Thursday, December 12, 2013

What is an Anglican?

Anglicans are the inheritors of the established, British Protestant faith across the globe. Anglicans trace their Christian roots back to the early Church. The basis of the faith of the Reformed Church of England is the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments (the Bible) as contained and explained in the so-called Formularies, the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer, and the two Books of Homilies. The Anglican Communion is a worldwide family of churches with more than 70 million adherents in 38 Provinces spreading across 161 countries, of which the Protestant Episcopal Church is a part. Although these churches are autonomous, they are also uniquely unified through their history, their theology, their worship and their relationship to the British Crown through the office of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Friday, November 15, 2013

On Re-marriage and Divorce

The current "big issue" in our society and Church is that of homosexuality and the limits of our permissiveness towards those who suffer from same-sex attraction. However, I do not think that this is the most important issue about which the Church should fret. Scientifically, homosexuality is a genetic mutation that will always affect around 2-3% of the population (from what I've read on current statistics). This is not to say that homosexuality is not an important issue that merits our thoughts and discussion, however, there is another issue that is much more prevalent in Church and society, that is, divorce and remarriage.

Consider, if only 2-3% of the population is homosexual, that means about 97% of the rest of the population is heterosexual (another post will deal with the identification of "gay" and "straight" another problem in the Church). A majority of these folks will marry and the current statistics seem to indicate that around half of all marriages, Christian or not, end in divorce. The issues of divorce and remarriage are not intrinsically tied to the issue of homosexuality, yet, they fall within the same "camp" of issues. Consequently, the current liberals in the Protestant Episcopal Church have used the erosion of marriage within our own Church and the society as a form of justification for the inclusion of active homosexuals in the life of the Church. I stumbled upon a piece from Bishop Vono of Rio Grande, which can be found here, which uses this point to justify the same.

The problem with our current Church is that we have no grounding in traditional, Christian sexual morality, much less a solidly Reformed understanding of marriage. As an unmarried man, I feel somewhat presumptuous to lecture on the finality of marriage, yet, I hope the reader will have ears to hear.

Divorce is a problem caused by the human condition, that being complete and total fall into depravity, caused by our father, Adam, and passed throughout generations. The cultural fad of "emotional fulfillment" and the concept of soul mates leads one to question their spouse, when the infatuation begins to wane. This waxing and waning of human emotion is normal. It brings to mind C.S. Lewis's concept of the law of undulation. We are all subject to the undulation or waxing and waning of emotion and desire that we might feel towards another person, which is precisely why Christian marriage is not based upon "eros" love. I am no Greek scholar, but from what I understand, there are three words for love in the Greek language: agape, phileo, and eros. The first describes the sacrificial love of God to man, manifested in the atoning death of Christ at Calvary. The second is the brotherly love between friends or siblings. The last is romantic love or sexual desire that one feels towards a spouse or future spouse. Now, this is not to say that eros is not important nor that sexual desire is wrong or unnecessary, both of which are false ideas. The issue is that we cannot build the foundation for a life-long relationship solely on sexual desire. Our culture places an unbelievable expectation upon sexual desire and fulfillment that which can even be a burden to someone, who cannot possibly be a perfect fulfillment of the entirety of one's sexual desires.

This is not the case with Christian marriage. The covenant of marriage is not based upon feelings, however important they may be in the establishment of a relationship, but on a committed love, such as that of Christ in his death to atone for our sins. I intend to look at the biblical passages touching on the subject as this point to clarify some points.

The first passages to investigate are Jesus' commands in the Gospels. I will present the Matthean version of these sayings. In Matthew's Gospel, we have the issue of the so-called Matthean exception, which we will see shortly.
It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: but I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery. (Matthew 5:31-32)
In this passage, we see Jesus revoking the system of divorce established under Moses, which was given due to the "hardness of heart" of the Israelites. Divorce is no longer permitted in the Christian community. Jesus likens this to adultery, a serious sin and offense. There are some interpretative issues here that will not be resolved in this post, yet, I intend to offer my thoughts on the matter. The so-called Matthean exception, deals with the phrase "saving for the case of fornication" which some interpret to mean that if one spouse cheats on the other, there is a lawful case for separation. I tend to agree with this treatment. However, I am not convinced that this subsequently permits remarriage. The passage seems to indicate a complete rejection of remarriage in the Christian community. 

Another important passage from Matthew's Gospel is found in the nineteenth chapter:
The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? 4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? 6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. 7 They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? 8 He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery. 
10 His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry. 11 But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given. 12 For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it. (Matthew 19:3-12)
This passage elaborates on Jesus' earlier teaching (within the Gospel, not necessarily chronologically earlier). We see, again, that divorce is prohibited. The Matthean exception is included here. This means that, perhaps, divorce can be justified on the grounds of infidelity. However, this is not for individual Christians to decide but the proper ecclesiastical authority. Included here is Jesus' teaching on celibacy as well. Marriage is a good thing for the individual and society but there are some who are called to celibacy. Jesus enumerates the various reasons for celibacy but it is important solely here to note that celibacy is an option for Christians, but only for those who are so called.

We move now to St. Paul's teaching on the matter:
I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I. 9 But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn. 
10 And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: 11 but and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife. 
12 But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. 13 And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. 14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy. 15 But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace. 16 For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife? (1 Corinthians 7:8-16)
In  this passage, Paul reiterates the teaching of Jesus on the matter. It is interesting to note that Paul also exhorts celibacy, those who are called to it. The general principle remains, divorce is prohibited (except in certain circumstances) and remarriage is absolutely prohibited. I think the so-called Pauline exception is debatable, but, for the sake of simplicity, let's assume that Paul is saying that Christians who are married to unbelievers, before their conversion, are allowed to separate, if their unbelieving spouse so desires. Paul does not allow for the remarriage of separated Christians, neither does Jesus. Paul exhorts that spouses should be reconciled or if reconciliation is not possible that they should remain unmarried.

This is what I see as the teaching of Scripture on the matter, that divorce is prohibited and the subsequent remarriage of Christian persons is equally prohibited. If the so-called exceptions are to be allowed, that Christians may separate in the case of infidelity or if an unbelieving spouse departs, this does not allow the subsequent remarriage of Christian persons. Marriages are to be mended and relationships reconciled but the Church has not historically allowed remarriage.

Now some may ask, where does the Anglican tradition fit into all of this? Didn't Henry VIII divorce Catharine of Aragon? How can we claim to have any sexual ethic with this example? First, it's important to remember that we are not the Church of Henry. Secondly, we should remember that Henry was never divorced. He had multiple marriages declared null and void.

How does all of this relate to the issue of same-sex relationships? Essentially, it is the same problem. Moreover, if we as orthodox Christians wish to be heard and especially if our argument is based upon Scripture, then we need to take Scripture seriously ourselves. Clearly, Scripture condemns homosexual behavior (1 Cor. 6:9; Romans 1:26-27; Lev. 18:22, these passages clearly condemn homosexual behavior, presuming that other references are dealing with perverse prostitution, ritualistic sex acts, although I doubt they are; equally, the moral law is applicable to Christians, if Lev. 18:22 is no longer applicable, then incest and bestiality are also acceptable. Now, the problem is that if we are basing our rejection of homosexual behavior on Scripture (as we should), we have to equally condemn divorce and remarriage.

