Louis R. Tarsitano & Peter Toon
St. Peter Publications, 2000
PART ONE THE FORMATION OF THE AMERICAN CHURCH
1 A first Draft of the Anglican Communion
2 The American Communion from 1789
3 International Communion and the Formularies
PART TWO THE NECESSITY OF FORMULARIES
4 Forms, Formulas and Formularies
5 Creation in Form and ShapePART THREE THE WORSHIP OF ALMIGHTY GOD
6 The Prayer Book and the Ordinal
7 Common Prayer and the Book of Common Prayer
Appendix I – A Call for a “Continental Congress of American Anglicans
Appendix II – The Virginia Report and Unity
Appendix III – Does one lead to the other?
Divorce & Remarriage and Homosexual Partnerships
A Letter to His Grace, the Archbishop of Canterbury,
and his fellow Primates of the Anglican Communion:
Dear Archbishops & Presiding Bishops,
With you we believe, teach and confess that Jesus Christ is our Lord and exalted King-Priest, the same yesterday, today and forever. With you we worship the Father Almighty through His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, using the Common Prayer of our Anglican Way.
We are Episcopalians & Anglicans in the United States of America, who have the particular, chosen vocation to keep the tradition of THE COMMON PRAYER – its use and understanding – alive and well. We are the Board of Directors of the Prayer Book Society, which exists to maintain the historic and classic Book of Common Prayer (1662/1789/1928) both as a Formulary of the Anglican Way and as a Prayer Book in daily use today.
We rejoice that in the larger part of the Anglican Communion and in many languages the Book of Common Prayer is in daily use.
Having been founded in 1971, when the Episcopal Church was beginning to implement the first stages of its modem, perilous agenda, we have often stood alone against innovations, while others of a traditional disposition have sought to try to live with the new forms of worship, doctrine and morality, emerging within the E.C.U.S.A. since the 1970s. We believe that our witness has not been in vain.
We have shared with our friends within the E.C.U.S.A. a profound concern that we now seek to share with you. It is this. The Anglican Way cannot exist meaningfully as a jurisdiction of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church unless its classic and historic Formularies are in place – The Book of Common Prayer containing the forms for the godly life, doctrine and worship of Anglicans, the Ordinal containing the Rites for the ordination of the Bishop, Priest and Deacon, and the Articles of Religion, declaring the doctrinal basis of the Anglican Way and its path through the controversies of the sixteenth century.
Regrettably, as you may know, the Episcopal Church in the U.S.A. set aside these Formularies during the 1970s and has showed no signs whatsoever of restoring them to their rightful place. For example, it continues to call what is manifestly its “Book of Alternative Services” or “An Alternative Service Book” of 1979 by the traditional and hallowed name of “The Book of Common Prayer.” Because of this rejection of the Anglican doctrinal, liturgical and ethical heritage, thousands left the church and what we call the Continuing Anglican Churches came into existence and continue to grow slowly.
We have also made the point, which is developed in detail in this book, that what we now call the Anglican Communion had its first draft in this country at the end of the eighteenth century. Without the later name and without the full realization of the importance of what was being done, an Anglican Communion of Churches (called the Protestant Episcopal Church) came into being in the 1790s, composed of the independent churches of the former colonies. Today, although the American part of the Anglican family is not very large, it has a unique history and, further, it lives and ministers in the richest and most powerful country on earth. Therefore, the story of the Anglican Way in America is an educational as well as a cautionary tale!
We rejoice in the possibility of help and guidance coming from you and the Anglican Communion of Churches to assist in the recovery of the fullness and unity of the Anglican Way on American soil. We look forward in eager anticipation in the United States to the restoration of an Anglican/Episcopal jurisdiction firmly based upon the solid and primary foundation of Holy Scripture and the secondary authority of the historic Formularies.
We ask you, before you make any final decisions about whether or not to press (a) for the provision of “Flying Bishops” within the E.C.U.S.A. to minister to traditional parishes or (b) for the creation of an entirely new Province of the Anglican Communion in North America, carefully to consider the historical evidence, theological considerations and practical concerns that we present to you in the chapters of this book.
We suggest that it may be beneficial to start with the last chapter, which makes a preliminary case for a new province to exist alongside the present Episcopal Church, and then to return and read the book, beginning at chapter one. We believe that you will learn much from these pages about the nature and history of the Anglican Way in America and you will understand why we were convinced we had a duty to share this information and these insights with you.
The book has been written for us by Dr. Peter Toon and Dr. Louis Tarsitano, who also were the authors of the book, The Way, the Truth and the Life. The Anglican Walk with Jesus Christ (St. Peter Publications, Canada) which, in collaboration with the Prayer Book Societies of Australia, Canada and England, we sent to you and all bishops of the Anglican Communion at the time of the Lambeth Conference of 1998.
May the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ guide you in your ministries in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, and may he give you wisdom in your relations with American Episcopalians and Anglicans.
The Board of Directors of the Prayer Book Society,
[The Rev’d Joseph S. Faizone, Mr. Michael W. Freeland, The Rev’d David C. Kennedy, The Rev’d Jonathan Ostman III, Mr. John H. W. Rhein Ill., Mrs Marilyn Ruzicka, Mrs Miriam K. Stauff, The Rev’d Dr. Peter Toon, Mr. Luther Dan Wallis, Mr. Joseph E. Warren & Mr. David A. Williams]
P.O. Box 35220, Philadelphia, Pa. 19128-0220.
PART ONE: THE FORMATION OF THE AMERICAN CHURCH
A First Draft of the Anglican Communion
The Anglican Communion is more than a mere association of self-governing national churches. It is more than an ecclesiastical counterpart to the British Commonwealth of Nations, serving as a fraternal reminder of our human ties to a now superseded earthly empire. In fact, if the Anglican Communion is not much more than either of these pale, worldly things, the survival of our Communion, and its welfare, ought not to matter very much to us or to Almighty God.
We believe that the Anglican Communion does matter because it is the product of two divine vocations, given to it by our Father in heaven, and that he does care, personally and purposefully, about who we are and what we do together as Anglican Christians.
We share our first vocation with the entirety of the faithful Church of Jesus Christ:
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (Matthew 28:19-20)
We are a “world-wide” communion because this Great Commission spoken by Jesus Christ specifies that the people of “all nations” are to be made his disciples, not by eradicating their national identities, but by sanctifying them. We are an Apostolic communion, because our Lord delivered this Commission in a particular way – to his Apostles. We are a communion of divinely instituted sacraments, doctrine, and discipline, administered in the Name of the Blessed Trinity, because, with our conformity to Christ’s institutions, comes the sacred promise of his abiding presence and communion with us, sealed by his own “Amen.”
Our obedience to this first vocation secures our legitimate place in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church confessed in the ecumenical Creeds, by expressing our faith in the merciful God who has called us. By virtue of confidence in our communion with the Lord Jesus Christ in the eternal purposes of his Father, we are also confident that when Jesus Christ speaks in the Scriptures of his Body and to his Body, he speaks of us and to us, not by right, but by grace.
Our second vocation as the Anglican Communion is subordinate to this first vocation as embodied in the Great Commission, it is nonetheless essential to who we are as a household of Christians. We are, as St. Paul would have it, “members in particular” of the Church (1 Corinthians 12:27). We have a history of service to God and of fellowship with one another. God has formed us through that providential history to have an identity of our own that is expressed in our formularies, our polity, our customs, and our culture as Anglicans. We summarize this divinely given identity by calling it “the Anglican Way,” an entire sort of life in Jesus Christ and his Church.
The Anglican Way is not an imperial way that seeks dominion over all the Christians in the world. We do not deny the existence or the validity of other “ways” that God has established in his Church, the sum of whose parts, joined together by grace, form a glorious Body of Christ (see Ephesians 4:15-16). We make no extravagant claims that being an Anglican is necessary to the salvation of others, but only insist that God has called us to be Christians in this way, and that our vocation is to maintain the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the undivided Church as our Communion has received them through the British church and its missionaries.
Our lack of animosity toward other Christians and their own particular vocations leads to a dismissal of such a thing as a genuine Anglican identity by people inside and outside our Communion. They cannot understand our willingness to mediate the expression of our common life within the Anglican Way through hundreds of languages and dialects, in hundreds of local cultures and sub-cultures. They look for a centralized, institutional authority, and when they do not find it, they assume that there is nothing in its place, no center that can hold the churches of the Anglican Way together. Based on their misapprehension of the Anglican Way, moreover, some would provide for what they perceive as our lack of a center by adopting or imposing the structures and authorities of other Christian communions (or “ways”) upon our own.
But our common life in the Anglican Way is our center. Our formularies, polity, customs, and culture, when we loyally adhere to them, provide unity in those areas of Christian life where uniformity is necessary (such as doctrine, morals, and the common prayer of the whole Church). At the same time, they provide us with a remarkable liberty in those matters that should be left to the conscience of the local church (such as ceremonial, types of piety, music, and additional devotions). Thus, true Christian discipline functions within such a system by virtue of divine revelation in the Scriptures, the expressed mind of the undivided Church, and the spiritual communion that unites the member churches of the Anglican Communion. If necessary, for the sake of discipline, communion may be treated as impaired or withheld when a particular national church (or one of its component jurisdictions) departs from the universal faith and practice of the undivided Church.
As Anglicans, we would also assert that we did not invent this balance of unity and freedom, uniformity and liberty. Rather, we hold that a careful examination of the undivided Church of the Fathers and the General Councils will also reveal a Church preserved by a common life and common structures, and disciplined by spiritual communion, rather than by a centralized earthly authority enforcing its judgment in all matters upon the faithful. The ancient Church was “a world-wide communion” in just this way.
The second vocation of maintaining the Anglican Way, therefore, does not condemn the Anglican Communion either to chaos or to self-absorption. On the contrary, it calls our Communion to witness to the rest of our Christian brethren that the Great Commission can best be fulfilled by a self-disciplined, spiritual communion of national churches that maintain in a complementary way the fullness of the faith and practice of the ancient and undivided Church.
THE AMERICAN CHURCH
AS THE FIRST DRAFT OF THE ANGLICAN COMMUNION
The turmoil that has consumed the American Church for the past thirty years represents a threat to the unity of the Anglican Communion and an obstacle to the accomplishment of our two vocations from God. Many of the bishops and other leaders of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America (E.C.U.S.A.), have become enchanted by the relative economic and cultural dominance of the United States in the world today. In their minds, the Great Commission to make disciples for Jesus Christ and to preach his Gospel has apparently been replaced by an obligation to impose a flawed and dysfunctional American secular culture upon the peoples of the world.
Put into practice, this error tends to supplant the Anglican Way of mutual submission within the Body of Jesus Christ with a perverted “American Way” of power politics and the least attractive business methods of large industrial corporations. The aggressive character of this error makes it a matter of consequence to the entire Anglican Communion, and not just a “local problem” to be solved by the Americans alone within the confines of the American church. Other national churches, especially in the industrialized West, have proved vulnerable to it. Those who succumb to it, making it the centerpiece of their religion, abandon the ancient calling to sanctify local culture and regional identities in Jesus Christ. Instead, they work to replace them with their own theoretical constructs and ideologies, judging all who do not willingly comply to be mere primitives and atavisms.
The error of those who control the contemporary E.C.U.S.A. and its General Convention is best typified by their styling themselves and the central organization “the national church.” Anyone familiar with the history of the Anglican Way knows, in contrast, that his “national church” is not just a summary of governing structures, but the spiritual communion of all faithful people, clerical and lay, within his particular nation. Those Americans who have tried to correct this error within their national church have been treated less than charitably. Members of the clergy have been dismissed from their livings. Congregations have had their property confiscated through civil lawsuits claiming that all church property belongs to the redefined “national church.” Tens of thousands of Anglican Christians have been driven from membership in E.C.U.S.A., and sent on their way with the hurtful assertion that they have also been removed from the Anglican Communion without any right of appeal or hope of redress.
A basic Christian concern for charity and justice should fix the attention of the Anglican Communion on the plight of loyal Anglicans in America, as it should anywhere in the world where the brethren are in distress. But beyond the basics of Christian brotherhood, the matter of division in the American church over questions of faith and order runs deeper still, reaching to the very definition of what it means to be an Anglican anywhere in the world.
Apart from the national churches of Britain, the Church in the United States is the oldest, self-governing national jurisdiction in the Anglican Communion. The issue here, however, is not “seniority” but the historical fact that the reorganization of the Church in America after the War for Independence from Great Britain (1775-1783) provided the opportunity to clarify the relation between one national church and another in a communion of Anglicans. It was then that the first steps were taken to guarantee that the communion of Anglicans in the world would be built on a shared doctrine, discipline, and worship (expressed through common and interconnected formularies as “the Anglican Way”), rather than on the pattern of the Roman, Byzantine, or British empires. The Anglicans of that time made the conscious decision not to model themselves on any human empire and its understanding of authority. No one man would rule them, nor any permanent council of rulers. Authority would not emanate from any single nation, but all member churches of the Communion would submit to the spiritual Kingdom of God in the manner of the ancient and undivided Church.
In addition, the American Church of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries served as a type of "proving ground" for the application of the Anglican Way outside of the environment of the established Church of England. Could the Anglican shoot take root in a country where an established church was prohibited by constitutional law? Could it flourish over vast distances in a republic that encompassed a variety of local climates and cultures greater even than the number of formal states? And how could such a church hold together, finding unity in faith rather than in a pre-existing ethnic homogeneity, especially given a mobile population and a constant influx of immigrants from almost every nation in the world?
These are, in miniature, the same sorts of questions that challenge a world-wide communion, even if they were first faced head-on within a single civil jurisdiction, the United States of America. It is critical to notice here that the answers the American church provided to such questions, at least at first, were utterly consistent with the development of the Anglican Way into the Anglican Communion as we know it today. The Americans, however, did not so much “set the pattern” as demonstrate that the faith and practice of the undivided patristic Church, received through the Ecclesia Anglicana (“the English Church”), remain permanently valid as the means of sanctifying the particular and of preserving what is changeless and eternal, to the glory of Almighty God.
Yes, the local congregation of the faithful might have its own ancillary customs and a cultural identity of its own. The Church in a northern state like Connecticut did not have to be a carbon copy of the Church in a southern state like Virginia. No, the local congregation might not abandon what is necessarily common to the Christian identity of the whole Church or seek to change the faith once delivered to the saints. In their own manners, the Churches in Connecticut and in Virginia would preach the same Gospel, celebrate the same liturgy, and promote the same morality.
In this way, the American Church served as a “first draft” of the Anglican Communion, both in its external relations with other Anglican churches and in its internal life and communion. The tragedy for so many American Anglicans in the year 2000 is that they recognize in conscience that the Episcopal Church, under much of its present leadership, is formally abandoning both its own history and its shared history with the rest of the Anglican Communion, losing those graces that make it “Anglican,” and in danger of losing its very Christianity. They harbor, as well, the dreadful but reasonable fear that the disorder that currently rules the Episcopal Church, if left unchallenged and uncorrected, could very well serve in this era as the “first draft” for the dissolution or the trivialization of the Anglican Communion.
For these reasons, Anglicans in America, in every-increasing numbers, have begun to appeal to the greater Anglican Communion for aid and relief. Their cry for a new Anglican province in America has not been in pursuit of innovation or of esoteric theories, but the expression of their heartfelt desire for the faith, the church, the order, and the communion that they once possessed without hindrance or strife.
To understand the moderate nature of their goals, therefore, requires a brief look at the history of the Anglican Way in America.
SOME CRITICAL DETAILS
The Anglican history of North America began with the great navigators and adventurers of Queen Elizabeth’s reign. In 1578, a fleet commanded by Martin Frobisher crossed the Atlantic in search of the Northwest Passage, accompanied by its chaplain Master Wolfall, whom Hakluyt describes as desirous of the spiritual welfare of the native peoples of the New World. Whether or not Wolfall was able to fulfill his missionary intentions, we do know that he celebrated the Holy Communion for the officers and gentlemen of the fleet on land, making this the first Prayer Book service conducted on North American soil.
Similarly, in the following year, during his circumnavigation of the world, Sir Francis Drake made landfall at what is now called “Drake’s Bay” on the Pacific Coast of the State of California. His chaplain’s administrations there were the first use of the Book of Common Prayer within the present boundaries of the United States.
It is easy to forget just how connected these events were to the English Reformation. While the chaplains used the 1559 Elizabethan edition of the Book of Common Prayer, the complete English liturgy of the reformed English Church had appeared barely thirty years earlier with the first Prayer Book of 1549 and the Ordinal of 1550. Less than fifty years before, the Church of England had declared her liberty as a national church within the one Church of Jesus Christ from the claims of the Bishop of Rome to universal authority. Thus, the chaplains' ministry represented not only the English Church as she had always been in worshipping Almighty God, but also as she had become – praying in English according to a formulary published by the authority of the English Church herself. It is fair to say, then, that America has participated in most of the history of the Ecclesia Anglicana since the Reformation. And the devotion of the average American churchman to the Reformation must never be underestimated, whatever the current fascinations of the clergy.
The desire of the first Anglo-Americans for religious continuity with the reformed church is illustrated by a clause in the charter of Sir Humphrey Gilbert’s short-lived colony in Newfoundland, where he landed in 1583, requiring that the laws of the colony should not “be against the true Christian faith or religion now professed in the Church of England.” Gilbert’s half-brother, Sir Walter Raleigh, took up the same colonial cause in the colony of Roanoke in “Virginia” (now part of North Carolina). There, in 1587, Manteo, a native of that country, and Virginia Dare, the first English child born in the New World, received the sacrament of Baptism according to the Book of Common Prayer. The Prayer Book was the tie that bound native American and colonial together in communion with Jesus Christ and in communion with the home Church so many miles away.
While no permanent settlement in what were to become the United States succeeded until the founding of Jamestown, in Virginia, in 1607, these earlier events both established the basis for the self-understanding of future American Anglicans and also demonstrated the sheer geographical challenge of building a “national church” that would one day have to span a continent.
Consider, then, the distance between those first Prayer Book services, between Drake’s Bay on the West Coast and Roanoke on the East, approximately 2600 miles. If we experiment with this distance on a globe, we find that it is a greater distance than separates St. John’s, Newfoundland from London, and about the same distance between Paris and Tehran. It is a shorter trip from London to Jerusalem by several hundred miles, as it is from Lagos, Nigeria to Nairobi, Kenya, or from Singapore to Darwin, Australia. The same distance will take one from Cairo to Dar es Salaam, or not quite from Singapore to Nagasaki, or from Bogota to Rio de Janeiro, or even from Recife in Brazil across the ocean again to Lagos in Africa.
This represents only the horizontal or East-West dimension of what became the United States, but even without considering the North-South axis, we can appreciate the variety of cultures and of local nuances that such a distance can contain, and actually does contain, whether in Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, or America. The size and regional diversity of the United States, more even than the non-establishment clause of the federal Constitution (Amendment I: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion...”), are what caused the Church necessarily to be “in” rather than “of” the United States of America. The American Church was meant to be, in reality, a communion of regional churches rather than a monolithic institution.
The American Communion from 1789
The Treaty of Paris in 1783 officially ended the American Revolution. Under its terms, Great Britain recognized both the geographic boundaries and the independence of the Unites States of America. This independence, moreover, was ecclesiastical as well as political in nature. It was no longer possible or proper for the established Church of England, with her oaths of loyalty to the Crown, to oversee the spiritual life of American Anglicans, even if they shared with the members of the Church of England a common religious heritage and tradition. In fact that very heritage stood in the way of such an arrangement.
UNITY WITHOUT UNIFORMITY
In the Reformation of the sixteenth century, the Church of England had asserted her own independence from the Church of Rome and that church’s claims of universal ecclesiastical jurisdiction on the basis of nationality. The historic Anglican position was clear. No one national church, however ancient or honorable, has the intrinsic authority to rule the church of any other nation. On the other hand, the authority of each national church has distinct and objective limits.
The Church of England had said as much in her Thirty-nine Articles: “Every particular or national Church hath authority to ordain, change, and abolish, Ceremonies or Rites of the Church ordained only by man’s authority, so that all things be done to edifying” (Article XXXIV, “Of the Traditions of the Church”). A national church has self-governance only in those matters under “man’s authority.”
What has been divinely given, as attested to by the Holy Ghost and embodied by the faith and practice of the undivided Church of Jesus Christ, must always remain beyond of the scope of human authority. As the same Articles affirm, “The Church hath power to decree Rites and Ceremonies, and authority in Controversies of Faith; and yet it is not lawful for the Church to ordain any thing that is contrary to God’s Word written, neither may it expound one place in Scripture, that it be repugnant to another” (Article XX, “Of the Authority of the Church”).
