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.