By Robin G. Jordan
In his recent article, “The ACNA Ordinal and The Prayer Book – A Response,” PBS President Gavin Dunbar gives what amount to an unqualified endorsement of the new ACNA Ordinal. I have a number of problems with Dunbar’s appraisal of the new ACNA Ordinal.
At the beginning of the article Dunbar acknowledges the unfamiliarity of most Anglicans with the services of the Ordinal. Later on he justifies the incorporation of structural elements from the 1979 Prayer Book into the Ordinal because they are “familiar to many members of the ACNA.” Does he realize that he is contradicting himself?
Dunbar glozes over the significance of the inclusion of what he describes as “additional ‘explanatory’ ceremonies cherished by Anglo-Catholic wing of the ACNA. Their use may be discretionary but that does not prevent them from affecting the doctrine of the Ordinal and in turn the doctrine of the Church. While they may be “cherished” by the ACNA’s Anglo-Catholic wing, this is not sufficient reason for their inclusion in the Ordinal. Throughout its history the Anglo-Catholic movement has sought to revive or introduce in the Anglican Church ceremonies and ornaments and associated beliefs and practices that have no place in a reformed catholic church. As Roger T. Beckwith puts it, “the Reformers corrected mediaeval tradition by the Bible, so Anglicans have no business to try to restore mediaeval tradition in disregard of the Bible, as Anglo-Catholics have sometimes tried to do.” (The Church of England: What It Is, and What It Stands For, p. 10)
Dunbar goes on to claim, “…the bulk and theological substance of the ordinal is the classical texts in conservatively modernized language.” The editors of the ACNA do use wording from the 1928 Ordinal but they recast it into new forms in a number of places and put these new forms to a different use from the forms from which the wording was taken. Such changes affect the doctrine of the Ordinal, as do changes in the wording.
Dunbar also claims that the basis of what he would have his readers believe is a ”conservatively modernized ordinal “is in fact the work of our late President, Dr. Peter Toon, who did most of the pioneering work in the Anglican Prayer Book.” The similarities between the Ordinal in An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) and The Ordinal According to the Use of the Anglican Church in North America (2011) are small in number. Dr. Toon and the editors of the ACNA Ordinal insert “three” between “these” and “offices” in the Preface to the Ordinal and drop the alternative formula for use at the laying-on-of-hands in the ordination service for presbyters. The addition to Preface as I have written elsewhere imposes a particular interpretation upon the Preface. Mark Burkill in Better Bishops draws to the attention of his readers:The way the Anglican tradition addresses the question of order may be seen in the Preface to the Ordinal of the Church of England which famously states ‘It is evident unto all men diligently reading holy Scripture and ancient authors that from the Apostles’ time there have been these Orders of Ministers in Christ’s Church; Bishops, Priests and Deacons’. It is not often appreciated what this careful statement is and is not saying. It is not arguing or insisting that bishops are essential to the existence of the Christian community. It is simply acknowledging that ‘bishop’ is a scriptural word, and that a distinctive episcopal ministry arose in the time of the apostles (hence the reference to ‘ancient authors’). This is the characteristic position of the early generation of Reformers in the Church of England. It is also to be noted that the statement speaks of ‘these Orders of Ministers’ and not of ‘three Orders of Ministers’. The latter is often assumed, but in fact the Church of England Reformers viewed bishops and priests as being of the same order, which is why bishops are consecrated rather than ordained.
Burkill goes on to write:It is important to appreciate that the English Reformers, in line with the history outlined above, did not claim that a binding pattern of church order is to be found in Scripture. They would therefore take issue with those who insisted that presbyterianism was the church order to be followed, just as they would take issue with any who insisted that bishops were essential to the life of the Christian community. The point is that the Reformers understood very clearly that it is the gospel that creates and establishes the church, rather than a particular form of Church government. To think otherwise would be to align oneself with the error of the Roman Catholic Church. Apostolic succession comes from fidelity to the doctrine of the apostles rather than an unbroken episcopal succession. Thus John Jewel, Bishop of Salisbury and celebrated author of ‘An Apology for the Church of England’, puts it like this: ‘Succession, you say, is the chief way, for any Christian man to avoid antichrist. I grant you, if you mean the succession of doctrine’ (Avis 1982 p130).
