By Robin G. Jordan
The section of The Initial Report of The Prayerbook and Common Worship Taskforce of the Anglican Church in North America entitled “VIII. What is Anglican worship?” is full of distortions, inaccuracies, omissions, and sadly untruths. Its definition of the term “Anglican” reflects an Anglo-Catholic view of Anglicanism, which would claim as Anglican the corrupt beliefs and practices of the Medieval Catholic Church before the English Reformation solely on the basis of the use of the phrase “ecclesia Anglicana” in Latin documents preceding the English Reformation. It fails to note that this phrase was not used in Latin documents referring to the church in the British Isles until the establishment of the Saxon Church and then it was applied to the Saxon Church. By that time the part of the British Isles under Saxon rule was referred to as “Angle-land,” literarily “land of the Angles,” one of the tribes that invaded the British Isles as part of the Saxon invasion.
The term “Anglian” was first used to describe the Church of England and its members in 1693. Under the provisions of the Coronation Oath Act of 1688 the Church of England was legally recognized at that time as a Protestant Church in the Reformed tradition.
The Pocket Oxford Dictionary of Current English, published in 1934, provides this brief definition of “Anglican,” “adj. of the reformed [emphasis added] church of England…; n. such person.”
The report takes an Anglo-Catholic view of the English Reformation and attributes it to foreign influences. It fails to acknowledge the significant role Protestantism played in the religious life of the English people from the sixteenth century on, the existence of an indigenous Reformed movement in the British Isles, in England and Scotland. and the largely Reformed character of English Protestantism.
The report fails to mention that after the English Reformation the English Church maintained continuity with the faith and practice of the early church in British Isles only where such faith and practice were agreeable with the Scriptures. The English Reformers retained the institution of bishops, not because they found any warrant for episcopacy in the Scriptures or even due to a longstanding tradition of episcopacy. Rather they kept the institution because they were accustomed to it and the Scriptures did not prohibit it. They, however, did not unchurch the Continental Reformed Churches because they abandoned the institution of bishops for their own reasons.
The report takes the Anglo-Catholic position that the Thirty-Nine Articles are not a confession of faith. This is a major distortion of English Church history. While the Articles are not as comprehensive as the Lutheran and Reformed confessions, they serve the same purposes, as is clear from the letter of Archbishop Matthew Parker and the eleven other bishops to Queen Elizabeth I requesting the royal assent to the Articles, the Proposed Canons of 1571, the Canons of 1604, and subsequent revisions of the Church of England’s Canons, and other historical documents. The report perpetuates the anti-confessionalism that has characterized the Episcopal Church from its earliest days.
The report also perpetuates another major Anglo-Catholic distortion of English Church history that after the English Reformation, the Church of England did not view itself as Protestant but as “reformed Catholic.” This view flies in the teeth of the facts, which include the Coronation Oath Act of 1688.
The report fails to mention that Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, while well acquainted with the Patristic authors, chose to defend his positions from the Scripture. Bishop John Jewel, while he cited Patristic authors in his Apology and his Defense, was careful only to quote those whose opinions were agreeable to Scripture and never cited the isolated opinion of a single Patristic author or a later Patristic author’s account of an early Patristic author’s views. Richard Hooker stressed the interpretation of Scripture by Scripture and reason. Only as a last resort were the Patristic authors to be consulted and then their opinions were to be submitted to Scripture, as was all human thought.
The classical Anglican position is not that Scripture should be viewed through the lens of the Patristic writings, as the report maintains, but rather the Patristic writings should be viewed through the lens of Scripture. The truth of all doctrine must be tried by the test of Scripture is a longstanding Anglican principle.
As noted in the previous article, J. I. Packer points to our attention in The Thirty-Nine Articles: Their Place and Use Today, one of the four main functions of the Articles is to act as the Church of England’s theological identity card. They were drawn up to make good the English Reformers’ claim that the Church of England is "a true apostolic church, teaching and maintaining the doctrine of the apostles," and "to show that the English Reformation, so far from being, as Rome supposed, a lapse from catholicity and apostolicity on the part of the ecclesia Anglicana, was actually a recovery of these qualities through recovery of the authentic apostolic faith." [J.I. Packer; R. T. Beckwith, The Thirty-Nine Articles: Their Place and Use Today, Vancouver, BC: Regent College Publishing, 2007, p. 67.] It is clear from the Articles that the English Reformers viewed the Scriptures and the Scriptures alone as the final court of appeal for the catholicity and apostolicity of the Church of England.
The taskforce would mislead readers of the report into accepting as characteristically Anglican the Anglo-Catholic practice of interpreting Scripture by tradition and thereby making the authority of tradition not just equivalent to that of Scripture but greater than Scripture.