Article XX also declares the Church to be “a witness and keeper of Holy Writ,” and it is on this foundation in Holy Scripture that each national church exercises its duty that “all things be done to edifying.” Divine revelation may not be altered or abridged, but each national church must deliver God’s changeless Truth to its own people in a manner congruent with their culture and national life, if the people are to be truly edified. The manner of feasting and fasting; the use of art, music, and language; and the expression of reverence, solemnity, and joy will necessarily vary from nation to nation and culture to culture, ever in conformity to Holy Scripture and godly tradition.
Similarly, beyond the basic principles of the common law of the Christian Church, summarized for Anglicans in the Ordinal as a formulary that shapes our common life across national boundaries, the details and arrangements of church polity within the various national churches fall under the category of edification. Democratic or representational structures may be conducive to the welfare of the Church in one nation, but not in another. In any case, “democracy” and “representation” are not ends in themselves, but means to an end – the propagation of the Gospel in a particular culture. Likewise, the manner of electing bishops, the extent of their temporal authority, and whether or not the bishop is to act as the patriarch of the extended Christian family, as well as a chief pastor in the Church, are matters for the godly judgment of the Church in each nation.
It is far too easy, within the confines of our daily lives within our own national churches, to confuse the governing arrangements with which we are most familiar with universal constants. An examination of history, however, will immediately demonstrate that the sanctity of a national church is not determined by its establishment, its non-establishment, or its opposition by the civil government, but by its faithfulness. Before and after the Edict of Milan (A.D. 313), the ancient Church at various times had all three of these relations to the state. Nevertheless, the Church remained one and the same Body of Christ.
Neither was the greatness of the “great bishops” of the first millennium determined by their adherence to a single, uniform understanding of the administration of Biblical episcopacy. The gifts and character of the men who exercised the episcopate varied according to God’s providence and their vocation to serve the needs of a particular people in a particular place. From the perspective of theoretical analysis, as applied by the medieval scholastics or by our modern management schools, the urban ministry of St. Leo the Great and the itinerant, tribal ministry of his contemporary St. Patrick have little in common. Little, that is, except for their effectiveness as bishops, as pastors and teachers of the Faith, in very different ways under very different circumstances.
Abstract theory fails before the concrete variety of God’s actual work in his Church through history. It is only the imposition of the details of one time and place upon all others, whether the details fit or not. In contrast, our Lord gave his Apostles and his Church a vocation to make disciples of all nations, and not a commandment to make all nations interchangeable on earthly terms. The failure to recognize this difference was a major cause of the Great Schism between East and West, and of the fragmentation of the Western Church in the sixteenth century. Unity, the spiritual communion of one national church with another, was sacrificed on an altar of universal conformity to a single human model of ecclesiastical administration.
A twin set of challenges, then, confronted the Church of England and the as yet unorganized national church of the United States of America from the moment of the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783. First, how were the churches of the two nations to maintain their spiritual communion after their civil separation, without recreating the coercive ecclesiastical structures that had led to the English Reformation of the sixteenth century? Communion itself had to be framed in such terms that permitted it to constitute both the connection between the churches and also their means of mutual discipline and conformity to something greater than themselves.
Second, within the United States of America, how were the churches in the several states to relate to one another? Their internal communion would have to parallel that between the Church of England and their own national church. Otherwise, the new American ecclesiastical constitution would have to deny the reality of civil states and regional cultures that understood themselves to be constituents of, but not subservient to, the national government.
The latter scheme was never a real possibility in the United States. A long-standing, general opposition to establishment (made a formal prohibition in 1791, in the First Amendment to the federal Constitution) would never have permitted the church in one region to enforce its will on the church in another by an appeal to an American or a foreign government, whether civil or ecclesiastical. So deep-seated is the American antipathy to ecclesiastical coercion that no Roman Catholic was elected President of the United States until John F. Kennedy in 1960. Crucial to his victory was his public denial that the papacy would have any influence upon his conduct of the presidency.
LIFE WITHOUT AN EARTHLY KING
The central American question in the 1780s, then, was how to organize a common, corporate life without an earthly king or a House of Lords temporal and spiritual. The American founders were on the whole, with a few notable exceptions, conservative men. Their instincts went against the invention of a whole new polity, so they looked to the past for models of what their nation’s civic and religious relations ought to be.
The model they chose for their civil polity was the Roman Republic. No hereditary king or assembly of lords would rule the United States, but temporarily elected executives, senators, and representatives. Religious life would not be governed as an interest or a department of state, but left to the voluntary obedience of the citizens, guided by their own consciences. These provisions for self-government would be supported by two different, but complementary, means.
The first means was a written constitution, to be administered as an explicit rule of law that restrained both the governors and the governed. The second was the use of historic republican imagery. The Latin motto “e pluribus unum” (“from many, one”) compared the American states to the united tribes that had formed the Roman Republic. The Roman “fasces,” the bundle of rods that represented the binding together of many local authorities to create a national authority, became an American symbol, too. George Washington and his officers from the War of Independence were called “Cincinnati,” after the Roman republican hero Cincinnatus. Just as that ancient citizen soldier had, they had taken up arms in a national emergency, fought a war, and then laid down their swords again to return to their farms and private business.
Those who organized the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America were also influenced by the republicanism at work in the civil order, but it would be a mistake to think of their work as only the creation of a religious republic within a civil one. Certainly, these American Anglicans met in convention to establish a constitution and rule of law for their church (1785), and they believed that those who exercised any authority in the church must themselves be governed by the church’s law. But beginning with the future Bishop White’s pamphlet of 1782, “The Case of the Episcopal Churches in the United States of America Considered,” something more profound was taking place.
What William White (Bishop of Pennsylvania, 1787-1836 and consecrated by bishops of the Church of England) outlined in his pamphlet is usually called the “federal plan” for the organization of the American Church. This plan was summarized and refined as “six fundamental principles” by a convention of Pennsylvania clergy and laity in 1784:
First. That the Episcopal church in these states is and ought to be independent of all foreign Authority, ecclesiastical and civil.
Second. That it hath, and ought to have, in common with all other religious Societies, full and exclusive Powers to regulate the concerns of its own communion.
Third. That the Doctrines of the Gospel be maintained, as now professed by the church of England; and Uniformity of Worship be continued, as near as may be to the liturgy of said church.
Fourth. That the succession of the ministry be agreeable to the usage which requireth the three orders of bishops, priest, and deacons; that the rights and powers of the same respectively be ascertained; and that they be exercised according to reasonable Laws, to be duly made.
Fifth. That to make canons or laws, there be no other authority than that of a representative body of the clergy and laity conjointly.
Sixth. That no powers be delegated to a general ecclesiastical government, except such as cannot conveniently be exercised by the clergy and vestries in their respective congregations. (Clara O. Loveland, The Critical Years: The Reconstitution of the Anglican Church in the United States of America: 1780-1789 [Greenwich, Connecticut, Seabury Press, 1956], p.71).
These principles eventually became the basis for the Constitution and Canons of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, but the Church in another state, Connecticut, offered a plan of its own.
This second proposal for reorganization centered around Samuel Seabury (Bishop of Connecticut, 1784-1796 and consecrated by nonjuring bishops in Scotland), and it is usually called “the ecclesiastical plan.” From the date of Bishop Seabury’s consecration (1784), it is obvious that the Church in Connecticut acted to organize itself five years in advance of the rest of the American Church, which did not as a whole agree to a final Constitution and Canons or adopt an American edition of the Book of Common Prayer until the General Convention of 1789.
The explanation for this difference in approaches lies in part in the general understanding that the churches in the several states were in effect “national churches” able to act because they served independent states, albeit within a wider civil union. Just as important, however, was the “ecclesiastical plan” itself, which may be summarized as the argument that: “The first thing necessary is to secure bishops; nothing binding can be enacted by the Church until the Church is present; the Church is not present and cannot be until its chief officers are on the ground; anything which such conventions as this [the Constitutional Convention held in Philadelphia in 1785] may do will be but as the arrangements which children make in households while the father is abroad; when he comes he may set them all aside; the bishop is the source of all authority; in his absence there is no authority” (S. D. McConnell, History of the American Episcopal Church 1600-1915, eleventh ed. [Milwaukee: Morehouse, 1934], pp. 240-241).
The difficulties with such an opinion for most of Seabury’s fellow Americans were three-fold. First, the Anglican Church had functioned in North America for centuries without a resident bishop. More to the point, the Church had continued to function since the Declaration of Independence in 1776. To declare the Church either non-existent or powerless, either before or after the Declaration, seemed insupportable based on her continued practical reality. Second, the “ecclesia” of Seabury’s “ecclesiastical plan” was not so much the Church through the ages as the developed polity of the church of the European high Middle Ages and of national settlements following the Reformation. Third, a great number of Seabury’s fellow clergy especially feared that his consecration by the Scottish non-jurors might jeopardize future communion with the Church of England, which was not in communion herself with the non-jurors.
The Anglican churches in the United States were in danger of losing their inter-communion over conflicting visions of the future of the Church and through a possible discontinuity in their episcopal successions. In the event, however, the state churches avoided this fragmentation. They achieved spiritual union at the General Convention of 1789 by what is often described as a compromise between the federal and ecclesiastical plans. Indeed, if that supposed “compromise” were all that the leaders of the Church had achieved, their accomplishment would still have been noteworthy. By the adoption of a common law, and the ratification of a common formulary of doctrine, discipline, and worship (the American edition of the Book of Common Prayer), they gave the reorganized American Church a clear and rational order. Not only did they preserve the historic spiritual authority of bishops (the main concern of the “ecclesiastical plan”), but they also agreed that every member of the Church, including the bishop, would be answerable to every other in a constitutional polity (the main goal of the “federal plan”).
But what happened at that General Convention in Philadelphia goes deeper than a political compromise. The conflicting visions of the future were resolved in a shared vision that united what was best in both. A hint of the uniting vision may be found in this advice from the Connecticut clergy: “A Bishop in Connecticut must, in some degree, be of the primitive style. With patience and a share of primitive zeal, he may rest for support on the Church he serves, as head in her ministrations, unornamented with temporal dignity, and without the props of secular power. An Episcopate of this plain and simple character. . . we hope may pass unenvied, and its sacred functions be performed unobstructed” (Loveland, op. cit., p. 95).
Another element that points to the basis of the achievement of 1789 was the success of the backers of the “federal plan” in admitting the laity into the governing bodies of the reorganized Church as an “estate” or “order” in themselves. The newly adopted ecclesiastical constitution appealed to the polity of the Church in the Roman Empire before the period of Constantine the Great. In fact, the constitution:
...proposed an arrangement which had not been in operation for fifteen centuries, – probably for sixteen. It was a return to the practice of the most primitive period. Those who were under the domination of the ecclesiastical ideas which had been current at least since Constantine’s time, like Bishop Seabury and his fellow-prelates in England, stumbled at it. It was true that kings and princes had for centuries had a potential voice in causes ecclesiastic, but this had not been in their capacity as laymen, but as “ministers ordained by God.” The plan proposed was radically different, and it had no contemporary illustrations. The churches then in existence which were organized after the Independent fashion were based upon the theory which they still maintain, – that there is no genuine distinction between priests and laymen. To their view they are both alike, and equally, “kings and priests unto God.” In the Presbyterian scheme the elders, who at first glance might be taken for laymen, were not so, but were ordained men. For the scheme proposed by the [American] Church, which has as an organizing principle the doctrine of the Ministry, there was no example extant, and it had no imitators for many a year. It is the key to a proper understanding of the Church’s legislation since its adoption (McConnell, op. cit., pp. 243-244).
The two competing views, “ecclesiastical” and “federal,” came together spiritually, and not just politically, on the basis of an appeal to the “primitive” Church. Both parties found themselves searching for much the same thing, albeit in different ways – a Biblical and apostolic church to spread the Gospel in the United States. Just as their civil counterparts looked back to the Roman Republic as a model for the new American republic, the leaders of the American Church found their unity in the model of the primitive Church before Constantine’s or any other later ruler's establishment of the Church by means of state power.
Without establishment, a church cannot be “of a nation,” but only “in a nation,” as was the case with the Church in the Roman Empire before the fourth century and would be the case in the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States. Just as the ancient Church had to deal with different local cultures and vast territories without the aid of the State (and often with the State’s opposition), the Church “in the United States of America” would have to evangelize without appeal to civil power and without a civil means of coercion. Furthermore, without establishment, the American bishops could not be “lords spiritual” seated with the “lords temporal.” As their most ancient predecessors were, the American bishops would have to be chief pastors and spiritual fathers who exercised authority by and under God, within God-given limits.
The disparate voices at Philadelphia in 1789 came together in agreement upon a national church conceived of as a local exhibit of the spiritual kingdom of Christ, of the same dignity and self-government as any other national church. The new national church would certainly have a human government on earth, but it would be limited to the role of pastoral care-taker, without any claim to being an absolute law-giver or a maker of doctrines inconsistent with the belief of the rest of Christ’s Church in history. This limited authority meant, furthermore, that the American Church was to be a “communion of jurisdictions,” formed by the common assent of its constituent members, beginning at the local congregation. Parishes would unite to form a diocese, and dioceses would unite to form the national church.
So complete was this original dedication to an existence based on spiritual communion that the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America has never been civilly incorporated as a national entity. The Church in America had no national corporation of any sort until the General Convention in 1835 formed the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, making every member of the church a member of the society as well. This society was incorporated under the law of the State of New York in 1846 (White and Dykman, Annotated Constitution and Canons for the Government of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, second edition, [Greenwich, Connecticut: Seabury Press, 1954], vol. 1, pp. 177-178).
It should be noted, however, that such a missionary society is entirely consistent with the earlier enunciated fundamental principle of the formation of the American Church, “That no powers be delegated to a general ecclesiastical government, except such as cannot conveniently be exercised by the clergy and vestries in their respective congregations.” It was not until the 1960s that the General Convention and the administrative offices under the Presiding Bishop began to claim exclusively for themselves the style “the national church,” replacing the older idea that the national church was the spiritual communion of all people and all jurisdictions within the American Church. Additionally, it was in this period that the General Convention began to claim for itself the authority to reopen settled matters of universal Christian doctrine and order and to legislate contrary to the doctrine and practice of the ancient and undivided Church.
From these abrogations of the originally agreed to American principles and order of church government and mutual communion have come today’s many controversies within the American Church. This breaking of the bonds among Americans, however, also affects the communion of American Anglicans with the rest of the Anglican Communion, and threatens the unity of the Anglican Communion itself, as we shall see.
International Communion and the Formularies
In 1789, the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America had found its solution to establishing an internal national communion across the boundaries of numerous civil jurisdictions, over vast territories, and within a variety of local cultures and emphases. The new “national church” would be a spiritual communion of ecclesiastical jurisdictions, starting at the parish level. It would function under a strong principle of subsidiarity, so that no action of church government was to take place at any higher level within the dioceses or the national communion than was absolutely necessary for maintaining Christian faith and order.
There could be no civil establishment of the church in the United States, as there had been for the Church of England. Thus, the objective means, as well as the expression, of national communion in America was to be a loyal adherence to shared formularies, particularly the Book of Common Prayer, the Ordinal published within it, and local canon law, representing a common doctrine, discipline, and worship. These formularies, as augmented by the General Convention’s explicit adoption of the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion in 1801, were also intended to define the constitutional limits of the exercise of authority, at any level, in the new national church.
THREE CRITICAL TRUTHS
In recent controversies, some Episcopalians have distorted the record of the American reorganization to claim that the American “national church” (by which is meant, not the spiritual communion of the members of the Church, but the General Convention and its bureaucracy) is a law unto itself. In fact, a few have gone so far as to argue that the American General Convention is competent to legislate on any matter whatsoever, without reference or recourse to any other national church, the Anglican Communion, or the universal Church in history. Such opinions could not be more contrary to the spirit or to the details of the church plan adopted in Philadelphia in 1789. Their triumph would represent nothing less than the dissolution of both the national church and the national communion begun there by the mutual consent of the faithful.
Those who maintain that any matter of the Christian religion, whether regarding doctrine, morality, or order, is open to amendment by the Episcopal Church (the current “shorthand” for the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America) have forgotten or ignored three critical truths, which we must explore.
The first such truth is the open-eyed and self-conscious dependence of the organizers of the Episcopal Church upon the primitive and undivided Church. The entire justification for the system of national communion adopted by the Americans was its conformity to the pattern of the ancient Church “in” but not “of” the Roman Empire.
Conformity to this model required the absence of a strong, centralized church government. In its place the members of the American church erected a system of “conventions” or “synods” that gathered together representatives of the various internal jurisdictions at each level of polity to consider common problems and the taking of common action. Nor were the constitutional bishops of the American church held to be infallible or unlimited in their spiritual authority. They and the conventions that they led were understood to represent only their own dioceses or at most the American national church. Those matters that might affect the universal Church would necessarily have to be referred to the Church as a whole, and by cooperation with other national churches.
We must also not forget that the constitutional dependence of the Episcopal Church upon the faith and order of the primitive Church also served as its appeal to other Christian bodies in the United States for peace and recognition. Their nation had only recently concluded a harsh and protracted war with Great Britain, so that a church which merely claimed to reproduce the Church of England of that age could not help but be under suspicion. Correspondingly, many Americans had fled to the New World to escape the established churches of Europe, which they had experienced as uncongenial to their liberty. Consequently they often continued to harbor a strong distrust of episcopacy in general.
The new Episcopal Church neutralized these factors by claiming nothing more than the faith of the undivided Church, a heritage that is embraced, accurately or not, by all but the most eccentric of Christians. Additionally, the infant Episcopal Church not only joined with all Americans in rejecting any establishment of churches, it solemnly declared that its bishops were to be chief pastors only, exercising spiritual, but no temporal authority. On this basis, the best of the non-Anglican Americans cheerfully assisted the Episcopalians in enacting their church plan. John Adams, the American ambassador in England and a Congregationalist from Massachusetts, showed great zeal in obtaining the agreement of the English Church to consecrate bishops for America. Adams later wrote to Bishop White: “There is no part of my life on which I look back with more satisfaction than the part I took, bold, daring, and hazardous as it was to me and mine, in the introduction of Episcopacy in America” (quoted in McConnell, op. cit., note on page 252).
The second critical truth is that despite any differences from the Church of England in local polity the new American church was most certainly Anglican. To claim to be an “Anglican church” is to embrace Christian reality as a national jurisdiction (or “province”) of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church confessed in the Creeds, within the ecclesiastical tradition that God first raised up in the British Islands. It is to claim a common history and a shared way of life (the Anglican Way) with the Church of England and with all the other national churches derived from her.
The Episcopal Church put the matter of its conformity to the Anglican Way clearly in 1789, in the Preface to the first American edition of the Book of Common Prayer. After noting that “The attention of this Church was in the first place drawn to those alterations in the Liturgy which became necessary in the prayers for our Civil Rulers, in consequence of the Revolution,” the Preface continues to explain:
But while these alterations were in review before the Convention, they could not but, with gratitude to God, embrace the happy occasion which was offered to them (uninfluenced and unrestrained by any worldly authority whatsoever) to take a further review of the Public Service, and to establish such other alterations and amendments therein as might be deemed expedient.
At first, such a statement of freedom from any “worldly authority” might seem to support the revisionist claim of absolute power for the American General Convention, but the Preface proceeds immediately to add:
It seems unnecessary to enumerate all the different alterations and amendments. They will appear, and it is hoped, the reasons of them also, upon a comparison of this with the Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England. In which it will also appear that this Church 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.
The “local circumstances” that accounted for any significant difference between the English and American Prayer Books were expressed earlier as “in consequence of the Revolution.” The Americans were living in a republic and not in a monarchy, and their bishops would possess only spiritual authority. American bishops would not sit in the Senate of the United States, as British bishops sat in the House of Lords. These “circumstances,” then, may be attributed to matters that concern only “worldly authorities.”
In contrast, the “doctrine, discipline, [and] worship” of the Church, as received through the Church of England, were of a higher and heavenly authority. These were not the products of earthly ingenuity, but flowed from the Holy Scripture, from the authoritative decisions taken by the divinely chosen Apostles, and from the life of the undivided Church, guided by the Holy Ghost. The particular Anglican expression of the doctrine, discipline, and worship given by God to his Church in general was, similarly, the result of God’s providential guidance of the Church of England. Thus, the new American church was “far from intending to depart from the Church of England in any essential point of doctrine, discipline, or worship” because to do so would mean severing its connection with both the Church of England and with the universal Christian Church. The same, therefore, would be true of any such departure now.
