoming a parish, they may incorporate under the religious incorporation statutes of the state in which the congregation is situated. The diocese will usually transfer title to real property to the parish at that time to be held in trust for The Episcopal Church.

Legally correct. Perhaps. It should be remembered that nearly every parish was built and paid for by its people, not the church. The Dennis Canon has been defanged in the State of South Carolina. By no means is there certainty that the National Church will win in Ft. Worth, Virginia, San Joaquin or Quincy. Even if they do, the victories will be pyrrhic. TEC is losing market share and closing the equivalent of one whole diocese a year. The Diocese of Delaware will put its cathedral on the chopping block next year. The rump Bishop of Pittsburgh is trying to cut deals with a modicum of success, but at the end of the day, he will be left with empty properties he will be forced to sell for pennies on the dollar in the name of the Dennis Canon, Jefferts Schori and The Episcopal Church.

Even when they win the properties in property disputes, the victories are pyrrhic. The congregations are aging fast and disappearing. There is virtually no youth coming forward to take their place in the coming years either in the pews or pulpits.

Bishop Mathes is correct in that property belongs to the Episcopal Church and the courts of this nation are confirming this in their rulings.  I think departing congregations should realize this when they intend to leave.  Virtue's response is nothing less than a red herring.  The bishop explained the canonical reality of the structure of the Episcopal Church which has been confirmed by a majority of state courts.  This is not the time to discuss the benefits of the canonical structure of the Episcopal Church nor whether individual settlements could be made but rather the canonical structure is in favor of the Episcopal Church.

When individuals purported to alienate property, which had, been given to The Episcopal Church, I was bound by my fiduciary role as a bishop to prevent that from happening. Because The Episcopal Church, like so many others, follows state laws of incorporation, I had no alternative but to file suit in civil court to remedy the matter. This is analogous to a landlord finally going to civil court to gain relief from a non-paying renter or an owner using legal means to deal with a squatter. Thus, those leaving The Episcopal Church were catalysts of these lawsuits by breaking their solemn vows and by attempting to seize property they had no right to possess.

Not true. Some bishops have settled without going to court. Mathes conveniently forgets that the bishops of Central Florida, Dallas, Kansas and New Jersey have settled property disputes without going near a courtroom.

I think the Bishop could have pursued settlements with individual parishes such as other bishops have done, perhaps the best example involving St. George's in Helmetta, NJ.

What is particularly regrettable about Ms. Hemingway's piece is confusion about the relationship between The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, which is easily remedied with a simple visit to the Anglican Communion's official website. There you will find every diocese of The Episcopal Church in their cycle of prayer; you will not find The Anglican Church in North America on that list. This is not to say they do not need our prayers. It is simply an indicator of who is an Anglican and who has merely appropriated the label. You will not find Missouri Synod Lutherans there either. Thus, The Episcopal Church remains a constituent member of the Anglican Communion. Despite Ms. Hemingway's interpretations, our leader (called a primate), the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, is a participant in the Meeting of Primates of the Anglican Communion; Robert Duncan, the leader of the breakaway Anglican Church in North America, is not. At our last House of Bishops meeting, a gathering of all bishops of The Episcopal Church, we were visited by the primates of Japan and Central Africa. Like an eclectic extended family, we have our differences, but we regularly gather together.

The ABC or the Anglican Consultative Council might not recognize The ACNA and AMiA, but Archbishop Duncan, (ACNA) Bishop Chuck Murphy (AMiA) and all their fellow bishops are recognized by GAFCON/FCA and have strong collegial ties with nearly all Global South Anglican provinces including Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, South East Asia and the Southern Cone - together they represent more than 80% of the Anglican Communion

Bishop Mathes is correct, by leaving the Episcopal Church, departing congregations have departed from official Anglicanism.  The question remains to be solved from Canterbury as to how the oversight given by foreign bishops can provide a relationship to the Anglican Communion.  However, I note that the desire of ACNA is to remain Anglican and I think that the Communion should do its best to accomodate that desire.  Virtue's point is irrelevant to what Mathes said.  Bishop Mathes was commenting on the official definition of Anglicanism, which means to be in communion with the See of Canterbury, which ACNA is not.  It's not a numbers game, GAFCON's support does not make ACNA part of the Anglican Communion.