Of Clerical Marriage

What follows is a short reflection on one of the Articles of Religion, which, perhaps, could be overlooked due to its simplicity. The issue is of clerical marriage, a key point during the Protestant Reformation, which broke the ties with the medieval Church. To this day, it is one of the defining marks that separates the Reformed Churches from the Roman and Eastern Churches. The requirement of celibacy was seen by our Reformers as an unbiblical and unnatural demand of men in the ordained ministry of the Church. They searched the Scriptures and saw the holiness of marriage as it was instituted by God. Furthermore, they saw that the Apostle Peter was himself married, as well as many in the early Church. If one were to look at the history of the Church, they would see that the issue of clerical marriage was not settled in the West until the 11th century and that the decision to require clerical celibacy was rooted in issues of property rather than any doctrinal issues (obviously, this is drastically over-simplified for the sake of brevity).

Here is the text of Article XXXII...

XXXII. Of the Marriage of Priests.

BISHOPS, Priests, and Deacons are not commanded by God's laws either to vow the estate of single life or to abstain from marriage. Therefore it is lawful also for them, as for all other Christian men, to marry at their own discretion, as they shall judge the same to serve better to godliness.

The importance of this Article is crucial to the question of Anglican identity. This is the point which is often overlooked when discussing the issues related to the material in this Article. This Article allows marriage to the discretion of ministers, to whether or not they will pursue it. This overturns the medieval practice of requiring celibacy for all orders. More importantly, it also departs from the Eastern tradition of allowing married men to become priests and deacons (but not bishops). There seems to be a current in North American Anglicanism to highlight the alleged similarities between Anglicanism and unreformed Byzantism. This is one of the supposed ways in which these two drastically different religions are similar. The problem is that the underlying principles of Article XXXII are contrary to those underlying the allowance of clerical marriage in the Eastern churches. In the East, a married man may become ordained but, after ordination, a priest or deacon may not marry. This is remarkably different from the Anglican position.

The teaching of the Bible does not support the idea that ministers may not marry (except perhaps by some strange eisegesis). St. Paul implies that ministers will be married in his discussion of the qualifications of bishops and deacons in I Timothy iii and Titus i:

A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife... One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) (I Timothy iii, 2, 4-5).

If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly (Titus i, 6).

There is no Scriptural requirement that ministers be unmarried. The nature of the Church's authority does not allow it to require something to be practiced that is contrary to Scripture, which would be unlawful. Does the requirement of celibacy contradict the teaching of Scripture? While it is not the purpose of this piece to exhaustively prove this point, I do think that the requirement of clerical celibacy is contrary to the teachings of Scripture.

The key thing which should be noted about the teaching of Article XXXII is the wedge that it places between Anglicanism and both Rome and the East. In a time when many are trying to create some artificial bridge between Anglicanism and Eastern Orthodoxy, it remains ever crucial to note that this bridge does not exist. The Non-juring Scots found that out in the 18th century and I have the feeling that many "non-juring" bishops in North America are going to find that out rather soon as well.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Revisiting "Moderate Ceremonialism"

In the effort to re-protestantize our Church, it is necessary to evaluate things as they are, not as we wish them to be. In the spirit of this idea, I am re-evaluating an earlier concept of mine "Moderate Ceremonialism" as providing a way to evaluate the current practice of the Church. What can be retained? What should be retained? These sorts of questions are the ones which guide the present discussion.

On this blog, I have intended to revive the spirit of an earlier age.  The Protestant High Churchmanship of men such as Laud, Taylor, Cosin, Waterland, Van Mildert, Hobart, Seabury, and Hopkins has sadly been displaced by a newfangled mishmash of poor, medieval theology and an unnatural affinity for lace.  The Prayer Book, Articles of Religion, Homilies and the Authorized Version form a core by which the Anglican spirit is derived.  We believe these things to be an honest summary of the doctrine contained in Holy Writ and the Fathers of the Church and faithful representations of the same.

This post is rather different, in that it intends to explore the ritual and ceremonial expression of that faith, once delivered to the saints.  While the theology of a movement is crucial, it is its ritual manifestation that affects the average layman.  Indeed a rector can suddenly change his theology and perhaps only the more astute layman will acknowledge it.  But the addition of a Sanctus bell or incense on Sunday morning will be noticed by most of the laity present.  The intent here is not to return to the customary of the past but, rather, to evaluate the changes which have occurred in Anglican worship since the late 19th century and determine which of these is consistent with our theology.  The choice of words in the title "moderate ceremonialism" is also deliberate in relation to Ritualism which was extreme in all senses of the word and exceeded the limits of Anglican belief and practice. This is not meant to be a guide to the celebration of Holy Communion such as Percy Dearmer's "The Parson's Handbook," but rather a guide to overall ceremonial which will guide the minister in the application thereof.  

A Brief History of Ceremonial in the Church of England

During Henry's reign, the process of reform was slow but there was steady momentum for reform, often correlating with the pace of the various German cities undergoing reformation at the same time. Many people claim that Henry did not support reform but there is evidence that he was cautious and looking to the Germans for guidance. But the German reformation was happening at different paces in each city and the definition of "protestant" hadn't really crystallized yet. However, regardless of the historical interpretation, liturgy and vestments stayed the same until nearly the end of Henry's reign when various things began to be prohibited. The first prayer book was issued in 1549 under Edward VI, however, it allowed the traditional vestments and followed the structure of the Latin Rite and Canon. However, the 1552 BCP would be revolutionary because it abolised all vestments except the surplice for priests and rochet for bishops. It also departed from the structure of the Roman Canon and applied biblical principles to worship and reformed the service to be more in line with the teaching of the Fathers. Most of the ceremonial which was used under the old rite was now abolished. For instance, the stone altar was replaced with a wooden table, which was to be brought out from the chancel at Communion-time and placed "table-wise" facing east/west so that the priest stood at the north side of the table and the communicants kneeld around the table for the Communion.

However, the reforms of 1552 would be shortly lived for in 1553, Mary Tudor ascended the throne and reverted the nation back to Romanism. Therefore the old vestments and ritual came back. But the Marian reign was short enough and Elizabeth ascended the throne in 1558 and republished the Book of Common Prayer in 1559, mostly the structure of the 1552 text but with a few alterations to make the 1552 text more catholic. One infamous rubric included in the revision of 1559 is the "Ornaments Rubric," which deals with the ornaments of the church and the vestments of the minister, it reads:

"The Morning and Evening praier shalbe used in the accustomed place of the churche, chapel, or Chauncell, except it shalbe otherwise determined by the ordinary of the place: and the chauncels shall remain, as they have done in tymes past.
And here is to be noted, that the Minister at the time of the communion, and at all other tymes in hys ministracion, shall use suche ornamentes in the church, as wer in use by aucthoritie of parliament in the second yere of the reygne of king Edward the .VI. according to the acte of parliament set in the beginning of thys booke."

