Saturday, October 27, 2012

Thomas Cranmer and an Exhortation to Faithfulness

Sadly, as many readers will be aware of, there has been further disintegration in the Anglican world in these United States.  If the reader is unaware, disciplinary action has been directed against Bishop Mark Lawrence of the Diocese of South Carolina, charging him with abandonment of the "doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Episcopal Church."  This action from the national Church has triggered a response from the Diocese, automatically disassociating the Diocese from the General Convention.  The writer does not presume to weigh in on the apparent rightness or wrongness of the actions of the Presiding Bishop nor of the Diocesan Bishop, his Standing Committee, or Diocese.  However, one cannot think that the Presiding Bishop did not know about these diocesan canons and the effect of her and the Disciplinary Board's actions against Bishop Lawrence.  While the writer certainly shares the views of the Diocese of South Carolina (and it does remain as such, regardless of its stance with General Convention), I cannot help but lament the future pain this series of actions has already caused and most certainly will cause in the near and distant future.  Fortunately and unfortunately, this is the consequence of the abandonment of biblical faith and practice by our national Church and the only remedy is to repent and return to the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ.

However, the situation as it is leads us to conclude that such repentance will not occur.  The question inevitably arises in the mind of a faithful Christian, what to do in times such as these?  Regrettably, in times such as these, one can visibly see the rise in dissent in our parishes and clergy, who sincerely (and justifiably) think that leaving the Church is the best response to the problems facing us from all fronts.  On the contrary, I think that in times such as these, the exact opposite is true.  The best weapon against heresy and tyranny is faithfulness coupled with the courage to stand up against such atrocities.  The problem with dissent is that it causes confusion and ultimately brings about the normalization of schism in our ecclesiastical culture.  Which is better, I ask you, ten competing jurisdictions preaching different party platforms, or one united people of God, preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ?  Another problem with dissent is a faulty understanding of the Church.  To be a dissenter, one must hold (to some extent) to a purist notion of the Church (read Anabaptist).  The historic church has always had weeds mixed in among us.  When a group of Christians leaves the Church over some issue, be it homosexuality, women's ordination, or whatever it is, they will have to eliminate the possibility of that particular error arising in their own ranks which necessitates some form of purism.  The problem is that a puristic Church is an impossibility, at least biblically speaking.  The Church is flawed and it has always been.  Moreover, it always will be a flawed body until our Lord returns in glory.

A source of inspiration in my own life has been none other than Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, an exemplar for loyalty to one's national Church.  Some might seem puzzled at this selection at first glance, however, upon explanation, I hope you will see my point.  Why would Thomas Cranmer, the Reformation Archbishop of Canterbury, be the best example of remaining faithful to the Episcopal Church?  Did he not "break" from Rome?  No, he did not, King Henry VIII did remove the Church of England from the tyranny of Rome, yes, but this is not schism, this is restoring the Church of England to its rightful place, and second, Cranmer did not initiate this action, the King did.  In other words, Cranmer left to the King's decision what was in the King's power.  Christian bishops don't go about causing schisms, at least orthodox ones don't, this is not in their realm of authority.  Cranmer remained loyal to his Church, in good and bad times.  For example, Cranmer remained loyal to the Church of England throughout the reign of Henry VIII, when the unreformed mass remained the norm, the Gospel was not articulated and the people were not instructed in the vernacular language.  Cranmer remained in the Church when the times were good under Edward VI, when his reforms were finally realized.  Most importantly, Cranmer remained in the Church of England, when Mary Tudor assumed the throne and re-subjugated England to Papal tyranny.  This is crucial because Cranmer had the option to leave, like other Reformers did, but chose to stay with his Church and be martyred for the Gospel.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Worship Woes 2: The Canon

Today's worship post will reveal the "by the book" nature of the author, when relating especially to the administration of the Lord's Supper.  In this piece,  I will address the problems I see with the current practices I see in the Canon or the Eucharistic prayer.  This has historically been one place in the liturgy that tends to "clutter" or tack on extra ceremonial for no real reason other than to amplify perceived "sanctity", usually due to poor sacramental theology.  