Ms. Hemingway suggests that The Episcopal Church is depriving these departing Episcopalians of a relationship to Anglican bishops and foreign dioceses. Oddly, these individuals claim to desire a relationship with a bishop of their own choosing. But bishops are those who by definition maintain order and oversight over the church. To put it in historical terms, this is rather like choosing to succeed from the nation when the current leadership is not to your liking. Thus, when the presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church urges her colleagues not to provide aid and comfort to those who would undermine our church, she has history on her side.

How much "order and oversight" has there been since Bishop Gene Robinson, an avowed non-celibate homosexual, was ordained to the episcopacy in 2003? It has brought nothing but chaos to the whole church. In nearly every diocese priests of conscience have asked for oversight or been forced to flee.

The argument that "choosing to succeed from the nation when the current leadership is not to your liking" is absurd. We can vote the leadership out or we can leave the nation (read church), which over 100,000 have done. Jefferts Schori could step down as the Archbishop of Canterbury is said to be contemplating -- 10 years before his time.

How much history will the Presiding Bishop have when all the indications are that by 2050 the Episcopal Church will be a shadow of its former self with a small handful of dying dioceses and large churches that have consolidated from dying ones? AMIA and ACNA are not looking for aid and comfort from TEC. They have never asked for it nor do they want it. They are getting on with the business of preaching the Good News, taking up the urgent call of the Great Commission and making disciples of Christ that TEC is not. And yes, they are planting new churches, opening up new dioceses across the country. What about that does Mathes not understand?

Bishop Mathes has a point here in that the historical relation of the bishop to his diocese is changing.  The relation of the episcopate to geography is almost completely lost in ACNA, although they have a set of geographic dioceses, the trend seems to be moving to affinity-based networks, which is historically not an Anglican approach to episcopacy.  However, this pattern has not spread to the Communion so it cannot be ruled out yet as definitively "unAnglican" yet.  Although I agree that the response of our bishops to departing congregations has been less than charitable and I hope better relations can flourish between those who have left and those who have stayed.

In response to Virtue, first, Bishop Robinson was elected by the Diocese of New Hampshire to be its bishop, it was not forced by the natioanl church.  It has brought chaos but it is something that can't be blamed on the leadership but rather the laity.

TEC is making disciples, that is an utterly false and ridiculous statement.  In my own diocese there is growth.  I have not seen ACNA statistics yet, so I cannot comment on the number of communicants, etc. in that body.  In reality, Mathes did not discuss church planting in his response so I think again that Virtue has diverted the discussion to his liking.  The nature of Mathes's response has to do with the canonical structure of the Episcopal Church and why the response has been taken by the bishops.

In the final analysis, no one has been excommunicated; rather some individuals have left our church. On their way out, they have tried to take what does not belong to them and, in an unimaginative attempt to cover their unseemly behavior, they have pointed the finger at their victim, The Episcopal Church. The Wall Street Journal and Ms. Hemingway have either been duped or shown a stunning lack of care in reporting. The only thing in this story that has been excommunicated is the truth.

What do you call "inhibition" and "deposition" if it's not excommunication by another name? If TEC is a "victim", it is a victim of its own bad theology and equally bad morals. TEC is reaping what it is sowing. It is sowing to the wind and reaping the whirlwind. TEC's own decline and fall is happening because they are doing it to themselves. No one is doing it to them.

"What do you call "inhibition" and "deposition" if it's not excommunication by another name?"  You call it inhibition and deposition because they are different from excommunication.  Excommunication means being barred from taking Communion while deposition and inhibition prohibit clergy from officiating at services.

Of course the bishops of our Church are under divine judgment for abandoning the doctrine of this Church and acting against His will but that does not grant the right to schism, at least in this author's humble opinion.  I end with a quote, "Those who schism with others do lightly bond among themselves."

Friday, October 14, 2011

Reader's Choice

I am opening once again the floor to the readers of this blog, I want to know what you want to read about here on the Hackney Hub.  The last time I posed this question, I was asked about American High Churchmanship and I hope that my response to that question was adequate.  I do want readers to know that an extensive revision of several of the more popular posts is underway, probably several months off but I hope it will be for the better.

Do you have a topic you would like to be explored here on the blog?

Post below or email at:


Saturday, October 8, 2011

Reflections on Using The Book of Common Prayer

I wanted to offer readers some personal reflection and perhaps persuasion to adopt the Book of Common Prayer for your daily prayers.  I have been using the 1662 BCP for some time now as the basis for my daily prayers.  I can't seem to recall exactly the day when I began doing it neither the month right now but I have used it long enough now that I have memorized large portions of the Daily Offices.