There has been endless debate about the intended meaning of this text, and I am not going to spend time on hypothetical intentions behind the text but to appeal to history and see how real Anglican ministers vested for divine service. I have referred to various works on ceremonial of the time but chiefly, "Hierurgia Anglicana." It appears from a glance reading of the rubric that it was intended to revive vestments as they were under Edward VI and the 1549 BCP, yet, if that was the intention, it was not obeyed by nearly any of Elizabeth's subjects. There are at least three theories for this discrpeancy: 1) Elizabeth intended the old vestments to be brought back but no one obeyed; 2) Elizabeth intended the old vestments to be worn as a temporary measure until a futher injunction was released; 3) Elizabeth did not intend old vestments to be worn at all. The first theory does not have much merit, considering the later Injunctions promulgated by Elizabeth. The third is more likely, yet, it seems that vestments were worn for a brief time, therefore, I propose the second option as the most likely. The old vestments were to be worn until further instruction was provided, which it was in the form of the Injunctions, which led to the classical definition of Anglican vestiture in the 1604 Canons.

For various reasons, the Ornaments Rubric was deleted from the first American Prayer Book. This was not to allow provision for the wearing of Mass vestments, but, rather, an attempt to make legal the custom of wearing the Geneva gown in Anglican services instead of the surplice. In a strictly literal sense this means that the wearing of Mass vestments is not "illegal" in America, in the sense that it is in England, that being illegal under secular laws.  That does not mean, however, that the wearing of such garments is right or intended for Protestant Episcopal clergy.  In fact, as already mentioned, the historical norm for Episcopal clergy was the black gown, not the surplice, the latter which only was revived in the years preceding the Oxford Movement.  

Whatever the case was, the old vestments died out. The universal dress was the surplice for parish clergy. The academic hood is allowed to be worn by clergy with degrees and the cope to be worn at cathedral and collegiate churches by the minister as well as by the "epistoller" and "gospeller" in the 1571 and 1604 canons. The latter canons also require a coif to be worn by the clergy and later the tippet was also worn by clergy.  While the occasional alb shows up at a cathedral or two throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, however never stoles or chasubles. Likewise, the vesture of bishops was set at the rochet and chimere and also a tippet. Sometimes bishops wore mitres and had crosiers but only rarely and most often they were buried with those items.  Samuel Seabury was a notable exception, in that he routinely wore a miter in his ministrations.

The Prayer Book cannot be regarded as ceremonially deficient. It permits a decent number of ceremonies and visible actions to aid the believer. In comparison with other Reformed service books, it permits a great deal more ceremonial, for instance the manual acts in Holy Communion, kneeling to receive the elements, and the sign of the cross in baptism. A few other actions became very popular (and even codified in canon law), the most popular being the bowing at the name of Jesus. The authorized vestments, as we have seen, were the old choir dress: cassock, surplice, tippet for deacons and presbyters and cassock, rochet, and chimere for bishops. These were probably chosen as an appropriate distinctive dress for the clerical office because they were not associated with the Mass in the Roman Rite. The Caroline Divines are an excellent example of moderate ceremonialism embraced for worship. The example of Durham Cathedral served as the exemplar of Laudian worship. It should be noted that Cathedrals were expected to have a higher degree of pomp and circumstance for their position in the diocese but, nonetheless, examples for dignified worship for parish churches too. The Psalms were chanted and also they had beautiful altar basins, patens, and chalices, as well as fine linens on the altar. The normative practice for the Church of England was to have wooden, communion tables. However, the general principle was not to tear apart churches, hence, some cathedrals maintained stone altars. In association with other sacraments, the font for baptism was placed in the "ancient place" at the door of the church. There is also evidence for a number of "incense pots" which were used to burn incense as a perfume (no censing). Some of the actions of Bishop Cosin and the Cathedral were beyond the norms for Anglican worship at the time, such as facing east during the prayer of consecration and the bowing to the holy table.

Moderate Ceremonialism Today

While the historical information provided above many be entertaining to certain ears, I believe it can provide a framework for ceremonial today. In addition to the practice of the Caroline Divines, I also will refer to Cranmer in his treatise, "Of Ceremonies" contained in the Book of Common Prayer.

In the spirit of Anglican history, we see that, while the Prayer Book is normative and authoritative in worship, some ceremonial actions have been added, such as bowing at the name of Jesus. This principle will allow us to consider maintaining other actions not specifically allowed in the Prayer Book. However, these must not be contrary to the teaching of Scripture and, moreover, we should keep the principle of simplicity at heart. Some things have lost their original connotation and can be retained at the present moment, provided that catechism is provided and the laity are properly instructed in the faith. Catechism is necessary to teach the laity what we are doing in worship and why we are doing it. This will prevent the laity from fostering unbiblical notions of Christian worship.

Firstly, the ornaments of the church must be discussed, while the ornaments rubric exists, a clear interpretation of it has never existed. In all things, we must remember that we wish to give to the Lord that which he is due. The Laudians often speak of the "beauty of holiness," and the church on earth is compared to the heavenly throne and the earthly liturgy with the heavenly. For this reason, Anglicans have always been open to having precious items in worship. The standard is a fair linen cloth to cover the table and another to cover the paten after communion, the paten itself, the chalice, a flagon to hold extra wine, an offertory basin to collect the offerings of the people, the communion table itself, a Prayer Book and Bible or Epistle book and Gospel book, a lectern, pulpit, and pews or a place for the people to sit. These things are required for Prayer Book worship, however, there are things which can be added which are not specifically mentioned in the Prayer Book. Ancient custom calls for two candles to be on the table to symbolize the light of Christ, this seems a harmless custom, although the preference is for simplicity and the removing of them to some other place in the sanctuary. The custom now is to place a cross or crucifix on, above, or near the holy table. A plain cross is preferred to the crucifix and it would be better to do without but they can remain if need be. Often times other linens are placed on the table as well, such as reflecting liturgical season and color. This also seems a harmless custom. The lavabo was practiced by Lancelot Andrewe's and it has become very popular. The preference would be to refrain, for simplicity's sake, but if it is practiced it should be done decently, without provoking superstition. Many churches had incense pots to burn incense as a fragrance for the church but there is no indication they were used in censing things.

The vestments, that being the dress of the minister, historically, the authorized vestments were, cassock, surplice, tippet, and the cope in cathedral and collegiate churches, although, the expectation was that the cathedrals would be imitated by parish churches. However, the Mass vestments have been reintroduced into our Protestant Church and the sight of Protestant ministers in alb, stole, and chasuble is too common. In this regards, it is important to catechize the people about the true nature of Holy Communion and not to hold to an unbiblical notion of sacrifice in relation to the Eucharist. If the minister should wear such vestments, it is crucial that he catechize the people. If this practiced, the mere wearing of them is not contradictory. Yet, the identification of classically Anglican dress is more appropriate and should be the priority.

Gestures at Holy Communion, much is made of the actions of the priest during the Holy Communion, however, I do not intend to list a series of acts that the priest needs to do because these are already listed in our Prayer Book and are confined to the manual acts at the consecration and the sign of the cross at baptism. The custom of bowing to the table has become increasingly popular. It has been advocated by various divines, yet, I cannot advocate such a gesture. This seems a contradiction of our theology that Christ is not confined to the elements and there is no substantial change to them. However, I am willing to agree to disagree on this matter. The bowing at the name of Jesus is a decent practice that should be retained. There really is one thing we have to avoid, that of elevating the Host at the consecration, which is specifically condemned in the Articles and it also implies an objective presence of Christ in the elements, which the Articles also condemn. Many people today make the sign of the cross at other points in the service, both laity and clergy, this is not objectionable but the key here is simplicity. I think obsessive signings promotes superstition but at the same time this ancient custom cannot be counted as objectionable.

