Saturday, July 31, 2010

Episcopi Vagantes in the Anglican Church in North America

By Robin G. Jordan

What is happening in the Anglican Church in North America? At the Amesbury meeting of the Provincial Council this past June the College of Bishops voted to receive CEEC Bishop Derek Jones as a Bishop of the ACNA. From a Catholic perspective Bishop Jones was irregularly if not invalidly consecrated. The CEEC episcopal line of succession is derived from Eastern Orthodox and Old Catholic lines of questionable validity. They place Bishop Jones in the category of the episcopi vagantes. They put Bishop Jones’ episcopal status in doubt. In their reception of Bishop Jones the College of Bishops appears to be recognizing the validity of the CEEC bishops’ line of succession.

The Western Church’s theology is generally ready to admit that the
irregular consecrations of episcopi vagantes are valid. The Eastern Church, however, takes the position that a bishop must be in communion with the Eastern Church in order to be a valid bishop. How will Bishop Jones’ reception affect the relationship of the ACNA with Orthodoxy?

Resolution 54 of the 1958 Lambeth Conference states that Anglicanism “cannot recognize the Churches of such episcopi vagantes as properly constituted Churches or recognize the orders of their ministers.’” The ACNA College of Bishops appears to be willing to ignore Resolution 54. What other church’s House of Bishops has ignored a Lambeth Resolution in recent years? Is the ACNA following in its footsteps?

The ACNA did not release how the individual bishops voted on Bishop Jones’ reception. One must wonder how the Catholic bishops voted. They are supposedly committed to promoting Catholic order, doctrine, and practice in the ACNA. Do they accept Bishop Jones as being consecrated by bishops in a valid line of succession from a Catholic perspective? Did they vote against Bishop Jones’ reception or abstain from voting? Was some kind of deal cut to obtain their support?

Title III, Canon 5, Section 4 states, “No Bishop from another jurisdiction not in Communion with this Church shall be received as a Bishop of this Church except by the consent of the College of Bishops and in accordance with the Canons of this Church.” The latter appears to be a reference to the following canons: Title III, Canon 1, Section 2 states, “…the Bishop of each Diocese owes canonical obedience in all things lawful and honest to the Archbishop of this Church.” Title III, Canon 8, Sections 1-3 describes the New Testament requirements for bishop, the ministry of the bishop, and the criteria for the episcopate. There appear to be no other applicable canons.

While deacons and presbyters wishing to become deacons and presbyters of the ACNA must be ordained by a bishop in the historic succession or be reordained, the canons do not apply this requirement to bishops. They are not required to be consecrated by bishops in the historic succession. Why this requirement for deacons and presbyters but not bishops?

Article I, Section 3 of the ACNA Constitution states, “We confess the godly historic Episcopate as an inherent part of the apostolic faith and practice, and therefore as integral to the fullness and unity of the Body of Christ.” What does the College of Bishop’s consent to the reception of CEEC Bishop Derek Jones reveal about how those who voted for Jones’ reception interpret this fundamental declaration?

Bishop Jones’ reception raises some very important questions about the future direction of the ACNA? Does Bishop Jones’ reception signal that the ACNA is no longer pursuing Anglican Communion recognition? Is the ACNA with Jones’ reception hoping to bring Convergence congregations and clergy into the ACNA fold and increasing its size through their absorption? Is the ACNA moving away from Anglicanism to become a Convergence church? What are the implications for confessional Anglicans and confessional Anglicanism in the ACNA? How will such a movement affect Anglo-Catholics in the ACNA and their commitment to Catholic order, doctrine and practice? Will the reception of a bishop from a church that ordains women further strain relations with Anglo-Catholics in the ACNA and move the ACNA closer to the consecration of a women bishop?

Bishop Jones’ reception not only raises such questions but it also draws attention once more to how the ACNA leadership operates, to its lack of openness and transparency. It further points to the existence of an old boy network and a patronage system in the ACNA—two of the worst features of prelatical episcopacy.

If the ACNA is emerging as a Convergence church, there is an even greater need for confessional Anglicans, those committed to the faith of the reformed Church of England and its historical formularies, to classical Anglicanism and Reformation Christianity, to band together to uphold what they believe and to maintain a genuine Anglican witness in North America, faithful to the Bible and the Reformation. Isolated from each other and scattered throughout North America they are like a low-burning candle—a tiny flame—swallowed by the darkness. United together they would be a blazing fire driving back the darkness, filling North America with the bright light of the gospel of Christ. They would truly be Anglicans ablaze!

The Traditional Church in the Twenty-First Century: Doing Something about the Church Music—Part 2

By Robin G. Jordan

The Hymnal 1940 was published seventy years ago. At that time a denomination, if it published a denominational hymnal, produced a new hymnal every twenty-five years. In recent years every twenty-five years has been reduced to every ten years. Some denominations have stopped publishing denominational hymnals and are producing hymnal supplements. The Southern Baptists launched an innovative program with the publication of their most recent hymnal. It will be producing a yearly supplement and other worship resources, including split track CDs and MIDIs.

The compilers of The Hymnal 1940 sought to produce a hymnal that was more dignified in its selection of music. They took as their model two English hymnals—Hymns Ancient and Modern and The English Hymnal. Consequently they dropped from the hymnal a number of popular gospel songs written by Anglicans. Later these same gospel songs would become associated in the minds of Episcopalians with Baptists and Methodists but they were actually Anglican! The compilers of The Hymnal 1940 also set a number of hymns to the tune that it was sung in the British Isles and not to the tune that is was sung in the United States. As a consequence, the tunes to which Episcopalians sung these hymns were unfamiliar to Americans from other church backgrounds. The words were the same but the tunes were different. This did not help the Protestant Episcopal Church to attract unchurched individuals and families from non-Episcopal church background. It has not helped the Continuing Anglican churches that still use The Hymnal 1940.

In the 1980s I was involved in the music ministry of a new Episcopal church plant in southeastern Louisiana. We made a point of using hymn tunes from the Ecumenical Hymn List rather than The Hymnal 1940. Most of the newcomers to our church did not come from an Episcopal background. They were Baptists, Congregationalists, Methodists, Presbyterians, and Roman Catholics. There were a lot of mixed marriages. They were able to sing the hymns right off the bat and did—with gusto!

The Hymnal 1940 was published before the hymn explosion of the twentieth century. Later in that century the hymn explosion became a hymn mountain. Many new hymns were written and many new hymn tunes were composed. The Hymnal 1940, when it was published, did not include a number of standard hymns, which are among the great hymns of the Church. It did include a number of hymns that are rarely sung. All the German hymn tunes were renamed. MIT FREUDEN ZART, for example, became BOHEMIAN BRETHREN.

In the 1980s we used the most popular hymns in The Hymnal 1940. We also made a point of working different people’s favorite hymns into the hymn selection for a particular Sunday if it fit with the propers or otherwise might be used in the service. We supplemented our core hymn repertoire from The Hymnal 1940 with standard hymns that had not been included in The Hymnal 1940, hymns of more recent composition, metrical Psalms and canticles, and what were in the 1980s known as “celebration songs”—simple hymns and songs from the Songs in Scripture collections, Songs for Celebration the Sounds of Living Water collections, the Come Celebrate Hymnal Supplement, and other sources. We picked hymns and songs for their accessibility, singability, and winsomeness, as well as their usefulness in the liturgy.

If your congregation is wed to The Hymnal 1940 but is open to new music, I recommend the foregoing approach. In the twenty-first century we have an even larger mountain of music that we can mine for new hymns and songs to incorporate into the congregation’s repertoire. We should be deliberate in this process, selecting the best and most useful of the most recent compositions. We should also pick the best and most useful of the standard hymns that were not included in The Hymnal 1940. We should be like the householder of Matthew 13:52 taking from our storeroom treasures new and old.

In the 1980s I adopted the practice of regularly purchasing the latest hymnals and music collections. In more recent years I have also purchased CDs. Nowadays the music of the newer hymns and of the latest songs in the contemporary Christian and praise and worship genres are on the Internet and can be purchased and downloaded. This enables me to gain an idea of what music is available and what music might be usable in traditional worship.

The musical preferences and tastes of the region in which the church is located is an important factor to consider in deciding what music to add to a congregation’s repertoire. This does not mean that a church must adopt what is the most popular kind of music in its region but it does need to be sensitive to regional preferences and tastes in music.

Selecting a new hymnal is a complicated process and purchasing a new hymnal is an expensive proposition. Since the life of contemporary hymnals is so much shorter, the development of a local hymnal or hymnal supplement may be the simpler and more cost-effective route to take.