I have used a number of prayer books as the basis for my daily prayer.  I was reared on the Roman Catholic Liturgy of the Hours, beginning with an abbreviated version and moving to the full office.  As I moved into the Anglican tradition, I tried to adopt the 1979 BCP as my tool for daily prayer but at that time I was attached to the Roman forms of the Office.  I acquired a copy of Common Worship and used that for some time since it was a fair mixture of Anglican and Roman prayers that I was familiar with.  I won't list exhaustively all the forms of daily prayer which I used but I do want to highlight the two that I had used prior to adopting the Book of Common Prayer.

First, I used the Monastic Diurnal, as published by Lancelot Andrewes Press (a "Western Rite" Orthodox publisher trying to woo Anglicans with material based on the BCP).  This is the Benedictine diurnal, which is slightly different from the pre-reform Roman Breviary, which LAP had adapted to "conform" to the BCP.  The diurnal and Roman Breviary are known for the complexity of the rules involved in saying the Office.  After saying the Office according to this manner, I can understand perfectly well why Cranmer said, "[M]any times there was more business to find out what should be read, than to read it when it was found out."  The other book I was using prior to the BCP was a peculiar little book, at least to my taste, The English Office.  A book which attempts to conflate the BCP with the older Breviary tradition; the result is an inconsistent and honestly confusing office.  I remember the day when I picked up the BCP and used it for Morning Prayer that day and though to myself, "That was refreshingly easy!'  I have used it ever since then, not only because it is easy to follow but also because it presents Christian truths in a simple manner to be absorbed by the praying congregation while following in the tradition of the Church.

The BCP is a great tool for Daily Prayer because it has stood the test of time.  It has been used in the basic form we have now since 1549, only slightly edited in the subsequent revisions of the book.  The Office follows a relatively invariable form, the only variants which regularly change are the Psalms, Readings, and Collects.  The BCP gives a choice of canticles, although traditional-minded clergymen tend to use the same sets every day.

In case the reader is unfamiliar with the order in the 1662 BCP, I will summarize briefly.  The Service begins with a penitential sentence, Exhortation, Confession, Absolution and the Lord's Prayer before the beginning of the Service.  The service opens with the versicles and responses, "Lord, open thou our lips, &. etc." these petitions come from the Breviary Office for Matins but have been revised to the third person plural, so as to include the whole praying congregation.  The Venite is used every morning before the Psalms of the Day, except on Easter Sunday, in which the Prayer Book provides an alternative canticle.  The Psalms follow with a Gloria Patri after each, reflecting ancient custom.  There are two readings at each service, followed by a Gospel Canticle, Psalm, or Ancient Hymn, depending on the service and choice of the reader.  The next section of the Office is reserved for prayers.  First the Apostle's Creed is said, then the Kyries, Lord's Prayer, a series of versicles and responses, and three collects, that of the day, and two for each office.  After this point, the Prayer Book offers several state prayers and a prayer for the clergy.  A common deviation from this standard is to use the "Prayer for All Conditions of Man" at Morning Prayer and the "General Thanksgiving" at Evening Prayer (see Percy Dearmer).  The Office concludes with the Prayer of St. Chrysostom and the Grace.

That is the basic order of service using the 1662 BCP, now I wish to discuss some unique features of it and their benefits.  First, the Psalter is read through each thirty days.  This was a revolution in the time of Cranmer, considering that the Psalter was read through each week in the Breviary.  Nowadays, the thirty day scheme seems a bit much for modern churchgoers.  I prefer this system as it covers the Psalter in a reasonable time and regularly, thus familiarzing the reader with the Psalter.  The selection of readings is mostly in sequence, meaning that the majority of the OT is read and the NT read through twice each year (except the book of Revelation).  Most modern 1662 BCPs have a revised lectionary from 1871 which includes more holy day readings which break the sequence in readings.  The 1662 Daily Office lectionary is based on the calendar year and not the church year thus making it extremely easy to follow because all one needs to know is the civil date!  The minimal variance from the sequential reading of Scripture is also refreshing in comparison to the older Breviary which had a seemingly infinite series of deviations due to feasts.  The Prayer Book, likewise, only provides proper psalms for five holy days.