Cranmer is of some value here because he adds two valuable qualifications for a ceremony, that it must be edifying to the people and not contrary to the teaching of Scripture. In addition, he believes in the simplicity of worship, therefore a multiplication of rites is wrong in his eyes because it it is unedifying to the people. I hope clergy and laity listen to Cranmer and promote the Gospel in their congregations and not focus on the details of ceremonial.

Ceremony is good and necessary as human beings but as the English Reformation taught us, it is important to limit ceremonial with the teaching of Scripture. I advocate "moderate ceremonialism" instead of ritualism as a guide to the rites and ceremonies of the Church. As always, the Gospel is the focus, ceremonies only help us see the truth of the Gospel and this should be our focus.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Traditional Anglican Protestantism

In honor of Reformation Day, I wish to provide a brief overview of the tenets of traditional Protestantism and traditional, Anglican Protestantism at that. Albeit a modern invention, Reformation Day, celebrates the purification of the Church and its reformation along biblical and patristic lines. This Reformation led to the profession of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ and the rejection of the false Gospel of Rome, in addition to all of the pollution that centuries of Roman paganism had brought upon Christ's Church. In the Reformation, Bible-believing Christians reclaimed the "sword of truth" and with one stroke proclaim the Good News of Christ and brought down the oppression and heresy of Rome. A return to the profession of this Gospel is the thing that most plagues the Anglican Communion, even above gays and women bishops and modern liturgies, it is in this lack of clarity when proclaiming this Gospel of grace and truth that modern Anglicanism faults entirely. In order to recover the purity of truth and the true Anglican patrimony, we must return to the Christian religion as proclaimed in Holy Scripture.

Traditional, Anglican Protestantism, together with Protestants from the Continent, affirms some basic principles that guide its thinking. These are traditionally called the "five solas of the Reformation" emphasizing certain, biblical truths over the temptation of Romanism.

Firstly, traditional Protestantism affirms the supremacy of Scripture, meaning that Scripture is the only infallible rule of faith. What is not contained therein or what cannot be proven from it, cannot be taught as authoritative for Christian belief and all things that are necessary for salvation are found within its pages. This means that the Church cannot add things to what is taught in Scripture to be required for salvation. This does not rob the authority of the Church or of tradition but severely limits them, in relation to Scripture. Tradition and the Church have authority in the life of the Christian, yet they are not infallible sources. Both the Church, in its ministry and the tradition of the Fathers, can and have erred. This limitation of the authority of the Church answers one of the subsequent questions related to sola Scriptura, that being, what constitutes the Word of God? The answer, of course, is the written Word of God contained within the canonical books of the Holy Scripture. Secondly, the issue of the nature of Scripture's message is of importance. The Roman Church teaches that the common believer cannot understand the fullness of God's Word to us without the aid of the Church. This seems contrary to what God proclaims to us in his Word and contrary to God's will for us.

Secondly, the nature of salvation is of key importance to the traditional Anglican Protestant faith. How are we saved? How can we be in right relationship to God? The answer, according to the Bible, of course, is what the Protestant Reformation was about uncovering. The natural inclination of man is to boast in his own works and claim them as his badge of salvation. The Scriptures proclaim against this profoundly. Firstly, the natural condition of man is such that he has no ability (or desire) to turn to God and cannot do such on his own authority or ability. Secondly, the only means to union with God is through faith. Faith, of course, involves both assent to the right beliefs about God and also trusting in Him and in Christ's work for us at Calvary, salvation is by "faith alone" or sola fide. However, faith is not something that we have in our own being, it is a gift of God. This leads to the next point, being that salvation is by grace alone, or sola gratia. The question of what grace is is also an equally important question. The Roman Church teaches that it is some spiritual force that helps the Christian to do good works. However, the Bible teaches that grace is the unmerited favor of God. This is, of course, something that needs to be unpacked. The unmerited favor of God means that he has looked down upon us and decided to act in saving us without any merit of our own. It is through this unmerited favor that God grants us the faith to believe in him.

Another key point to note is that salvation is not only brought about by God through grace alone and received by faith alone, it is only accomplished by Christ alone. This means that there is no other mediation through which we can receive salvation. This denies the Church and her ministers any role in salvation, other than preaching the Gospel of grace, whereby we can be saved. This cuts to the heart of the works religion as promoted by the Roman Church, which seeks to give man some role in his salvation, which Scripture rightly denies.

If the Anglican Communion wishes to remain a vital force in Protestant Christianity, it must come to proclaim the Gospel of Christ with the same vigor as it has in the past. The present latitudinarianism cannot provide salvation for anyone and, in fact, is leading many away from the riches of God's grace in Christ Jesus. May the Churches of the Communion repent of this sin and return to proclaiming God's love for the world in Christ Jesus.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Black-Letter Days

Those unfamiliar with the history of the English Prayer Book tradition and Anglicanism, are probably not familiar with the term "Black letter days". The concept refers to the classification of feasts in the Church Calendar. With the reform of the liturgy in the 16th century, the Church Calendar was heavily revised, with most of the pre-Reformation material scaled back. In the medieval liturgies, each feast day had propers and there existed a complicated system of preference on which day should be celebrated and which had prominence. Cranmer's reforms largely deleted this system. In the Book of Common Prayer, only New Testament Saints (St. Peter, St. Matthew, etc.) and biblical events (Ascension, Christmas, etc.) were retained as proper feasts with their own collects and lessons. These were printed in red in the Calendar, hence the name "red-letter days". Some other post-New Testament saints were retained in the Calendar, but were not provided with propers. These latter days were printed in black and called "black-letter days".

The black-letter days were not celebrated liturgically, nor were they ever intended to be celebrated in that way. They were mostly reintroduced for civil purposes (often times government sessions and other civil things were operating on the Church calendar, hence "Michaelmas term" for schools and etc.). This does not mean that Anglicanism is opposed to celebrating holy days or seasons. However, Anglicanism has set a limit on what can and should be celebrated. The litmus test for Anglicans is the New Testament, only these saints and events are celebrated liturgically because they can be verified as authentic. The problem with post-New Testament saints is the problem of hagiography or the embellishment of the saints' lives due to superstition. The human mind naturally lends towards idolatry, which Cranmer and other Reformers understood well, the tendency is towards the falsification of human lives to satisfy pagan religious sentiments. Often times it has been discovered that saints are complete fabrications and do not even represent a real human being (i.e. St. Christopher).

When one looks at the development of the Anglican tradition in the United States, one learns a great deal about how Anglicanism was practiced in the 18th and 19th centuries. For instance, an unrelated point deals with the Ornaments Rubric. The American Church deleted this rubric, not because chasubles were worn in the Colonies but because no one was wearing a surplice so it seemed unprofitable to reprint a rubric requiring its use. The same can be seen in the Calendar. If one observes the American prayer books, they will find that there are no "black-letter days" in the American prayer books. The black-letter days were not "used" in any functional sense and in the same way that the Ornaments Rubric was deleted so were the black-letter days, which became a problem for the later Tractarians in America.

The question arises, when looking at the American prayer books as to the nature of political commemorations that are observed in both the United States and in England. For instance, the American prayer books provide propers for Thanksgiving and (later) Independence Day. The English Prayer Book provided forms for State Services until Queen Victoria removed them in the 19th century. The difference between these political observances and black-letter days is that political commemorations do not lend to idolatry, whereas black-letter days can if they are not properly conducted.