Preach simply: clear and understandable

Jesus didn't cloud his messages with technical or theological jargon. He spoke in simple terms that normal people could understand. We need to remember that Jesus did not use the classical Greek language of the scholar. He spoke in Aramaic. He used the street language of that day and talked of birds, flowers, lost coins, and other everyday objects that anyone could relate to.

Jesus taught profound truths in simple ways. Today, we do the opposite. We teach simple truths in profound ways.

Sometimes when pastors think they are being "deep," they are really just being "muddy. They like to show off their knowledge by using Greek words and academic terms. No one cares as much about the Greek as pastors do. Chuck Swindoll once told me that he believes an overuse of word studies in preaching discourages confidence in the English text. I agree.

To read more, click here.

Hard Truth # 11: We must help each other more

11. We could do so much more if we helped each other more.

Is our Diocese a sleeping giant?

Not dead, just inactive. Internal organs functioning and doing their part: heart beating, brain firing, lungs pumping, nerves carrying messages and so on; but like a body slumbering.

The Diocese of Sydney is certainly a giant. Consider our Anglican schools; Anglicare, Youthworks and all our other amazing diocesan organisations big and small; our 270 parish centres; our 400 plus active church sites; our wealth – both the property/capital we have inherited and the vast sums God has put in individual pockets. Overall hundreds of thousands of people are touched by our ministries every year. Add to this the entrĂ©e we have as Anglicans, such as chaplains in hospitals, prisons, the armed forces, and SRE in state schools. And most importantly of all, our greatest asset: our people.

God has entrusted us with so much to help build his kingdom. Forgive me, but each time I am reminded of this fact, that same image comes back to my mind: a sleeping giant. Yes, many good things are happening – praise God. But how much more would be possible if we really committed to realising our potential?

To read more, click here.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Anglican Tradition of Common Prayer—Part 5

By Robin G. Jordan

Does it matter how a church arranges the room in which it regularly assembles for the worship of God?

Some church sanctuaries are well-suited to Prayer Book worship; others are not. I am using the term “sanctuary” broadly to refer to the room in which a church regularly assembles for worship rather than in the narrow sense of a “chancel.” I am also using the term “church” to refer to the ecclesia, the assembly, or gathering, of Christ’s people and to the building in which they assemble or gather for worship. This building is more correctly referred to as “the house of the church.” Over a period of time the term for the Christian assembly would become associated with its meeting place.

How the term “sanctuary” is used is revealing of a church’s understanding of the worship space that it occupies on Sunday morning and other occasions, as well as itself. The use of the term “sanctuary” for the room in which a church worships recognizes that is the temple in which God dwells. God not only dwells in the individual believer, he also dwells in the gathered church—the assembly of believers. It also recognized that gathered church is God’s “particular people.” They are God’s saints--those God has called out of the world to serve Him. While we usually hear other Protestants refer to this room as the sanctuary, we also hear Anglicans.

On the other hand Anglo-Catholics and Roman Catholics are more likely to refer to the “chancel” as the “sanctuary.” The chancel they associate with the inner sanctum of the Tabernacle, the “sanctum sanctorum” of the Temple, “the Most Holy Place,” the place in which God in Old Testament times was believed to be particularly present and even to dwell. They believe that after the priest says the Canon over the bread and wine, the elements become Christ, his real and substantive body and blood, even though they may retain the appearance of bread and wine. For this reason they regard the chancel as the place of the Presence and its designation as the “sanctuary,” or “holy place,” an apt one. The chancel is most likely to be more ornamented than any other part of the building since in this view it is Christ’s throne room. The tabernacle in which the sacrament is reserved is his throne.

The Old Testament, while it refers to God dwelling in the Tabernacle and in the midst of his people and his name dwelling first at Shiloh and then at Jerusalem, also refers to earth and heaven not containing God, much less the Temple at Jerusalem.

"But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built! Yet have regard to the prayer of your servant and to his plea, O LORD my God, listening to the cry and to the prayer that your servant prays before you this day, that your eyes may be open night and day toward this house, the place of which you have said, 'My name shall be there,' that you may listen to the prayer that your servant offers toward this place. And listen to the plea of your servant and of your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. And listen in heaven your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive. (1 Kings 8:27-30; 2 Chronicles 6:18-21 ESV)

God’s name is often used in the Old Testament to designate God but it does not appear to be used in that way in these passages. The New Testament interprets the same passages to mean that God does not dwell in houses made by hands:

“But it was Solomon who built a house for him. Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands, as the prophet says, " 'Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me, says the Lord, or what is the place of my rest? Did not my hand make all these things?' (Acts 7:47-50 ESV)

These passages, the New Testament references to the individual believer and the gathered Church as the temple of the Holy Spirit, to Christ dwelling in the faithful and those who dwell in him, and to his promise to be in their midst when two or three gather in his name suggests that the view of the church’s meeting place as the sanctuary is more Scriptural than the view of the chancel as the sanctuary. Properly speaking it is the gathered church that is the sanctuary rather than its meeting place. By extension, anywhere the church meets is its sanctuary. It is made holy by God’s presence in his assembled people.

The original split chancel with the choir divided into two sections, one on the north side and the other on the south side began as a small church in which a community of monks sang the daily offices and celebrated the Eucharist. The Table was placed in a shallow apse at the east end of the room. The community of monks was the congregation as well as the choir.

Some post-Restoration and modern sanctuaries are constructed on this model with the seating arranged “choir fashion.” The congregation faces each other across a broad central aisle in which are arranged the Table, a lectern, and seats for officiating and assisting ministers. Each row of seats may be raised slightly above the row in front of its for better hearing and seeing.

This model has precedent in the arrangement of the early Jewish churches. The congregation gathered on either side of a low platform—the bema—that ran most of the length of the room. At one end of the bema was the pulpit from which the Torah and New Testament writings were read; at the opposite end of the platform was the Table.

The original function of the nave was not worship. It began as a barn attached to the monks’ church where they kept hay, grain, and livestock and where those who came to hear them the daily offices were permitted to shelter from inclement weather.

The medieval English cathedral evolved from the monks’ church and its attached barn. Local parish churches were built with a similar floor plan. They consisted two rooms—the chancel and the nave. A rood screen separated the two rooms and hid the altar from profane eyes.The priest said Mass in the chancel while the devout in the congregation knelt on the straw-covered floor of the nave, saying the Rosary and other devotions. The less devout strolled about the nave, gossiped with their friends or took a nap. The high point of the Mass was the elevation of the consecrated host for the adoration of the congregation.

At the time of the English Reformation the two-room church was the most common form of church. During the reign of Edward IV and Elizabeth I the interiors of parish churches were whitewashed, covering the paintings of scenes from the Bible and the lives of the saints that decorated their walls. Statues, reliquaries, crucifixes, crosses, and altars were removed and rood screens were demolished. Stone altars were replaced with wooden communion tables. Both frame and trestle tables were used. The table was kept in the chancel and covered with “a cleane carpet” of “silk or other decent stuff” until it was needed for the Communion Service when it was brought to the steps of the chancel or into the body of the church and “a fair linen cloth” was laid upon it. This “carpet,” which is also known as Jacobean or Laudian frontal, hung down to the floor on all four sides. The “fair linen cloth” was a full white tablecloth that also hung down on all four sides. A pulpit was placed on the side of the nave in the best position for hearing and seeing. A reading desk was also placed where the congregation might hear and see the minister.

After the Restoration one-room auditory churches were built, often with the Pulpit placed over the Table against the East wall and the seating arranged on the other three sides of the room. The people could easily see and hear the minister in the Pulpit and at the Table. The choir, organ, and/or other instrumentalists were commonly placed in the West end, typically in a gallery. These arrangements were well suited to Prayer Book services and fostered active congregational participation in the liturgy. They remained the norm within Anglicanism until well into the nineteenth century.

In the mid-nineteenth century Ritualism, and Romanticism produced a revival of the two-room church modeled on the medieval English cathedral. Form was given priority over function. In Sanctify Life, Time, and Space Marion J. Hatchett describes the effects of this revival:

”The Table was removed from the people. The choir was brought up from the back of the church and placed on a stage erected between the congregation and the Table. The pulpit, the lectern, and the reading desk were typically placed on the sides in positions which made seeing and hearing the liturgy of the Word more difficult. Side aisles….began to be used for seating. Victorian builders with their love of vistas were concerned to keep the central aisle clear, and they replace “honest Table” with impressive sideboards (which began to be equipped with crosses, flowers, and candles) to create an artificial numinous effect and to impress all who entered the main door. But the placement of the Table, the pulpit, the lectern, and the choir, the rearrangement of the seating in military rows, and the intrusion of rood screens began to obstruct the view of the Table from the communicants and to make access to its difficult.”