The 1662 BCP also dictates two other additions to the service which occur on a regular basis.  The first is the addition of the Litany, which is to be said on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays.  The Litany is a series of petitons for the Church, the State, and the World, which is an excellent reminder of the global Church and our duty to pray daily for the needs of others in addition to our own petitions.  The 1662 BCP also requires the recitation of the Creed of St. Athanasius at Morning Prayer on fourteen feast days throughout the year.  The Athanasian Creed, as it is called, is known for its "damnatory" clauses against those who deny Trinitarian faith.  The reading of this Creed is also refreshing as it reminds us of the mystery of the Holy Trinity and the revelation that God has given through Christ to the Church about His nature.

I hope that the readers of this blog will consider using the 1662 BCP for their daily prayers.  I think if they do, they will find that they will have a greater knowledge of the Scriptures, the Psalms, and be exposed to the richness of the Prayer Book, its theology, rhythm, and aesthetic quality in prose which will nourish your heart, mind, and soul, each and every day, upon waking and sleeping.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Limits of Anglican Comprehensiveness

I have been reflecting on the issues I raised in the article, "Two Anglicanisms," ever since I posted it, especially in relation to much of the contemporary rhetoric associated with Anglicanism.  In that post, I referred to an article by Phillip Jensen, where he argues that there are, in fact, two Anglicanisms:  sociological Anglicanism and confessional Anglicanism.  I still maintain this distinction, when referring to the clergy.  I believe there are clergy who take their vocation as Anglican ministers seriously; who intend to live the Reformed Catholic faith of the Church of England and her daughter churches.  There are other clergy who do not take this call seriously and intend to teach as they please and do as they please, regardless of the teaching of the Church or at the request of their bishop.  I have come to reflect on another aspect of Anglicanism which is related to this distinction, I think, which is the "virtue" of Anglican comprehensiveness. 

I have been reading, as you know, for my own personal pleasure and also to report it to you on this web blog.  I think this aspect of Anglican identity is largely misunderstood or misapplied in current discussions of our life in the Anglican Communion today.  I think a refreshment of historical context will flesh out the limits of Anglican comprehensiveness, at least historically, and I would argue that those limits still apply today.

Hsitorically, the Church of England was not an ambiguous Church with no solid doctrinal foundation.  Work on the confession began before the reform of the liturgy in Henry's reign and was completed in Elizabeth's.  The Articles of Religion always accompany the Book of Common Prayer and are the authorized interpretation of that book.  The 39 Articles of Religion came to their present form in 1571 and since then, clergy in the Church of England have been required to subscribe to them.  In the Protestant Episcopal Church, the approach taken was slightly different in that a direct subscription was not required but an oath to the doctrine of the Church was required (in the Canons, the "doctrine of the Church" referred to the Articles and Prayer Book).  The canons of the Church of England, likewise enforce the authority of the Articles:

"WHOSOEVER shall hereafter affirm, That any of the nine and thirty Articles agreed upon by the Archbishops and Bishops of both provinces, and the whole Clergy, in the Convocation holden at London, in the year of our Lord God one thousand five hundred sixty two, for avoiding diversities of opinions, and for the establishing of consent touching true Religion, are in any part superstitious or erroneous, or such as he may not with a good conscience subscribe unto; let him be excommunicated ipso facto, and not restored, but only by the Archbishop, after his repentance, and publick revocation of such his wicked errors" (Canon 5)

Likewise, we can look to King Charles I's declaration, usually printed before the Articles in English Prayer Books, to discern the authority of them,

"That the Articles of the Church of England (which have been allowed and authorized heretofore, and which Our Clergy generally have subscribed unto) do contain the true Doctrine of the Church of England agreeable to God's Word: which We do therefore ratify and confirm, requiring all Our loving Subjects to continue in the uniform Profession thereof, and prohibiting the least difference from the said Articles; which to that End We command to be new printed, and this Our Declaration to be published therewith."

Likewise, Charles's declaration speaks against fanciful interpretations of the Articles (i.e. Newman):

"That therefore in these both curious and unhappy differences, which have for so many hundred years, in different times and places, exercised the Church of Christ, We will, that all further curious search be laid aside, and these disputes shut up in God's promises, as they be generally set forth to us in the holy Scriptures, and the general meaning of the Articles of the Church of England according to them. And that no man hereafter shall either print, or preach, to draw the Article aside any way, but shall submit to it in the plain and full meaning thereof: and shall not put his own sense or comment to be the meaning of the Article, but shall take it in the literal and grammatical sense."