Historically, Anglicanism had been pretty strict in following the ceremonial of the Prayer Book, which is noticeably minimal, in comparison with its Roman counterpart (for good reason).  There has been noticeable deviation from the prescriptive norm, though, throughout Anglican history.  The Laudians were champions of eastward facing celebration, bowing at the name of Jesus and towards the altar, and a few other practices.  A quite frequent occurrence (in the days before modern liturgies) was the "elevation" of the offerings and the preaching of a sermon in the Morning Prayer Service (which is only authorized in the Ante-Communion).  

I will briefly describe the actions allowed by the Prayer Book, in both 1928 and 1979 forms and then discuss some of the aberrations that I find troubling.

1928 Communion Service

Starting with the Offertory, the priest is to "offer, and shall place upon the Holy Table, the Bread and the Wine", without discussing the merits or significance of "offering" the bread and the wine, this is all that is prescribed for the priest to do at this point (with the notable deletion of any sentences or prayers to be said when "offering" the elements).  After turning to the people for the Sursum Corda, the priest is to "turn to the Holy Table, and say," which in the 1928 could either be North end or Eastward facing.  Then beginning the Canon, "standing before the Holy Table," the priest should have already " ordered the Bread and Wine, that he may with the more readiness and decency break the Bread before the People, and take the Cup into his hands."  The next set of instructions comes at the Consecration of the Elements in the Institution Narrative, which we are all familiar with.  First, when speaking of the bread, the priest is to "take the Paten unto his hands."  Then he is "to break the Bread," presumably while still holding it.  And subsequently he must, "lay his hand upon all the Bread."  Concerning the wine, the priest is to " take the Cup into his hand" and then " lay his hand upon every vessel (be it Chalice or Flagon) in which there is any Wine to be consecrated."  The next act prescribed by the Book is the kneeling of the priest at the Prayer of Humble Access, before receiving Communion himself and distributing it.  The next portion is important, after Communion, " the Priest shall return to the Lord’s Table, and reverently place upon it what remaineth of the consecrated Elements, covering the same with a fair linen cloth."  

1979 Communion Service

The 1979 Prayer Book is less prescriptive than the 1928 in dealing with ceremonial (and presumes a lot of Novus Ordo practices).  However, this follows the discernible ceremonial actions envisioned by this Book.

Beginning again with the Offertory, "Representatives of the congregation bring the people's offerings of bread and wine, and money or other gifts, to the deacon or celebrant.  The people stand while the offerings are presented and placed on the Altar" (Ironically, this brings 1979 closer to 1662 than 1928, compare, "he Priest shall then place upon the Table so much Bread and Wine, as he shall think sufficient" with "presented and placed" with 1928 "offer and place").  1979 gives explicit instruction for the presbyter or bishop to face the people (wondering what starting position they have in mind?).  After the Sanctus, the priest is to face the Holy Table and begin the Consecration.  1979 gives the following instructions concerning the bread and wine, "At the following words concerning the bread, the Celebrant is to hold it, or to lay a hand upon it; and at the words concerning the cup, to hold or place a hand upon the cup and any other vessel containing wine to be  consecrated."  The next ceremonial action is the breaking of the bread after the Lord's Prayer, just before the distribution of the elements.  


After having studied the ceremonial actions permitted by rubric, now let us consider some common variations on the simple service provided for in the Prayer Book.  Unfortunately, I am not familiar with the 1928 services as I have only been reared in the 1979 tradition.  I can presume on some things but if someone would like to comment with additional observations that would be helpful and beneficial for further discussion.

First, the Offertory is often cluttered to the point of no recognition.  A common practice that has no warrant in the rubrics is the blessing of the offerings of the people.  All of the Prayer Books direct the offerings of the people to be "presented and placed" on the Holy Table, not crossed and stashed away.  The Prayer Book tradition includes the alms and oblations of the people with the elements of bread and wine as offerings.  This is also attested in the early church, when the peoples' offerings were also offered up at the Offertory with the elements.