This type of church with its long and narrow layout does not work well as a setting for Prayer Book services. The choir is placed in a less than ideal position for leading and supporting congregational singing. The choristers sit sideways to the congregation, facing each other across the central aisle. Their voices are directed at each other across this aisle and not at the congregation. The congregation has difficulty in hearing and seeing the liturgy of the Table, as well as the liturgy of the Word. This type of church works against a sense of community and it frequently suffers from acoustical problems as well as visual problems.

In his article “Prayer–book Parish churches” Gordon Ashman examines how the interiors of post-Reformation English parish churches were changed to make them more suitable for the services of the Book of Common Prayer. He draws attention to the total contrast between the interior of the few remaining “prayer book” churches and that of the “restored” churches left by the Victorian Cambridge Camden movement.

The best sanctuary arrangement for services of The Book of Common Prayer for twenty-first century congregations is a low thrust platform with the congregation seated on three sides, facing each other across the platform. The platform is no more than three inches off the floor, allowing the officiating and assistant ministers to easily to step up onto the platform or down onto the floor. Each row of seats may be raised slightly above the row in front of it for better hearing and seeing. The pulpit or lectern stands on the platform with the Table. The choir and the organ and/or instrumentalists are placed close to each other to one side of the platform in a position where the choir can lead the congregational singing. This arrangement brings the congregation into close proximity to the liturgical centers of pulpit or lectern and Table, which encourage greater congregational participation. It also creates and fosters a sense of community.

The Autobiography of a ‘Meer Christian’: Richard Baxter's Account of the Restoration

While undertaking research recently for a book on the ejection and persecution of the puritans from the Church of England in 1662,1 I had the pleasure of reading a first edition copy of Richard Baxter’s autobiography. The aim of this article is to assess the value of Reliquiae Baxterianae published in 1696 as a source for the history of the Restoration religious settlement, and to examine Baxter’s agenda and bias. Though this decisive religious settlement underwent various legislative alterations and was enforced with differing degrees of severity during the reign of Charles II, its essential foundations were laid in 1660–1662. It is to these decisive years that we will, therefore, particularly confine our attention. Baxter’s account is illuminating at this point both personally and historically, and gives us an important insight into the mindset of those who were ejected from the national church in the seventeenth century. For all its prolix verbosity, it remains a ‘must read’.

To read more, click here.

Churchgoers opting for simpler houses of worship

Megachurch, meet microchurch.

Growing numbers of Coloradans believe the tiny house church, also called a simple church or an organic church, might be the mightier transformer of Christian lives.

A recliner becomes a pulpit. A sofa and some armchairs serve as pews.

Where two or more people are gathered in his name, Jesus said, there he is. House churches range in size from two people to a dozen or slightly more.

Some prefer the name "simple church" because there are congregations that meet at coffee shops, parks or other venues.

The key element is that the group is small enough for everyone to participate fully and to connect intimately. In this, the new followers believe, they are like the earliest Christians, who also met in small groups in homes.

To read more, click here.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Anglican Tradition of Common Prayer—Part 4

By Robin G. Jordan

Does it matter what Prayer Book a church use in its services? Although you may hear a minister occasionally say that it does not matter what Prayer Book is used, he is not being honest with himself or with you. It matters a great deal what Prayer Book we use. A Prayer Book is more than a book of devotions. The texts of the services, the particular arrangement of elements in the service, the rubrics of the service, who says and does what in the service, and the inclusion of the service in the Prayer Book embody a particular theology, or way of thinking about God, his nature, his attributes, and his relation to us and the universe. Even the language of the Prayer Book has theological content. The second person familiar “thou” of the traditional Prayer Books say a great deal more about our relationship with God in one word than do the more recent Prayer Books with the more impersonal “you.”

One of the New Testament principles that Thomas Cranmer applied in the compilation of the First and Second Prayer Books of Edward VI was Paul’s dictum: Let all things be done for edification, for the upbuilding of Christ’s Church. Both Edwardian Prayer Books are intended to instruct in doctrine. The 1559 Elizabethan Prayer Book, the 1604 Jacobean Prayer Book, and the 1662 Restoration Prayer Book are in substance the 1552 Reformed Liturgy, the culmination of Cranmer’s liturgical achievement and the expression of his mature theology. Like the latter the 1559, 1604, and 1662 books are intended to be instructional, teaching and reinforcing a particular set of beliefs. Even if a particular book is not designed to instruct in doctrine, it still is instructional. It shapes people’s beliefs.

Every service of a Prayer Book has its own theology, as does the entire book. To complicate matters there may be two or more interpretations of the theology of a service or the book. One interpretation may be based upon the intent of the compilers and the historical context in which the services and the book were compiled; a second or third interpretation may be based on other considerations (e.g., the tradition of the Catholic Church). Among the reasons that the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion were adopted were as doctrinal standards for the interpretation of the Prayer Book.

Every change in a Prayer Book alters the theology of the Prayer Book even though the change may be a slight one. Theological changes stemming from the revision of a Prayer Book may be deliberate or unintended. They may reflect changes in the theology of the Anglican entity using the Prayer Book. They may not necessarily reflect the theology of all groups within that entity. Anglo-Catholic and liberal groups have dominated Prayer Book revision in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States in the twentieth century and the opening decade of the twenty-first century.

The history of Prayer Book revision in the United States has reflected a general movement away from the biblical and Reformation teaching of the 1662 Prayer Book. The 1789 General Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church revised and adopted the Scottish Non-Juror Prayer of Consecration of 1764. In its unrevised form this particular Consecration Prayer taught that Christ offered himself for our sins at the Last Supper, not on the cross. Christ only died on the cross. It was also open to interpretation as teaching the doctrine of transubstantiation—the transmogrification of the substance of the bread and wine into the substance of Christ’s body and blood. The 1892 Prayer Book moved the American Prayer Book further away from the doctrine of the 1662 Prayer Book. The 1928 Prayer Book was far-reaching and radical in the changes that it made to the American Prayer Book. The 1979 Prayer Book’s abandonment of the language of the traditional Prayer Books, however, has tended to overshadow these changes. In its own sweeping changes the 1979 Prayer Book followed in the footsteps of its predecessor.

Among the characteristics of the American Prayer Book tradition is the lack of a standard by which new liturgies may be measured and tested. New American Prayer Books tend to reflect the theology of the group or groups dominating the Episcopal Church at the time they were adopted. In reaction to the 1979 Prayer Book its detractors tried to make the 1928 Prayer Book into that standard. However, the 1928 Prayer Book is hardly a prime example of continuity with the American Prayer Books of the past. Indeed it set precedent for the 1979 Prayer Book. Since subscription to the Thirty-Nine Articles has never been a mandatory requirement in the Episcopal Church, the Episcopal Church also has no doctrinal standards by which the American Prayer Book in its latest edition may be interpreted. The dominant group or groups in the Episcopal Church interpret the newest Prayer Book’s theology to the rest of the Church.

In the Anglican Church of Canada, the Anglican Church in North America, the Continuing Anglican Churches, and the Episcopal Church we see the incongruity of congregations and clergy that describe themselves as conservative and “Evangelical” or “Low Church,” which also use Prayer Books that are liberal and Catholic in doctrine—the 1928 Prayer Book and the 1979 Prayer Book. They are apt to ignore or minimize the inconstancy between what they purportedly believe and the doctrine of these Prayer Books. Other considerations (e.g., familiarity, long use, modern English) outweigh soundness of doctrine. We have come along way from the days when the Prayer Book service itself served to safeguard the congregation from unsound doctrine, as well as to instruct the congregation in sound doctrine.

In and outside of North America there is a growing trend to abandon Prayer Book services for local patterns of worship. This trend places whatever theology is imparted to the congregation solely in the hands of the clergy with the sermon as the principal means of teaching doctrine. It is in part driven by a mindset that sees churchgoers as consumers of religious goods and products and churches as the marketers and dispensers of these goods and products. It is in part motivated by a desire to preach the gospel to the congregation in an environment that does not put off the seeker. The modern linear service in which the preaching message is the focal point of the service is viewed as the best approach to accomplish this purpose. A formal liturgy is seen as a barrier to hearing the good news rather than as a means of proclaiming the gospel. Choirs, hymns, organs, robes, wall crosses, and everything else associated with the traditional church are also seen in this light.

A Prayer Book that combines eloquent language and sound doctrine is The Book of Common Prayer of 1662. The 1662 Book of Common Prayer is one of the venerable formularies of the reformed Church of England, along with the Thirty-Nine Articles, the Ordinal of 1661, and the two Books of Homilies issued in the reigns of Edward VI and Elizabeth I. They form the heart of “confessional Anglicanism,” the “Protestant Reformed Religion” of the Church of England. The GAFCON Jerusalem Declaration upholds the 1662 Book of Common Prayer as “a true and authoritative standard of worship and prayer” for contemporary Anglicans.