With the re-introduction of Romanism into our Church via the Oxford Movement, there came an aping towards the saints (which is inherent to Roman superstition and pagan religion). The black-letter days on the Calendar provided an excellent opportunity for the Tractarians to satisfy religious superstition. The problem was that there were no propers for these days in the English Prayer Book (because they are not to be celebrated). The first attempt at reintroducing medieval collects and propers into the Anglican Calendar that I know of was Percy Dearmer's English Liturgy (published in 1903). This really demonstrates the novelty of the concept of commemorating non-biblical saints in Anglicanism.

Modern Anglicanism has complicated things a bit further by commemorating people who are not recognized as "saints" by the "undivided Church" (which it has the right to do). Anglicanism does not have a tradition of canonization (with the exception of King Charles the Martyr who was granted something akin to canonization after his martyrdom). This creates a unique problem when the powers that be hardly consider themselves Christian anymore (and hence the proliferation of questionable characters in the newest sanctoral calendars released by our Protestant Episcopal Church).

The solution? Revert to the classical position of only commemorating biblical saints.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Evangelical Fellowship of the Anglican Communion

The Hackney Hub is currently involved with efforts to re-establish EFAC-USA in the Episcopal Church. Interested parties should contact either the Hackney Hub or post at Evangelicals in the Episcopal Church's blog:

The Revd Canon George Kovoor, General Secretary of EFAC, has been elected rector of St John’s Episcopal Church, New Haven. St John’s acquired a reputation as an evangelical parish under the long tenure ofPeter Rodgers. Kovoor was President of one of the Church of England’s theological colleges (seminaries), Trinity College, Bristol, from 2005 to April 2013.

EFAC is the international body supported by the organisations that represent the Evangelicals in each of the various Anglican churches throughout the world. EFAC-USA, formerly the Fellowship of Witness, was the organisation representing Evangelicals in the Episcopal Church. EFAC-USA ceased to function when its chairman left the Episcopal Church, and has yet to be reorganised. There is a history of EFAC-USA, written by Cook Kimball, and a copy of the EFAC Statement of Faith, on our ‘Resources’ page.

For click here.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Church Catechism: Knowing God and Serving Him

This series is based in part off of a lecture given by the Hackney Hub at at a diocesan event.

The Church Catechism, as found in the Book of Common Prayer, is an excellent introduction to the Christian faith, in general, and to the way it has been practiced in England and English-speaking areas since the Reformation. It is to be commended for its simplicity, which makes it accessible to every man in nearly every stage of life. It does not deviate from (the commonly called) first order issues, i.e. those things which are necessary for salvation. 

The Catechism is comprised of the elements that make up the basis of Christian faith. These were the traditional elements learned before confirmation, both before and after the Reformation. They include, the Creed, the Decalogue, and the Lord's Prayer. The 1604 revision added a section on the Sacraments at the end, another basic component of Christian faith. I believe the Catechism adequately addresses the two main aspects of the Christian life, that being the interior process of conversion and sanctification and the exterior realization of said change. 

The first two sections of the Catechism (the "introduction" and the Creed) deal with the interior process of conversion or coming to faith. "Faith" in itself is a two sided coin as well. First, it describes the mental affirmation, or "head faith", of the doctrines of the Christian faith, that being the doctrine of the Trinity, the Incarnation, Resurrection, Virgin Birth, etc. These mental affirmations are important because we must know who God is, how he relates to the world, and the manner in which he came to earth, in order to properly have faith in his goodness towards us. The other side of "faith" is "heart faith" or the conviction of sin, whereby we realize that we are nothing without God's mercy and grace, obviously only initiated by the workings of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. This conviction leads us to the Cross of Christ, whereby we find healing in his wounds and forgiveness of our wrongdoing. This "heart faith" is the stuff of conversion and sanctification, of turning away from sin and to Christ as Lord and Savior. 

To turn to the first portion of the Catechism:

QUESTION. What is your Name?
Answer. N. or M.
Question. Who gave you this Name?
Answer. My Godfathers and Godmothers in my Baptism; wherein I was made a member of Christ, the child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven.
Question. What did your Godfathers and Godmothers then for you?
Answer. They did promise and vow three things in my name. First, that I should renounce the devil and all his works, the pomps and vanity of this wicked world, and all the sinful lusts of the flesh. Secondly, that I should believe all the Articles of the Christian Faith. And thirdly, that I should keep God's holy will and commandments, and walk in the same all the days of my life.
Question. Dost thou not think that thou art bound to believe, and to do, as they have promised for thee?
Answer. Yes verily: and by God's help so I will. And I heartily thank our heavenly Father, that he hath called me to this state of salvation, through Jesus Christ our Saviour. And I pray unto God to give me his grace, that I may continue in the same unto my life's end.
In this first portion of the Catechism, we learn some very important things about ourselves and our true identity. In the first question, we see that the whole of our identity is tied to Christ as our name was given to us at our baptism, the beginning of our journey in faith. In this sacrament, Christ claims us as his own and begins his work of redemption within us. Of course, as young infants, we cannot know the nature of sin and repentance, it is for this reason that our godparents made these promises on our behalf. In this sense, maturation in the Christian faith is to take these promises made on our behalf and to make them properly our own promises. For this reason, baptism makes us "inheritors" because of the promises made on our behalf and the faithfulness of God.

What is the nature of the promises made on our behalf? That we should renounce the devil and sin, that we should believe the Christian faith, and that we should walk in God's will and keep his commandments. This is the high calling to which we must strive to live, not of our own power but of the power of Christ within us. These promises are not trivial matters but matters which cut the core of who we are as human beings. For this reason, it is important that we understand the nature of what we are agreeing to by believing in God and secondly, to know the great benefits of this relationship. For this, we can turn to Holy Scripture for clarification on the nature of faith.

The most basic question of all is, what is faith? What does it mean to have faith in God? The Scriptures offer us a clear definition, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1). The author goes on to say that it was through faith that the saints of the Old Testament "obtained a good report" (v. 2) meaning that faith has always been the means by which believers find communion with God. Returning to the concept of two "faiths" that I mentioned earlier, this is more the realm of "head faith" which will be dealt with in the next installment of this series (of the Creed) but it is important to note that "head faith" and "heart faith" are intertwined but one must have both to fully comprehend the mysteries of God. In verse 3, we see that faith opens us up to the reality of God and the supernatural world, "Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear." This is why the natural man has such a hard time understanding the things of God, because his heart and mind have not been opened to this truth. Our hearts and minds must be opened to this truth to truly approach God, for, how can we approach him if we are not certain of his existence and work among us? "But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him" (v. 6).

Having this definition of faith in mind and what it opens up to us, if we turn to the previous chapter of the book of Hebrews, we can see the immense benefits that faith in God can open to us:

19 Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus,
20 By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh;
21 And having an high priest over the house of God;
22 Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.
23 Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)
24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:
25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

Before even commenting on this passage, we must realize that the basis of our faith is the sacrifice of Christ made for us at Calvary. This is evident in the text itself as the previous portion of the chapter speaks of Christ's sacrifice. The Cross of Christ is the only thing that makes any of this beneficial and it is the only means by which we have access to God.