Secondly, the Offertory is cluttered with so many people, it's tough to remember who's doing what and why.  I know that acolytes are a valuable ministry in the Church but I am not in favor of creating ceremonial chaos to give kids a role in church.  I think the acolytes should serve as chalice bearers or torch bearers (especially if younger kids) but let the clergy place the elements on the Table.  It de-clutters things, for one, we don't need to pass along the elements in an assembly line.  Second, it can speed things along and alleviate chances of spillage or confusion.  The lavabo often occurs at this point in the liturgy, I really don't have any gripes towards it (Andrewes is known to have practiced it) but I don't think it necessary part of the service.  Thirdly, just a side note, the addition of water to the wine was deemed acceptable by the Lincoln Judgement in 1890, but only in a non-liturgical manner, i.e. before the service.  That being the case I think it would be more suitable to add water to the wine in the sacristy before the service.  That being said, I don't really mind it at this point, considering it was one of the usages of the Scottish Episcopalians.  It's not rubrical though and shouldn't be regarded of as essential to the celebration of Holy Communion.

Moving along in the service, there is a tendency to multiply the actions of clergy and acolytes in the service (which partially makes sense, if you have seventeen people "on stage'" they need to be doing something).  One of the practices that I don't particularly care for, for good reason, in my opinion, is the Sanctus bell.  The bell was used in the medieval Church to signal the point in the liturgy when the host and chalice had become the body and blood of Christ and because the service was in Latin, the people needed a cue to adore the Eucharist (not receive it according to Christ's commands).  I'm not particularly fond of this practice because of the theology it harkens to symbolically.  Another tendency is the multiplication of acts performed by clergy such as bowings, crossings, and kneelings or genuflections.  Again, I frown upon bowing or genuflecting towards the elements after the Words of Institution because it symbolically represents a theology alien to our tradition.  The "big bad" of the Canon is the Elevation, which is expressly forbidden by the Articles of Religion, 'The Sacrament of the Lord's Supper was not by Christ's ordinance reserved, carried about, lifted up, or worshipped" (Art. 28).

During the Eucharistic prayer, there is a tendency to perform various actions.  I have come to agree with Archbishop Robinson of UECNA, when he describes the following uses of the early church as such: 1) taking the bread and wine into the hands; 2) extending the hands over the elements in the epiclesis; 3) elevating the elements at the final doxology, I think there is one more but memory fails me at this point.  The point being, for me, these are acceptable variations in the ceremonial of the liturgy (but not necessary for a valid celebration and I would in fact prefer the simple actions of the Prayer Book).  The sign of the cross is variously added at differing points in the liturgy, which is acceptable but adds to ceremonial complexity which eats away at Cranmer's vision for a simple, understandable, biblical liturgy for the Church of England (and subsequently her daughter Churches).

I will continue reflecting on the Communion Service next week..

Friday, October 19, 2012

Anglican Myths 10: Nothing "Peculiar" Here

The inspiration for the title of this post comes from the (infamous) quote from Archbishop Geoffrey Fisher of Canterbury, from 1945 to 1961.  The quote in its entirety follows:

"The Anglican Communion has no peculiar thought, practice, creed or confession of its own. It has only the Catholic Faith of the ancient Catholic Church, as preserved in the Catholic Creeds and maintained in the Catholic and Apostolic constitution of Christ's Church from the beginning." It may licitly teach as necessary for salvation nothing but what is read in the Holy Scriptures as God's Word written or may be proved thereby. It therefore embraces and affirms such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the Scriptures, and thus to be counted apostolic. The Church has no authority to innovate: it is obliged continually, and particularly in times of renewal or reformation, to return to "the faith once delivered to the saints."
(Note, a commentary on the text -- I believe the first quoted portion comes from Archbishop Fisher and the latter text was drafted by the ACNA theological group.  I cannot find the text without both pieces so I assume that they go together.  I will be commenting mostly on the first portion, lines 1-4, which I believe to be Archbishop Fisher's actual words.  But in the case that I am misunderstanding the punctuation of the text, I will comment on the latter portion as well.)

This idea has gained some traction in "conservative" Anglican circles over the past few decades.  It is especially pertinent now since it is featured on the ACNA webpage ("About Us").  It is included with the theological statement adopted by ACNA (which is loosely based on the Jerusalem Declaration).  It is safe to say that this statement is presented in Introductory Anglicanism courses in many parishes in North America and elsewhere.  The question remains, does it accurately present the teaching of Anglicanism?  In particular, does it present a clear understanding of the nature of authority in Anglicanism, especially in relation to the early Church?