The 1662 Prayer Book does have some drawbacks. It does not have any prayers for the President of the United States, for the Congress, and the Supreme Court, the governor, the state legislature, and the state courts. It also does not contain any prayers for mission in the form of supplications in the Litany, Occasional Prayers, or petitions in the Prayer for the Whole State of the Christ’s Church Militant Here in Earth. This lack is easily rectified. A supplemental collection of prayers like the one my mother’s teachers’ college used in chapel can be compiled for use together with the 1662 Prayer Book. Prayers that are not contained in the 1662 Prayer Book can be printed in the service bulletin, as can the entire service. Suitable supplications or petitions for mission, as the case may be, can be inserted into the Litany and the Prayer for the Whole State of the Christ’s Church Militant Here in Earth. As noted in my previous article, “The Anglican Tradition of Common Prayer—Part 2,” a prayer for mission may be said after the Collect of the Day or before the parting Blessing, as in the 1926 Irish Prayer Book, where it does not unduly lengthen the service as does the lamentable practice of saying prayers and other devotions after the Blessing and closing hymn.

The 1662 Prayer Book, in its main and chief parts, contains the true doctrine of Christ. However, certain phrases and expressions found in the 1662 Prayer Book are open to mistaken or deliberately wrongful interpretation, and their proper interpretation has been the subject of heated debate. This should present no major problem if the people are instructed in the received interpretation of the 1662 Prayer Book.

The sister churches of the Reformed Episcopal Church in South Africa and the United Kingdom and Ireland have adopted revisions of the 1662 Prayer Book that either remove these expressions and phrases or so explain them to render their meaning clear and Scriptural. Some of the Services have been shortened where they are unduly lengthy especially when they are used in combination with other services. Services and prayers for certain special occasions have been added.

For congregations that are accustomed to praying in modern English, no complete version of the 1662 Prayer Book in modern English form has yet been published. Individual services in that form may be found a number of the more recent Anglican service-books published for use together with the 1662 Prayer Book. They include An Australian Prayer Book, 1978; Prayer Book of the Church of England in South Africa, 1992; An English Prayer Book, 1994; and A Prayer Book for Australia, 1995.

The 1662 Prayer Book, as a successor to the 1552 Prayer Book, enjoins more congregational participation in worship than the 1549 Prayer Book. Today’s congregations may be used to worship that is even more congregational and participatory. Unchurched people with a post-Christian, post-modern mindset are also attracted to worship that is congregational, interactive, and participatory, as well as multi-sensory and organic. In a future article I plan to look at ways that congregational participation in the liturgies of the 1662 Prayer Book may be expanded, and better stewardship of God’s manifold graces given to members of Christ’s Church may be exercised in their celebration.

Friday, July 23, 2010

We Are Anglicans

The title of this article ought to be somewhat longer. One of our former Council members, Frank Knaggs, served for many years as a member of the Council for Christian Unity. Frank had one or two personalised items, in particular a ring and T-shirt, which he sometimes wore to ecumenical meetings. They bear the slogan “No Pope here, we are Anglicans”.

The Pope, or more properly the Roman Catholic Bishop of Rome will visit England and Scotland from 17th to 19th September of this year. In recent years political figures and many in the media have fawned all over the Pope. More recently however, there has been growing attacks on Rome by secular humanists and the homosexual lobbyists, together with the media, which is dominated by both. Whilst we do not wish to be sucked into the ungodly agenda of these groups nevertheless it is important to say that this visit is also unwelcome for other reasons.

What does it mean to be Anglican? Though it is not normally where people look for an answer part of the nature of Anglicanism is set out in the Coronation Oath Act of 1688. This Act applies still in England and Wales and its well known wording was used at the Coronation of the present Queen. The existence of this Act, is a denial to the claim of some that the United Kingdom is a secular state. The oath set down in the Act was made by the new monarch as a covenant between her and her people. It includes the famous words:

Will You to the utmost of Your power Maintain the Laws of God the true Profession of the Gospel and the Protestant Reformed Religion Established by Law?
It can be seen that the oath involves a commitment to maintain three things but for the purpose of this article it is the third that I wish to focus on. The words do not refer to the Church of England,but this Church is the embodiment of that phrase. Therefore in answer to the question what does it mean to be Anglican, or what is the Church of England, we can answer that it is protestant, reformed and established.

To read more, click here.

Listening Pastors

Let me begin with three disclaimers. First, I am a pastor (so I am speaking to myself). Second, I am a Presbyterian pastor (which means I spend a lot of time with other pastors whether I want to or not—and usually I do). Third, I love the men I serve alongside of in the pastorate (these are truly men to be held in double honor). So the critique I am about to offer comes from one who knows and spends a lot of time with other pastors and loves them.

It seems to me that there is a glaring fault in many, if not most pastors: they are horrible listeners. I find that pastors are some of the worst listeners I have ever been around. I know that this could only be my experience, but I truly doubt it. Now don’t misunderstand me, this is not true of all pastors, but I find that it is true of many. And it grieves me.

It seems to me that pastors tend to be poor listeners for a few reasons: they are usually assertive people and have trouble slowing down, have honestly heard many of the same things multiple times (counseling situations, theological questions, etc.) thus they feel like they “know” where the conversation is headed, they are multi-taskers who tend to think they can listen and think about other things at the same time, and they are used to talking/preaching with others listening to them!

If there are men who should be good at listening, it should be pastors. How can we truly minister to the sheep of Christ unless we know them? And how do we know them unless we listen to them? Here are a few friendly suggestions to aid pastors in giving a better listening ear....

To read more click here.

Listening to others is a skill all Christians need to learn, not just pastors. When we listen to others, they are likely to give us a hearing.

Can a dog receive communion?

St. Peter’s Anglican Church has long been known as an open and inclusive place.

So open, it seems, they won’t turn anyone away. Not even a dog.

That’s how a blessed canine ended up receiving communion from interim priest Rev. Marguerite Rea during a morning service the last Sunday in June.

According to those in attendance at the historical church at 188 Carlton St. in downtown Toronto, it was a spontaneous gesture, one intended to make both the dog and its owner – a first timer at the church — feel welcomed. But at least one parishioner saw the act as an affront to the rules and regulations of the Anglican Church. He filed a complaint with the reverend and with the Anglican Diocese of Toronto about the incident – and has since left the church.

“I wrote back to the parishioner that it is not the policy of the Anglican Church to give communion to animals,” said Bishop Patrick Yu, the area bishop of York-Scarborough responsible for St. Peter’s, who received the complaint in early July. “I can see why people would be offended. It is a strange and shocking thing, and I have never heard of it happening before.

“I think the reverend was overcome by what I consider a misguided gesture of welcoming.”

Rev. Rea was contacted numerous times about the incident, but did not want to comment.

“She is quite embarrassed by it,” said Yu.

To read more, click here.

I love it. Radical inclusion at its best!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Traditional Church in the Twenty-First Century: Doing Something about the Church Music—Part 1

By Robin G. Jordan

A Perennial Problem. A typical traditional church is small. It usually has limited musical resources. Its music program, if it can be graced with that name, is often woefully inadequate and is beset with all kinds of problems. The choir has too few voices or there is no choir at all. The church matriarchs and patriarchs are opposed to any and all changes in the church music. The organ is broken. The piano is out of tune. The organist or pianist is inexperienced and can play only a handful of hymn tunes. The acoustics of the room in which the congregation worships are poor. There is acoustic tile on the ceiling. The vestry carpeted the floor and padded the pews, making the acoustics even worse. The congregation sits scattered around the room. They sing half-heartedly and their voices are barely audible. They seem afraid to utter the words. When the hymn is unfamiliar, the voices falter and one by one fall silent. The pastor who picked the hymn for a reason only known to him and who thinks that he knows the tune sings an off-key solo. The challenges are so many that we may be tempted to throw up our hands in exasperation. Something must be done about the church music, we mutter under our breath. But what? And how?

A Ray of Hope. Thom S. Rainer in his research into why the unchurched become churchgoers discovered that among the things that may attract the unchurched to a particular church is the attention that church gives to the quality of the music in its worship. This tells the unchurched person that the particular church takes the worship of God seriously. He also found that it did not matter what kind of music that was used. It could be very traditional music.

Rainer’s findings fly in the face of the conventional wisdom that to attract the unchurched a church must use contemporary music and replace the organ or piano and the choir with a band with electric guitars and drums. The conventional wisdom is based upon the observation that certain segments of the unchurched population are attracted to this kind of music. While this observation may be accurate, the traditional church can also attract a segment of the unchurched population with traditional music if it gives attention to the quality of the music in its worship.