In contrast to what the taskforce claims are "the central identifying marks of the Anglican version of Reformed Catholicism," authentic historic Anglicanism recognizes the Scriptures as holding more than first place as an authority in matters of doctrine and practice. It treats the Scriptures as being the supreme and final authority in such matters. This includes the interpretation of the Scriptures. It holds to the doctrine of the Creeds where they agree with the teaching of the Scriptures. The Creeds have no authority of their own. What authority they have comes from the authority of the Scriptures. Authentic historic Anglicanism upholds the New Testament doctrine of salvation by grace alone by faith alone in Christ alone, as Protestants in the Reformed tradition understand that doctrine. It maintains the three-fold ministry of deacons, presbyters, and bishops because it finds evidence for these offices in the New Testament. Anglican divines have historically not been in agreement on the place of the Patristic authors in the teaching of the Church with some giving greater weight to their opinions than others. Article 6 clearly states that nobody should be required to believe as an article of the Christian faith, or to regard as necessary for salvation, anything that is not found in Scripture or cannot be proved from Scripture. Canon A5 of the Church of England succinctly states:The doctrine of the Church of England is grounded in the Holy Scriptures, and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures [emphasis added].
In particular such doctrine is to be found in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, The Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordinal.
Archbishop Thomas Cranmer went beyond purging a historical liturgy—the Sarum Rite—of late Medieval aberrations, an Anglo-Catholic interpretation of the history of the development of The Book of Common Prayer. While Cranmer used elements from the Sarum Rite in the 1549 and 1552 Prayer Books, applying the principle of retaining the old where the old may be well used rather than devising everything anew, he used elements that were agreeable to Scripture or he changed elements and made them agreeable to Scripture. He also used elements from the German Church Orders, a number of which had been prepared by the Continental Reformer Martin Bucer. The resulting liturgy was far from a reformed version of the Sarum Rite. It was in its second phase—the 1552 Book of Common Prayer, a thoroughly biblical and Reformed liturgy. The semi-reformed 1549 Prayer Book was intended to facilitate the transition to such a liturgy and does not reflect Cranmer’s mature thinking.
The report fails to take note of the numerous similarities between the reformed Church of England and the Continental Reformed Churches and the strong identification of the English Reformers and the Elizabethan and Jacobean Churches with the Continental Reformed Churches. It also fails to take note of the fact that the Caroline High Churchmen recognized the orders and sacraments of the Continental Reformed Churches.
The report treats the 1611 King James Version of the Bible as if it was the only translation of the Bible authorized for use in the reformed Church of England. It fails to mention the various translations that preceded the King James Version.
The report also does not give an accurate history of the development of The Book of Common Prayer, treating the 1552 Prayer Books and its successors as if they were revisions of the 1549. It does not recognize the 1549 Prayer Book for what it was—a semi-reformed transitional service book intended to set the stage for the Reformed liturgy of 1552 Prayer Book. The 1559, 1604, and 1662 Prayer Books rather than being revisions of the 1549 Prayer Book are revisions of the 1552 Prayer. The 1559 Prayer Book is essentially the 1552 Prayer Book as are the 1604 and 1662 Prayer Books.
The taskforce takes the position that “creedal identity, episcopal governance, and the use of a single Book of Common Prayer have been the identifying characteristics of the Anglican Tradition despite changes in “doctrinal emphases and/or liturgical practices.” Its omission of the Thirty-Nine Articles in this list of “identifying characteristics of the Anglican Tradition” is noteworthy and reflects a Anglo-Catholic revisionist view of the Anglican tradition, as is its stress upon “creedal identity” and “episcopal governance.” The divine institution of episcopacy has been a bone of contention in the Anglican Church at various times in its history. Anglicans have historically divided over whether the episcopate is of the esse, bene esse,, or plene esse of the church. Only in the nineteenth century do we find Anglo-Catholics asserting that bishops and episcopacy are essential to Anglican identity. The report takes the Anglo-Catholic position.
The report describes the 1549 Book of Common Prayer as “a conservative adaptation of the ancient Latin rites of the English Church,” a reference to the medieval Sarum Rite. A comparison of the 1549 Communion Office with the Sarum Mass clearly reveals the gross inaccuracy of this description. As previously noted, Archbishop Cranmer used elements of the Sarum Rite agreeable to Scripture or modified elements of the rite, making them agreeable to Scripture. He also used elements from the German Church Orders. While the 1549 Prayer Book was not as fully reformed as its successor—the 1552 Prayer Book, a number of changes that it introduced into the liturgy of the English Church were revolutionary. The priest did not offer up the bread and wine during the offertory and the Canon; he did not elevate the consecrated bread and wine or show them to the people. The Canon contained an epiclesis taken from the Liturgy of St. Basil, an Eastern Orthodox Rite, which is not a part of the medieval Sarum Rite or any other variation of the Roman Rite.