The omission of the alternate formula removes from the Toon Ordinal and the ACNA Ordinal a longstanding feature of the American Ordinal. It was adopted with the first American Ordinal in 1792 and retained in the 1928 revision of the American Ordinal. The alternative formulae was provided in the 1928 American Ordinal because “the sacerdotal implications of the older form were objectionable to many…particularly since the formula was unknown to the ancient rites, but first came into use in the thirteenth century.”(Massey Hamilton Shepherd, Jr., The Oxford American Prayer Book Commentary, p. 545) During the thirteenth century Transubstantiation and the Sacrifice of the Mass were made official doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church. In the ACNA Ordinal the formula for use at the laying-on-of-hands in the ordination of deacons is modeled on the thirteenth century Medieval formula used in the ordination of priests. In the 1928 Ordinal and the Toon Ordinal the reformed 1552 formula is used.
The editors of the ACNA Ordinal do imitate Dr. Toon in his rendering of the Salutation as “The Lord be with you. And with your Spirit” and credit him with its use in the new Ordinal. Like Dr. Toon, they adopt a feature of the 1661 Ordinal and place a Collect before the parting blessing. However, Dunbar’s claim that the ACNA Ordinal is based on Dr. Toon’s work is pure exaggeration. Unlike the editors of the ACNA Ordinal, Dr. Toon sticks closely to the 1928 Ordinal as far as the order of the liturgical elements in the three ordinations services are concerned. The editors of the ACNA Ordinal do not use Dr. Toon’s translation of the traditional language texts into contemporary idiom.
The editors of the new ACNA Ordinal claim to have frequently consulted the Toon Ordinal but Dr. Toon’s work does not appear to have greatly influenced their own. The reference to An Anglican Prayer Book in the General Introduction and Notes on the ACNA Ordinal appears designed to win the support of the Prayer Book Society for the ordinal.
The editors of the new ACNA Ordinal go on to state:The structure of this edition, however [emphasis added], does look to ecumenical and more recent Anglican Ordinals, especially the American BCP of 1979, the Church of England “Common Worship: Ordination Services,” Study Edition of 2007, and the Province of Southern Africa “An Anglican Prayer Book” of 1989.
The new ACNA Ordinal evidenced the influence of these books more than it does Dr. Toon’s work.
Dumbar concludes his review with this astounding statement.So kudos to ACNA for returning to the Anglican tradition in its ordinal; and thanks to God for the ministry and teaching of his servant Peter.
The ACNA does not return to the Anglican tradition in its ordinal. There could be nothing further from the truth! Rather the ACNA departs from it!! The classical Anglican Ordinal is the Ordinal of 1661, which is based upon the Ordinal of 1552. If the 1661 Ordinal is used as a standard, the ACNA Ordinal falls short in a number of areas. The Anglican tradition is to give a new deacon a New Testament and a new priest and a new bishop a Bible and nothing else. This is a reminder that he is first and foremost a minister of God’s Word. Anointing the hands of a new priest is a part of the Roman Catholic tradition as is the anointing of the head of a new bishop. The Anglican Reformers rejected these ceremonies and the beliefs and practices associated with them.
The revival of Medieval Catholic ceremonies and ornaments rejected by the Anglican Reformers is not surprising in an ecclesial body that has incorporated Roman Catholic doctrine regarding the historic episcopate into its constitution and canons. The new ACNA Ordinal goes well beyond the 1979 Prayer Book in its departure from the classical Anglican Ordinal. The new ACNA Ordinal is further proof of the pressing need for a new orthodox Anglican province in North America that is faithful to the Scriptures and the classic formularies and stands in continuity with the beliefs and practices of authentic historic Anglicanism.
Related article: The State of the Anglican Church in North America