Good quality music does not need to be complicated. It can be quite simple. What matters is whatever is done is done well. If a church is indifferent to the quality of its worship music, it conveys the message to unchurched visitors that the worship of God is not important to that church. It is simply going through the motions of worshiping God but the heart of its clergy and congregation are far from him. Unchurched visitors are quick to conclude that such a spiritual environment is not something of which they want to become a part.

Where then do we start?

Congregational Singing. The congregation is the primary musical resource of the traditional church. The improvement of the congregation’s singing should be a top priority. This may be challenging if the congregation is aging, has weak voices, and has little or no confidence in their singing ability. But it is not impossible.

According to James Rawling Sydnor, “great congregation singing is being achieved when the entire congregation sings a sizeable number of good hymns with spiritual perception and musical artistry.” He identifies four objectives.

1. All of the congregation sings. Our task is to do all we can to increase the percentage of the people who participate in the singing of the hymns and service music.

2. The congregations sings a wide variety of good hymns. The congregation that sings only a dozen or so old favorites cannot be described as displaying the quality of singing found in an enterprising congregation that knows a hundred or more excellent hymns.

3. The congregation sings with spiritual perception. Each singer feels and understands the emotions and thoughts contained in the text of a hymn. The congregation is singing the hymn to God with the spirit and with the understanding also (1 Corinthians 14:15).

4. The congregation sings musically.”Good congregational singing,” Sydnor writes, is the result of following such simple musical rules as united attack, spirited movement at a tempo set by the organist or pianist, blended firm tone, and vital rhythm.” Sydnor notes that John Wesley in his seven “Directions for Singing” in his 1761 Select Hymns offers good practical advise for achieving congregational musicianship, which have survived the test of time.

Learn these tunes before you learn any others; afterwards learn as many as you please.

Sing them exactly as they are printed here, without altering or mending them at all; and if you have learned to sing them otherwise, unlearn it as soon as you can.

Sing all. See that you join with the congregation as frequently as you can. Let not a slight degree of weakness or weariness hinder you. If it is a cross to you, take it up, and you will find it a blessing.

Sing lustily and with a good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength. Be no more afraid of your voice now, nor more ashamed of its being heard, than when you sung the songs of Satan.

Sing modestly. Do not bawl, so as to be heard above or distinct from the rest of the congregation, that you may not destroy the harmony; but strive to unite your voices together, so as to make one clear melodious sound.

Sing in time. Whatever time is sung be sure to keep with it. Do not run before nor stay behind it; but attend close to the leading voices, and move therewith as exactly as you can; and take care not to sing too slow. This drawling way naturally steals on all who are lazy; and it is high time to drive it out from us, and sing all our tunes just as quick as we did at first.

Above all sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim at pleasing him more than yourself, or any other creature. In order to do this attend strictly to the sense of what you sing, and see that your heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually; so shall your singing be such as the Lord will approve here, and reward you when he cometh in the clouds of heaven.

The following are some ways of improving the congregation’s singing, which have proven their effectiveness.

1. Identify what hymns, hymn tunes, and service music that the congregation knows. Recruit a large group of people who regularly attend a particular church service. This group should be fairly representative of the congregation of that service and should include non-singers. It should not include choir members if your church has a choir. The group will need someone who can play the hymns and service music for them. Over several Sunday mornings the group should go through the hymnal and rate each hymn and hymn tune. If If almost all or most members of the group know the words of hymn to a particular tune, the group rates the hymn “familiar”. If almost all or most of members of the group know the tune but used with different words, the group rates the hymn tune as “familiar.” (If all the members of the group know the words or the tune, the group may want to rate the hymn or the tune, as the case may be, as “very familiar.”) If a large part of the group does not know the words or the tune, the group rates the hymn or the tune as “unfamiliar.” If no one knows the hymn and or the hymn tune, the group rates it “new.” The group does the same thing with the service music.

The end-result of this process should be a list of all the hymns, hymn tunes and service music, listed as they are found in the hymnal and rated according to familiarity. A copy of this list should be given to whoever selects the hymns, hymn tunes, and service music for church services to guide them in their choice of music. Most of the hymns and service music used in a service should be familiar.

If the congregation is small, the entire congregation can be recruited to identify the congregation’s repertoire. If the church has more than one church service with music, the repertoire of each congregation should be identified. The use of familiar hymns, hymn tunes, and service music does wonders to build the confidence of a congregation in its ability to sing.

However, if our goal is great congregational singing, we should not be satisfied to stick to only familiar hymns and service music. Identifying the congregation’s repertoire is a first step. The next step is to expand that repertoire in a systematic manner.

2. Be deliberate in the way unfamiliar or new hymns, hymn tunes, or service music are introduced to the congregation. This is to key to helping a congregation to become more open to the use of unfamiliar or new music.

I am a great believer in congregational rehearsals either before the service or during the week. When they are held during the week, they provide an opportunity for fellowship as well as for learning new music and practicing unfamiliar music. Congregational rehearsals also convey the message that the music of the church services and the role of the congregation in that music are an important priority. Helping a congregation to learn and master the music that they use in the worship of God on Sunday mornings is one of way that we build up the congregation in the Christian faith and life.

One small but thriving church with which I occasionally worshipped in the 1980s would have a potluck dinner after the church service on Sunday morning. The congregation would then learn any new hymns, worship songs, or service music planned for the upcoming liturgical season, practice unfamiliar ones, and then finish with a hymn sing of old and new favorites.

A brief congregational rehearsal before a church service in which familiar hymns and service music are practiced helps to warm up the voices of the congregation. It is difficult to plunge into singing without a proper warm-up but we expect congregations to do it every Sunday.

One successful method of introducing unfamiliar or new hymns or hymn tunes to congregations is the hymn of the month. In selecting an unfamiliar or new hymn for the hymn of the month, pick a hymn with inspiring words, a wide use, and a winsome tune. In selecting an unfamiliar or new tune, pick one that is engaging and worth mastering or learning. An unfamiliar or new alternative tune to a familiar hymn can breathe new life into a hymn. When the hymn of the month method is used to introduce an unfamiliar or new hymn or hymn tune, the tune is initially introduced either as a prelude, instrumental offertory. This acquaints the congregation with the melody. I recommend against introducing the tune as a postlude as people generally pay little attention to postludes. Their minds are on lunch or whatever they are doing after church. The tune, however, can be repeated as a postlude if it was introduced earlier in the service. If the congregation has a choir, the hymn is sung as a simple hymn anthem between the epistle and the gospel, before the sermon, at the offertory, or during the communion on the following Sunday. The words of the hymn will determine the best place in the service to introduce it. The congregation may be invited in the service leaflet to join in the last stanza of the hymn when it is sung as a hymn anthem. On the following Sunday it will be included for the first time with the other hymns that the congregation is expected to sing. Where hymn is placed in the service will be determined by its words. The hymn then repeated the remaining Sundays of the month. Ideally, the hymn will be one that can be used at several points in the service so on each successive Sunday it can sung at a different juncture in the service. When introducing an unfamiliar or new hymn or hymn tune it does not matter if it sung at the same place in the service for several consecutive Sundays. Following the month in which it is introduced, it should be repeated fairly frequently to integrate it into the congregation’s repertoire.

If the congregation does not have a choir, a cantor or soloist can be used to introduce the hymn on the Sunday after the melody of the tune is introduced to the congregation. Or a brief congregational rehearsal at which the hymn will be taught to the congregation can be held before the service at which the hymn will be used for the first time. The hymn is then repeated on the remaining Sundays of the month to help the congregation to master it.

A practice that should be avoided is the unvarying use of the same familiar hymn Sunday after Sunday at a particular juncture in the service where a variable hymn or anthem is called for. The children’s hymn, “Thy Gospel Jesus We Believe,” The Hymnal 1940, No. 249, has particularly been misused and abused in this way as a gradual hymn.

Modern computer technology now enables churches to record unfamiliar and new music that will be used in church services, and to burn it onto CDs for distribution to the congregation or to upload it to the church’s website where the congregation may download it to their home computers, laptops, and I-pods. Traditional churches need to take advantage of this technology to help their congregations to learn new music and to master unfamiliar music. Like congregational rehearsals, this application of computer technology conveys the message that the music of the church services and the role of the congregation in that music are an important priority. It also helps worship planners to become more intentional about the unfamiliar and new music that they use in church services. A CD or I-pod download of familiar music that members of the congregation can play on their way to church in their cars and to which they can sing along enables them to warm up their voices for the church service. It can also be a part of their spiritual preparation for the service, focusing their attention on God.

