By Robin G. Jordan
Do members of the Anglican Church in North America put too much trust in their bishops? Do they forget that they are ordinary human beings like themselves and capable of exercising poor judgment and of making the wrong decisions? While the Roman Catholic Church may claim the Pope to be infallible, the Scriptures do not support this claim. The Bible tells us that all human beings, including the Pope, are liable to error. Human nature is inclined to evil. The human heart is deceitful and desperately wicked. It cannot be trusted. This inclination to evil, Article IX reminds us, remains even those who are regenerate.
Among the bishops presently leading the Anglican Church in North America are those who drafted the Common Cause Theological Statement. On August 28, 2006 the late Peter Toon, then President of the Prayer Book Society, expressed concern at the position that the Common Cause Theological Statement adopted in regards to the historic episcopate. He first noted how the Episcopal Church with the Chicago Quadrilateral “virtually outlawed” the bene esse doctrine of the episcopate in its insistence that the episcopate “was truly necessary for either the fullness of being or the very being of the Church,” “that is, the Church is only really the Church when it has the Episcopate or is only the Church when it has the Episcopate….” The bene esse doctrine of the episcopate, he pointed out, “had been widely and is very widely held by Anglicans.” He went on to observe that the Common Cause Theological Statement includes a commitment to what appears to be the plene esse doctrine of the episcopate and even the esse doctrine of the episcopate. “If so,” Doctor Toon wrote, “it excludes most Anglicans worldwide today and excludes the millions of evangelical Anglicans who have been faithful Anglicans over the generations!” He went on to point out that the position of the Common Cause Theological Statement “puts a particular spin on the 1662 Ordinal…and prohibits the comprehensiveness that has always been a part of the genius of the Anglican Way!” The Common Cause Theological Statement exhibited the same kind of exclusivism that had characterized the Episcopal Church for most of the nineteenth century and all of the twentieth century.
The same bishops were also members of the Common Cause Leadership Council that adopted the Common Theological Statement. The Common Cause Leadership Council would become the Provincial Council of the Anglican Church in North America. The Provincial Council would adopt a constitution that made the seven elements from the Common Cause Theological Statement the fundamental declarations of the Anglican Church in North America. The ACNA fundamental declarations establish a worship standard for the ACNA, which includes pre-Reformation Medieval Catholic Sarum Missal. They infer the existence of authoritative statements of Anglican principles beside the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and the 1661 Ordinal. They also dismiss the 1571 Articles of Religion as a relic of the past.
This was done after the issuance of the GAFCON Statement and the Jerusalem Declaration, showing that these bishops were just as determined to go their own way, as were their liberal counterparts in the Episcopal Church. The 1662 Prayer Book, the 1661 Ordinal, and the 1571 Articles, it must be noted, are the Anglican Church’s primary historic formularies. They enunciate key Anglican principles and form together the long-recognized doctrinal standard of Anglicanism. The Jerusalem Declaration affirms their centrality in the life and teaching of the Anglican Church.
Until the ninth century the ordination of deacons, priests, and bishops consisted of the public laying on of hands, accompanied by prayer, following New Testament practice. By the ninth century a “tradition of the instruments” had developed for holy orders. The deacon was given “the book of Gospels with the charge to read the Gospel.” The priest was given a “chalice and paten with wine and bread prepared, with the charge to offer the holy sacrifice.” The bishop was given “a staff and ring, with a charge to maintain discipline and be sound in faith. The deacon was also vested with a stole and a dalmatic, the priest with a stole and a chasuble, and a bishop with a miter. The ceremonies of blessing and anointing the hands of the priest and of anointing the head of the bishop would be added to the ordination services for priests and bishops. In the fifteenth century Pope Eugenius IV would claim, “the essential rite of the service, its form and matter, consisted of the delivery of the instruments with accompanying formula.”
The English Reformers would strip away all these ceremonies and restore the New Testament method of ordination by public laying on of hands and prayer in the sixteenth century. They recognized these two elements as “the heart and essence of an ordination service.” They introduced the practice of giving the New Testament to deacons and the Bible to priests and bishops as symbols of their respective offices. This practice they believed to be agreeable with Scripture.
The English Reformers made other significant changes in the ordination services. They removed all sacerdotal language from the Ordinal: The Anglican priest, a contraction of the word “presbyter,” is a pastor-teacher. He is not a sacerdote, a sacrificing priest. They introduced a detailed examination and instruction of the candidates for the diaconate and the priesthood. They also made clear that “an essential of true vocation is God’s call to ministry.”
The 1661 Ordinal is substantially the 1552 Ordinal. The Restoration bishops made only minor changes in the Ordinal. They would “insist on episcopal ordination as a condition of ministry in the Anglican Church.” They “strengthened the wording to carefully define the office to which the ordinand is admitted.” They also established a clear distinction between bishop and priest. This was done in reaction to what had been taught and practiced in the English Church during the Commonwealth period. At the same time they would not entirely reject the orders and sacraments of the Continental Reformed Churches because they did not have bishops, as would the High Church party in the Protestant Episcopal Church in the nineteenth century.
In the first American Ordinal of 1792 the General Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church made a number of changes in the 1661 Ordinal. It naturally omitted the Oath of the King’s Sovereignty. In his The New American Prayer Book E. Clowes Chorley describes the other changes:
In the ordination of priests there was provided an alternate form of commission which has not the significant words, "Whosesoever sins thou dost forgive, they are forgiven; and whosesoever sins thou dost retain, they are retained." In this alternate form the words, "Take thou authority to execute the office of a Priest" are substituted for "Receive the Holy Ghost for the office and work of a Priest." The new form was not adopted without difference of opinion in the Upper House. It is on record that Bishop Seabury consented to the alteration with "great reluctance," but it was finally inserted. In the Form for the Consecration of Bishops a pledge to render "all due reverence and obedience to the Archbishop" was changed to a promise of "conformity and obedience to the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Protestant "Episcopal Church in the United States of America." The further promise to "correct and punish all such as be unquiet, disobedient and criminous within your diocese" was changed to "diligently exercise such discipline, as by the authority of God's word, and by the order of this Church, is committed to you."