I quote these at length to put to rest several ideas.  First, that the Articles of Religion are void of teaching authority for Anglican churches.  While the modern Church may try to shove them aside for new expressions of faith (such as the Catechism in the 1979 Episcopal Book) but the reality is that the Articles have always been the standard for Anglican teaching and our authorized interpretation of the Book of Common Prayer.  The second idea is highlighted in Charles's declaration, that being that the Articles are often acknowledged today but interpreted in such a fashion as to avoid their plain meaning.  This is equally unknown in Anglican history until modern times.  Even until modern times in the Church of England the requirement to subscribe to the Articles is still required by the clergy.  Likewise, Church doctrine is defined in the canons as to refer to the Book of Common Prayer and the Articles of Religion:

Canon A2

The Thirty-Nine Articles are agreeable to the Word of God and may be assented unto with a good conscience by all members of the Church of England.

Canon A5

The doctrine of the Church of England is grounded in the holy Scriptures, and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures.  In particular such doctrine is to be found in the Thirty Nine Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordinal.

Declaration of Assent

"I A B, do so affirm, and accordingly declare my belief in the faith which is revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds and to which the historic formularies of the Church of England bear witness; and in public prayer and administration of the sacraments, I will use only the forms of service which are authorised or allowed by Canon."

Unfortunately, the Protestant Episcopal Church has weakened its ordination oaths and attempted to dethrone the Articles by moving them to the "Historical Documents" section of our current Prayer Book (however that does not deny them their authority!). 

Up to this point, I have been referring to the clergy, in particular, from which the Church has always required confessional subscription, thus making official Anglicanism, Jensen's "confessional Anglicanism."  Earlier in my post, "Two Anglicanisms," I made the argument that there is no place for what Jensen calls "sociological Anglicanism" because it is not grounded on the Articles and Prayer Book.  I would like to submit a revision of the claims I made in that post to reflect what I view to be a better historical representation of what the Church of England and her daughter churches expected of the laity.

I do believe that "sociological Anglicanism" has a place in the life of the laity.  I think sociological Anglicanism is where the virtue of comprehensiveness comes to play.  I rest my claim on the fact that the Church of England and her daughter churches have never required subscription to the Articles as a prerequisite for baptism or confirmation.  The catechism in the Book of Common Prayer teaches the Lord's Prayer, Ten Commandments, and Creed as the basis for Christian orthodoxy and a brief touching on the sacraments.  Herein lies the basis of Anglican comprehensiveness, it is true that Anglicanism is a "church for everyone" and this is a good thing.  You can walk into any Anglican church anywhere and worship in good conscience while disagreeing with some tenet of the Articles of Religion.  However, that is not a representation of Anglican doctrine nor can the minister disagree with the teaching of the Articles of Religion and continue to minister in good conscience in an Anglican church.  Historically, the Church has adopted this broadness with respect to the laity for the purpose of encouraging conformity to the Church (especially in England).  Elizabeth I was known for this and desired that all her subjects would be united together in the Church of England.  However, I think that this should not be used to argue that Anglican churches have no doctrine for (again in England) to matriculate in universities, subscription to the Articles was required as well as to be ordained into public ministry. 

One other brief comment in reflecting on these themes, it is often said that the Articles of Religion are ambiguous.  I contest this description of the Articles and offer a better description.  Instead of being ambiguous, which they are not, the Articles of Religion are brief, in that they are not intended as the stand alone document of Anglican orthodoxy but rather the foundation.  They do allow a breadth of interpretation.  For instance, Evangelicals and High Churchmen have been in disagreement about the interpretation of the Article on Baptism and how it relates to Regeneration, which is allowable and desirable in Anglicanism.  Likewise, many subjects are not spoken of in the Articles, such as eschatology, which I believe means that a breadth of interpretation is allowed. 
I hope from this brief piece I have been able to demonstrate that the Anglican tradition does allow a sense of comprehensiveness but that this is limited in the sense that there are requirements for laity and especially clergy.  The laity are bound by Christian orthodoxy as found in the Creeds and a rudimentary understanding of the sacraments as found in the Catechism.  Clergy are required to believe and teach the Articles of Religion as the authorized interpretation of the Book of Common Prayer.  A strict adherence to the formularies is necessary, while allowing the comprehensiveness envisioned by our Reformers will allow Anglicanism to return as the truly, national, catholic and reformed Church, which has the space and capacity to minister to all sorts of people in different walks of life.