3. Use familiar hymn tunes to expand the congregation’s repertoire, substituting these tunes for those of unfamiliar or new hymns. While it is preferable to master unfamiliar tunes and learn new ones, this does permit worship planners to use a hymn that might otherwise not be used and which may be especially suitable for a particular Sunday. Care should be exercised to ensure that the mood, the emotional tone, of the familiar tune matches that of the unfamiliar or new hymn as well as its meter. It may be desirable to practice the hymn with the congregation before the service.

4. Ask the members of the congregation to sit closer together and not scattered around the room. The congregation will not only sound better but the effect of their combined voices will give them new confidence in their singing ability. This may require roping off a few pews.

5. Teach the congregation proper breathing for singing, dropping the “diaphragm” and breathing deeply rather than shallow breathing from the top of their lungs. This will increase both the projection and volume of their voices. The way of breathing is taught to choirs. It should be taught to congregations too.

6. If the hymn tune is familiar, a part of the melody of the tune should be played as an introduction to the hymn—enough to stimulate and refresh the memories of the congregation as to the tune. Some hymnals suggest how much of the melody may be used as an introduction. If the hymn tune is unfamiliar or new, the entire melody of the tune should be played. I recommend teaching the congregation the practice of humming or “poing” the tune to themselves as the introduction is played. By “poing” I mean singing each note of the tune to “po” quietly, under their breath. This helps to register the tune in the mind of each singer. In the choirs in which I have sung, it was a common practice for the choir director to have the choir sing the melody of an unfamiliar or new tune to “po” when teaching it to them. This simple method for registering a tune in the minds of the choir members works for congregations too. The tune is not quite as unfamiliar or new when it comes to singing the first stanza of the hymn. I personally do it with familiar tunes just in case I have forgotten the tune.

7. Limit the choir to singing parts only on one or two stanzas of congregational hymns. The first and last stanza should always be sung in unison to the melody. The choir should also practice familiar hymns as well as unfamiliar and new ones. The choir’s role is to provide musical leadership and support to the congregation, not to sing for the congregation.

Singing Churches. What I would like to see is that traditional churches, wherever they are, enjoy the reputation of being churches for whom the worship of God is important and its importance is reflected in their church music, but also that of being churches that cannot keep from singing. Singing is in their blood, in their DNA. They are churches that are known for their love of praising the name of God with a song and of magnifying Him with thanksgiving (Psalm 69:30). They are churches that bless God and let the sound of his praise be heard (Psalm 66:8). Their Sunday worship embodies this verse from the Venite, “Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!” (Psalm 95:2) They are singing churches that have taken to heart these words, “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! Praise the Lord!” (Psalms 150:6)

Suggested Reading: James Rawling Sydnor, Hymns and Their Uses: A Guide to Improved Congregational Singing, (Carol Streams, Illinois: Agape, 1982.

Being a ‘Repulsive Church’

They came into church ready to reach the South Pole. Puffy jackets, ski gloves, big beanies, and thick scarves. As regulars they were armed with hard won knowledge of just how cold church could be.

The broken switchboard in the choir vestry was testament to the previous existence of some kind of under pew heating system. That had been replaced by the ‘chicken shop’ radiators bolted to the walls. Their crackling red light threw out an empty promise of warmth. Despite their ineffectiveness, groups would huddle together around each one, in the hope of some heat.

Last week we turned on the new gas furnace. For the first winter service in years nobody noticed the temperature. No more automatic apology spiels to guests about their frostbite.

Why did it take so long to change things? Three simple reasons: we got used to it, it cost money to fix it, and it involved change.

To read more, click here.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Anglican Tradition of Common Prayer – Part 3

By Robin G. Jordan

Why do some Anglican congregations use a traditional Book of Common Prayer in their church services?

A common reason some Anglican congregations use a traditional Book of Common Prayer in their church services is that they have become attached to a particular liturgy and a particular way of celebration of that liturgy so that other forms of worship and other ways of worshiping are not meaningful to them. For them the particular liturgy and the particular of way of celebration of the liturgy may serve as a springboard to prayer. They provide the route by which these Anglicans draw near to God and enter his presence. The particular liturgy and the particular way of celebration may also have become infused with a mystical significance for them.

Another common reason is familiarity. The congregation using a traditional Prayer Book is composed largely of members of a particular age group. The traditional Prayer Book that they are using is the one they used when they were children and teenagers. It was the Prayer Book that was used when they were confirmed and when they were married. It was the Prayer Book that was used when their children were baptized. It is so familiar to them that they cannot understand the difficulty that other people may have with it. They were able to learn its language. Both in their minds and aloud they ask the question, “Why cannot other people learn its language too?”

It is a good question. What happened in the 1960s that led to the abandonment of the language of the traditional Prayer Book that had served generations of Anglicans and Episcopalians? Why was it in such a short space of time after hundreds of years of use identified as a barrier to prayer? The Tudor English of the traditional Prayer Book is not Latin. It is not that far from the language that we speak everyday. It is classified as Modern English. Most of its vocabulary is familiar to today’s English speaking population. The Tudor English poetry and plays of William Shakespeare are still taught in high school, even earlier. The Tudor English King James Version is the most common Bible offered for sale despite the plethora of more recent translations. Tudor English hymns are sung in today’s churches alongside contemporary Christian and praise and worship songs. A number of the earlier choruses were written in Tudor English.

The spate of Bible translations that use gender-neutral language may offer an explanation. The change in language of the Prayer Book was largely a cultural development. The desire to make the Prayer Book more accessible to a larger group of people was the ostensible reason for the change but a shifting of cultural attitudes motivated the change.

Most services in so-called contemporary English are services in a form of good liturgical English and not the real vernacular—the slang of teenagers and young adults, the tech-talk of computer geeks, or the patois of the streets. This points to one of the realities of today—and I would add—of the sixteenth century Tudor England. To live in today’s world we must be proficient in a number of dialects. A dialect is a variety of a language differing from the standard in vocabulary or pronunciation or idiom. If English is a second-language, we may speak a different language at home. It may be an African language or dialect, Arabic, Cambodian, Farsi, Haitian Creole, Japanese, Mandarin, Maya, Spanish, Vietnamese, or any of a number of languages, including First Nations and Native American languages. A number of tribes are seeking to preserve their language and culture from extinction, and are teaching them to a new generation. In Ireland the younger generations are learning to speak Irish. Books and newspapers are published in Irish, and radio stations broadcast in Irish. The contemporary trend is toward being poly-lingual and saving traditional languages and cultures from desuetude and oblivion.

In sixteenth century Tudor England every county had its own dialect. In some parts of the country you might find more than one dialect in the same county. English in its many dialects was not the only language. On the island of Man, the people spoke Manx; in Cornwall, Cornish; and on the Channel Islands, French. To live outside your county, you needed to be proficient in what would become known as the King’s English.

When I was a boy in England in the 1950s, the counties still had their own dialects. I spent one summer in Somerset and came back rolling my ‘r’-s and pronouncing my ‘s’-s as if they were ‘z’-s. Your family might live in a county for generations but the locals would regard you as “foreigners.” Your family spoke the King’s English and not the local dialect. You still might be regarded as “foreigners” even if you knew the local dialect and could converse in it fluently. How you pronounced the King’s English might reveal your county of origin, your grammar school, or your university.

I have lived in the South for fifty-odd years and the way people speak and the words they use differs from region to region, state to state, and even county to county. In New Orleans where I lived and worked for a number of years, they also vary from the district to district. In certain districts of the city the Black residents retain in their vocabulary words that you might have heard in an earlier century or in the British Isles—words like “cheek”—saucy speech, “cross”—out of temper, angry with, and “vex”—annoy, distress.

A third common reason is that it establishes the identity of the congregation. It says who they are. It distinguishes them from other congregations. They are traditionalists and they use a traditional Prayer Book. They also use traditional ornaments, ceremonial, music, and vestments. A visitor may come away from one of their services with the strong impression that they place a high value on tradition and a traditional way of doing things.

A fourth common reason is that a particular traditional Prayer Book gives best expression to what a particular Anglican congregation believes. They may use the 1928 Book of Common Prayer because they subscribe to its Catholic doctrines of eucharistic presence and eucharistic sacrifice, baptismal regeneration, confirmation, and its Catholic teaching that the dead benefit from the prayers of the living. They are able to supplement its texts with additions from various manuals such as The American Missal and The Anglican Missal that bring its theology even closer to their own.

A fifth common reason is that a traditional Prayer Book provides continuity with the past. It serves as a link with previous generations of Anglicans and Episcopalians. A sixth common reason is that a traditional Prayer Book offers an element of stability in a constantly changing world. It is something that seemingly has not changed in a world in flux.

Anglican congregations who use a traditional Prayer Book in their church services can give you a host of other reasons why they use it.

What is my own thinking on the use of a traditional Prayer Book in church services?