The formula “Receive the Holy Ghost,” it must be noted, was a comparatively late Medieval addition to the Ordinal. The sacerdotal implications of this formula “were objectionable to many, despite the Scriptural language.” The formula “was unknown to the ancient rites, but first came into use in the thirteenth century.”
In the 1892 Ordinal General Convention changed the solemn bidding to prayer for the one to be consecrated in the ordination service for bishops. It dropped the reference to Acts 13:2-3 which describes the disciples who were at Antioch fasting and praying “before they laid hands on Barnabas and Saul and sent them forth.” In its place it added a reference to Acts 1:24-25. Peter Toon suggests that “the purpose was to claim that Bishops were truly successors of the Apostles (in some not here defined way)….” In Acts 1:24-25, as the 1892 Ordinal interprets that passage, the Apostles ordain an Apostle, which is not the case in Acts 13:2-3. However, Acts 1:24-25 does not actually state that the apostles ordained Matthias as 1892 Ordinal claims. The passage in the Authorized Version says, “That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place. And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.” Article 13:23 was included in the bidding in the 1661 Ordinal, the 1792 Ordinal, and the 1962 Canadian Ordinal to provide an example of New Testament ordination by laying on of hands and prayer and not to establish a connection between bishops and the apostles.
The alteration to the bidding shows how exclusivism had come to dominate thinking in the Protestant Episcopal Church in the late nineteenth century. The growth of exclusivism in the Protestant Episcopal Church was one of the reasons that Bishop George David Cummins and the founders of the Reformed Episcopal Church left that denomination. They, like the English Reformers, recognized the orders and sacraments of churches that did not have bishops. They did not unchurch them like the High Church party in the Protestant Episcopal Church did.
In the 1928 Ordinal General Convention would make further changes. One change would have serious implications for the Protestant Episcopal Church. In The New American Prayer Book Chorley describes these changes:
The changes in the Ordination services for deacons and priests are few, but significant. This is especially so in the change in the form of the question put to the deacon concerning the Bible. The old question was,
The Bishop: Do you unfeignedly believe all the Canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testament?
Answer. I do.
The new question avoids the necessity of asserting a blanket belief. It reads:
The Bishop: Are you persuaded that the Holy Scriptures contain all Doctrine required as necessary for eternal salvation through faith in Jesus Christ?
Answer. I am so persuaded.
A much shorter Litany has been provided for Ordination services.
Clergy were no longer required to have a blanket belief in the canonical Scriptures. This change was made at a time when liberalism and modernism were already making inroads in the Episcopal Church. The new 1928 Prayer Book would exhibit evidence of their influence.
In the 1979 Ordinal General Convention abandoned the forms of the classical Anglican Ordinal and replaced them with what Peter Toon described as “a reconstruction of what some scholars believe were the services of ordination before the reign of Constantine the Great….” At the same time it added a rubric directing that the new deacon, priest, and bishop should be vested in the vestments of his respective order following the imposition of hands, ceremonies that are post-Constantine in origin.
As well as adopting a similar outline for the ordination services to that of the 1979 Ordinal, the College of Bishops of the Anglican Church in North America revived almost all of the ceremonies of the pre-Reformation Medieval Catholic Ordinal in the 2011 Ordinal, stopping short only at making the presentation of the chalice and paten with the bread and wine as the heart and essence of the ordination of a priest. Implicit in the formula used with the blessing and anointing of the priest’s hands is the pre-Reformation Medieval Catholic and post-Tridentian Roman Catholic doctrine of the sacerdotal character of the priesthood, which has close associations with the doctrines of transubstantiation and the sacrifice of the Mass. Like the 1928 Ordinal, the 2011 Ordinal does not require blanket belief in the canonical Scriptures.
In the 2011 Ordinal the College of Bishops have authorized what is essentially a liberal Catholic ordinal, which permits the use of the ceremonies that the English Reformers rejected on Scriptural and doctrinal grounds in the sixteenth century and the Ritualists resurrected in their drive to Romanize the Anglican Church and change its identity in the nineteenth century. The College of Bishops put the traditions of men before the Word of God. The 1979 Ordinal, the 1989 South African Ordinal and Common Worship Ordination Services, to which the General Introduction and Notes of the 2011 Ordinal refers as sources, are also liberal Catholic ordinals.
A much less objectionable Ordinal from a conservative evangelical and historic Anglican perspective is the 2011 modern language version of the Reformed Episcopal Church’s 2005 Ordinal. Its main drawbacks are a rubric permitting the optional vesting of a deacon with a stole in the ordination service for deacons and the substitution of Acts 1:24-25 for Acts 13:2-3 in the bidding before the Litany in the ordination service for bishops. It does, however, require blanket belief in the canonical Scriptures, correcting this defect of the 1928 Ordinal.
The path on which the 2011 Ordinal reveals its bishops are taking the Anglican Church in North America is not one that will lead to a revival of biblical Anglicanism in North America. The doctrines and practices that the 2011 Ordinal countenance are far from Scriptural. It is the same path that the Episcopal Church was following at the beginning of the twentieth century. We have seen where that path leads.