The third and final truth that American revisionists have neglected is the testimony of the Episcopal Church’s own formularies to its proper order and doctrine. Where the Preface to the Book of Common Prayer provides a historical witness to the derivation of the American Church’s faith and practice, the formularies declare what that faith and practice are to be.
For the sake of convenience, let us concentrate on four brief passages from the Ordinal of the first American edition of the Book of Common Prayer, approved in Philadelphia in 1789. We will see immediately that these passages were derived from the English Ordinal of 1662, and it is worth noting that they appeared unchanged in the subsequent American editions of 1892 and 1928. All four of them will be in the form of a question to be asked at either the ordination of a priest or at the consecration of a bishop. All four are followed by a holy oath professing absolute conformity.
At the ordination of a priest, the bishop is to ask of the ordinand:
Are you persuaded that the Holy Scriptures contain all Doctrine required as necessary for eternal salvation through faith in Jesus Christ? And are you determined, out of the said Scriptures to instruct the people committed to your charge, and to teach nothing, as necessary to eternal salvation, but that which you shall be persuaded may be concluded and proved by the Scripture?
And the required oath in answer is:
I am so persuaded, and have so determined, by God’s grace.
Here we see, since similar questions are asked of both future deacons and bishops, that no minister of the American church has any teaching authority apart from the Holy Scriptures, and especially the doctrine of “eternal salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.” Every minister of the Church has given his solemn vow that he will not do otherwise, so that all innovations against the Holy Scriptures are not only a violation of the Church’s revealed and received doctrine, but also the profaning of an oath freely taken.
Some persons of an innovating character might leap on the phrase “shall be persuaded” as a “loophole” or “escape hatch” in the question and vow. Under this construction, every minister of the Church would be free to teach or to implement his private view (or gross distortion) of Holy Scripture as he pleased, as in a vacuum, needing only to claim his personal “persuasion.” The question and answer immediately following in the ordination service, however, makes this interpretation impossible.
In our second passage from the Ordinal, the bishop asks a man about to be ordained a priest:
Will you give your faithful diligence always so to minister the Doctrine and Sacraments, and the Discipline of Christ, as the Lord hath commanded, and as this Church hath received the same, according to the Commandments of God; so that you may teach the people committed to your Cure and Charge with all diligence to keep and observe the same?
And the ordinand is to answer with this vow:
I will so do, by the help of the Lord.
The new priest vows to submit his private conscience, not to his own desires or interests, but to the maintenance of the faith and practice of the Church, as the Church has received them by the commandment of Christ. Indeed, the new priest swears to do all in his power, “with all diligence,” to teach the people in his spiritual cure “to keep and observe” only what the Church has received from Christ. Such obedience, first by the clergy, and then by the people as instructed by the clergy’s words and example, is an essential element of the Church’s order. Without such obedience, the reality of the doctrine, sacraments, and the discipline of Christ must be called into question in any church, whatever its size or secular influence.
We have seen, clearly, that the faith of the new American Church was absolutely defined by God’s revelation in the Holy Scriptures and the reception of that revelation by the historic Church. Let us now consider further the order of that Church, by turning to our final two passages from the Ordinal, to be found in “The Form of Ordaining or Consecrating a Bishop.”
At the Examination, the Presiding Bishop makes this statement and asks the bishop-elect to give his assent to it:
Brother, forasmuch as the Holy Scripture and the Ancient Canons command, that we should not be hasty in laying on hands, and admitting any person to Government in the Church of Christ, which he hath purchased with no less price than the effusion of his blood; before we admit you to this Administration, we will examine you in certain Articles, to the end that the Congregation present may have a trial, and bear witness, how you are minded to behave yourself in the Church of God.
Are you persuaded that you are truly called to this Ministration, according to the will of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the order of this Church?
And the bishop-elect is to answer:
I am so persuaded.
We observed earlier that “persuasion” means here a “submission of the personal will to Christ and his Church,” rather than a license to pursue personal will at the expense of Christ and his Church. Here we can also see that the basis of “Government in the Church” is the recognition of the effusion of Christ’s blood to purchase the Church, a price no other person can pay, however exalted his office. We should notice here as well that the Ordinal posits two chief supports of a church government in true submission to Christ: the primary support of the Holy Scripture and the secondary support of the Ancient Canons.
Since the authority of Holy Scripture has already been discussed, we can give out attention for a moment to the “Ancient Canons.” The “Ancient Canons” are the common law of the Christian Church. By invoking them, the American Ordinal bound the American Church forever to a body of law, such as the decrees of the General Councils, which it claims no authority to alter, excepting only local matters of human discipline. These “Ancient Canons” are the earthly expression of the “order of the Church,” just as the Holy Scripture is the divine expression from which the “Ancient Canons” were derived. No bishop or any other member of the Church has any right to exempt himself from this common law that binds every Christian.
Canon Broomfield explains that this common law, embodied in the Ancient Canons, consists in such things:
...which can rightly be regarded as belonging to the Church as a whole – not merely the Church of the present, but the Catholic Church of all ages – the things which constitute the Apostolic tradition, witnessed to and interpreted by the undivided Church. They include matters of faith, order and morals, such as the Bible, the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds, the threefold ministry of bishops, priests, and deacons, with ordination by laying-on of hands, the sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion, and monogamy. Whatever falls into this category has behind it the authority of the Church as a whole; and no lesser body of Christians, while claiming a place in the Apostolic Church, and no individual ecclesiastic, however highly placed, while acting in an official capacity, should feel at liberty to alter or abandon any such things (Constitutional Episcopacy [London: SPCK, 1944], pp. 10-11, 12-13; in the Joint Committee on Discipline of the American Church Union and the Clerical Union publication, The Ancient Canons [Riverside, NJ: Burlington County Publishing, 1952], pp. 3-4.).
The final question and answer in our series describes how the American Church in 1789 expected its bishops to respond to any effort by others to displace the faith and order that they had vowed to protect. The Presiding Bishop asks,
Are you ready, with all faithful diligence, to banish and drive away from the Church all erroneous and strange doctrine contrary to God’s Word; and both privately and openly to call upon and encourage others to the same?
To which the bishop-elect replies:
I am ready, the Lord being my helper.
The “Church” in this question is not an abstraction. The word refers, as we have seen, to a real Body of Christ in history, founded by Christ himself in his own precious blood, and endowed with the doctrine of the Holy Scriptures as received and enacted by the people of God and their pastors through history. That is the Church that the bishop-to-be swears to protect, and to enlist others to protect. He may not substitute another “church” of his own imagining, without breaking this and all the other oaths that he is required to take at his consecration.
Moreover, since no ordination to the episcopate, priesthood, or diaconate would continue if the ordinand refused to take the appointed vows, nothing can be more certain than the statement that the content of these vows is a summary of the faith and order upon which the Episcopal Church was founded in 1789. Just as true is the assertion that the members of the Episcopal Church today, and especially those who have personally sworn these oaths, are bound to maintain precisely the same faith and order.
The faith and order enshrined in the Anglican formularies, as adopted by General Convention in 1789, were essential to the Episcopal Church’s existence as a Christian and Anglican national church. They were equally essential to the formation of the worldwide Anglican Communion. If the Americans had not adopted the Anglican formularies in 1789, then the living-out of the Anglican Way would have been limited in that era to the Church of England, the associated British churches, and their missions in other parts of the world.
In God’s providence, the worldwide Anglican Communion would still have developed, but without the inclusion of the Americans. But it is a fact that the Americans were included, so we can look to the basis of that conclusion for the principles that have governed membership in the Anglican Communion ever since.
THE FORMULARlES AS MEANS TO COMMUNION
The key is the formularies, particularly the Book of Common Prayer, not as an absolute end in themselves, but as a means to communion in a shared faith and order. The Convention of the reorganizing American Church that met in Philadelphia in 1785 took three important actions. The first was to petition the Archbishops and bishops of the Church of England to confer the episcopate upon the men elected to that office by their home state conventions. The second was to draft a constitution for the new church. The third was to prepare a “proposed” Prayer Book only loosely connected to the English Book of Common Prayer, if at all.
The granting of the Americans’ petition by the Church of England turned finally upon the Americans’ willingness to amend the latter two actions in conformity with Anglican faith and practice. We saw earlier that the Episcopal Church’s proposed constitution was, indeed, amended at the General Convention of 1789, to preserve the historic spiritual and sacramental office of the bishop. Likewise, at the Convention of 1789, the “Proposed Book” of 1785 was abandoned in its entirety, with its many departures from the historic Anglican Way (see further chapter VII below).
These were no small matters, since the English bishops responded to the American petition of 1785 by observing:
For while we are anxious to give every proof not only of our brotherly affection, but of our facility in forwarding your wishes, we cannot but be extremely cautious, lest we should be the instruments of establishing an ecclesiastical system which will be called a branch of the Church of England but afterwards may possibly appear to have departed from it essentially either in doctrine or discipline (in The Ancient Canons, p. 9).
In response to the English bishops, the American Convention of June 1786 unanimously replied, “While doubts remain of our continuing to hold the same essential articles of faith and discipline with the Church of England, we acknowledge the propriety of suspending compliance with our request.” The members of Convention went on to declare and promise:
We are unanimous and explicit in our answering your Lordships, that we neither have departed, nor propose to depart from the doctrines of your Church. We have retained the discipline and forms of worship, as far as consistent with our Civil Constitution (both in The Ancient Canons, p. 12).
The General Convention of 1789 made good on this promise by the adoption of the first American edition of the Book of Common Prayer, consistent with that of the Church of England. The Preface to that Prayer Book, discussed earlier, adopted the terms of the 1786 declaration to the English bishops as a permanent obligation of the American Church.
As well it should have, since an essential agreement in the doctrine, discipline, and worship as received by, and from, the Church of England became the basis for the worldwide Anglican Communion. Likewise, the adoption of formularies consistent in all spiritual matters with the formularies of the Church of England became the objective standard of expressing this uniting and essential agreement in doctrine, discipline, and worship. Lastly, the English bishops’ withholding of formal communion until both essential agreement and its objective expression were achieved became the Anglican Communion's chief power, not only in matters of unity, but also in discipline.
From the experience gained in these early “experiments” leading to the communion of the Church of England with the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States, the mature principles of the Anglican Communion have been refined. The Anglican Communion has never commanded or ruled its constituent national churches. Rather, it has maintained faith and order by virtue of a first allegiance to Christ, the doctrine of the Holy Scriptures, and the order of the undivided Church, upon which it has granted or withheld membership and communion.
So successful was the work of the English bishops in the 1780s, that in 1814 both houses of the American General Convention adopted a “declaration of identity,” which read in part:
The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America is the same body heretofore known in these states by the name of the Church of England; the change of name, although not of religious principle in doctrine, or in worship, or in discipline, being induced by a characteristic of the Church of England, supposing the independence of the Christian churches, under the different sovereignties, to which respectively, their allegiance in civil concerns belongs. But that when the severance alluded to took place, and ever since, this Church conceives of herself as professing and acting on the principles of the Church of England, is evident from the organization of our Conventions, and from their subsequent proceedings, as recorded in our Journals (in The Ancient Canons, p. 14).
We suggest that the Anglican Communion of Churches today should continue into the third millennium to stand on the principle of the self-government of the national churches that form its membership. At the same time, we think that the Anglican Communion should remember its formation in an agreement on essential matters of doctrine, discipline, and worship, as expressed by the formularies of each national church.
Most of all, we submit that the Anglican Communion would do well in invoking its primary authority of granting or withholding communion in the vexed case of the Church in the United States of America.
Such an exercise of authority would be neither vindictive nor punitive, but only corrective. It would constitute an appeal to brothers in error, and the relief of those brethren struggling to maintain their identity as Anglicans and Christians in what has sadly become a hostile environment. In fact such an exercise of authority, which the Americans once cheerfully granted to another church of the Communion, could lead to the blessed restoration of oaths once made and to the recovery of holy principles now too easily abandoned.
Just as important, by exercising its historic authority of granting or withholding communion in coming to the aid of distressed American Anglicans, the Anglican Communion will confirm that authority and preserve it for the future. While the number of American Anglicans/Episcopalians has always been small in comparison to the membership of many other national churches, the Church in America once played a critical role in the formation of the Anglican Communion. It may play a critical role again, either in the strengthening or in the weakening of the Communion. A return to basic principles now, by Anglicans throughout the world, will secure a positive outcome for all, consistent both with charity and a vigilance for the integrity of the Christian Faith, lived in the Anglican Way.
Let us explore some of the details of such an assertion of discipline and principle in the remaining chapters of this book.
PART TWO: THE NECESSITY OF FORMULARIES
Forms, Formulas and Formularies
Christianity is the Faith wherein Jesus of Nazareth is confessed to be both Lord and Christ, the only-begotten Son of God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth (Acts 2:36). The revealed and authentic Word of God of the eternal Father and of his Son the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the eternal Word made flesh, is given in Holy Scripture. By the will of God, this Word was written in Scripture by men inspired and guided by the Holy Spirit of the Father and the Son. Obviously, there can be no authority above that of the Living God, the Holy Trinity; and thus his revealed Word is the final and supreme authority for his people in terms of the right knowledge of him, a right reason in serving him, and for their salvation by him.
This basic doctrine concerning Holy Scripture is stated in the New Testament with particular reference to the Old Testament. “Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” wrote Peter (2 Peter 1:21 ) and Paul declared that “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).
This basic New Testament doctrine of the Holy Scripture is taught and maintained in a variety of ways in the life of the Church. From the documents of the Anglican Way, we may cite the sixth of the Articles of Religion:
Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.
And from the Universal Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church we may cite Article 3, on Sacred Scripture, where we read:
God is the author of Sacred Scripture. “The divinely revealed realities, which are contained and presented in the text of Sacred Scripture, have been written down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit” [DV 11]. ... “Since therefore all that the inspired authors or sacred writers affirm should be regarded as affirmed by the Holy Spirit, we must acknowledge that the books of Scripture firmly, faithfully, and without error teach the truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided in the Sacred Scriptures” [DV 11] (Part One, Section One, Article 3:II:105, 107).
SUPREME BUT NOT ALONE
Yet the Holy Scriptures do not exist alone in the life of the world, not even in the Church's life in the world, as if in a vacuum, stranded on a desert island, or at an oasis. The Bible, with its Two Testaments, is God’s Book, the LORD’S Book, for his people. It was his gift in time and space, first to the Jews (the ancient Israel), and then to the Christians (the Church, the New Israel). So we rightly claim that the Scriptures are both Israel’s Book and, in the course of sacred history, the Church’s Book. Thus it is that the rightful, proper context for the Sacred Scriptures is the life of the covenant people of God. As St. Peter explained, “No prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation” (2 Peter 1:20).
Not only did God employ his inspired servants of both the Old and New Covenants to write down his Word, but he also gave to his covenant people, first to the Jews and then to the Christians, the duty to collect and to authorize them as the Canon of Scripture. From this divine intervention, we have received the Jewish (Hebrew) Canon and then the additions to it produced within the life of the Christian Church (the Greek Canon), forming One Canon of One Bible with Two Testaments. The period of testing and discernment to achieve a general agreement on the actual, final content of the Canon of Holy Scripture for the Church took several centuries of the Christian era.
Having collected and authorized the full Canon of Scripture, the Church obviously had a conviction of what were the central doctrines and themes of the Bible. This conviction came, as did the collection of the canonical books themselves, from what the Church, and Israel before her, had always believed and preached. As St. Paul observed:
Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe (1 Corinthians 1:20-21).
The XXth Article of Religion puts the same matter in different words when it calls the Church “a witness and keeper of Holy Writ.” It was only reasonable, therefore, that the Church should conveniently summarize the central doctrines of the Holy Scriptures and her apostolic preaching in her Creeds – the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds in particular. Thus we know that the Church of the fourth century, which had collected and confirmed the Canon of Scripture, also believed, taught, and confessed that God, the LORD, has revealed himself as a Trinity of Persons. God is, as God knows and reveals himself to be, God the Father, together with his Son, and together with his Holy Spirit, Three Persons in Unity of Being and of One Substance. Alongside and as part of her Trinitarian Faith, the Church also confessed an Incarnational Faith. She believed that the eternally-begotten Son of the Father became Incarnate for us and for our salvation. She taught that the Second Person of the Holy Trinity became man and that the Word was made flesh.
It is a matter of historical fact, then, that the Holy Scriptures have never existed in terms of their meaning and purpose in a vacuum or in isolation. The Bible was not to be understood or interpreted in a way that denied the truth of God’s Triune Being and the Truth of Jesus Christ’s Personhood as the Son of God made man. In fact, we may say that there never was a time when the Bible was intended to be heard or read outside of a structure of belief, understanding, and prayer. We recall that the first disciples and apostles read Jesus’ Bible (the Old Testament) in the light of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and his claim to be the Messiah of the Jews, fulfilling the Law and the Prophets. Likewise, we know from their own writings and history that the disciples who followed the Apostles read the Bible in the light of the apostolic teaching given unto them.
Thus the Apostles and the early Church understood the sacred Scriptures in a way that was very different from that of the Jewish rabbinical schools, for they approached the Scriptures from a different belief, conviction, perspective, and commitment. The Christians’ joyful belief in the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ made a world of difference! For those early Christians, and for those who share their faith, the whole Bible is God’s Book, and by God’s gift and holy will, the right place to hear it read or to read its pages is in spiritual union with Jesus Christ, the exalted Messiah, within the worship and fellowship of the Christian Church.
Of course the Scriptures can be read with profit outside the Church of God. Here we look to the Holy Spirit to be the invisible teacher who guides the true seeker after God to see that the Scriptures point to Jesus the Christ and salvation in His name. However, as with the Ethiopian eunuch whom we meet in the Acts of the Apostles (8:26ff.), God also uses human help to bring people to see the meaning of Scripture. In this case Philip, the evangelist, was directed by an angel of the Lord to meet the Ethiopian in Gaza. There he found the African reading the book of Isaiah (chapter 53), but not knowing who is the One who “was led as a sheep to the slaughter.” By the grace of God, Philip was able to preach unto him the Lord Jesus as the Suffering Servant who is now the Exalted Servant of the Father.
It is well worth noting that the summary doctrine Sola Scriptura (“the Scripture alone”), as emphasized in the Protestant world since the sixteenth century Reformers, did not originally mean that we need no help in the right reading and interpretation of the Bible. Rather, it meant that nothing, in this or any other age before the Lord’s return, should or can stand alongside the Canon of Scripture as the supreme and final authority for the Faith.
Those who first cried Sola Scriptura demonstrated their true intent by their production of an abundance of pamphlets, treatises, and books to aid catechumens and church members in reading the Bible with profit. Central to these publications were the Catechisms, wherein were offered explanations of the Creed, the Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Sacraments. By such Catechisms Christian people were intended to gain a right structure of thinking about God and our relation to him, so that with the right Christian mind they could profitably hear and read the Bible as God’s living Word for them.
Further, the same reformers published carefully constructed Confessions of Faith (such as the Augsburg Confession in Latin and German) in order to indicate how the Bible was understood in the communion of the Church and what doctrinal mindset pastors and preachers ought to have in their understanding and use of Holy Scripture.
Thus we see that the Creeds of the Early Church, augmented by the Catechisms and Confessions of Faith of the National Churches of the sixteenth century in Europe, performed an important – even necessary – function. They provided a door of entry and a sure stepping stone into the sphere of the Word of God written, so that the will of God would be known, understood, and obeyed by pastors and people.
While the advent of the printing press made the general availability of the Bible to the laity in their own vernacular languages a reality during the Reformation, this does not mean that the Reformers encouraged a doctrine of the right of private judgment or of private interpretation. People were urged to read the Bible, and to read it daily, to be fed from the Word of God written. At the same time they were taught that the Holy Scripture can only be read with profit from within a Trinitarian Faith.
NOT ONLY CREEDS
Together with the Creeds, the Divine Liturgy (the Holy Eucharist with its connected services) provided for the ancient Church perhaps the most important setting in which the Word of God was read, preached, heard, and prayed. Thus the structure, content, and ethos of the divine service provide an important gate of entry into the living Word of God, and thus into communion with God the Father through his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not too much to say that the basic doctrines of the Creed, expressed in doxological, eucharistic, intercessory, petitionary and confessional modes, are the very substance of the Liturgy of the Word and Sacrament. Here the Father not only speaks through his written Word, but also gives his only-begotten Son, the Incarnate Word, by the Holy Spirit to his worshipping children. The faithful receive the Son, so that united to him and in him, they might believe, love, serve, and glorify his Father in heaven.