I do not agree with Anglicans who wish to discard the services of the traditional Prayer Book due their language or their liturgical form. In this opening decade of the twenty-first century a number of writers have documented an interest in liturgy and vintage worship in the younger generations especially those with a post-modern, post-Christian mindset. This population segment is particularly drawn to worship that organic, multi-sensory, participative, and interactive.

The popularity of Wicca in the same population segment points to ceremonial and ritual needs that this new religion is meeting. Wiccan rites are liturgical albeit they are usually written for the occasion. Wiccan rites are also organic, multi-sensory, participative, and interactive. Traditional Prayer Book services offer continuity with the past—something that Wicca cannot offer since it is essentially a modern construct even though it based on what are sometimes called “the Old Ways.” They also offer something else that Wicca cannot offer—the gospel of divine grace.

There are also stirrings of interest in Reformed worship. Among the characteristics of Reformed worship are plenty of Scripture, reverent, and simple. The 1552 Prayer Book, upon which the 1662 Prayer Book is based, has been described as “the flower of Reformed liturgy.”

North American Christians especially evangelicals are susceptible to the vagaries of fashion as are their non-Christian contemporaries. This includes changes in fashion in worship. What is fashionable today may not be fashionable a year from now.

The services of the traditional Prayer Books are a part of the legacy that past generations have bequeathed to us. Recalling the words of Thomas Cranmer, we should not despise them because they are old. Where the old may be used well, we should not reprove them only for their age. It is good stewardship to make use of them where and when they can be used, if they are Scriptural and theologically sound.

The modern linear service that those who would do away with liturgical forms of service favor appeals to people with a modern mindset. The focus of this type service is the preaching message. Everything else sets up the sermon—songs, video clips, testimonials, drama, interviews, etc. An invitation usually follows the sermon. This type service works well in those parts of the country where a substantial portion of the population still has a modern mindset. It works well here in western Kentucky. However, it does not appeal to everyone. A very large part of the population is unchurched.

To me it makes no sense to rely upon one approach to reach the unchurched population. What works in one part of the country may not work in another. Each church needs to be come an expert on its ministry focus group, other population groups in its community, the regional culture, and any subcultures. It needs to tailor its approach to its ministry focus group. It needs to discover what will work for it and what it can do reasonably well with its resources.

What concerns me is how churches are using the services of the traditional Prayer Book, what traditional Prayer Book they are using, and what doctrine its services uphold and propagate. If we do use the traditional Prayer Book services, they should meet certain criteria, which I discuss below.

We should also do everything we can to facilitate the newcomer’s learning of the language of the traditional Prayer Book. It should not be left to chance. This will also help the other worshipers in the congregation learn more about the doctrine of the traditional Prayer Book that they are using. The exposition of Prayer Book doctrine and how it is agreeable with Scripture should be a regular part of our teaching.

One of the purposes of the Prayer Book, if it was compiled in accordance with Cranmerian principles, is instructional. Thomas Cranmer took to heart the apostle Paul’s injunction: “Let all things be done for edification” (1 Corinthians 14:26 NKJV). The liturgies that Cranmer compiled are clearly designed with this purpose in mind. This includes the order for the administration of Holy Communion and the occasional offices, as well as the orders for Morning and Evening Prayer. Building up the people in the Christian faith and way of live was for Cranmer a top priority.

The congregation should also be taught how they can make the best use of the Prayer Book in their private devotions. This includes not only using the Table of Lessons to guide their daily Scripture reading but also mediating upon the prayers, Psalms, and liturgical texts of the Prayer Book and incorporating some of them into their prayer time. Scripture is best read in a leisurely, or unhurried, manner and aloud, with attention to what God may be saying to us in the passage we are reading. The reading of Scripture aloud even when read privately is a practice that originated with the early monks and is a practice from which we can derive great benefit. They were mindful of the words of the apostle Paul: “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17 NKJV).

In reading Scripture aloud, we not only read God’s word but we also hear God’s word. We are attending to God’s Word with both sides of our brain. We should also have paper and pencil handy and jot down anything in a passage that particularly draws our attention. After we have finished our Scripture reading, we may want to mediate upon these words or verses and pray in response to them. I would recommend keeping them in a notebook and looking back over them from time to time. God may have more to say to us through them. Through daily Scripture reading God renews our minds, and instructs our hearts. God also quickens [inspires], confirms, and strengthens our faith in him.

The Litany, or General Supplication, is fairly comprehensive, and is a useful guide for our own prayers. As we look over its supplications, the Holy Spirit will draw to our attention those who need our prayers. Other prayer concerns will also be brought to our attention.

I am also convinced that the best salesmen for the traditional Prayer Book are the members of the congregation using it. It has nothing to do with any kind of sales pitch that they might make. It has everything to do with what kind of Christians they are. Other things that are going to convince first time worship visitors and newcomers of the value of the traditional Prayer Book is the warmth and sincerity of the welcome, the vibrancy of the worship, the quality of the music, the quality of the preaching, the friendliness and approachability of the congregation, the quality of the nursery, the quality and creativity of the Children’s Ministry, the quality of the small group ministry, the cleanliness of the restrooms, and the over-all atmosphere of the church.

I have no objection to the use of alternative services in a good contemporary liturgical English together with the services of the traditional Prayer Book; provided that compilers of the services, including those of the traditional Prayer Book, applied these three important Cranmerian principles in their compilation. First, the services must be Scriptural. The texts used in the services are taken from Scripture or are consonant with Scripture. Second, the services must instruct in sound doctrine. This means that the doctrine of the services must be sound. Their doctrine is grounded in the Bible and the Reformation. Third, the services must also congregational. The congregation plays more than a small part in the service. Provided further that the services must give clear expression to the biblical teaching of The Book of Common Prayer, 1662, and that they must show proper respect to its liturgical usages.

I also have no objection to the use of local patterns of worship, subject to the same provisos. Whatever forms of service or patterns of worship are used in Anglican churches, they should clearly demonstrate that those who put them together recognize and accept the Thirty-Nine Articles as the doctrinal standard of Anglicanism, alongside the Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal and that they interpret the Articles as their compilers intended and with consideration of their historical context. It should also be evident that for those who put them together the 1662 Prayer Book is the authoritative standard of worship and prayer.

I see a place for the old and the new in our worship. Just like hymns and worship songs, the prayers and liturgical texts that we use in our services are a part of the witness of past generations to their own generation, to us, and to future generations. In our own day we will add to this legacy and pass it on to the next generation. It is one of the ways that Christians build up the faith of those that come after them. Death may have closed their eyes but it cannot silence their voices. They speak to us across the gulf of time that separates us and urge us not to be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified, and to manfully fight under his banner, against sin, the world, and the devil, and to continue Christ’s faithful soldier and servant unto life’s end.

An important distinction in our thinking about church

It seems to me that we are not often as careful when we think and speak about church as we are in other areas of Christian doctrine. Confusions abound, sometimes through a lack of careful distinctions.

Earlier this year I was in a debate with some older brothers in the faith about the threefold order (bishops, priests, and deacons). I had been arguing that we can affirm such an order as consistent with the teaching of Scripture (that is, a case can be made that this way of ordering our ministry structures doesn't conflict with any specific element of teaching of Scripture and may indeed arise out of elements of that teaching — the same, of course, could be said for a number of different ways of ordering ministry structures) while we must not suggest that the threefold order is mandated by Scripture. These brothers, who have spent decades defending the faith, often in very difficult circumstances — i.e. their faithfulness and courage are both beyond doubt —insisted I needed to say more than this. They wanted to give the threefold order the dignity of biblical teaching rather than ascribe it to an exercise of our Christian freedom consistent with the teaching of Scripture. This, to them, is the biblical order.

This desire to invest our ideas with the authority of biblical teaching is something of which we ought to be very wary. The distinction between the normative teaching of Scripture, which we are all bound to submit to as the word of God, and our faithful, edifying reflection upon the teaching of Scripture is something we should be familiar with. With Luther, my conscience is bound by the word of God, but I am not bound by any particular doctrinal system. Such systems can have both strengths and weaknesses. But they must not stand in the place of Scripture or be confused with Scripture. This is nothing novel; it is standard Protestant and evangelical teaching. However, I want to argue that this distinction needs to be taken much more seriously, especially in the area of ecclesiology.

To read more, click here.

Hard Truth # 10: We have failed our clergy

10. Our senior ministers are first class people who we have failed to prepare properly for the mission situation we place them in.

You may have heard of the “three-thirds rule”?

When applied to the Sydney Anglican diocese it goes something like: one third of churches are thriving, growing, moving forward; one third are solid, going okay, but static; the final third are struggling, declining, going backwards.