I believe the problems with this line of thought are wrong on two accounts.  I divide the statement into two halves.  The first half being the first sentence and the second half being the second sentence simply.    I will address the second half first and then the first.

The second half of Fisher's statement reveals an ignorance of the Anglican formularies, in the sense of Anglicanism's acceptance of the early Church Fathers, Creeds, etc.  The Church of England (and consequently her daughter Churches) accept the teaching of Scripture and the doctrine contained therein, because "Holy Scriptures containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation." (Article 6).  The universal truth of Scripture is consequently particularly applied in various national contexts, one of which is in England.  The Reformed Church of England does not base its authority off of the teaching of the Fathers or the Creeds, by themselves, but on the authority of the Holy Scripture.  These lesser authorities are only accepted insofar as they agree with the teaching of Holy Scripture.  For instance, "The three Creeds... ought thoroughly to be received and believed; for they may be proved by most certain warrants of Holy Scripture" (Article 8), the Creeds have no inherent authority of their own and are only to be accepted because they present the universal truth of Scripture.  Again, Article 20 seriously limits the authority of the Church, especially in comparison with the claims made by the Romish Church, for the Church is the "keeper of Holy Writ" but is bound by it and cannot teach anything contrary to it or count anything as binding that is not contained therein:

The Church hath power to decree rites or ceremonies and authority in controversies of faith; and yet it is not lawful for the Church to ordain anything contrary to God's word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another. Wherefore, although the Church be a witness and a keeper of Holy Writ: yet, as it ought not to decree anything against the same, so besides the same ought it not to enforce anything to be believed for necessity of salvation.
The subsequent Article (21) limits the authority of General (or Ecumenical) Councils by first declaring them to only be licitly called together by Christian princes, not the pope.  Secondly, Ecumenical Councils may and have erred, such as the Seventh Council, Article 19 extends this possibility of error not only to Ecumenical Councils but also to particular Churches, "As the Church of Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch have erred: so also the Church of Rome hath erred, not only in their living and manner of ceremonies, but also in matters of faith."  Not only that, the Articles list in several places specific errors of the Churches and Councils.  For example, works of supererogation "cannot be taught without arrogancy and impiety" (Article 14); purgatory, pardon, the veneration of saints, images, and relics, as well as the invocation of saints are " fond thing vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture; but rather repugnant to the word of God" (Article 22); holding services in Church in a language not understood by the people is "plainly repugnant" (Article 24), etc.  Thirdly, their authority is only relevant insomuch as they present and uphold the teaching of Scripture:

Councils may not be gathered together without the commandment and will of princes. And when they be gathered together, forasmuch as they be an assembly of men, whereof all be not governed with the Spirit and word of God, they may err and sometime have erred, even in things pertaining to God. Wherefore things ordained by them as necessary to salvation have neither strength nor authority, unless it may be declared that they be taken out of Holy Scripture. 
 Consequently, Article 34 details the authority of particular or national Churches to regulate its own ceremonial life, for example, England chose to celebrate Pentecost Day but Scotland did not.  Each particular Church has the right to these types of decisions so long as nothing contrary to the truth of Scripture is promoted by a Church:

It is not necessary that traditions and ceremonies be in all places one or utterly alike; for at all times they have been diverse, and may be changed according to the diversity of countries, times, and men's manners, so that nothing be ordained against God's word. Whosoever through his private judgement willingly and purposely doth openly break the traditions and ceremonies of the Church which be not repugnant to the word of God, and be ordained and approved by common authority, ought to be rebuked openly that other may fear to do the like, as he that offendeth against common order of the Church, and hurteth the authority of the magistrate, and woundeth the conscience of the weak brethren.
    Every particular or national Church hath authority to ordain, change, and abolish ceremonies or rites of the Church ordained only by man's authority, so that all things be done to edifying.
The first half of Fisher's statement presents a set of problems as well, though less severe than those of the second half.  "The Anglican Communion has no peculiar thought, practice, creed or confession of its own."  This cheapens the Church of England and her daughter Churches, at least in my opinion.  The statement has a nugget of truth wedged in it in the sense that there is no "Cranmerianism" or "Hookerism" but I think it is far-fetched to deny any peculiarities to the Anglican tradition.  One must remember that there was no "Calvinism" in 1563 either.  The Church of England preserved a unique combination of the retention of episcopacy, liturgy, some ceremonies, and Reformed doctrine, not to mention the most important aspect of English Christianity, the sacral monarchy (which is often overlooked).  The notions of passive obedience, non-resistance, and the divine right of kings is a key aspect of Anglicanism which, although not unique, its application and life in Anglicanism has been unique in comparison to other Churches.  The high doctrine of presence in the Eucharist, virtualism, is a unique contribution of Anglicanism to the understanding of Christ's presence in the Sacrament.  Waterland's regeneration/renewal distinction is a unique way of understanding the relation of the effects of baptism to the soul.  The understanding of ecclesiastical election was a popular alternative to Arminianism and Calvinism, especially in the Protestant Episcopal Church.  All of this to say that Anglicanism has contributed uniquely to the development of Christianity. 