The Ecumenical Councils constitute yet another example of how the context of the Holy Scriptures is to be found in the covenant life of the Church. At the Ecumenical Councils (especially Nicea 325; Constantinople 381 ; Ephesus 431 and Chalcedon 451), the Fathers settled doctrinal questions and produced dogma, the settled, basic, formal teaching of the Church. The Council Fathers also answered practical questions about the Church’s daily life and order, establishing the basis of what we now call Canon Law. These rules of order are the “Ancient Canons” referred to in the Anglican Ordinal, as discussed in the immediately preceding chapter. So the latter also became a means by which the faithful gained access to the purpose and meaning of the Bible, especially in moral and ecclesial matters.
One way to describe the place and function of Creeds, the Divine Liturgy and the Canon Law of the early Church of the fourth century and following is to call them “Formularies.” This claim deserves explanation, especially since we have earlier asserted that the formularies of the Anglican Way (along with the giving or withholding of communion) are the basis of the authority of the Anglican Communion.
St. Paul summarizes his instructions about the life and worship of the Church by saying, “Let all things be done decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:40). The apostle’s “in order” is kata taxin, which also means “according to the accustomed or given form.”
We retain the Greek word “taxis” in English, as the first element of the word taxidermy, which means the arrangement of an animal skin over a form. The sense of what St. Paul wrote, then, is not “according to some form,” but “according to a particular, proper form.” Just as a taxidermist is expected to arrange the skin of a bird in the form of a bird, and not in the form of something else, the Church is expected to arrange her life in the form that Christ has given his Church, through his Apostles. Any other form would be, at best, a misunderstanding of the form and nature of the Church, as if a taxidermist did not recognize that he had been given the skin of a bird and tried to mount it on the form of a rabbit. At worst, a knowing effort to substitute a different form for that given by Christ through the Apostles would be a denial of Christ himself.
Thus , the verbal formulas of Christianity do matter, because they are the means of maintaining and living the forms given by Jesus Christ to his Church. And it was the practical necessity of preserving the formulas that maintain the forms of Christian life which gave rise to written records of the formulas, call “formularies.” A formulary is “a collection or system of formulas; a statement drawn up in formulas; a document containing the set form or forms according to which something is to be done (especially one that contains prescribed forms of religious belief or ritual)” (Oxford English Dictionary).
In Latin, a “formulary” was originally a person, a lawyer (formularius) skilled in the formulas that expressed and maintained the law. When St. Paul intervened in the Church of Corinth, he called on the Corinthians to maintain their Christian belief and practice according to the forms and formulas that the Church had received from Christ. The Apostle did the duty of a formularius, but even Apostles are not immortal.
More was needed than the personal gifts and prestige of the Apostles to maintain the proper form of the Church. It was necessary to write down the Apostles’ teaching as “formularies,” just as it had been necessary earlier to write down (in what we now call the New Testament) the Apostolic preaching of the Gospel from which the formulas of the Christian Faith are derived. The inspired written form of the Gospel of life (in the Four Gospels, together with the canonical Epistles authored by the Apostles and the rest of Scripture) is always primary, of course.
What is derived from the Holy Scriptures can never be of precisely the same authority as that from which it is derived. Nevertheless, the written formularies of the Church produced after the writing of the books of the New Testament, and from their contents, are authoritative and binding. They are the product of the apostolic ministers to whom Jesus Christ entrusted his Church and upon whom the Holy Ghost descended for their guidance in all truth.
The ecumenical Creeds are examples of formularies, since they maintain the formulas in words for summarizing and expressing the Truth revealed in the Holy Scriptures. The codes of canon law are formularies, preserving the formulas that maintain the Christian forms of thought, word, and deed in the life of the Church. The ancient liturgies are formularies, giving shape to the universal worship of the Christian Church and demonstrating the permissible limits of local embellishments and emphases within a single, permanent order of divine worship.
First, then, are the foundational formularies, the two Testaments of the One Canon of Holy Scripture. Based upon these primary authorities, and emerging from them, are the patristic formularies – the Creeds, the Liturgy, and the Canon Law.
No ecclesiastical body on earth has the authority to change the substance of these secondary or patristic formularies, as the undivided Church has received them, without first demonstrating to a similarly undivided Church that some error, demonstrable from Holy Scripture, has been made in them. Local and regional churches do retain the authority, of course, to adopt subordinate formularies of their own (as they did in the patristic era), but only if their local formularies are in agreement with the formularies of the undivided Church (see Article XXXIV, “Of the Traditions of the Church”).
THE FORMULARlES OF THE ANGLICAN WAY
At the time of the Reformation in the 16th century, the Church of England produced certain formularies for its own use as a national jurisdiction of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. These are the Book of Common Prayer, the Ordinal, and the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, supplemented in 1603 by a revised code of local (Church of England) canon law. She took this action on the basis of her status as a national church, in two provinces, in the universal catholic Church.
It is usual to refer to the religion of the Church of England, and of the national churches derived from her as “Anglican,” from the Latin title Ecclesia Anglicana (“the English Church”) used in medieval documents. It is important to recognize, however, that her life in the one Church of Jesus Christ began when Britain was a province of the Roman Empire and centuries before the Angles and Saxons arrived to call their new home “Angleland.” Thus, it is a simple error of fact to claim that the Anglican Church “began” in the Reformation, or even with the late 6th century mission of St. Augustine to evangelize the newly arrived Anglo-Saxon pagans. The bishops of a five-centuries-old Christian Church met St. Augustine on the beach.
The existence of the Church of England at the time of the Reformation cannot be in doubt, or else there would have been nothing to “reform,” so the purpose of the Anglican formularies of that period cannot have been to call her into being. Rather, the Anglican formularies were devised to preserve the forms and formulas of the doctrine, discipline, and worship that the Church of England had received in, and from, the undivided Church. To the extent that they were controversial, they were so because they addressed the controversies of that period over innovations introduced into the Western Church during the Middle Ages and the constantly expanding claims of the Bishop of Rome to universal ordinary authority over every Christian church in the world.
Widespread calls for a “reformation” of the Church, as a return to Scriptural, apostolic, and patristic norms within Christianity, had issued from virtually every national church in the West for centuries before the actual English Reformation. In the event, the English reformers proceeded on the basis of the Scriptures themselves, understood according to the faith and practice of the undivided Church as recorded in the ancient formularies. The formularies of the English Reformation, therefore, were aimed precisely against innovation. They are merely reassertions and reiterations, from within the Church of England, of the formulas and forms that had constituted the order of the undivided Church.
The Thirty-Nine Articles, for example, are neither a new creed nor a new confession of faith. The ecumenical Creeds are still the creeds and confessions of the Anglican churches. The Anglican Way of following Jesus Christ does not depart from or add to the Creeds of the universal Church. The Articles are merely an instrument for ending controversies about the changeless Faith of the Church in favor of the settled teaching of the Apostles and Fathers, to be found in the Church’s universal formularies. There is nothing in the Articles than cannot be corroborated from the Scriptures and the Fathers.
Similarly, the Book of Common Prayer is not a “new liturgy.” It is simply the recovery of the ancient forms and formulas of worship and sacramental administration in vernacular English, making them available to every member of an English speaking Church. The discipline of the Book of Common Prayer is the order of the undivided and universal Church, which fact explains why it has been possible to translate it into some 150 other vernacular languages without a loss of its ability to guide the people of the Church into the form of life that Jesus Christ has given to his Church.
The Ordinal, likewise, as a formulary subordinate to the ancient formularies of the Church, provides for the lawful and sure transmission of apostolic authority to the bishops, priests, and deacons of the Anglican churches, without addition to or subtraction from the ancient order of the Church. The continued use of this Ordinal binds the national churches of the Anglican Communion together in a common order, with a common ministry and a common discipline unquestionably consistent with the standard of Holy Scripture as understood by the undivided Church.
The English code of canon law, and those similar codes derived from it in other Anglican national churches, is a local addendum to the canon law of the whole Church of Jesus Christ. Its central principle is that no local church may legislate contrary either to the Holy Scriptures or to the received practice and discipline of the undivided Church.
One need not, of course, be an Anglican for the sake of salvation. The churches of the Anglican Way do not claim to be the one Church of Jesus Christ, but only a communion of national churches obedient to Jesus Christ in accordance with the forms and formulas of the Apostolic and Patristic Church. The Anglican Way does hold, however, that a body of Christians must conform to the formularies of the undivided Church in order to claim to be a true local church within the one Body of Christ.
We might well observe here that “The Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral” (1886/1888) is not an Anglican formulary, but an appeal to Christians of other bodies to embrace for the sake of Christian unity the essential order of the undivided Church as embodied by the ancient formularies. The churches of the Anglican Way assert in the Quadrilateral their historic and unwavering belief that it is not fidelity to the formularies of the universal Church that has caused division among Christian churches. Rather, division has followed from unwarranted departures from the forms supported by the ancient formularies, and from additions made to them without the consent of the entire Church that they are consistent with the faith once delivered to the saints.
The formulas that govern these matters are simple. To be a true local church is to obey the formularies of the undivided Church. To be a true Anglican church is to obey the Anglican formularies produced to maintain the ancient order of Christ within the Anglican Way.
Creation in Form and Shape
Most devout Christians are persuaded that the Bible, being the Word of God written, has a unique place of authority in the Church. Nevertheless, many of those same Christians, for a variety of reasons, fail to recognize that while the Canon of Scripture serves as the unique and final formulary of the Christian religion, there are in relation to it other secondary and necessary formularies. They may use these secondary formularies every day of their lives, to guide their worship or their Bible study, without considering where they come from or how they function in the life of the Church. Some of these secondary formularies are universal to the Church, such as the great ecumenical Creeds. Others are local, belonging to a national jurisdiction of the Church, such as the Book of Common Prayer of the Anglican Way. But everyone who has a prayer book, a handbook of morality, a hymnal, or a Bible study guide is using a secondary formulary.
In order to appreciate fully the meaning and function of forms, formulas, and formularies, we need perhaps to do a little background Bible study. We begin in the first chapter of the Bible, where we are told that God the Creator imposes upon matter, which was formless and void, a form and a shape.
When we examine the account of creation in Genesis, we see that the mere existence of matter is not the whole of God’s creation of the world from nothingness (ex nihilo). There is another element – form and shape:
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters (Genesis 1:1-2).
In the first sentence of the Bible, God calls creation into being. The remainder of the creation account is given to God’s purposeful transformation, through his Word and Holy Spirit, of what exists but is “formless and void” (Hebrew: tohuw bohuw) into the variety of subordinate “shapes” or “forms” that he wills for it, so that it is made a coherent whole. This “whole,” which is creation taken altogether, also possesses a summary, governing shape or form, which St. John describes in these terms:
Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created (Revelation 4:11).
God’s revelation of his mind provided in Scripture allows us to summarize the overall shape of creation in these terms. It is the expression of God’s glory in living and in order – even as the Blessed Trinity lives in an undivided order of divinity, meaning, purpose, and love. Within that order of God’s good pleasure in living and creating is the creation of man, who is made in God’s image and likeness to have dominion over the earth in subordination only to God himself (Genesis 1:26-28).
IN THE IMAGE AND AFTER THE LIKENESS
Man’s being cannot properly be separated from God’s image and likeness, or from an absolute subordination to God, without the result of death (Genesis 2:16-17). Nor may this image and likeness be understood as merely spiritual, so that the physical details of man’s life and living are rendered a matter of indifference. The form of man’s body, and thus of his bodily life, are explicitly part of God’s creative purposes: “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7).
The life of the human race possesses a God-given form in every detail, physical and spiritual. Nothing about man, or about anything else in creation, is excluded from God’s purpose and sovereignty. Even the differentiation of man into male and female forms of humanity is a deliberate act of God. Both male and female are made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:27), and share a common human vocation to a life of eternal fellowship with God.
But God creates Adam, the man, first; and from Adam God creates the woman Eve:
And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man (Genesis 2:21-23).
The woman is “made” (“formed” or “built”: banah) from Adam’s bones and flesh into her own proper form of humanity, which is complementary to that of Adam. Adam does not do this, since he is asleep. It is God alone who made the woman and gave her a particular form, and it is God who presents the woman to Adam for naming, signifying Adam’s authority over her under God. God shapes not only their bodies, but also their proper relation to himself and to one another.
To summarize, thus far we have seen that everything that exists, except for God himself, is his creation from nothing, to which he has given a shape or form according to his purposes, including the human race. These forms are dynamic, rather than static (as in Platonic “ideas” or Aristotelian “forms” of Greek philosophy), in that they follow from God’s own knowledge of himself and from the undivided life of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost in the Blessed Trinity. The forms cannot be static because they cannot stand alone apart from God. They must be dynamic forever, literally an expression of God’s infinite power, because these forms are an expression of God’s active and living will, so that their perfection can only be accomplished in a right relation with him. Thus, the forms of creation are spiritual, physical, and moral.
ENTER THE DEVIL
The devil is not a god who can create or destroy, but he has been permitted to rebel against God Almighty. This rebellion is distinguished by the devil’s assault on the creative forms of God. The devil rebels, first of all, against the proper form of angels, seeking to be other than what God has created him to be. Second of all, the devil rebels against the God-given forms of the physical universe, whether natural or supernatural, and in particular against the created form of mankind.
Since annihilation is beyond the limits of devil’s creaturely power, he directs his efforts to returning all things, even himself, to the state of being “formless and void” (tohuw bohuw). He tempts Jesus Christ in the wilderness with the goal of deforming the God-Man through an act of disobedience by the Son against the Father. He does so, even though he knows that a victory on his part must necessarily erase even his own form of life by its deformation of the forms of creation, all of which depend upon the order of the Godhead as a Trinity of Persons in the unity of love (Matthew 4:1-11).
The Son of God is made man in the world, however, because of the devil’s first and successful assault on the form of mankind, and through the deformation of mankind on the form of the universe. By his successful temptation of Eve, the devil separated her from her husband, and then with her husband he separated mankind from God in disobedience (Genesis 3:1-6; 2 Corinthians 11:2; 1 Timothy 2:12-14). The form of human life, intended for communion in and with God, was instantly distorted. The man was set against the woman, and they were set against God and the rest of creation (Genesis 3:7-13). A free mankind, subordinate by creation to God alone, surrendered itself to the bondage of sin, Satan, and death. Furthermore, because man fell into sin, the entire creation over which he had been given dominion under God also fell into bondage (Romans 8:20). Help was needed and only God could supply this help.
JESUS CHRIST, THE FORM OF GOD AND THE FORM OF MAN
Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man, is the liberation of creation from vanity. The Eternal Son of God became man to restore mankind to that created form which glorifies the Father:
Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross (Philippians 2:6-8).
Jesus Christ is True God of True God. He possesses a perfect divine nature by right as the only-begotten Son of God, so that he has no need to cling to that divine nature as if he had stolen it. There never was a time when the eternal Son was not God, or not with the Father and the Holy Ghost in the Godhead. He is “in the form of God” because he is God as the One God knows himself in the eternal life of the Blessed Trinity. He does not cease to be God when he becomes incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary. Rather, He becomes perfect man, with a perfect human nature as well, while remaining one Person in whom the divine and human natures are united forever without change, confusion, division, or separation.
He is in the form of man, the rebellious servant of God, without participating in that rebellion or sinning. In the proper form of man, he is obedient to God, his Father in heaven, in all things, even to his death on the cross as the perfect willing sacrifice for the sins of all mankind. Because he becomes incarnate, he demonstrates by his human physical nature that the physical nature of mankind may bear the image and likeness of God.
Jesus Christ is the Second Adam, the new Adam who takes the place of the old as the model or form of a redeemed humanity: “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22). Where the first Adam sinned, condemning all that God had placed under his authority, Jesus Christ the Second Adam is entirely and redeemingly obedient to his Father in heaven. Just as the account of creation given in Genesis begins with God’s calling the heaven and the earth into being, but focuses primarily on God's giving of form to what he creates, the account of redemption that makes up the rest of the Scriptures, following the record of man’s fall, focuses on Jesus Christ who reforms a fallen creation to restore it to the perfection of his Father’s will. While salvation is an accomplished work of Christ and of his one Sacrifice once offered, the restoration of the created form of man and of the world will not be complete until the Last Day and the general resurrection of the dead. On that day, man, heaven, earth, the totality of God’s creation, will be perfectly re-formed (see Romans 8:19-23).
In the meantime, the Church exists in the world to be a mediating form between the Personal perfection of Jesus Christ and the final perfection of the entire created order in him. The descent of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost (Acts 2) transforms the body of believers into the Body of Christ, a Body of God’s promise of complete redemption in the perfecting of the forms He has created:
That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory (Ephesians 1:12-14).
The proper form of the Church is the beloved Bride called to be one flesh with Jesus Christ the Bridegroom, who has purchased her and cleansed her with his own Blood (Ephesians 5:25-28; Revelation 19:6-9; 21:2; 21:9). Within this great and definitive form of the unity of the Bridegroom with his Bride, just as there were in the first creation of man, there are given subordinate forms, for the reconstruction of the humanity of the members of the Church:
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-13).
Salvation and the form of the Church cannot be separated, without separating the Church from Christ.
In creation, the details of the God-given forms of human life and of the world under man’s dominion could only be separated from mankind's particular, personal existence by sin. It was the devil who persuaded man to depart from the created forms, and it is Christ who died to return mankind and the rest of creation to the originally righteous forms of God. Therefore, arguments that the “idea” the “effect”, or the “benefit” of salvation can be separated from the form of life that Christ has given in the Church can only proceed from the warped logic of the Fall, or from the devil himself.
To be redeemed in Christ is to be re-conformed to the Father’s good pleasure, in the unity of the Body of our Savior, who is the summary or “recapitulation” (Greek anakephalaiosis) of the perfect forms that express the Father’s will in creation:
Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one [anakephalaiosasthai] all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: (Ephesians 1:9-11).
The “dispensation” is the “economy” (Greek oikonomia), the order or arrangement of the laws that govern a household, in this case the household of God, ruled by the decrees of his will. It is the final putting into order, since it is the order of the “fullness of times.” It is achieved by the Father’s gathering together (his “recapitulation”) of the forms and reality of all creation, both in heaven and earth, in Jesus Christ.
Thus, to suggest that there can be a “church” without forms is as foolish as insisting that there can be a creation, or a redemption of creation, without forms. And when there are forms, there are necessarily formulas and formularies. The Holy Scripture witnesses to the forms of creation and redemption, and it contains the formulas of faith. Thus the Holy Scripture is the formulary par excellence. In relation to the Holy Scripture, come first the basic formularies of the early Church. Then, in relation both to these basic formularies and to the Holy Scripture, are the local formularies of the national or provincial jurisdictions of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.
FACING A PROBLEM
And yet, the problem remains that many who profess Christ either reject forms, formulas, and formularies, or are willing to dispense with them too easily. While this attitude affects many Christian communions and fellowships, it is especially worrisome for the Anglican Communion, in which a common doctrine, discipline, and worship expressed in formularies is a primary means of unity and discipline.
We would suggest the possibility that an aversion to formularies is not so much the product of a school of theological thought, as it is either a partial or a complete surrender to the formlessness of modern Western industrial culture. That culture is formless precisely because it rejects as a premise the need or the value of a common order of life. From its perspective, there are no “permanent things” that must instruct every generation of human beings, but only the transitory “outcomes” of contemporary politics.
In this way, current Western culture is not only at odds with the Western culture of history, it is at odds with the historic culture of the Christian Church, Western or Eastern, everywhere in the world. Wittingly or not, those who have come under the influence of the cultural distortions of the West, have given their practical loyalty to an inversion of the Vincentian Canon. Where St. Vincent (d. before 450) taught, “In the catholic Church itself we take the greatest care to hold that which has been believed everywhere, always, and by all,” they have been swept up in a culture that affirms only “the here and the now for ourselves.”
If we are to escape the same rootlessness in time, space, and community, we must consider, if only briefly, what was the culture of the Church and of the West before this age, and how the present Western culture came to be.
The word “form” derives from the Latin forma, which means “form, figure, or shape.” “Shape” is the native English equivalent. The Latin verb formare, means “to form, shape, fashion,” and by extension “to arrange, order, regulate, dispose.” In “formare personam novam” (“to form a new person,” Horace), the verb formare means “to represent” (Cassell’s New Latin Dictionary, 1959).
The oldest recorded uses of the word “form” in English occur around 1300 (see the Oxford English Dictionary for this and the following information). In these earliest uses, “form” can mean “shape, arrangement of parts”; “an image, representation, or likeness (of a body)”; or “a body considered in respect to its outward shape and appearance; especially that of a living being, person.” “Form” can also mean "the particular character, nature, structure, or constitution of a thing; the particular mode in which a thing exists or manifests itself”; the “manner, method, way, fashion (of doing anything)”; and “a formal agreement, settlement, or arrangement between parties; also a formal commission of authority.”