This portion of Holy Scripture describes the benefits of faith in Christ. There are several benefits listed in this passage. First, in verse 19, we see that we have access to God. We can enter his presence at any time, without the mediation of another. For this reason, the Exhortation at Morning Prayer says, "Wherefore I pray and beseech you, as many as are here present, to accompany me with a pure heart, and humble voice, unto the throne of the heavenly grace, saying after me..." because we can approach the "throne of heavenly grace" at all times and in all places. The point of having this access to God is to have communion with Him, for this is what He desires of us and what we are growing to desire of Him. Second, in verse 20, we note that Christ is the only way to the Father. This verse describes Christ as a "new and living way" and then brings to reference the veil of the Temple. This contrasts the Covenants of Works and Grace.

The next portion is crucial. In verses 22 to 24, we see that faith is the only way by which we can have these benefits. This refers us back to the Catechism, where we see the "plan of salvation" laid out for us, that being the conviction of sin, repentance and faith, followed by sanctification of life as evidenced by our following the Commandments of God. Verse 22 refers to the interior and exterior realities of this transformation. First, our hearts are "sprinkled from an evil conscience" which refers to repentance of sin and consequently "our bodies washed with pure water', which refers to baptism, our entrance into the family of God as his children. Baptism is the sign of regeneration, which is why it is tied so closely to the interior regeneration and repentance of sin here.

This miraculous work of God leads us to not only show evidence of our own faith through charity and good works but also encourages us to help others do the same. Our good works and love are evidence of a life saved by faith through grace. They show our thanksgiving to God for all that he has done for us and in us. The last verse of this passage is perhaps strange to some. What does the public assembly of believers have to do with our salvation from sin? A great deal, according to the Scriptures. We are not saved to be hermits on a mountaintop but to be in the world (but not of it). For this, we need the encouragement of other believers who have experienced the same wondrous salvation in Christ. For this reason, we gather week by week to praise God together and listen to his works among us.

Lastly, we return to the Catechism, whereby we note that the last question states a key point. That being that none of this is possible by our own strength or will. This is God's work in us for his glory. The Christian faith is remarkably humbling in its complete denial of our own role in our salvation. We cannot turn to God on our own, nor do we have the desire so to do. The only reason we are saved is because of his great mercy and love to us. Moreover, the only way that we can continue in his will is through his grace. As the Scripture says, "Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)" (v. 23).

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Re-Examining Toon's Concept of "The Prayer Book Tradition"

One of those myths floating around, especially in North America, is the notion that the 1928 Prayer Book is somehow the formulary for the Church in the United States. The idea was introduced by the late Dr. Peter Toon, president of the Society for the Preservation of the Book of Common Prayer (SPBCP), later identified as the "Prayer Book Society - USA" popularly. I do not wish to discredit all of Toon's ideas or his contribution to Anglican scholarship, because he was a decent scholar of Anglican history and his Evangelical Theology is a must-read for anyone who wishes to understand the opposition's response to the Tractarian Movement. However, this idea that he presented has caused more trouble for North American Anglicans than any other.

Let us first examine the substance of his claim to establish the basis of the complaint. The nature of the errors I find in Toon's logic is two-fold and equally dangerous. I have chosen two representative articles, which represent the gist of Toon's argument so that the reader may fully comprehend his argument.

One of the central claims of Toon's argument is that the 1928 Prayer Book (and the 1962 Canadian Prayer Book) is, in essence, the same as the 1662 BCP. This means that it shares the same theology and falls within the realm of legal revision as established in the Articles of Religion (Art. XXXIV). He uses the analogy of liturgical uses to convey how he envisions the relationship between the 1928 and 1662 BCPs should be. The 1928 BCP, 1962 BCP, and 1662 BCP are really "one BCP" or a family. The head of this family is, of course, the 1662 Prayer Book. The Canadian and American books of 1928 and 1962 are seen as "Uses" of this one Rite.

Toon wishes to distance the 1979 American BCP from the 1662 tradition (rightfully so), yet goes about doing so by claiming that it was not an appropriate revision of the same. He uses the language of "light" revision to refer to the work of the 1928 BCP in relation to both the earlier American books and the English book. He then describes the work of the 1979 Book as an inappropriate revision and contrasts it with the nomenclature of other modern liturgies (such as the Canadian Book of Alternative Services).

To begin, he expounds on the "One Book, Three Editions" premise:

Here I want to suggest that there has been, and is really and truly, one and one only Book of Common Prayer [BCP] and this has been produced in, and is available in, a variety of editions across the world... This one BCP in its 1662 edition was translated either in whole or part into 150 or more languages for use in the expanding British Empire. Further, there were editions of it prepared for use in Scotland, Ireland and the U.S.A. The latter edition of 1789 sought to edit the 1662 text so as to make it to be acceptable in a Republic (in contrast to a Monarchy) and to incorporate several changes in content based on the Scottish BCP; however, it retained the language, structure and basic content of the English edition of 1662 (see the Preface to the 1789 edition).
The point is that Liturgy is a living reality and thus the Rites used in any jurisdiction may over time and with wisdom be minimally improved or changed, as occasion requires, experience teaches and the Holy Ghost leads. Further, the way they are “used” may vary from place to place according to the local possibilities and circumstances (e.g., type of building and availability of musical instruments). (One Book, Three Editions)
Toon distinguishes between acceptable revisions and unaccepted ones, by referencing the 1979 American Prayer Book:
The differences between the BCP 1928 (together with those of 1892 and 1789) and 1979 are very obvious when the two are carefully compared; and, further, the similarities of 1979 to other experimental prayer books of the 1970s and 1980s, in terms of structure and content, and produced within the Anglican Family are also obvious. However, there is one important difference and it is this new prayer books in Canada, England, Australia and South Africa during the 1980s were deliberately not called The BCP but by another title specifically to distinguish them from the traditional Book of Common Prayer. (However, in the 1990s other provinces in the Anglican Family followed the lead of TEC and called their new prayer books by the name of The BCP. The West Indies and Nigeria are two obvious examples.) (One BCP but in three editions in North America: which do you use?)
Finally, the key point of Toon's argument is that the 1928 BCP is essentially equal to the 1662 BCP because it presents the same theology. To use his own analogy above, he likens it to the concept of liturgical uses, much similar to the medieval Sarum "Use" of the Roman Rite. So to Toon is the 1928 BCP the American "Use" of the 1662 BCP. He was involved in the early movements for reform and realignment, when the talk of using 1662 again in America began to surface. The SPBCP obviously opposed this move (because it threatened their existence!) and presented their arguments in favor of the 1928 BCP, essentially Toon's presentation summarized here. One piece which demonstrates this concept brilliantly is this one from their site:
In other words, we suggest that before we can ALL with integrity embrace the 1662 BCP as formulary and as our living prayer book (in its classic form or in a straight equivalent in contemporary English), we need to take the path to it via the 1928/1892/1789 edition of the same BCP. That is we need to take full responsibility as Americans for what The Episcopal Church of the USA did and has done, and what we have done, with regard to the American edition of the real and true BCP. Until we do this, Episcopal reform and renewal movements will lack real honesty, for they will be turning a blind eye to the worst thing (amongst many bad things since the 1960s) that The Episcopal Church ever did through its Convention to reject its own received identity by the rejection of its birth certificate and naturalization papers! Recovering identity means tracking the record of identity back via 1928 and 1892 and 1789 to 1662, not trying to jump across 336 years! (The Right Path to 1662 is via 1928 not via Time Machine)
Suffice it to say that I think Toon missed the mark completely with this one. I must admit that in my own public person I have published works promoting the 1928 BCP and this might appear a "flip-flop" to some. However, my earlier comments on the 1928 BCP reflect my current position on the matter. The crux of the issue rested on some further research I recently conducted which confirmed some suspicions in my mind.