I had the privilege in 2008/09 to attend the two-day “residentials” at Bishopcourt (the now famous “PJs at PJ’s”) attended by (virtually) all of the rectors in the diocese. And I have to say that I came away from every one of those tremendously encouraged.

Having heard the thirds theory, I guess I half expected to meet: one third of brilliant guys; one third of good solid, ordinary fellas; and one third of no-hopers.

Well, that wasn’t the case. And I have to say, having spent some time with them talking about mission, we really do have a fantastic bunch of senior ministers in this diocese. I met men who are passionate and prayerful about the gospel of Jesus, who long for the lost to have a saving knowledge of Him.

Of course, we only sat round a table and talked and prayed about mission. I could not judge their skills and abilities to actually do the things we discussed. Nevertheless, I am confident in saying that the thirds rule – even if it is true – most certainly does not translate simply into: a third of our senior ministers are brilliant, a third are okay, and a third are hopeless.

There are many factors other than the minister that influence how a church is doing: demographics of the suburb is huge, but also the history of the parish, other staff, lay leaders, the building, geography etc. That said, the leader is certainly a crucial factor, especially in our system of church governance. So let’s stick with this one aspect for the moment.

To read more, click here.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Anglican Tradition of Common Prayer – Part 2

Do we need the Book of Common Prayer to further the Great Commission?

While giving thought to this question, I saw in my mind’s eye the image of a carpenter’s chest that my grandfather used to own and which he donated to a museum along with the tools it contained. It had belonged to a ship’s carpenter and contained all the tools that he might have needed onboard a ship—saws, levels, drill bits, drill braces, planes, hammers, chisels, files, rasps, sharpening stones, and other tools. With these tools he was not only able to make vital repairs but was able to replace parts of the ship at sea. If he was cast on shore with his tools, he could have also used them to build a comfortable shelter for himself and other castaways or even a small boat. All he needed was a supply of wood. If he had been cast on shore with just a knife, he might have been able construct a rude shelter or a raft. But he would not have been able to do as much as he would have done with the right tools.

First, I must acknowledge that we do not need a Prayer Book to further the Great Commission. Chinese Christians have been carrying out the Great Commission without even Bibles. When they have Bibles, they are able to accomplish more but the lack of Bibles has not kept them from obeying our Lord’s commission to go and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to observe all things that our Lord has commanded. They do the best that they can with the tools that are available to them.

With the Bible the Book of Common Prayer has played not only an important role in worship for Anglicans but also in catechizing young people and instructing adults. As Anglicans have always recognized, what we pray also shapes what we believe. Episcopalians in the United States, it must be admitted, are not particularly noted for their evangelistic zeal. When one examines the 1928 and 1979 American Prayer Books, one finds a few prayers for mission and a reference to mission of the church in their respective catechisms but that is the extent of the focus of these books upon evangelism and missions.

On the other hand, when one examines the Anglican Church of Kenya’s Our Modern Services, one discovers a strong emphasis upon evangelism and missions in the seasonal collects, the content of the services, for example, the commissioning of evangelists and the admitting of lay readers, the catechism, and the occasional prayers. One is left with a decided impression that fulfilling the Great Commission is a definite priority for the Anglican Church of Kenya and all Kenyan Anglicans are expected to do their part. On the ground in Kenya the practice of the Anglican Church is congruent with what it preaches in Our Modern Services.

A Prayer Book admittedly cannot make North American Anglicans into missionaries wherever God has put them but a Prayer Book with a strong emphasis upon evangelism and missions can reinforce the missionary impulse in them and help to form them as missionaries to their communities. A Prayer Book that is thoroughly Scriptural in its doctrine can help them in making disciples and in teaching them everything that Christ commanded, including going into all the world and proclaiming the gospel to the whole creation.

God can also use a Prayer Book with a lot of Scriptural content in the same way that he uses the Bible—to impact the individual, the congregation, and the church. The 1662 Book of Common Prayer contains no prayers for mission and its catechism makes no mention of the central task of the Church. However, its content is “the very pure word of God, the holy Scriptures or that which is agreeable to same.” As Samuel Leuenberger draws to our attention over and over again in Archbishop Cranmer’s Immortal Bequest, the 1662 Book of Common Prayer is full of revivalistic theology. It is an evangelistic liturgy. Like my grandfather’s carpenter’s chest, it contains the basic tools that a ship’s carpenter needs.

The particular shortcoming of the 1662 Prayer Book—its dearth of prayers for mission and its catechism’s neglect of the Church’s central task—are easy enough to correct. As a ship’s carpenter might augment the tools in his chest with additional tools that he might need on his next sea voyage, we can augment the 1662 Prayer Book with additional prayers. My mother’s Teachers’ College produced a small collection of prayers to supplement the prayers of the 1662 Prayer Book. It is titled Prayers used in Hockerill College Chapel other than those contained in The Book of Common Prayer. It includes a selection of prayers for mission. Every parish or church can develop its own collection of supplementary prayers. E. Milner White’s After the Third Collect, Frank Colquhoun’s Parish Prayers, and John Wallace Suter, Jr.’s The Book of English Collects are on the Internet. The 1926 Irish Prayer Book and 1962 Canadian Prayer Book are also on the Internet.

The 1926 Irish Prayers and Thanksgivings include prayers for Christian missions abroad, for mission districts of the Home Church, for a parochial mission, and a thanksgiving for foreign missions. The 1926 Irish Litany contains this supplication, “That it may please thee to further the work of the Church in all the world, and to send forth labourers into thy harvest….” It follows the supplication for all bishops, priests, and deacons. The rubrics of the 1926 Irish Order for the Administration of Holy Communion permit the saying of one or more Collects after the Collect of the Day or before the Blessing at the discretion of the minister. These Collects include a prayer for missions. The saying of a prayer for mission after the Collect of the Day or before the Blessing is a commendable practice since it does not unduly lengthen the service as does the lamentable practice of saying prayers and other devotions after the Blessing and closing hymn. After the Blessing the service should come to a swift conclusion. The final hymn is to send the congregation forth into the world.

The 1962 Canadian Prayers and Thanksgivings include prayers for the extension of the Church, for the conversion of the Jews, for all missionary workers, for missionary societies, and for a parish mission and a thanksgiving for missions. The 1962 Canadian Litany includes this supplication, “…to send forth labourers into thy harvest; to prosper their work by thy Holy Spirit; to make thy saving health known to all nations, and hasten thy kingdom…” It follows the supplication for bishops, priests, and deacons. The rubrics before the Intercession of the 1962 Canadian Order of the Ministration of Holy Communion direct, “Then shall one of the Ministers ask the prayers of the people, using always either the first or the last of the following Biddings, together with one or more others if so desired; and he may provide short periods for silent prayer. Five biddings are given, including a bidding for prayer for missionaries, “Let us pray for our missionaries at home and abroad.” The Intercession contains this petition. “Prosper, we pray thee, all those who proclaim the Gospel of thy kingdom among the nations…” It follows the petition for bishops, priests, and deacons.

In planning his sermons, the minister of a parish or church can devote a number of the sermons to the central task of the Church and the role of Christ’s people. It may comes as a surprise to members of the congregation that God is a missionary God and he expects his people to be a missionary people. He has placed them where they are so that they can be missionaries to those around them. The minister can equip them for this work by training them in the practical skills they will need to be successful missionaries. These skills will not only make them effective missionaries but also better human beings. They may alter non-Christians’ perspective of Christians. Missionaries are not only messengers of good news, but they are also an important part of the message.

As Anglicans go into the world, they may gain a new appreciation of the Book of Common Prayer that they would have never gained if they had lingered in their churches. Those to whom they minister may gain an appreciation for the Prayer Book that they otherwise would not have gained. What is going to sell the Prayer Book in the twenty-first century is not the incomparable prose of Thomas Cranmer, his wedding of eloquent language and sound theology, but the spirituality that the Prayer Book nourishes. If Anglicans are mature loving Christians whose lives exemplify their Lord’s teaching and set a winsome example for others, their use of a Prayer Book with quaint, old-fashioned language may be viewed in a different light. It may lead to a reappraisal of the Prayer Book and Prayer Book worship. Whether it does or not what really matters is that Prayer Book churches produce mature loving Christians who have taken to heart our Lord’s Great Commission. They obey their Lord out of love for him and out of love for their fellow human beings for whose sins he died upon the cross and who do not know his redeeming love.

The reverse is also true. If Prayer Book churches produce self-centered, immature Christians who take a lackadaisical attitude toward the eternal destiny of their fellow human beings, and who are stunted trees bearing wizened bitter fruit, it will be seen as a telling indictment against the Book of Common Prayer.

In a future article I plan to examine a number of prayers from the Anglican Church of Kenya’s Our Modern Services and render these prayers into the language of the 1662 Prayer Book.