The evidence is that Cranmer intended the 1549 Prayer Book to be a transitional service book and that he was already preparing the 1552 Prayer Book when the 1549 Prayer Book was authorized for use. While the 1549 and 1552 Prayer Books do share a number of prayers and other liturgical texts, they are quite different from each other.
As for the report’s claim that Cranmer in the compilation of the 1552 Prayer Book was influenced by “the theology and practice of Continental reformers,” this is an Anglo-Catholic interpretation of the history of the development of 1552 Prayer Book. It not only does not make any allowances for Cranmer’s maturing as Reformed theologian in his own right but also is not supported by the evidence. Since the nineteenth century a number of Anglo-Catholic writers have sought to portray the 1549 Prayer Book as exemplifying reformed English Catholicism and genuine Anglicanism and the 1552 Prayer Book as being the result of foreign influences. This is simply not the case.
The 1552 Prayer Book with a few alterations would be the Prayer Book of the Church of England for almost 100 years. It would become the classic Anglican Prayer Book in its 1662 revision and a formulary of the Church of England and most Anglican provinces, an exception being the Episcopal Church. With the Thirty-Nine Articles and the 1552 Ordinal in its 1661 revision it forms the long-recognized doctrinal standard of Anglicanism. The 1549 Prayer Book has no standing as a formulary of any province of the Anglican Communion.
The report makes reference to attempts to “conservatively revise the Prayer Book” in the England and the United States in 1928, noting that the attempt in England failed while the attempt in the United States succeeded. As used in its reference to these attempts “conservatively revised” is not used in the sense of altering the Prayer Book without making any major changes but in the sense of making alterations that incorporate into the Prayer Book doctrine and liturgical usages favored by Bishop Steven Gardiner and those who opposed Cranmer’s reforms of the liturgy. Diarmaid McCullough makes note of this use of the term “conservative” in his biography of Cranmer.
The 1928 revision introduced what E. Clowes Chorley in The New American Prayer Book describes as “far-reaching, and in some instances radical” changes in the American Prayer Book. [E. C. Chorley, “Chapter VII. The New Prayer Book: Revision,” The New American Prayer Book, New York: McMillan, 1929.] They include the prayers for the dead, restoration of the medieval practice of offering up of the bread and wine at the offertory and during the Prayer of Consecration (a practice associated with the doctrines of Transubstantiation and the Sacrifice of the Mass), the placement of the Lord’s Prayer and the Prayer of Humble Access before the distribution of the Communion, a rubric permitting the singing of the Agnes Dei before the distribution, the recasting of the prayer, ”Almighty, everliving God, whose most dearly beloved son…,” as a prayer of consecration over the water in the font, a new office of instruction and accompanying prayers inferring Confirmation to be a sacrament, and a rite for extreme unction. The 1928 revision also muted the penitential language of the American Prayer Book and eliminated blanket belief in the canon of the Old and New Testaments as a requirement for ordination to the diaconate.
The report fails to mention the role that the Anglo-Catholic movement would play in promoting changes in the liturgy in England and the United States both in the first half of the twentieth century, and the second half of that century. This included its support of the ecumenical and liturgical renewal movements.
The report contains this remarkable statement:The 20th Century has seen a profusion of new forms and styles of worship, and a demand to bring the language and practices of the BCP 1662 up to date, partially as a result of historical changes and new social settings, but also largely as a consequence of the Liturgical Renewal movement—this was accomplished with varying degrees of success.
The statement is worth notice because it refers to the Twentieth Century as if it is the present century. This is significant because a number of the emphases found in the report reflect the preoccupations of the Episcopal Church in the past century. It suggests that the report was not written for the present century. It also suggests that parts of this section and the preceding and following sections of the report were taken from other documents. The report, however, does not identify these documents or otherwise provide annotation of primary and secondary sources used in its compilation.
The report does not offer the basis of its conclusion that at the beginning of the twenty-first century the Anglican Communion, at least in the West, “attempts to hold together with four prevailing directions…” or explain what it means. It lists what it considers are these prevailing directions:1. EVANGELICAL, primarily concerned with Biblical witness, personal conversion, and justification by grace alone through faith alone.
2. CATHOLIC, primarily concerned with a rich sacramental life and sanctification, and continuity with the Church’s historic tradition.
3. CHARISMATIC, primarily concerned with experiencing and living out the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church.
4. MISSIONAL, primarily concerned with both proclaiming the Gospel and engaging the surrounding culture.
The taskforce appears to take no interest in what is happening outside of the West, which may explain the absence of any references to the GAFCON Statement, The Jerusalem Declaration, and the two GAFCON Theological Resource Group documents, The Way, the Truth, and the Life and Being Faithful: The Shape of Historic Anglicanism Today. The last three documents take definite positions on the Book of Common Prayer and worship. For the liturgical taskforce of what is supposed to “GAFCON in North America,” the taskforce makes no reference to GAFCON or these documents. From reading the report we might conclude that the Global Anglican Future Conference never occurred.