I don't intend to argue here that revision is impossible, rather that it is often not the best thing to consider because the chance to change is often sought out by those who dislike the current standard. This seems to have always been the case in America. The group of people that revised the Prayer Book in 1786 (and 1789) were eager to get their hands on the BCP to make it a little shorter. They really didn't like the repetitions of the English Prayer Book or the Athanasian Creed. The 1786 Proposed Book was a bit too radical for the English bishops (and most American churchmen). The English bishops used the 1789 BCP and the consecration of White and Provoost as a chance to regularize the American Church and stamp out Scottish non-juring influence (which was very much a sect at the time and not normative Anglicanism). The English bishops were willing to entertain the American revisions based upon the 1689 Liturgy of Comprehension (which they probably agreed with) but regulated other aspects of the American revision, thus bringing it to an acceptable place in relation to the English Prayer Book. This was crucial, especially granted the promise made by American churchmen in the Preface:
"In which it will also appear that this Church [PECUSA] is far from intending to depart from the Church of England in any essential point of doctrine, discipline, or worship; or further than local circumstances require (BCP 1979, 11)."
The English bishops agreed with the 1789 Prayer Book and thus the promise made here was fulfilled. The issue of the Prayer of Oblation in the American book is really not much of an issue. First, the revisers drastically altered the prayer. I present the original Non-juring prayer and the American one for comparison:

Wherefore, O Lord, and heavenly Father, according to the institution of thy dearly beloved Son our Saviour Jesus Christ, we thy humble servants do celebrate and make here before thy divine majesty, with these thy holy gifts, WHICH WE NOW OFFER UNTO THEE, the memorial thy Son hath commanded us to make; having in remembrance his blessed passion, and precious death, his mighty resurrection, and glorious ascension; rendering unto thee most hearty thanks for the innumerable benefits procured unto us by the same. And we most humbly beseech thee, O merciful Father, to hear us, and of thy almighty goodness vouchsafe to bless and sanctify, with thy word and holy Spirit, these thy gifts and creatures of bread and wine, that they may become the body and blood of thy most dearly beloved Son. And we earnestly desire thy fatherly goodness, mercifully to accept this our sacrifice of praise and thanks giving, most humbly beseeching thee to grant, that by the merits and death of thy Son Jesus Christ, and through faith in his blood, we (and all thy whole church) may obtain remission of our sins, and all other benefits of his passion. And here we humbly offer and present unto thee, O Lord, ourselves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy and lively sacrifice unto thee, beseeching thee, that whosoever shall be partakers of this holy Communion, may worthily receive the most precious body and blood of thy Son Jesus Christ, and be filled with thy grace and heavenly benediction, and made one body with bun, that he may dwell in them, and they in him. And although we are unworthy, through our manifold sins, to offer unto thee any sacrifice; yet we beseech thee to accept this our bounden duty and service, not weighing our merits, but pardoning our offences, through Jesus [Christ] our Lord: by whom, and with whom, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, all honour and glory be unto thee, O Father Almighty, world without end. Amen.
WHEREFORE, O Lord and heavenly Father according to the institution of thy dearly beloved Son our Saviour Jesus Christ, we, thy humble servants, do celebrate and make here before thy Divine Majesty, with these thy holy gifts, which we now offer unto thee, the memorial thy Son hath commanded us to make; having in remembrance his blessed passion and precious death, his mighty resurrection and glorious ascension; rendering unto thee most hearty thanks for the innumerable benefits procured unto us by the same. And we most
humbly beseech thee, O merciful Father, to hear us; and, of thy almighty goodness, vouchsafe to bless and sanctify, with thy Word and Holy Spirit, these thy gifts and creatures of bread and wine; that we, receiving them according to thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ’s holy institution, in remembrance of his death and passion, may be partakers of his most blessed Body and Blood. And we earnestly desire thy fatherly goodness, mercifully to accept this our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving; most humbly beseeching thee to grant, that by the merits and death of thy Son Jesus Christ, and through faith in his blood, we, and all thy whole Church, may obtain remission of our sins, and all other benefits of his passion. And here we offer and present unto thee, O Lord, ourselves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice unto thee; humbly beseeching thee, that we, and all others who shall be partakers of this Holy Communion, may worthily receive the most precious Body and Blood of thy Son Jesus Christ, be filled with thy grace and heavenly benediction, and made one body with him, that he may dwell in them, and they in him. And although we are unworthy, through our manifold sins, to offer unto thee any sacrifice; yet we beseech thee to accept this our bounden duty and service; not weighing our merits, but pardoning our offences, through Jesus Christ our Lord; by whom, and with whom, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, all honour and glory be unto thee, O Father Almighty, world without end. Amen.
The changes in the American text bring the theology of the prayer in line with the Anglican formularies (coincidentally enough, the Non-jurors in Scotland had to go through a similar process to be recognized by the Crown, i.e. accepting the 39 Articles and 1662 BCP to be in "communion" with the Church of England), which is officially receptionist, meaning that the body and blood of Christ are not present in, with, or under the elements of bread and wine, but received by the worthy receiver through faith. The issue of the "oblational" theology present here is also not that much of an issue because it was fairly common in some parts of the English Church as well and is subject to a variety of interpretations.

To return to Toon and his arguments, he makes a critical error when deciding when the American Prayer Book tradition went off the deep end. He underestimates the drastic differences in theology between the 1789/1892 tradition and the 1928 tradition:
This was dated 1928 because it was finally authorized by the General Convention of 1928. However, this prayer book was not a new and experimental prayer book; but a gentle revision of The Book of Common Prayer that had been the official prayer book of PECUSA since 1892. And to complete the story of gentle revision, the 1892 edition of The BCP was itself a revision of the first edition of the American form of The BCP, dated 1789. So the editions of 1789, 1892 and 1928 are three of a kind, while the 1979 belongs to a wholly new genre. ("One BCP but in three editions in North America: which do you use?")
Essentially, the 1789/1892 tradition, I refer to it as such because the 1892 revision was indeed a "light" revision as Toon says (it removed some of the odd peculiarities of the 1789 revision), yet these two revisions remained within the Anglican mainstream, by the approval of the English bishops of the 1789. The 1892 did not deviate from this tradition in substance. However, to say that the 1928 is a representative of the earlier American prayer book tradition is false. The 1928 BCP departs from classical Anglicanism in several ways (which will be observed in depth later) but the important points are that the 1928 BCP "reassembles" the Canon of the Mass, which was broken by the Anglican Reformation. It also introduces prayers for the dead into the official liturgy, which is not present in any of the official liturgies of England (perhaps in Common Worship but I haven't looked to confirm that). I hope to continue looking into this issue to point out the deviation from classical Anglicanism in the 1928 BCP in the future.