In later theological use, “a sacrament is said to consist of matter (as the water in baptism, the bread and wine in the Eucharist) and form, which is furnished by certain essential formulary words.” The Oxford English Dictionary goes on to quote Hooker, in 1597, as follows: “To make complete the outward substance of a sacrament, there is required an outward form, which form sacramental elements receive from sacramental words” (Eccl. Pol. V.lviii.2).
Here, Hooker takes “form” beyond a mere representation in appearance to expressing the particular nature of a thing, consistent with St. Augustine’s definition of a sacrament as an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. It is, of course, the form of the invisible grace that gives visible form to the sacrament, just as the good pleasure of God gives form to all of material creation. This means, then, that the form of sacramental words that provide the sacramental elements with their proper form in this world are neither arbitrary nor indifferent. An understanding of “form” in this way will explain why Hooker and the divines of his era were so insistent on differentiating between the Dominical Sacraments (Baptism and the Holy Communion) and other sacramental administrations. The form of words for the Dominical Sacraments had come from the mouth of Christ himself, as divine revelation. The forms of the other administrations possess Apostolic authority, but the forms of Baptism and the Holy Communion had been spoken by God Incarnate.
Further, those who declare that their faith or practice is “beyond formulas” are knowingly or not resisting God by denying God’s use of forms. A “formula,” after all, is the Latin diminutive of forma, because a formula is the “set form,” “the form of an alliance,” the “rule or principle” by which the form of a thing is maintained, applied, restored, or made visible (Cassell’s, op. cit.).
In English, the oldest use of “formula,” dating to the 16th century, is to describe “a set form of words in which something is defined, stated, or declared, or which is prescribed by authority or custom to be used on some ceremonial occasion” (O.E.D.). By the 18th century, the common meaning was extended to include “a prescription or detailed statement of ingredients,” a “recipe” (as a “received form,” from Latin recipere), as in “the formula for a medicine.” By the end of the 18th century, a “formula” in mathematics meant “a principle expressed in algebraic symbols.” And by the 19th century, “formula” had taken on the meaning in chemistry that, perhaps, most people associate with it today: “an expression of the constituents of a compound by means of figures and symbols.”
The word “formula” retains a generally positive and constructive meaning today in mathematics and the sciences. People want their bridges built according to the correct mathematical formulae, and they sue for damages the moment they learn that some drug they are taking does not conform to the proper formula. Nevertheless, “formula” is a disparaging term in religion, philosophy, and the arts. Why?
The simplest explanation is that many people have ceased to believe that the things of the spirit, whether human or divine, have a form. They treat the physical and the spiritual as entirely separate, if not opposed, divisions of reality. This rejection of spiritual or spiritually related forms is traceable to the ancient Gnostics, but it was revived and popularized in the English speaking world through the influence of writers such as Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881).
Carlyle was a philosophical idealist who believed that the “idea” of a thing like a chair is realer than any particular, material chair can be. Thus, he rejected creeds, churches, and theologies as material impositions on “the Religious Principle [that] lies unseen in the hearts of all good men.” Ironically, his rejection of “organized Christianity” and all of its forms brought him thousands of followers as a religious teacher, making his writings the “forms” of an alternative system of belief. The theological significance of his philosophy lies in its appreciation of the essential subjectivity of religious and moral convictions. “My metaphysics,” he wrote, “are merely the referring of the mind to its own consciousness for the truth indispensable to its own happiness.”
While Carlyle would be appalled at what has become of so much music, art, literature, and religion today, their debased condition was inevitable once the rejection of forms to mediate the material and the spiritual was applied to these disciplines. In effect, they ceased to be disciplines at all. Rather, modern Western composers, artists, writers, and theologians have tended to behave as if all is tohuw bohuw (formless and void) until they impose upon it their own arbitrary equivalent of “forms” in a parody of the one creation by the one God who made the true forms.
Since these “artists and scholars” are creatures and cannot escape either the need or the making of forms (any more than Carlyle could), in practice they act like petty pagan gods. They either deny all created forms, or after admitting them, set out to destroy them. This rebellion against forms has intentionally left our culture in a functional chaos. The model for such an enterprise is not God, but the devil’s temptation of Adam and Eve.
The rejection of formulas as the prescribed means of defining, maintaining, and manifesting forms is especially dangerous in theology and religion, upon which all other human activities depend for the maintenance of their forms according to God’s good pleasure. The new life given in Christ Jesus is governed by divine forms, just as much as the originally righteous life of man that redemption restores was formed in every particular by God.
As we saw earlier, the forms of creation and redemption are a matter of moral order, just as much as they are of spiritual and physical order, because true form depends on a right relation with God. It is critical, then, not to separate the spiritual, the physical, and the moral from one another. Although it is possible, perhaps necessary at times, given the limits of the fallen human intellect, to contemplate the spiritual, the physical, and the moral separately, they must be reunited to possess an adequate and realistic picture of God’s good will expressed in the forms of creation and in the incarnation of his Son Jesus Christ to redeem those forms.
What Jesus Christ said and did cannot be separated from Who and what Jesus Christ is, both spiritually and physically. The great Christological heresies which plagued the early Church were attempts to divide the spiritual, the physical, and the moral unity of the Person of Jesus Christ. The great heresies against Christ’s Body, the Church, fall into the same pattern of error. A Church that is only spiritual is inhuman. A Church that is only material is not divine. A Church that behaves as she wishes, and not as the Father in heaven commands, is immoral and not of Jesus Christ, who lived to make the Father’s good pleasure in creation and redemption visible and concrete.
To live as a Christian is to live the pattern of Christ, spiritually, physically, and morally. It is to live according to the forms the Church has received from her Master, and according to the secondary formularies established in obedience to him, to the glory of the Father and the conversion of the nations of the world.
PART THREE: THE WORSHIP OF ALMIGHTY GOD
The Prayer Book and the Ordinal
In Part One of this book, we examined the basic history of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America (E.C.U.S.A., or simply in American usage, “the Episcopal Church”), particularly as that history relates to the Anglican Communion and the American membership in it. In Part Two, we explored the necessity and significance of forms, and of the primary and secondary formularies that maintain them in the life of the Church. In Part Three, we will consider the Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal as main formularies of the Anglican Way. We will do so in the most practical terms possible, by looking at modem American departures from the traditional Anglican forms, along with the consequences of those departures for the American church and the Anglican Communion.
As we saw earlier, the Episcopal Church in the newly independent United States of America had a variety of options in terms of what kind of Church it intended to be. The Treaty of Paris, in 1783, had severed all legal links with England and with the monarchy. It was now an autonomous Church.
Even more compelling for the Americans, however, than the mere fact of their ecclesiastical autonomy, was the new and primary political language that had been developed in their nation during the Revolution of 1776-1783. It was a language of “unalienable Rights.” Thus the infant Episcopal Church knew, in the human terms of the society that surrounded it, that it had a right to exercise its freedom, to go its own way in a land dedicated to the rights of “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” (the Declaration of Independence).
A variety of possibilities were suddenly open to the Episcopal Church. In the terminology of the time, it was a “respectable eastern and southern denomination.” If we break this down a bit, it meant that the Episcopal Church was considered “respectable” for its many educated and influential members. It was “eastern,” because of its major concentrations in the cities of the east coast, as opposed to its rather weaker representation in the settlements on the western frontier. It was “southern,” due to its large membership in the Southern States. And the church was called a “denomination,” because that was a title deemed to be more congenial to an independence-minded America than the more traditional “jurisdiction.”
Thus, under these circumstances and influences, the Episcopal Church could go the way of the rational religion of the Enlightenment and have a Deist or Unitarian liturgy. Or, taking another path, it could go with the Methodists, who were originally evangelical and pietist Anglicans, and it could use the version of the English Prayer Book that John Wesley had adapted for their use. In the event, it decided to stay close to the Anglican Way. It chose the Reformed Catholic and Scriptural religion, expressed through the historic Episcopate and the Common Prayer Tradition, to which it had been committed during its long years as a colonial mission of the national and established Church of England.
As befitted a new democracy, the major decisions to remain in the Anglican Way and in communion with the Church of England were taken at General Conventions in Philadelphia in 1785 and 1789.
We should recall that those members of the General Convention in Philadelphia who were active in revising the Prayer Book in 1789 represented the educated urban, eastern and southern social establishment of the time. They were influenced by European culture and were familiar with the history of the Church of England. In particular they were more than a little interested in the proposed revision of the Book of Common Prayer (1662) that was made by those of latitudinarian sympathies in the Church of England in 1689 after the “Glorious Revolution.” Though this revision was not adopted in England, the Americans saw many parallels between their own situation in 1789 and that of Britain after the arrival of William and Mary to replace James II. Thus the proposals of 1689 are referred to in the Preface to the first American Book of Common Prayer as “a great and good work which miscarried at that time.”
But we must also remember that the Anglican Churches in the colonies of America had known only one Prayer Book for well over a century, the BCP (1662). Many people knew its Collects by heart, and their own private and family prayers were profoundly shaped by the forms of piety and prayer in this Book. Thus few, if any, wanted revisions on a scale that would cause the loss of this heritage.
REVISING THE 1662 BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER & ORDINAL
What were the basic concerns of those who had the task of revising the English Book of Common Prayer (1662) for use by a people who claimed the right under God the Creator “to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”?
1. One concern, obviously, was to make certain that the Common Prayer of the people was truly Common Prayer for America, taking into account new governmental and political structures, together with any national days of celebration – e.g., the Thanksgiving for the harvest and the annual celebration of independence. The new Prayer Book had to be acceptable in America to Americans as an American, and no longer British, Prayer Book.
2. Another concern was to maintain a genuine continuity with the mother Church in terms of the Ministry (the new American bishops were consecrated in Scotland and England in the 1780s), as well as Worship and Doctrine. Identity, roots, and connections were deemed to be important and to provide meaning and purpose in a new and expanding society. As noted above, the word “denominations” had come into use to indicate the differing forms and names of Protestant Christianity in America. The Episcopalians were determined to make sure that their historic “denomination” had a clear and distinctive character so that it would not be confused with the Methodists or Presbyterians.
The commitment of the Episcopal Church to continuity with its Reformed Catholic, and yet unabashedly Protestant, inheritance, while being open to freedom of growth and development, is captured in the Preface to the first American Book of Common Prayer, dated, Philadelphia, October, 1789: “This Church 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.” Among the circumstances were, of course, the changed relation to Great Britain because of the Revolution and the need to pray publicly for local civil rulers rather than for the King in London.
3. Yet another major concern was to preserve the biblical character of Common Prayer. In terms of the biblical scholarship of the time (which we now see as much influenced by Latitudinarianism), this meant that the Episcopalians both added and removed biblical and traditional material.
(a) They appointed specific lections from the Old and New Testaments at Morning and Evening Prayer on Sundays and Holy Days – a reflection of the fact that the major public service on Sundays at that time was often Mattins.
(b) They added a new and alternative Preface for Trinity Sunday, which was intended to be more biblical and less metaphysical than that of 1662. Avoiding technical terms such as “Substance” and “Persons” it read: “For the precious death and merits of thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, and for the sending to us of the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, who are one with thee in thy eternal Godhead....”
(c) They removed Old Testament verses from the Common Prayer that they believed had reference only to the Jewish dispensation – e.g., in Morning Prayer the last four verses from the Venite, exultemus Domino (Psalm 95) were omitted and replaced by verses 9 and 13 from Psalm 96.
(d) They did not include the Latin Creed known as the Quincunque Vult (Athanasian Creed) because some thought that it required for salvation a more intellectualized faith than does the Holy Scripture. Thus unlike the English BCP (1662), the America BCP (1789) has only two creeds, the Apostles’ and the Nicene.
(e) In “The Ministration of Holy Baptism,” they substituted the singular word “sin” for the plural “sins” at two significant places in the 1789 text – first, in the Prayer at the beginning of the service, and second, in the Address to the Godparents. Thus the 1789 text speaks of the gift of God through Holy Baptism as “the remission of sin.” It seems most likely that the American revisers meant by this change to emphasize the stain or guilt of original sin (Romans 5), as opposed to the particular sins of any person.
4. Along with their desire to be thoroughly biblical, the Episcopalians also sought to take the example of the Fathers of the first five or so centuries quite seriously, and so they had a concern to follow the formularies of the Early Church. They were much aware of the attempts by the Non-Jurors and by the Scottish Episcopal Church to rewrite the Prayer of Consecration in The Orde rfor Holy Communion of the BCP ( 1662) in order to reflect the content of the Eucharistic Prayers used in the ancient centers of Orthodoxy in the East. For this reason, they departed from the model provided by The Order for Holy Communion in the BCP of 1662 and followed in general, but not slavishly, the pattern provided by the Scottish Communion Office of 1764. In the same context, they revisited, in a sense, the first, short-lived BCP of 1549.
This decision meant that the Consecration Prayer was much longer than that in the BCP (1662), which only contains thanksgiving for the atoning death of the Lord Jesus and a recital of the original institution of the Lord’s Supper. In the BCP (1789), by contrast, after the recital of the Institution of the Sacrament by the Lord Jesus, there is “The Oblation” (the offering up to God the Father of thanksgiving, memorial and holy gifts of bread and wine) and “The Invocation” (the calling on God the Father by his Word and Holy Spirit to make these gifts truly the Body and Blood of his Crucified and Exalted Son).
5. They were concerned that the common prayer of and for the people should be truly comprehensive, as well as edifying, for as many as possible. They wished that the services be “comfortable to all people desiring to live in Christian conversation” and “profitable to the estate of this realm.” This explains in part why they were fascinated by the earlier attempts in England to widen the Common Prayer in order to accommodate the Dissenters and Nonconformists who had been excluded by the terms of the Restoration Settlement under Charles II in 1660-1662.
One example of the desire to include as many as possible without offense was the shortening of the initial Exhortation in “The Form of the Solemnization of Matrimony.” Omitted in the BCP (1789) are the three “causes for which matrimony was ordained by God” – the procreation of children; a remedy against sin, and the “mutual society, help and comfort” of the man and woman. “As a remedy against sin” was not the sort of thing that genteel people wished to hear on a wedding day!
So it was that the 1789 Book of Common Prayer replaced the 1662 Book of Common Prayer as a formulary of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the USA. Later, this new American Church added the Ordinal (1792) and the Articles of Religion (1801) as additional formularies.
The Preface of the American Book of Common Prayer, adopted in Philadelphia, in 1789, contains the following paragraph:
It seems unnecessary to enumerate all the different alterations and amendments [in this book]. They will appear, and it is to be hoped, the reasons of them also, upon a comparison of this with The Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England. In which it will also appear that this Church is far from intending to depart from the Church of England in any essential point of doctrine, discipline, and worship; or further than local circumstances require.
The “local circumstances” referred to are explained earlier in the Preface as “in consequence of the Revolution.” The result of the American Revolution and of the adoption of the United States Constitution was to produce a civil state unlike that of any other in which the Christian Church had lived and evangelized. Although the American Prayer Book was adopted before the Bill of Rights, it was clear even then that the Church would not be established or headed by a monarch as the chief layman, as had been true in England.
Apart from adjustments to this change in civil polity, however, the Preface is clear that no departure from the ancient formularies, or from the particular formularies of the Anglican Way, was intended by the newly independent American Church. Furthermore, the bishops of the Church of England had refused to consecrate bishops for the American Church until the chief American formulary, the Book of Common Prayer, was in agreement with their own Prayer Book (see the discussion of the failed 1785 revision in Chapter Three above).
The American Book of Common Prayer (which includes the Ordinal, as well as the Articles of Religion as specifically adopted by the American Church in 1801) was revised twice, in 1892 and 1928, consistent with the principles of its first adoption. In the years following 1928, the American Church, along with many other national churches in the industrialized world, began to retreat from the authority of the Holy Scripture, as well as from the patristic and Anglican formularies derived from that sacred authority.
THE MODERN RELIGION OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH
In the decade of the 1970s, hard upon the profound shake-up of American society and culture in the 1960s, the Episcopal Church made many dramatic changes in its received doctrines of the Christian Faith, in its ways of public worship and the administration of the sacraments, and in its rules (canon law) for governing its life.
Although thousands of members, perhaps over a million, left the Episcopal Church during or after the introduction of these changes, the majority who remained often welcomed them. Some claimed to witness a new freedom in the feeling that their Church was becoming “more relevant” to modern life and “more open” to new possibilities as a dynamic and inclusive “community of faith.”
Among the manifold changes of the 1970s, however, three stand out as major departures from the traditional Christian faith that have profoundly affected the character and direction of the Episcopal Church.
The first major change to the life of the Church in that decade concerned the rules governing holy matrimony. In a major concession to what sociologists now call “the divorce culture,” canon law was modified by the General Convention of 1973 in order to make it easier for a communicant to be married a second (or even a third) time in church after being divorced. Thus when a new sort of Prayer Book, with its new service for marriage, was introduced six years later in 1979, it was generally understood to be a service for persons not only in a first but also in a second or even third marriage. Regrettably, serial monogamy was thereby given the force of church law by the Episcopal Church. This confused new doctrine of “matrimony” is well reflected in the high percentage of divorced and remarried clergy and laity within that church’s membership since the 1970s.
With this change of canon law has also gone a change in the way in which the Scriptures are read (or not read). In public worship, the “hard” words of Jesus on this matter, that “the two shall become one flesh” and that “no-one is to separate them,” are often omitted from lectionary readings for public worship. Further, when these “hard” sayings of our Lord are examined by the Episcopal Church’s “New Testament experts,” ways are often found to minimize or to relativize their meaning and their impact on today’s family scene. Thus, at the beginning of the third millennium, the “reality” of divorce and remarriage is taken for granted as a “fact of life” by both liberals and conservatives in the Episcopal Church, and anyone who dares to question it is seen by the majority as a disturber of the peace.
So pervasive is this notion that all have a “right” to divorce and remarry, that since the 1970s even proposals from conservative Anglo-catholics and evangelicals to renew the Church have carefully avoided the topic because too many of their supporters are affected by “the divorce culture” within the Church.
In the so-called “heresy trial” of Bishop Walter Righter in 1997, for example, the fact that he had three wives alive and has been divorced and remarried twice was not seen as an issue! Rather the sole matter under scrutiny was his ordination of a “gay” (homosexual) priest. At the trial, it may be claimed that those who represented a conservative interpretation of “the divorce culture” were seeking to hold back the more recent and aggressive “lesgay culture” (a term referring to advocates of the practice of homosexuality as both “natural” and “wholesome”).
The second major change in the 1970s was the introduction of the doctrine and practice of the ordination of women by the General Convention of 1976. This novelty did not enter the Church because of careful study of the Scriptures or of the Anglican tradition. It was not the product of ascetic prayer seeking the mind of the Lord our God. Rather, it came into the life of the Church as one maj or aspect of the Episcopal Church’s response to the “human rights movement,” a movement that is very powerful in American society and culture, and based almost entirely on secular assumptions. If anything, the American “human rights movement” considers most expressions of ecclesiastical orthodoxy or discipline as “oppressive” and contrary to “human rights.”
It is a further matter of fact that the practice of ordaining women began illegally in the Episcopal Church, since the first women were ordained before the General Convention had authorized it. Only later did the General Convention retroactively approve these ordinations. The argument followed these lines. A woman, it was held on a rather utilitarian basis, is as competent and as able to do the job of a minister of religion as a man is. Furthermore, women and men have equal (and interchangeable) rights. Therefore, a woman can be, and indeed ought to be (where called), a minister of religion, and there is no acceptable reason for delay.
Significantly, this doctrine of the ordination of women has been mandated by General Convention as a teaching of the Episcopal Church to be received by all clergy and all laity holding office in parish or diocese as if it were a doctrine necessary for salvation. As this mandate goes into effect, one must hold this new doctrine to be eligible to hold office, and even the bishop of a diocese who refuses to ordain or license women clergy is liable to presentment and trial.
Having established a doctrine of the ordination of women from the values of contemporary culture, the Episcopal Church then began to read the Scriptures with this mindset. Old texts thus suggested new meanings, and the new meanings justified the innovation! And where old texts would not allow new and supportive meaning for the ordination of women, they were classed as belonging to a doomed and evil patriarchalist, androcentric, and sexist culture. In this connection the apostle Paul has been particularly singled out for criticism as a hater of women or at least a sexist rogue.