After touching upon the subject of enculturation, the report asks this question:How can Common Prayer be "common" when it is found in a variety of languages, and within each language in a variety of dialects and forms (archaic to contemporary), and no longer following either the text or format of the formerly standard BCP 1662?
This question avoids the real issue, which is how liturgies that no longer use the text and format of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer can give clear expression to the doctrine of this important formulary and show proper respect for its liturgical usages.
The statement, “The Twentieth Century has also been an era of great ecumenical convergence…,” another reference to the twentieth century as if it is the present century, further strengthens the impression that the taskforce is developing a theological lens to guide it in preparing a Prayer Book for the past century. It displays no cognizance of the needs of the twenty-first century missionary field, much less exhibits a full understanding of them.
The report touches upon “the internal reformation of the Roman Catholic Church” and the subsequent openness to the witness of the wider Church on the part of the Roman Catholic Church as a result of the Second Vatican Council. But it fails to take note of more recent developments in the Roman Catholic Church, particularly the reaction of conservative elements in the Roman Catholic Church to the reforms of Vatican II, the gradual undoing of those reforms, and the reassertion of Roman Catholic Church of its historic claim to be the only true Church.
The report refers to the theological dialogue between Anglicans and Roman Catholics that followed Vatican II. This dialogue involved Anglo-Catholics and liberals on the Anglican side of the table and resulted in the issuance of a series of statements in which the Anglican representatives made concessions to the Roman Catholic Church on key matters of doctrine and practice and glossed over longstanding differences between the two churches. While Anglo-Catholics and liberals may have embraced these statements, conservative evangelicals rejected them. They drew attention to the fact that these statements did not actually represent the resolution of these differences. The Roman Catholic Church continued to cling to its innovations in doctrine and worship and to maintain the rightness of its position on major issues dividing the two churches.
The turning of some Christians to the worship patterns of the early church and the flourishing of a new liturgical movement in some denominations, which the report stresses, is only one of several developments in the past century, as the GAFCON Theological Resource Group observes in Being Faithful: The Shape of Historic Anglican Today.
It notes:Pentecostal forms of worship have attracted many, and Anglican churches in many places have developed informal patterns of corporate worship, with less obvious structure than those found in the Prayer Book. [Nicholas Okoh, Vinay Samuel; Chris Sugden, General Editors, Being Faithful: The Shape of Historic Anglicanism Today, London: The Latimer Trust, 2009, p.46]
The emphasis of the taskforce upon this one particular development reflects its Anglo-Catholic leanings, including its propensity to give greater weight to the rule of antiquity than to the rule of Scripture.
The taskforce goes on to ask the question, “How should the Prayer Book tradition receive this move to a more universal liturgy without renouncing its own historic identity?” In light of recent developments—the Roman Catholic Church’s adoption of a new liturgy and its abandonment of the so-called ecumenical texts, and the major changes in Anglican doctrine and practice that rode piggyback into the Anglican Church on the so-called ecumenical patterns of worship, the question that the task force should have asked is “Should not the Anglican Church be revisiting and rethinking its decisions of the past century to move in the direction of a so- ecumenical liturgy?” The Jerusalem Statement upholds “the 1662 Book of Common Prayer as a true and authoritative standard of worship and prayer, to be translated and locally adapted for each culture.” The GAFCON Theological Resource Group has identified two key principles of revision:The 1662 Prayer Book provides a standard by which other liturgies may be tested and measured. One key principle of revision is that new liturgies must be seen to be in continuity with the Book of Common Prayer. [Ibid., p. 47]
The GAFCON Theological Resource Group goes on to note:A second key principle of revision should be that of mutual accountability within the Anglican Communion. The further removed a proposed liturgy may be from the 1662 Prayer Book, the more important it is that it should be subject to widespread evaluation throughout the Communion. [Ibid., p. 48.]
As far as answering the question, “What is Anglican worship?” which formed the title of the section, the taskforce fails miserably. We are treated to the opinions of the taskforce on a range of subjects from the origin of the term “Anglican” to ecumenical patterns of worship. But as to the nature of Anglican worship we are left as much in the dark as we were before we read the section. We come away with the decided impression that the taskforce asked the question with no intention of answering it. We are prompted to ask why the taskforce did not produce a more straightforward report.
Monday, January 30, 2012
The ACNA Theological Lens: The Guiding Principles Behind the Proposed ACNA Prayer Book—Part 5
Posted by Robin G. Jordan at 11:54 AM