The 1928 BCP is not the same thing as the 1662 BCP, in fact, it is a rupture within and from the 1662 tradition in America. The earlier American Prayer Books had the approval of the English bishops as maintaining the substance of the faith as contained in the formularies and, thus, honored the promise to maintain the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Church of England as much as possible. The 1928 BCP does not do this. Moreover, it actively intends not to uphold the faith of classical Anglicanism by introducing unreformed doctrine and practice into the life of the Church.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Cranmer’s Genius

One of the more memorable things in Anglicanism is the service of choral evensong. It can be experienced in a variety of ways, from Gothic cathedrals to simple parish churches. The voices of the choir seem to lift the soul beyond the church to the heavenly courts. Whilst there are a variety of services and options to choose from to conduct this sort of service, the usual standard is the original service as envisioned by Thomas Cranmer from The Book of Common Prayer.

This collection of prayers, prepared by Archbishop Cranmer, deriving from traditional Sarum and Roman sources, from far away, Eastern liturgies, and from (then) contemporary Reformed services, is the foundation of Anglican identity, or has become that through its tenure as the standard liturgy. Anglicans have concluded that the Prayer Book is the best compilation of services that accurately and beautifully conveys biblical truth, almost in a timeless manner. Yet, the genius of the Prayer Book is that it is so much more than a collection of prayers, although it is that, and a good collection at that. The Prayer Book is a theological book at its heart; it is theology woven into liturgy.

When we say that the Prayer Book is the foundation of Anglicanism, we are not saying that Anglicanism is primarily concerned with matters of ritual and ceremonial, although these are important matters. Rather, we are saying that, at its core, Anglicanism expresses a theology. The Prayer Book is theology woven into liturgy, but what theology is that? The answer is found in the back of the Prayer Book, in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, originally a separate volume, now bound together with the liturgy that expresses its theology. The genius of Thomas Cranmer is his incorporation of all aspects of the Christian life in the Formularies (a term unknown to him, yet a beneficial explanation of the role of these documents). The Thirty-nine Articles are a faithful summary of the teaching of the Bible, perhaps described as the role of the mind in understanding divine truth. The Prayer Book is the same theology as experienced in the nave and chancel, spoken in prayer to God and dialogue between minister and people. The Homilies (of 1547 and 1571) are the representation of that truth in the pulpit.

Cranmer’s genius is perhaps the basis of the genius of Anglicanism, that is, that it is not wholly bound to Cranmer the man. The work of Cranmer in Anglicanism is the work of returning to the truth of the Bible. Even in such a work, as the Prayer Book, which is indebted to Cranmer, is not only the work of Cranmer. The Prayer Book is based upon Cranmer’s work in 1552. However, after the reign of Mary (and Cranmer’s death), the Prayer Book lived a life of its own, beyond Cranmer. In its final form, the 1662 Book of Common Prayer contains many beloved prayers that were not composed by Cranmer or included in his original work. For instance, a prayer such as the General Thanksgiving was the work of a Puritan minister. Bishop Cosin revised most of the collects in the Prayer Book after the Interregnum.

However, to return to speak of Cranmer, one of the most important truths that he grasped was the principle lex orandi, lex credenda, which translates as “the law of prayer is the law of belief”, meaning that what we pray is what we believe. Cranmer was a man who was familiar with traditional, medieval piety. For this reason, we see the development of our Daily Offices along the lines of the traditional monastic offices. Cranmer, and the other Continental and English Reformers, had re-discovered the biblical doctrine of justification by faith alone. Cranmer set down to infuse the traditional liturgies with the biblical doctrine. If we consider the history of the Daily Office, having its root in the first adaptations of monasticism in the 4th century, when monks began to recite the Psalter regularly, first every day, but as time progressed they settled on an easier once a week. Cranmer simplified this tradition, eliminating the office of monk, forever destroying the distinction between "religious" and "secular". This was perhaps the most radical of the reforms because it eliminated the idea of religious “specialization” all of the rites of the Church were available for the laity. Laymen were encouraged to participate in what was formerly an exclusively clerical and often monastic endeavor.

Cranmer used the traditional liturgy of the Church as the basis to teach the masses about the marvelous truths of the Gospel. We can see this in the structure of the Prayer Book services of Morning and Evening Prayer. The liturgy begins with a call to repentance by acknowledging our own sins and faults. We then confess and repent of our sins and are pardoned by Christ, declared by his ministers. Rejoicing in our forgiveness, we praise God by offering him the prayer our Lord taught us to say. We continue in praise through the Psalms. It is only after we have confessed and been forgiven of our sins that we can approach and hear God's holy Word. We respond in praise to His Word to us by praising Him with the songs of Scripture or of the early Church (in the case of the Te Deum and Benedicite). The whole of the liturgy portrays in traditional language and structure the truths of the Bible that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone, and that none of our works can earn our salvation. Although the liturgy is “baptized” in medieval structure, the true source of the rite is Scripture. It is often said that the Prayer Book is the Bible set to prayer. It is in these simple, daily services that Cranmer's genius shines through, for in these services Cranmer was able to expose the English people to God's grace in Christ Jesus and re-awaken the knowledge of his sacrificing death for all mankind.

Somewhere along the way, this genius was lost. It wasn’t a matter of transporting the Prayer Book to new locales or its updating of language, necessarily. The problem has been the loss of the necessity of unifying doctrine and theology, it seems that modern Anglicans have forgotten this vital connection. Many seem to be using a liturgy that does not support that which they believe, or seem to believe something that their liturgy does not reflect. For instance, it makes little sense to believe in transubstantiation or consubstantiation on one end of the spectrum, or in some form of memorialism on the other, and use the Prayer Book; those doctrines are not compatible with the theology of the Prayer Book as it is expressed in the liturgy. Akin to Janus, this sort of thing implies that one believes one thing, yet, goes about saying something contrary to his beliefs and conscience in public worship. The Prayer Book and Articles were meant as a complete package. The Prayer Book expresses the theology of the Bible as summarized in the Articles of Religion. To reject this is to reject a glorious tradition of common prayer, bathed in the truths of Scripture and the unfailing doctrine of Christ.

It is often said that the problems of Anglicanism originated in a divorce. Whilst the troubles of Henry VIII have little relation to the development of Anglicanism, the divorce of theology and liturgy is a cancer spreading rapidly throughout the Communion. This is a false dichotomy. A situation now exists where one must choose between the theology of the Prayer Book and the liturgy of the Prayer Book. The problem is that this is a lie; they are one and the same. One cannot believe in purgatory, transubstantiation, or praying to the saints and truthfully use the Prayer Book. The question might linger in some minds... how do we know the theology of the Prayer Book? Isn't Anglicanism a complicated system of muddy, theological waters, rather intended to confuse, rather than edify? No, it is not, to know the theology of the Prayer Book, one must read the Prayer Book and take it at its plain meaning (as the Declaration to the Articles states). Further, the intent of the Settlement of Religion and the establishing of the Articles of Religion was to avoid the “diversities of opinions” not allow more room for disagreement. A certain type of exegesis has developed whereby a man looks for the exception rather than the rule when approaching the Prayer Book. Where doubt remains after consulting the Prayer Book and Articles about the meaning of a phrase or word, one should consult the Divines or other documents of the period, such as Nowell’s Catechism, Rogers’ Commentary on the Articles, among a plethora of historical sources that will clarify the meaning of a text.

If Anglicans would simply believe the theology of the Prayer Book and Articles, which is simply the theology of the Bible, and use the Prayer Book, many of the present troubles could have been avoided and, perhaps, future troubles could be avoided.