With the entry of women into the ordained ministry as “a right,” much of the agenda of the feminist movement also entered the Episcopal Church. Thus we see in the 1979 prayer book, not only a new Ordinal that allows the ordination of women as bishops, priests and deacons, but also a new form of language that has been called such things as “non-excluding,” “inclusive,” and “expansive.” This new language is most evident in the new book’s Psalter and in the Canticles of Rite II. (In new additional and experimental Rites approved by General Convention since 1979, this “expansive language” has been used increasingly to speak of a re-imagined “humankind” and to worship the “God[dess].” The result is that, at the beginning of the millennium, it is deemed a major offense in and by parts of the modern E.C.U.S.A. to call God by the revealed Name “the Father.”)
The third major change that has affected the entire life of the Episcopal Church was the adoption by the General Conventions of 1976 and 1979 of a new Prayer Book to replace the traditional Anglican formulary known as The Book of Common Prayer (1928). In the actual title of this new Book, there is reflected a serious departure from the commitment to seeking and speaking the Truth.
Since the 1979 Book is clearly a collection of a variety of services (e.g., it has two forms of Morning and Evening Prayer, as well as multiple forms of the Eucharistic Prayer), it ought to have been called “A new American Prayer Book” or “A Book of Alternative Services” or the like. Contrary to the evidence of its internal content, and against the form and shape to be found in all official Prayer Books of the Anglican Communion of Churches since 1549, it was named “The Book of Common Prayer (1979)” as if it were simply and only a revision of the classic and received Book of Common Prayer of 1662, 1789, 1892 and 1928. Books much like the 1979 Book have appeared in other parts of the Anglican world, but they were given a title to reflect their content truthfully and accurately. For example, the Church of England published “An Alternative Service Book” in 1980, to supplement her formulary The Book of Common Prayer (1662).
In hearings at the General Convention of 1997, in Philadelphia, Frank Griswold, then chairman of the Standing Liturgical Committee and soon to be elected Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, freely admitted that the American Church had replaced, and that its leaders has intended to replace, the traditional Book of Common Prayer with the 1979 book. He also admitted without apology that the Episcopal Church was the only Anglican church in the world to have completely replaced the older formulary with an entirely new one.
While this admission surprised some people, it should not have. As early as 1976, in a review article in The Anglican Theological Review, Aidan Kavanagh, a Roman Catholic scholar, had noted:
First, the Book as a whole is clearly not a mere updated revision of its predecessors since 1549 [the date of the first English Prayer Book]. It is nothing if not a new formulary that contains some structural and phraseological traces of what has gone before but which goes quite beyond it (LVIII, No. 3, 362).
For this new formulary to be Anglican, it must be consistent with other Anglican formularies, for the sake of fidelity in doctrine, discipline and worship, and for the sake of the unity of the Anglican Communion in a common faith and practice. It contains, however, merely “traces of what has gone before.”
Further, for this new formulary to serve as an adequate basis for the Episcopal Church in the United States to claim that it remains a true local church within the one Church of Jesus Christ, it must be consistent with the forms and formulas of the undivided Church. It fails in this regard as well, since [as we shall see] its Trinitarian language, liturgical formulas, mistranslation of the Scriptures (especially in the “Psalter”), confused or false teaching (especially in “An Outline of the Faith,” which replaced the old Catechism), and unisex “Ordinal” all fall short of the requirements of the formularies of the undivided Church. (See the next chapter on the Content of the 1979 Book.)
Furthermore, the adoption of this book, the surrender to “the divorce culture,” and the approval of the “ordination” of women are clearly outside the authority of any national church to legislate for its people or to impose its will on the rest of the Church of Christ. These actions are null and void, and they cannot bind the conscience of any Christian. The real effect of these actions was to render the Episcopal Church, stripped of its proper formularies, “formless and void” (tohuw bohuw, Genesis 1:2) as a national church of any description.
While Anglican churches in other industrialized nations have not yet gone quite as far, their continuing gradual abandonment of the Anglican formularies or their denial of their binding authority places them in similar jeopardy of self-destruction as true churches. Not to be something in particular, a living exhibit of a living tradition rooted in the ancient Church, is to be nothing at all. And it is a lie to call oneself an Anglican apart from the Anglican formularies.
There ought to have been, and there could have been in the 1970s, after nearly two decades of liturgical studies and the outlay of vast amounts of dollars, a conservative and creative revision of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. There is nothing in the principles of the Anglican Way or in the authority of the formularies that would have prevented the Episcopal Church from making provision for the pastoral needs of the final quarter of the century or the new millennium, consistent with the Church’s historic faith and practice. A revision on these terms could have been offered both in the traditional language of the Prayer Book tradition, and with a modernized syntax and vocabulary, as parallel forms of one and the same doctrine, discipline, and worship.
Perhaps the greatest tragedy in the Episcopal Church’s failure to produce a real Book of Common Prayer, was the failure of the revisers to recognize that the historic formularies are not a liturgical straightjacket, but a means of true freedom. A true formulary makes possible other forms subordinate to it, as long as the faith is kept whole and entire. Once a legitimate revision of The Book of Common Prayer had been made on solid historical and theological grounds, the Episcopal Church could have offered, in its context, other forms of service as needed. It could even have provided, if still desired, a “Book of Alternative Services” as in other parts of the Anglican Communion of Churches. Instead, the Standing Liturgical Commission (of the General Convention) of the Episcopal Church chose to create a new form of public prayer and occasional offices outside the tradition of the historic formularies, to impose it on the American church, and to justify its actions publicly by using for their production a title which, though ancient, did not truthfully declare its content.
In the spirit of the iconoclasm of the 1960s and the ecumenism of the 1970s, the Episcopal Church abandoned its received Book of Common Prayer and created a different kind of Prayer Book in order to accommodate its religion to the values of a changed America and a changing ecumenical scene. In accepting and promoting the new prayer book it sought to remove the classic Book of Common Prayer from its pews. Many leaders of this effort fully understood that they were seeking to lead the Church down a doctrinal and liturgical path very different from that of the historic Book of Common Prayer (1662, 1789, 1892 & 1928). Thus the old had to go, and where not forgotten, at least discredited. The advocates of the old religion had to be persuaded to move on to the new, and if they were stubborn or refused, then they were to be excluded.
SUPPORT FOR THE 1979 BOOK IN 2000
The Standing Liturgical Commission of the Episcopal Church has decided that still more new rites are needed for the new millennium, and it is committed to the eventual replacement of even the 1979 book. Apparently the only vocal and committed supporters of the rites of the 1979 book remaining in the E.C.U.S.A. at the end ofthe twentieth century fail into two main groups. There are, first, the “social conservatives,” who want to preserve the status quo in Church and parish. And then there are, second, the conservative evangelicals, charismatics, and Anglo-catholics who are often involved in one way or another in modern “church growth movement” ministries or some other form of missionary outreach. These will tend to claim that the texts and rites of the 1979 book are either more “user-friendly” or more “catholic.” Both groups enjoy the liberties of the new religion, but they do so within the constraints of the memory of what they feel is still a traditional Church, with long roots in history and with a proud past. They may be called “conservative liberals,” rather than “traditionalists.”
Others in the Episcopal Church, including the Presiding Bishop and most of his episcopal colleagues, are deeply affected by the various liberationist movements – especially the feminist and lesgay lobbies – as well as by modern ecumenism. They believe and publicly state that “the ’79 religion” actually still contains the major faults of the older and classical Anglican Way found in the historic Formularies. In their estimation, it still reflects a certain patriarchalism and sexism, and it still tends to make people feel that they are miserable sinners instead of people with an innate right to the love of God. Thus feminists are committed to new doctrines and new Names of “God” and pro-homosexuality activists are committed to new social and sexual moralities. To propagate their cause and to maintain their agenda, they have moved beyond the religion of the 1970s, which they see as only the beginnings of renewal and liberation. And they assert that the still more radical doctrines which they proclaim today are only what was truly aimed at in the 1970s, if only imperfectly realized in the changes in doctrine, bible translation, marriage, ordination, and worship of that decade.
Every “rushing mighty wind” is not of the Holy Ghost. It can also be the “blast of vain doctrine.” What seems clear as one looks back over recent Episcopal history is that once the windows of God’s small household called the E.C.U.S.A. were opened wide, and the strong winds of modernity (followed by post-modernity) were allowed to blow through the household, then great changes occurred and have continued to occur quite rapidly. If the windows had been closed reasonably early, after the first disrupting blast of air, then we would have been left with “the ’79 Religion” in the E.C.U.S.A. household. But as those windows are left open longer, or if they stay open permanently, then we will have an ever-accelerating transformation into the modern feminist and lesgay religions. And which of us knows what will come next in the new millennium as the wind continues to blow?
Much of the cultural and ideological battle in today’s Episcopal Church is between the supporters of “the ’79 Religion” (e.g., such groups as First Promise, the American Anglican Council, and Episcopal Renewal Ministries) and the advocates of the post ’79 religion of the feminist, lesgay and other liberationist lobbies and groups. The supporters of the former position give the impression that the E.C.U.S.A. will become orthodox again if only it accepts their 1970s agenda and interprets it in a conservative way. They also believe and claim that their position has been strengthened by the conservative resolutions of the 1998 Lambeth Conference, especially in the rejection of homosexuality as an acceptable form of Christian sexual expression. Of course, what they do not say, or cannot admit to themselves, is that if the Lambeth Conference had been asked to vote on issues of divorce and remarriage, there would have been a majority votes for resolutions whose content would stand in judgment on the theological and practical position of most of the “conservatives” in the E.C.U.S.A.
To conclude. What has been observed concerning Churches of the Anglican Way is equally true of all other local or national churches, and of all other communions within the one Church of Jesus Christ. All are obligated to conform themselves to the forms, formulas, and formularies of the undivided Church. All find their Christian identity in maintaining the particular subordinate formularies that define and give shape to their households within Christ’s Church.
The formulas of the Christian religion are just as objective and unchanging as the chemical formula for water. Changes in the Christian formulas do not produce “a different kind of Christianity” any more than a change in the chemical composition of water can produce “a different kind of water.” God’s creation is fixed, whether in the creation of water or in the creation of his Church.
The Body of Christ will find her peace and unity, not in experimentation, but in obedience to the forms that God has given. Obedient Christians have everything in common with the saints of the undivided Church. Those who disobey and deny the forms that God has given, and who abandon the formulas and formularies that maintain them, will have nothing in common but their desolation. This is not an issue that can be changed into a tension between old or modern English in church services, for as we have illustrated, either can be the vehicle of classic and historic orthodoxy. Rather it is an issue of whether or not the Church of today confesses the same Faith as the Church of the Apostles and Fathers.
The Common Prayer and Books of Common Prayer
There is One Common Prayer of the Anglican Way, and this is the form that binds the Anglican churches to one another, to the undivided Church, and to the Lord Jesus Christ. The uniting form of the Common Prayer is expressed and maintained by the various editions of the Book of Common Prayer, which serve as the formularies of the various Anglican national churches. Whether these editions are in the English language (see the editions from the English BCP 1549/1552 through to the Canadian BCP of 1959/62) or in one of over 150 other languages is not the issue, as long as the inherited form of Common Prayer is preserved. In this light, let us recall this common inheritance by exploring the beginnings of English Common Prayer.
THE FIRST BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER
On March 7, 1549, a major moment in the reform and renewal of the Church of England, the national Ecclesia Anglicana, had begun. The Book of the Common Prayer and Administration of the Sacraments, and Other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church, after the use of the Church of England was ready for distribution at the office of the printer, Edward Whitchurch, south of Fleet Street, in London. For the first time the services of worship appointed for daily, Sunday, and occasional use were printed together in one book and in English, “the vulgar tongue,” rather than in the traditional Latin. Moreover, an act of Parliament required the exclusive use of this Book of the Common Prayer and its services in all cathedrals and parishes of the Church of England no later than Whitsunday, June 9, 1549.
By mid-1549, therefore, all of England had the Bible and the Common Prayer in the English language. No longer were daily prayer and Sunday worship to be in the Latin of clerics and scholars, and thus inaccessible to the majority of the people of the realm.
Certainly, the Bible had been available in English before 1549. A royal injunction of Henry VIII had set up The Great Bible in every parish church from 1539. Certainly also, parts of the public worship of the Church of England had been translated into or made available in English before 1549. An English version of the Litany was in use from 1544. In the early part of the reign of Edward VI, from January 1547, not only were the Epistle and Gospel read in English, but also the words for the administration of the Holy Communion were said in English (and the Cup was restored to the laity). And from May 1548, the daily offices were also conducted in some London churches, wholly or in part, in English.
However, only with the appearance of The Book of the Common Prayer was the Church of England committed, as her norm, to the worship of God, the Father Almighty, in the English language. Some resistance to this change occurred, of course, just as centuries earlier some had resisted the Western Church’s replacement of Greek with Latin for worship. But two important benefits proceeded from this change. English as an idiom of thought and beauty was greatly invigorated by its use to express the highest things of all, the glory of God and the Gospel of his Christ. We would be speaking a different sort of “English language” if those fountainheads of modern English, the Prayer Book and the English Bible, had never existed. More important still, “the Common Prayer” that universal inheritance of worship and order that belongs to all the Church of Jesus Christ, was made the common possession once again of any English speaking person who was willing to pray, listen, and learn.
Before the appearance of The Book of the Common Prayer a library of books (the Breviary, Missal, Manual, Pontifical, and Pie – a guide to using all of the others) was needed to pray the daily offices, to celebrate the Holy Communion, and to perform the occasional offices (baptism, confirmation, matrimony, burial, etc.). As the Preface to the new English Prayer Book pointed out, “...many times there was more business to find out what should be read, than to read it when it was found out.” Such complexity must inevitably remove the daily practice of the Christian religion from the hands of ordinary people. In place of it, the Preface offers this “order” which anyone can understand: “the curates shall need none other books for their public service but this book and the Bible.”
Similarly, before the advent of The Book of the Common Prayer, various “uses” or rites were to be found in different parts of the country. The uses of Sarum, Lincoln, Hereford, York, and Bangor each required its own set of books for worship. From Whitsunday 1549, a new unity was achieved. The Church of England spoke to God in a single English voice, according to a single national use shared by every Christian in the realm. Now king and courtier, aristocrat and peasant, archbishop and deacon, priest and parishioner, male and female were all to use the one and the same Common Prayer.
The contents of The Book of the Common Prayer were more than a translation, adaptation, and renewal of the medieval services of prayer and worship. They reached behind the Middle Ages and witnessed to the recovery of a godly ordering of the whole of life on earth from birth to death, 365 days a year, within the discipline and rhythms of the Church Year with its weekly Lord’s Day and its Feasts and fasts. The Common Prayer of the universal Church, as given structure and form in the offices and services of The Book of the Common Prayer, became the Anglican Way of relating to God, for and in a national Church with her dioceses, colleges, schools, families, and baptized members. The Common Prayer became the model of an entire life lived in communion with God, the Father, through His Son our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
In Mattins and Evensong the medieval daily offices (Mattins, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, and Compline) were compressed into two. What had previously been seen as primarily the business of clergy, monks, and nuns was now available in English and recommended for all. At their local church or in their homes, all people could now be joined by the Holy Spirit to the communion of saints, together with the angels and archangels, in offering daily worship to God on behalf of the whole created order. United to Jesus Christ the Head of the Body, they could pray the Psalter morning and evening as the intelligent members of the Body of Christ. And on Wednesdays and Fridays, as well as on Sundays, they could intercede for one another by joining in the Litany.
On Sundays and Feasts, as well as on other days of solemn obligation, all could hear the liturgy in English, including a sermon or homily. Parish priests not competent to prepare a sermon themselves were required to read a homily from the Certain Sermons or Homilies (1547). If duly prepared, the people could receive the Holy Communion in both kinds, just as their priest did.
At each of the Daily Offices were readings from both the Old and the New Testaments. At the Holy Communion there were the Epistle and Gospel, together with a Psalm for each Sunday and Feast. Great emphasis was therefore placed upon the Christian duty of hearing and reading the Holy Scripture, followed by meditating upon the same, to be completed by obeying it as the Word of God in daily living.
Unlike other European countries where the Protestant Reformation took place in the sixteenth century, England had no one reformer from whom churches or movements took their name. England had no John Calvin (Calvinists) or Martin Luther (Lutherans). What England did have was an Archbishop of Canterbury by the name of Thomas Cranmer(1489 to 1556). By reason of his position in the Church, and in relation to Convocations (Canterbury and York), Kings (Henry VIII and Edward VI) and Parliament, Cranmer led the movement both in nation and in Church towards a reformed catholic Church of England.
One special gift that God had given to Cranmer was the ability to write fine English prose. Thus, most of the contents of The Book of the Common Prayer which were not from the Great Bible came from his hands, either as the translator of older Latin texts or as the editor of the work of others.
Following the publication of the first Book of the Common Prayer in 1549, there was a further modified edition in the reign of Edward VI, that of 1552. Between 1553 and 1558, the use of the English Prayer Book was forbidden by the Roman Catholic Queen Mary. In 1559, Elizabeth I restored the use of The Book of Common Prayer, the edition of 1552 with a few amendments. This edition of 1559, slightly modified again in 1604 by James I, served as the basis for the edition of 1662, which is still the most widely used edition of the Common Prayer and remains the official prayer book of the Church of England.
WHAT IS THE COMMON PRAYER?
The Common Prayer is a biblical, traditional, and godly way for the congregation, Christian family, and individual baptized believer to relate to God the Holy Trinity as the disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, in the fellowship of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church within God’s world, 365 days a year and every year of the present age.
The basis of the Common Prayer is the daily offering of praise through the daily offices wherein the Psalms (the prayers of Jesus Christ) are central, as is the meditative reading of all the Holy Scriptures. Linked to this is the petitionary and intercessory prayer of the Litany, along with the celebration of the symbolic meal of the new covenant in the Eucharist on each Lord’s Day and on the other holy days. In the Holy Communion the Church is fed and strengthened by heavenly manna as she communes with her Bridegroom.
Then in the Common Prayer there is provision made for thanking God for the entry of a child into the world (the churching of women); for the entry of that child into the church of God (holy baptism and confirmation); and for that child's grown-up entry into the holy state of matrimony. Add to this the provisions for the visitation of the sick and the burial of the dead, and here is a total way of life for the faithful people of God on this earth.
Obviously this Common Prayer is common because it is the norm for all people wherever they are and whatever their status in life. There can be a minimal participation or a maximal participation by persons, families and congregations. The basic structure and uniformity are necessary in order to train us in good habits and right discipline; they are also necessary to help us know what is freedom and how it is to be exercised within our duty to God and our neighbor.
So the Common Prayer is a godly order (a form of life) for the people of the Anglican Way, and it is expressed and set forth in a series of editions of The Book of Common Prayer in English (1549 through to 1962), as well as in many editions in many languages around the world. (In most of these editions the basis is the 1662 BCP, to which local prayers and forms are added by the various national churches). The latest edition of this Book in the United States of American is that of 1928, which is a revision of the American 1789/1892 BCP – which is itself an adaptation to American needs of the 1662 BCP, which is itself is a revised edition ofthe 1552/1559 BCP.
The Book of Common Prayer has been always a Formulary of the Anglican Way since it expresses the doctrinal commitment of the Church of England and of the Anglican Communion of Churches to the worship and service of the Father almighty, through His only begotten Son, and with the Holy Ghost. Lex orandi, lex credendi (the law of praying is the law of believing, and the law of believing is the law of praying) is a principle that is fundamental to the Anglican Way.
Variations in the Book of Common Prayer through its several editions in English and in 150 other languages (beginning with the Latin in the early days of Elizabeth I, when that was the common tongue of the universities and schools) are to be expected as the Common Prayer is adapted to changing cultures and societies and times. However, these local variations do not take away from the commitment ofthe Anglican churches to a single godly order for all. The Church welcomes everyone into this order, whether an archbishop or a new member; a king, a president, or a common citizen; a man or a woman; a teenager or a grandparent.
The BOOK of Common Prayer is, therefore, the written expression of the content of the Common Prayer. The BOOK can always be gently adapted and developed according to the basic principles of the Common Prayer itself. This happened in the work leading to the American 1789, 1892 and 1928 editions. And this is what was intended in the revision process begun in the 1950s in the Episcopal Church of the USA. Had this work continued as it had begun (and not taken a very different track), then we might have had, for example, a revised Book of Common Prayer for America in a language like that of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible. The minor changes that many desired, such as additional rites for Good Friday and Easter Even in Holy Week, might have been easily accomplished without controversy.
Since the 1970s, however, the Common Prayer has been deliberately set aside in the Episcopal Church. A new lex orandi has been commended and enforced to foster a new form of religion, expressed by a variety of rites and doctrines in what should have been called, at best, a “Book of Alternative Services.” By virtue of the actual replacement (rather than the revision) of the historic and classic Prayer Book, we see that a major paradigm shift has occurred in the life of that church.