The crux of the issue is that this is another attempt to erode the doctrinal standards in the historic formularies.  The problem with this line of thinking is that it directly leads to liberalism.  It's not that far of a stretch to say that Anglicanism has no peculiar doctrines to saying that Anglicanism has no doctrines.  Anglicanism does have particular and peculiar doctrines which are found only in Sacred Scripture.  

Friday, October 5, 2012

"Anglo-Reformed" Additional Thoughts

After several curious interactions with alleged leaders of the "Anglo-Reformed" movement in the US, I want to take this chance to further, publicly, distance the author, content, and readers of this blog from this dangerous movement.  I think the movement's supposed representation of Cranmer's theology and vision is dubious at best and downright deceptive in actuality.  Nothing in their platform represents the theology of Cranmer, or the English Reformation.  In addition to this, their "leaders" have a faulty and misinformed understanding of the history of Anglicanism and a poor understanding of the theological intricacies of Protestant High Churchmanship.

For this reason, I wish to clarify further some of my comments on this blog to insure a proper understanding by the readers of this blog and to insure that the author not be confused with sectarianism.

When I claim, as I still do wholeheartedly, that the Church of England is a Reformed Church, I mean that it is a Reformed Church.  That seems a silly statement but when you consider that both "sides", church papists and church puritans, both claim that it, in fact, isn't a Reformed Church.  Church papists or recusants, claim that the Church is, in essence, a continuation of medieval religion, with modest political reformation and restructuring to avoid late superstitions but with real little alteration of the substance of the faith.  This viewpoint disregards the real theological and liturgical changes that occurred, first in the publication of the Book of Homilies, in the reform of the liturgy, and in the publication of the Articles of Religion, all of which fundamentally and drastically altered the doctrine of the unreformed Church to that of a Reformed Church.  A serious student cannot truthfully examine the formularies of our Church and deny its Protestantism unless he enters with the specific purpose of disproving the Protestantism thereof, which, of course, isn't serious study.  The church papist also errs in viewing the reform of doctrine and liturgy as some negative.  Rather, the reform of doctrine and liturgy brought back to England (and subsequently her daughter churches) the true, Catholic faith of the early Church and Holy Bible.

Likewise, church puritans neither believe the Church to be a Reformed Church.  They err in similar ways to the church papist in that they fail to grasp the purity of our doctrine and liturgy.  The tragedy of the matter is that the church puritan claims to represent the "spirit" of Cranmer, yet, represents a figment of his imagination.  The formularies of our Church are sufficient in the manner in which they exist now and need no "tinkering" to be counted among the Reformed confessions.  Any alleged churchman who believes them insufficient is really no churchman at all.

Perhaps "Reformed" is a word that has been tainted by this brand of lunatic who sadly ruins a good word by his sectarianism.  I would say that orthodox churchmen should own this word, rather than letting it be ruined by a few madmen.  Charles Bartlett, at Anglican Rose, proposes to add a clarifying adjective, such as "early", which I view as a good alternative.  This opens the possibility if associating the English Church with the broad spirit of the early Reformed movement, which included the Genevans, but also reformers such as Bucer.  This also limits us from Dortian dogmatics, which were never adopted by the Church of England (although our formularies do not exclude such views -- they do not require them either).

I also wish to clarify that by "Anglo-Reformed", I mean a certain variety of American "churchmen" (who does not attend an Anglican parish) and wish not to include English Evangelicals, who are churchmen, in this remonstrance.