The Episcopal Church’s new lex orandi has produced a new lex credendi, and this new teaching is summarized in its novel replacement for the old church Catechism in the 1979 prayer book, called “An Outline of the Faith.” It is also seen in practice in the continuing doctrinal changes within the Episcopal Church that began in the 1970s, gained momentum in the 1990s, and will continue into the new millennium. This new lex credendi stands in stark contrast to the classic lex credendi of the historic formularies.
Here, however, an important distinction needs to be made. When the Book of Common Prayer is maintained as the primary local formulary (as it has not been, unfortunately, in the United States), there is nothing intrinsically wrong in supplementing it by a “Book of Alternative Services.” Where a new “Book of Alternative Services” (such as the English ASB or the Canadian BAS) is placed alongside but subordinate in authority to the classic BCP, then the status and use of the new services is to be received within the doctrinal tradition of the classic BCP. The new services are then not intended to erase or cancel the classic ones: rather they are intended to support and augment them.
THE AMERICAN PRAYER BOOK OF 1979: A CRITIQUE.
If, theoretically, we look at the 1979 Prayer Book approved in 1976 and 1979 by the General Convention ofthe Episcopal Church as a “Book of Alternative Services” (rather than, as on its title-page, The Book of Common Prayer), and view it in terms of the doctrinal tradition of the classic American Books of Common Prayer, then we may be able to see it in a generally positive light. For example:
The traditional language parts (especially the Rite I Holy Eucharist) can be seen as the provision of a new and experimental structure for the Holy Communion, adapting the Cranmerian order in the direction of that found in the rites preserved by the works of Hippolytus of the third century. Here there is an exchange of the Peace to mark the end of the ministry of the Word and the beginning of the ministry of the Sacrament, and the fraction (the breaking of the Bread) is placed after the end of the Eucharistic Prayer, rather than during it.
The new rites for Baptism and Confirmation can be seen as an attempt to put into practice the doctrine that “Christian initiation is complete in baptism,” so that Confirmation is not to be seen as a separate Sacrament.
The new translation of the Psalter can be seen as a first attempt to provide a liturgical Psalter is a language which does not offend feminists and which seeks to include all church members (even of the most tender sensibility) in the prayer of the Church.
The new rite for the reconciliation of a penitent can be seen as providing a pastoral means of dealing with those who experience the need to make a private confession of sin in the presence of God and His priest.
The new structure and content of the Ordinal (listed under “Episcopal Services,” as “the Ordination Rites”) can be seen as providing an alternative to the modified Western (Latin) Ordinal of 1549 – 1928, by drawing on material from the early Church, and from the works of Hippolytus in particular.
And then the provision of additional services for Holy Week and especially Easter can be seen as making available for all an ancient set of Rites long forgotten even in the Roman Catholic Church until they were restored after Vatican II.
Had all these rites of the new Book been truly “alternative services,” then in evaluating and judging them, one could have looked for their positive contribution and read them not as replacements for what is in the BCP, but as true options for use some of the time. These options could have been explored with pastoral discretion, and with a view towards their possible improvement after an experimental period (which is what is happening in the Church of England, where the ASB is being replaced by the “Book of Common Worship” in 2001).
There is no doubt but that there are some positive gains and pluses in the provisions of the 1979 Book and in similar “Books of Alternative Services” around the Anglican Communion of Churches. Of these, provision of services for Holy Week are probably the most significant.
However, since the 1979 American Book was deliberately called “The Book of Common Prayer” by the General Convention and was definitely intended by that body to replace the previous Book (the BCP 1928) of that name, not by gentle revision of the received tradition, but rather by an act of iconoclasm, then we must evaluate the 1979 Book as standing alone, as a law unto itself.
When we look at the 1979 Book critically, as Anglicans within a long tradition of worship, doctrine, and discipline related to the historic Formularies, then we see that it cannot possibly stand alone as an orthodox formulary for the following reasons:
(1) There is no common doctrine or common godly order in it. Rather it contains a variety of doctrines and forms of religious life and discipline. Certainly there is a common structure to the different Rites for the Holy Eucharist, but a common structure is not the same thing as a common doctrine and form of godliness. The appearance is that of relativism and of an incompatibility of teaching and rites.
(2) There is no common doctrine because of:
(i) Differing translations of the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds in Rite I and Rite II texts, generating different and opposing doctrines. For example, in the modern translation of both the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds doubt is cast on the virginal conception of the Lord Jesus by adding to the original text the expression “by the power of.” The originals in Greek and Latin contain no words that can possibly translated “by the power of” for they state that the conception is “by the Holy Spirit,” that is, by the unique, supernatural intervention of the Holy Spirit in the laws and processes of nature. In contrast all procreation is “by the power of the Holy Spirit” for he is the Energizer of the laws and processes of nature.
(ii) Differing and varied teaching concerning Jesus Christ in terms of his identity and his saving work. For example: in the Rite I text for the Holy Eucharist are proclaimed the classic Anglican doctrines of the identity of Jesus Christ as One Person made known in two natures, divine and human, and of his sacrificial Atonement as the Mediator for the sins of the world. In the Rite II texts, and as their content is summarized in “An Outline of the Faith,” doctrines are proclaimed which (in the language of the Early Church) can be described as adoptianism (Jesus was adopted as Son of God at his birth or baptism) or Nestorianism (Jesus is two persons, one divine and one human, joined together for the purposes of human salvation).
(iii) Differing and varied teaching of what is means to confess that God is a Trinity in Unity is found both in the Rite I and in the Rite II texts. On the one hand there is the traditional, patristic teaching that God is the Holy Trinity, three Persons who each possess in its entirety the Godhead, so that each is of the same, identical substance, essence, and being as the other two. Thus there is a Trinity in Unity and a Unity in Trinity. On the other hand, there is the old and heretical teaching called Modalism, where “God as Trinity” is seen as meaning that God is One Person, who reveals himself in three modes of being, as the Father, as the Son, and as the Holy Spirit. Such teaching lies behind the novel acclamation at the beginning of services in both Rite I and Rite II – “Blessed be God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” The original text in the Greek Liturgy reads, “Blessed be the kingdom of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. . . .”
(iv) Differing teaching in the Rite I and Rite II texts concerning mankind and God’s salvation. Even though the description of the nature and character of human sin and fallenness in the Rite I texts is less precise than that of the texts of the classic BCP, it is nevertheless very different from that found in the Rite II texts and in “An Outline of the Faith.” Original sin or birth sin has virtually disappeared from this second group of texts. Actual sin is made out to be much less of a serious problem and issue before God in his holiness and righteousness than it has been in classical Christian teaching. Indeed, one of the frequent complaints of those who wanted to change the received tradition of the Common Prayer was that it is too penitential and emphasizes too much the sinful estate of man.
(3) There is imposition of novel ideas which belong particularly to the culture of the 1960s:
(i) Placed within the Baptismal Rite is the notion of a contract between the baptized and God, making part of that contract a commitment to “peace and justice.” These are frequently interpreted, not as the “peace and justice” of the Holy Scriptures, but in terms of the values of 1960s social activism. In this context, the phrase “the baptismal covenant” as it appears in the Rite for Baptism in the 1979 Book, with its theme of the supposed covenant (understood as a “contract”) between “humankind” and God, has become a central doctrinal feature of the “new episcopalianism.” On the basis of it, the General Convention and the “National Church” have imposed a modern liberationist agenda of “civil” and social “rights” on the Episcopal Church, espousing a variety of left-wing political, economic, and social causes. For example, the “right” of homosexual persons to “peace and justice” is often given as a justification for their “marriage” in the Church. Meanwhile, those Episcopalians who do not believe that we negotiate a covenant with God, but who rather believe that God calls us into his covenant which he has already made for us in Christ Jesus, find great difficulty in using this Rite and espousing the theology and practice deduced from it.
(ii) A use of “inclusive language” in the translation of the Psalter so as to make women of a particular political outlook feel at home in using it. Thus the “man-centered” nature of the psalms is toned down and modified. However, when the word “man” is changed to “they” (as in Psalm 1), the traditional use of the Psalter as the prayer of the Church in and with Christ, united to him as the Head of the Body, and as the prayer of Jesus Christ within his Body, becomes impossible for, according to the Fathers, the “man” in Psalm 1 (as elsewhere) is the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. To pray the Psalms as the Church has prayed them over the centuries, the text must read, “Blessed is the Man...” not “Happy are they....” The inspired text, as God has given it to be written down, is already inclusive of every faithful human being, man or woman.
(iii) The writing of the ordination services in such a way as to give them a unisex character and to demonstrate that “civil rights” for women have been achieved in the Episcopal Church. In order to make certain that ordination to all three ministries (deacon, presbyter, and bishop) was open to women, the use of “she” was introduced as an alternative to “he” by the method of setting all masculine pronouns in italic type (for example, he or him, is to be understood as also permitting she or her). Thus by one simple grammatical change (really a change in typography) the settled doctrine of the catholic Church was set aside – that only such men as were called by the Holy Spirit and by the Church could be ordained to the ministerial priesthood.
(4) There is the definite tendency to lose the centripetal and unifying power of the historic Common Prayer and to establish and confirm the centrifugal and disjointed forces of variety and relativism (so common in modern culture). The result is, by intention, less unity in doctrine and practice in the Church. This result is empirically verifiable simply by visiting new parishes, where one has no idea (and can have no idea) in advance about what to expect in terms of the order or the content of services.
In concluding it needs to be explained that if the 1979 Book is to be authorized for use in a new province of the Anglican Communion in America in the third millennium, then it will have to be re-named to indicate that it is a “Book of Alternative Services.” Furthermore, it will have to be placed in a subordinate position to the historic Formularies of the Episcopal Church. It will then be seen as existing alongside the growing number of books of alternative services in the Anglican Communion, and thus understood and used in such a way as to be interpreted in harmony with the received historic Formularies. As this occurs, it is highly probable that its texts will be modified here and there to remove possibly or obviously heretical passages and to replace them with such expressions or statements of the Faith that all will be able to hold them as orthodox.
Epilogue – The Anglican Way in America
As we have tried to demonstrate in this book, what happens to American Anglicans will have an effect, for good or for ill, on the Anglican Communion. The histories of the Church in America and of the Anglican Communion have been too closely related, and even intertwined, to separate them easily today.
The Episcopal Church in the United States of America is not dead, but we believe (for all the reasons we have examined and discussed) that it is pursuing an ecclesiastical dead end. The Anglican Way and the Communion of Churches that has gathered to follow it are not exercises in the free-association of ideas and theories. They are not meant to be the prisoners of an age or of that age's secular philosophy and politics. Rather, they are something in particular, and something lovable, and something to beseech Almighty God to protect.
The particularity of the Anglican Way is to be found in its essentially “primitive” Faith and discipline. We believe what the Scriptures teach, and what the Apostles and the Fathers preached and taught. We try to do what our Lord Jesus Christ taught his Apostles and disciples to do. So simple and basic a system of Christianity has also, by necessity, a simple structure and a simple set of standards.
We are a Communion of national churches, which are themselves communions of dioceses, formed by the communion of parishes and people in the Lord Jesus Christ. We enforce little upon one another, except to require that the members of this household share in a common doctrine, discipline, and worship. We maintain that commonality by the Holy Scriptures as the primary formulary of our lives, with the aid of the formularies of the undivided Church, from which we derive a set of shared Anglican formularies, such as the Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal. Our highest sanction, almost our only sanction beyond our provisions for local discipline, is the sad recognition that some person, diocese, province, or national church has gone beyond the generous limits of our communion in Christ.
Some people, both within and without our Communion, might say that such a system is too simple for this complex age. But life is complicated for the people of every age, and the survival of the Anglican Way through so many centuries is a witness to its inherent strength and vitality. To have come so far together is to see that we can go further still, and that we have, by the grace of God, a future together.
It will not solve our current problems to adopt the forms or discipline of some other Christian communion. All we would be doing is adopting someone else’s problems, past and present, as well. No, if we are a true household in Jesus Christ, then we must solve our problems within the household that Christ has given us, and according to the forms and formularies he has made our inheritance. We will not save what we are by becoming something else.
And that is the crisis presented to us by the Episcopal Church, whether we live in the United States or not. If we and our Communion should follow the Episcopal Church down its current dead end, we will certainly become something else, and become unrecognizable as Anglican Christians. There is, however, an absolute solution to dead ends. When we have entered one, we need only to reverse our course, to retrace our steps, until we find ourselves on the right way again, in this case the Anglican Way. This we can do, because that Way is so clearly marked. And we can call our brethren back to this Way, without condemnation or abuse, but simply out of fraternal love and the love of Christ in us.
It is in this spirit that the call for a new Anglican province in America has arisen. However much that call may need to be refined and clarified, and however long it takes the chief pastors of our worldwide Communion to transform that call into a reality, this much is certain. No initiative, no call for spiritual assistance has ever taken the Anglican Communion more seriously.
What follows is something of a preliminary outline of what such a new province for America might be, and of how it might come to be. There are, of course, serious questions of episcopal jurisdiction that must be addressed, as the 1998 Lambeth Conference clearly indicated. Nevertheless, we can assert with a clear conscience that nothing in the following proposal contradicts the Lambeth Conference, or the history of the Anglican Communion, as far as we can see.
We seek only a path out of a dead end and back to the Anglican Way. We look to you, dear Primates, to teach us and to help us find that Way.
Let us begin by considering the possibility that the undivided and geographic exercise of the episcopate are not quite the same thing, but represent two different functions (or “governing principles”) of a bishop as a chief pastor in God’s Church.
Just as there can be only one Father in heaven, one father in a human family, and one husband of one wife, the bishop ordinary must be the one and only chief pastor of his diocese, which must function as both a loving household and an orderly jurisdiction within the One Church of Jesus Christ. No one may properly intervene in the jurisdiction of such a chief pastor, if he abides in the received doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Church. Even in the extreme case of a bishop ordinary who departs from the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Church (whether in his episcopal duty or in his personal behavior), it is in accordance with the historic discipline of the Church that only other chief pastors may intervene for the welfare of his soul and of the souls under his care. This is the principle of the undivided episcopate.
In order for the undivided episcopate (and the ecclesiastical communion that serves as its basis) to have meaning, there must be explicit boundaries established by the mutual consent of the Church for each chief pastor’s spiritual jurisdiction. These boundaries have traditionally been expressed in geographical terms, beginning with the city in which the bishop has his seat, and including all other places, parishes, and institutions under his care. This is the geographic principle of the episcopate, and it dates back to New Testament references to the Church “in such and such a place” (e.g., Corinth, Ephesus, or Galatia).
While the first principle (the “undivided” episcopate) has been and should remain immutable, the second (the “geographic” episcopate) has in practice undergone a variety of reformulations. Most commonly, such an adjustment has been made in the direction of describing a bishop’s jurisdiction as over “such and such a people, in such and such a place.” In this case, the bishop ordinary remains the sole chief pastor of his jurisdiction (maintaining the principle of an undivided episcopate), and his jurisdiction is, indeed, described in geographic terms, but also in the human terms of the particular people that he serves.
Is it possible, then, for the jurisdiction of one bishop to overlap that of another, in terms of geography, without violating the principle of an undivided episcopate? Those who would argue on the basis of abstract principle will say “no,” but the concrete experience of the Church’s ministry through history will answer otherwise.
A CONSIDERATION OF HISTORY
The legalization of Christianity by the Roman Empire provided the Church with an already existing set of geographical boundaries based on the civil divisions of the Empire itself. It was in this period that the bishop’s cure began to be called a “diocese” (in the Roman system, “a region under a governor”), rather than a “parish” (a “paroikia,” “a way-station for pilgrims”). Furthermore, the Empire provided the Church with a civil means of enforcing geographic jurisdiction in the most literal sense: one region, one bishop. Such a system made eminently good sense in an undivided Church under a single temporal government that was able, in the person of the Emperor, to call the bishops of the Church into General Council.
The demise of the Roman Empire, first in the West and later in the East, necessarily caused a change in the ordering and description of episcopal jurisdiction. Where there had been a unified civil government there was now a more or less constant conflict of tribes, warlords, and migrating peoples striving for dominance over very much smaller pieces of territory (for a recounting of this complex history, see Richard Fletcher, The Barbarian Conversion: From Paganism to Christianity [New York: Holt, 1997]). Inevitably, the cure of souls among these struggling peoples and their disputed territories would overlap.
The matter was complicated still further by the Great Schism of 1054. In essence, the leaders of both the Church in the West and of the Church in the East claimed a mutually exclusive universal spiritual jurisdiction over the entire world. From this point forward, in actual practice, the jurisdiction of bishops has overlapped geographically on the basis of disputed civil jurisdiction; demographics (the peoples and cultures served); and communion (the Eastern and Western Communions at first, later Roman, Anglican, Lutheran, etc.).
The formation of nation states and national churches may seem to have simplified the geographic boundaries of episcopal jurisdiction in large measure, but that simplification is not as great as it may appear. The nation states were formed by one people (or associated set of peoples) conquering all others within a territory. The ruling houses, after consolidating their civil control to establish the nation states, also used their temporal power to establish the boundaries of the ecclesiastical jurisdictions of the newly defined realm, often replacing the bishops of the defeated peoples with bishops of their own connection. William the Conqueror, for example, brought with him a mainly Norman episcopate.
Such stability as the relation of nation states and their national churches may have provided did not prove enduring. Without slighting the serious theological issues at stake in the Reformation of the 16th century, one may also observe that it was the conflicting claims of geographic episcopal jurisdiction, under the stress of national aspirations and international claims of universal authority, that led to the visible fracture of the Western Church.
A great deal of bloody struggle and outright warfare accompanied the fragmentation of the Western Church in the throes of the Protestant Reformation and the Roman Counter-Reformation. It should come as no surprise, then, that mindful of this terrible example, the writers of new civil constitutions began to disentangle episcopal jurisdiction from temporal power. The 18th century Constitution of the United States, for example, explicitly denies the civil government the authority to establish any ecclesiastical jurisdiction. Since that time, moreover, both in older nations with established churches and in nations newly organized, it has become a mark of civilization and morality to emancipate the conscience of believers from civil control. Whatever the civil rights the various ecclesiastical jurisdictions may retain in these countries, they do not possess the ability to call upon the civil power to enforce their will upon their people.
AMERICA: A CASE IN PARTICULAR
The United States of America is often called “a nation of immigrants.” With the exception of the descendants of the indigenous peoples present at the time of European colonization, every American must trace his ancestry to another continent. The immigrants, moreover, brought with them their cultures, languages, religions, and their ecclesiastical backgrounds.
The various waves of immigrants to America have both adopted a general American culture and changed that culture by their own contributions to it. They have also, quite often, retained a cultural identity of their own, within the wider American culture. Now, more than at any other time in American history, the preservation of a distinct and particular cultural identity, within a larger whole, is considered by Americans to be an essential element of their full humanity. This is a belief that they hold in common with most of the peoples of the world, as everywhere people search for their roots and most basic cultural identities. Paradoxically, this search for legitimate diversity may prove the key to a greater unity among mankind, if such identities are conceived (and nurtured) as complementary parts of a greater reality.
It is in this context that the episcopate has always been exercised in America. The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States (the full original name of the E.C.U.S.A.) was conceived in 1789 as a spiritual communion of Anglicans in jurisdictions serving a varied and vast territory with a number of valid local cultures and expressions. Furthermore, the jurisdiction of every Episcopal bishop has always overlapped that of his Roman Catholic counterpart, and usually that of at least one Orthodox bishop. Each bishop remains the sole chief pastor in his jurisdiction, and his jurisdiction is described geographically, but not exclusively.
If we take the example of the Orthodox churches in America, we will find, not a single geographical jurisdiction, but a variety of overlapping cures of souls. The Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in America (SCOBA) is made up of representatives from Greek, Alabanian, Carpatho-Russian, Ukrainian, Antiochian, Serbian, Romanian, Bulgarian, and Russian (Orthodox Church in America) episcopal jurisdictions. These jurisdictions serve primarily those who share a common historic and cultural identity, wherever they are to be found, but full communion is maintained among them, and their members may transfer from one jurisdiction to another.
Similarly, the Roman Catholic Church in America, besides its bishops, dioceses, and parishes of the Western (Latin) Rite, comprehends overlapping episcopal jurisdictions that serve Melkites, Ukrainians, Lithuanians, Romanians, Maronites, Chaldeans, Ruthenians, and Syrians. These jurisdictions, too, are in full, active communion with one another, and are considered valid jurisdictions within the wider Roman Communion.
This information about the Roman and Orthodox Communions, by the way, as is true of the Anglican information given below, is not confidential or secret. It is derived from Web Sites published by the various bodies, and available to anyone with a computer and modem.
It may be suggested by some that Anglicans do not operate in this fashion, but that is not the case. The E.C.U.S.A. has established a special episcopal jurisdiction called Navajoland, to serve a particular group of native people. In addition, there are some twenty congregations of the Church of South India at work in the United States and Canada, under the oversight of the Moderator of that Church domiciled in India. The Church of South India, of course, is a constituent member of the Anglican Communion, just as the E.C.U.S.A. is, but both serve side by side in the United States, without a breach of communion or a violation of the unified episcopate. The same is true of the C.S.I. and the Anglican Church in Canada.
THE LOGIC OF A NEW AMERICAN PROVINCE
The churches of the Church of South India in North America and Canada explain their existence by the following statement published on their Web Site, quoted here verbatim:
The purpose of C.S.I. churches in North America is to practice traditional worship in our native style and to educate our younger generation to grow in the C.S.I. culture. Moreover, it’s a fellowship of the native people living apart with the same tradition, to strengthen their friendship and faith in Jesus Christ.
Since we have the backgrounds of Anglican, Methodist, Congregational, Presbyterian and Episcopal, why can’t we go to one of these churches? The answer is mentioned above, Community relation and cultural practice. I did not mean that we shouldn’t go to any churches other than C.S.I., the importance I emphasize on native Fellowship. I know people drove 60 to 80 miles to attend the C.S.I. church to have communion with the same people. Our purpose in North America and Canada is not to make more churches in the same area, but to have C.S.I. traditional worship and fellowship together.
In the present American environment, no desire could be more basic, more innocent, or more laudable – to maintain the practice of the faith once delivered in the manner that Providence has delivered it to a particular people and culture, according to the accustomed formularies, in communion with the rest of the Church. Nothing in this ministry of the Church of South India violates the principle of a united episcopate, since there is no intention to harm or usurp the legitimate jurisdiction of the Episcopal Church, or to break communion with it. By serving along side the jurisdictions of the Episcopal Church, the C.S.I. congregations and their Moderator serve the greater unity of the Anglican Communion, by an act of inclusion, rather than exclusion.
The goals of those who seek a new Anglican province in America are remarkably similar and equally innocent. Their intention is not the destruction of the Episcopal Church, its exclusion from the Anglican Communion, or its replacement with a new entity, but the inclusion of those Anglicans who are not presently being served in the E.C.U.S.A. by reason of their religious and cultural identity.
Just as the differences among some of the cultural groups served in America by the Roman and Orthodox communions may not seem telling or definitive to an outsider, the same is the true of the differences between the present ECUSA and those whose ethos and identity is constituted by the classic formularies, rites, morality, and faith of the Anglican Way. A non-Christian might even deem it unnecessary to have a basic Western and a basic Eastern rite for the Holy Communion, but every effort in history to suppress one in the favor of the other has led to strife and disunity.
Those in America who hold to a different ethos and ecclesiastical culture from that of the present E.C.U.S.A. are in essence displaced persons. They have become, so to speak, “foreigners” in their own land. They worry, not only about themselves, but also about the future of their children, whom they do not wish to raise in a religious culture different from their own. Some of these people remain grudgingly within the E.C.U.S.A., while praying for a more congenial environment to practice their religion. Others have left in frustration to attend a congregation of some other Christian tradition, at least as a temporary home. A third group has joined the “Continuing Churches,” jurisdictions that seek to maintain the traditional Anglican Way outside of the formal Anglican Communion (to which Lambeth 1998 graciously turned its attention). A final group, most tragically of all, has simply ceased to attend church anywhere.
Taken together, these people represent an, as yet, unexploited opportunity for ministry, mission, and outreach. Their own potential mission to others like themselves and to those who do not know Christ is frustrated by their lack of recognition by their brethren in the worldwide Anglican Communion. A new province in America that would accommodate them as an identifiable group within the Anglican family would not only grant them relief, but also grant a measure of peace to an ECUSA that simply has no place or natural affinity for them.
A WAY AHEAD
The example of our brethren in the Church of South India and in the Church of North India may offer us a potential course of action consistent with the history and order of the Anglican Communion. These churches did not begin as full members of the Anglican Communion, but as missions of ecclesiastical and cultural unity. The same would be true of a new Anglican province in America. The goals to be pursued would be the internal unity of the new province and its eventual full membership in the Anglican Communion.
During what amounts to a probationary period, with the assistance and guidance of the bishops of other provinces, the new province would have to demonstrate the order, unity, discipline, and charity necessary to become a full member of the Anglican Communion. Such a new province could profitably begins its fellowship as the first American province did, as a communion of jurisdictions in a large and diverse nation.
There would be, and could be, no coercion for any person to join the new province, although its formation might include opportunities for works such as those of the Church in South India in the United States to maintain their own identity while sharing a wider fellowship with the Anglicans around them. In the same way, the cultural identity of Anglicans from other provinces of the Anglican Communion living in America could also be preserved and shared in a wider national communion.
The establishment of a new province in America would not violate the principle of an undivided episcopate, since the jurisdiction of the bishops of the E.C.U.S.A. would not be in dispute. Neither would there be more than one chief pastor of each subordinate jurisdiction of the new province. The geographical basis of the episcopate would also be maintained on precisely the basis that the episcopate has always functioned in an American context, and as it is functioning already.
The relation of the new province and the E.C.U.S.A. would be consistent with the terms of the Eames Commission: the maintenance of the highest degree of communion possible. The new province would not repel the communicants of E.C.U.S.A. from the Holy Communion, and the transfer of ministers would be accomplished on the basis of the bishops’ informed acceptance of letters dimissory (as is already the case between E.C.U.S.A. dioceses).
Since the E.C.U.S.A. has already accepted in principle a relation of inter-communion and transferability of ministers with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (to be approved by General Convention in 2000), the E.C.U.S.A. bishops have already agreed to share geographical oversight with their Lutheran counterparts. They should not hesitate to do so with their fellow Anglicans.
Lastly, a new province would provide an opportunity for the future union (or reunion) of Anglicans in America, within a single household. By not selecting winners and losers in what amounts to a cultural and religious dispute, the Anglican Communion will open the way for these matters to be resolved within the Communion, rather than outside of it. As we plan the future of our Communion in the next millennium, we must be very careful to institutionalize unity rather than disunity, charity rather than rancor, success rather than failure, to the glory of Almighty God.
A Call for a “Continental Congress” of American Anglicans
[Note: What follows is a discussion paper circulated among Anglicans in the United States, beginning in March, 1999. It may help to explain for non-American readers that the title “Continental Congress” is an analogy to the meetings of the representatives of the American colonies (later States) before, during, and after the Revolution, until the present federal Constitution was adopted. While the Congress eventually became the functional government of the revolutionary United States, it did not begin as such.
At first, the Congress was, a much as anything else, a general committee to discuss colonial grievances and to petition their redress. Behind it lay numerous local committees in the States, looking for answers to their problems and considering whether or not the American colonies should (or could) become a nation of their own.
The point of the analogy, then, is that a new American province of the Anglican Communion is a potential, but not as yet actual, entity. Realistically speaking, any number of issues remain to be resolved, many of which are listed in the Call, given below in its entirety.
It seemed better to the authors, therefore, to use a term out of American history (a congress), rather than a technical term from ecclesiastical polity, such as a “synod.” A call for a synod might imply the existence of a province already formed, rather than the beginning of a process leading to the formation of a province.]
“Come, let us reason together,” saith the Lord.
Having read reports of the joint efforts of various groups, societies and organizations at their roundtable in Atlanta on March 8, it occurs to us on historical grounds that there is an important next step that needs to be taken to ensure the success and recognition of the proposed new province. To build upon what has already been accomplished, a kind of “Continental Congress” of American Anglicans is urgently needed.
While the effort to establish a new Anglican province in the United States had to begin with small groups, now is the time to involve larger groups of the faithful and to engage with them in answering in advance some of the reasonable questions that the Primates of other Anglican jurisdictions will surely need to ask. For example, “For whom do you speak,” “What is your basic polity,” “What are your formularies, and are they consonant with the Anglican Way?”
Further, we must recognize that, in terms of American history, efforts at reform or re-constitution that have been perceived (rightly or wrongly) as clandestine or elitist have usually failed, at least in terms of enlisting the main population to participate in them.
The one revolution that genuinely succeeded in America was our War for Independence. The Continental Congress was not democratic, but it was representative. It had a public face and publicly available and definable goals. It had the good sense not to act as if the defined goals of independence were already achieved, so that they were a complete government with a permanently fixed form already in place. And they appealed, not to a utopian future, but to the concrete reality of the past: to the rights of Englishmen and the justice of the common law.
The foreign powers that eventually recognized the United States (as Holland did, when it first saluted the American flag) did so, not for the sake of an idea or a mere future plan, but because they had begun to show the legitimate life of a real nation.
The formularies are our past and common law. They need to be in the front of the entire effort for the sake of its legitimacy. Discussing them in public, demonstrating their reasonableness, takes an important weapon away from our opposition. Public meeting and open discussion deprives the opposition of its advantage as a known public quantity.
If done properly, the public appeal of a public congress of faithful Anglicans should develop social momentum, not only among Episcopalians, but also among the general populace. If the E.C.U.S.A. cannot be shamed into yielding up property claims to the cooperating faithful, it can at least be revealed as an authoritarian (if not totalitarian) and materialistic entity, which revelation will only confirm the justice of forming a new province and its legitimacy in comparison to the grasping E.C.U.S.A.
Further the foreign bishops and jurisdictions, whose fellowship we will need as much as their recognition, will be able to make our common case for action to the rest of the Anglican Communion with the assurance that anyone can know and understand what the Americans are about.
For the sake of discussion, the “Continental Congress” of Anglicans should invite representatives of organizations, present dioceses, continuing jurisdictions, and so forth. This congress should be a public event to discuss why a province is needed and what it should be (not yet “will be”) like. We can’t tell who the “players” are, until there is such a meeting; and we can’t know what the “game” is, until some rules are agreed on.
The announced agenda of debatable issues should be something like:
1) The need for a province
2) The spiritual goals of such a province: a) The recovery of the Holy Scripture as the final authority in doctrine, discipline, and worship; and b) The historic Anglican Way as a means of accomplishing this
3) The constitutional authority of the province, to be objectified in the following formularies, subject to the Scriptures: a) The 1662/1928 Book of Common Prayer as the primary liturgy and interpreter of all other allowed liturgies [e.g., the American E.C.U.S.A. Prayer Book of 1979 & the ASB of England 1980]; b) The 39 Articles of Religion; c) The Ordinal (as in 1662/1928); d) The American canon law as of the last competent commentary (1952; 1954 ed. White and Dykman)
4) Proposed amendments to 3 (d), regarding such issues as the ordination of women, marital discipline, etc., with these beginning suggestions: a) a moratorium on the further ordinations of women, and the protection of those who do not accept their orders, with the stipulation that in further discussion it is the propriety of ordaining women which is the proposal that must be positively proved to be consistent with Scripture and the practice of the Church; b) That existing ecclesiastical judgments of marital nullity be left undisturbed, but that as of a target date such as January 1, 2000 (or even 2001) no clerical marriage after a civil divorce decree or ordination of divorced and remarried candidates will be permitted, saving only the case of those who have submitted to a validly constituted marriage tribunal, with a finding that on the basis of objective impediments that pre-existed the attempted marriage no true spiritual union occurred.
However long it takes to hammer out something like this the Primates should not be asked to recognize or assist the proposed province until such work is accomplished. And the representatives of the province should be prepared to receive the Primates’ godly counsel about any other matters that must be dealt with in order to maintain the integrity of the Anglican Way and of the Anglican Communion.
With the help of God, such a next step into making our common cause public and known, should bear good fruit for the cause of faithful Anglicans here and abroad.
We offer this proposal in the fear of God and to His glory not in the name of any organization or church but simply and initially in our names as presbyters in the church of God as desiring unity in the Anglican Way, the Rev’d Dr. Louis Tarsitano and the Rev’d Dr. Peter Toon.
Dated the 9th Day of March in the year of our Lord, 1999.
The Virginia Report and Unity
There was much discussion of The Virginia Report at the Lambeth 98 Conference in Canterbury, where it was received. It was then printed as the first item in The Official Report of the Lambeth Conference, 1998 and it was the basis for further discussion at the meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council in Dundee, Scotland, in September 1999.
In essence what this Report calls for is a strengthening and closer collaboration of the “instruments of unity” of the Anglican Communion – the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates’ Meeting.
It is commonly held that the secretariat of the Anglican Consultative Council in London is more representative of the liberal-minded leadership of the diminishing churches of the North/West than of the conservative and growing churches of the South. So there is a widespread natural desire to offset this by (a) increasing the membership of the A.C.C. by the addition of Primates from the South and also by (b) giving greater authority to regular meetings of the Primates. (At the Dundee meeting the A.C.C. voted to keep to its present size and not be enlarged by the addition of Primates, and we wait to see whether the Primates when they meet in Portugal in March 2000 will in fact seek to increase their authority within the Communion.)
We are sympathetic towards moves to make the central voice of the Anglican Communion truly to speak for the whole and not merely for the liberals of the North/West. Further, we recognize that some people think that a sound, solid and representative central government (by the integration and enlargement of the present instruments of unity) will advance the true nature of the Anglican Communion by making it more efficient and effective in an age of rapid communication. And we understand that especially those of a conservative theological position see such a move as ensuring that the voice of the Communion will truly express their convictions, for they are, after all, the majority.
However, we do not think that creating a central administration (as, for example, the E.C.U.S.A. has created since the 1950's and called “the National Church”) will truly help the cause of the genuine Anglican Way – which is not the Roman Way or the Orthodox Way or the way of an international company but the uniquely Anglican Way (see Part One above).
The true nature of the Anglican Communion lies in its being a Communion of independent provinces or national churches which are all committed to the same authority and built on the same foundation – the Scriptures of the Blessed, Holy Trinity, the ancient canons & creeds, the historic Formularies of the Anglican Way – and which all share a common origin in the Ecclesia Anglicana. The Communion is first with the Father through the Son and with the Spirit and secondly with one another in the fellowship of the Gospel of the same Father concerning the same Son in the koinonia of the same Spirit. Its genius lies in not having a strong central government but rather in living out on the international scene the reality of its God-given koinonia via the instruments of unity, which are always open to positive adjustment to meet changing conditions and pressures, especially where this involves the relief of the suffering of people in one or another part of the Anglican Family.
Such a commitment to koinonia means in practice that what has been inherited from the Early Church as the Faith is not open to change – e.g., the authority of the Canon of the Holy Scriptures, the dogma of the Holy Trinity, the dogma of the Person of Christ, the threefold Ministry of the bishop, the presbyter and the deacon, and the Lord's Day as the weekly feast of the Resurrection. Further, it means that when a particular province desires to innovate by making a major change in received Anglican doctrine, discipline and worship that it holds off doing so until the matter has been thoroughly discussed with and in the instruments of unity. This duty carries with it the possibility that when a province goes against what the rest of the Anglican family deems to be the known will of God then the negative force of Communion, that is impaired or broken Communion, takes effect as a discipline of love. (Such action has apparently taken place in late 1999 over the question of homosexual partnerships being recognized by the church as lawful unions.)
We believe that Anglicans ought to work for closer unity through the exercise of the unique features of the Anglican Communion, not by borrowing models from other Churches or from multi-national corporations.
Does one lead to the other?
Divorce & remarriage and homosexual partnerships
At the recent trial of Bishop Walter Righter at Wilmington, Delaware, one of the arguments made by his lawyers in his defense, as well as in defense of the appropriateness of homosexual partnerships, was this.
Most heterosexual persons today look for personal satisfaction and sexual fulfillment in marriage. Procreation is, at best, a possible option. Thus if there is a lack of self-fulfillment in a first marriage, then a person will usually feel free to end this “relationship” and enter a second one in search of human and sexual satisfaction. Likewise what homosexual persons look for in their faithful partnerships is self-fulfillment and sexual satisfaction.
This kind of apology for the morality of homosexual partnerships had been made before the Righter trial, and it has been made since. In fact, it may be observed that those who look to the Bible for support for either remarriage after divorce or for homosexual partnerships actually use the same kind of reasoning in terms of their interpretation of biblical texts and themes. They seek to show that what through history the Church has believed and taught and confessed from the Bible has been based on poor exegesis and inadequate rules of interpretation. Thus they argue that the Church’s historic moral discipline is faulty, and that they, with the modern tools of scientific exegesis, can better interpret what the real teaching of the Bible ought to be on matters of sexual relations between human beings. It should come as no surprise that when they “discover” the “real teaching of the Bible” it turns out to be liberal and permissive, rather than strict and “judgmental”!
THE ARGUMENT OF LEWIS SMEDES
Recently we came across an attractively written plea by Lewis Smedes, a distinguished professor from Fuller Theological Seminary, for the full incorporation both of the divorced and remarried and of homosexual partners into the life and leadership of the churches. He is emphatic that the governing principle is, to quote from a hymn, that “the wideness of God’s mercy is like the wideness of the sea.” Thus there is room in the Church for those who were partially or fully excluded by former generations on the grounds that their state of life was not in accord with the will of God made known in Holy Scripture.
In his article, “Like the Wideness of the Sea” in “Perspectives,” for May 1999, he faces the question: “Does the church’s dramatic move from the exclusion to the embrace of divorced and remarried persons [from the 1960s] provide a precedent for an embrace of homosexual persons who live together in a committed partnership?” At the end of the article his conclusion is in the affirmative. The former act of mercy shown by the churches in recent decades should lead to the latter act of mercy.
After citing various evidence from church life and the Bible he asks, “Are the two situations [divorce/remarriage and homosexual partnerships] significantly and relevantly similar to each other?” He thinks they are and offers five ways of similarity.
1. Both divorced/remarried partners and homosexual partners are seeking to fulfill a fundamental, God-implanted human need for a shared life of intimate, committed, and exclusive love with one other human being.
2. Both are fulfilling their God-given human need in the only way available to them, albeit not what the Creator originally intended for his children.
3. Both are striving to do the one thing the Lord considered supremely important about all sexual relationships: they are living their sexual lives within their covenant with each other.
4. Both are trying to create the best lives they can within the limits of personal conditions they cannot change.
5. Both want to live as followers of Christ within the supportive embrace of the Church.
His argument is very convincing if one reads and hears him only at the experiential level – which is where most of us in America seem to hear things these days. It goes something like this.
God’s ideal is for a permanent union of a man and a woman in matrimony. However, this is impossible for many people in the world today. We must be merciful as God is merciful. Therefore, we must be prepared to accept that there will be in our churches “relationships” and “partnerships” which, while being second or even third best, are still good.
We all know that there is in America a divorce culture and most of us are involved directly or indirectly in it (for which family has no divorced person in it these days?). Divorced persons desire union and fulfilment with another person, and this we grant via second and even third marriages in church (Bishop Righter has three wives alive and lives with the third). Further, there are homosexual persons who cannot change who and what they are as “sexual beings” and they also desire loving partners. This we ought to grant.
God is exceedingly merciful. Experience has shown us from the 1960s that God can forgive and restore those who break their original covenant of matrimony and enter into a new one. Building on this we ought to see that the mercy of God is wide enough to embrace homosexual persons who live in covenant and who desire to be full church members. And if we carefully read the Bible, even a chapter like Romans 1, we shall see that faithful same-sex partnerships are not condemned.
We cannot see how a church can finally resist the full inclusion and blessing of same-sex couples if it has embraced the divorce culture and justifies the same to some degree or another in canon law and in practice. The E.C.U.S.A. provides a tragic example of this phenomenon of acceptance and justification. We expect that those Episcopalians who justify the divorce culture and at the same time condemn their church’s blessing of homosexual partnerships will soon come to see that their position is untenable and illogical not only in the modern experientialist ethos of modern morality and biblical study, but also in the ethos of the granting of claimed human rights.
Before the homosexual lobby can be graciously and firmly answered, a church has to have in place a high doctrine and practice of marriage wherein procreation and family life are seen as of primary importance in the will of God, and wherein the husband and wife are seen as an icon of Christ the Bridegroom and the Church his Bride. At the same time such a church will need to be involved in the practical ministry of care and mercy to those who are bruised by the divorce and lesgay cultures. And it will most certainly have to make sure that its clergy, the ministers of mercy, are icons of chastity whether married or celibate.
It will be very difficult for Episcopalians, even conservative ones, to adopt classical biblical standards for sexual relations because of the web of divorced friends and relatives in their church and social contacts. They have strayed so far that it will take a long and painful journey to return to the confession and practice of true sexual morality.
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