Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Gospel Prayer Book for a Gospel People

This article was originally posted on September 12, 2009—three years ago. I am reposting it as a part of 350 year anniversary celebration of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. I have edited it slightly. In the article I draw attention to the 2009 Forward in Faith North America Assembly’s endorsement of “the use of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer and the 1549 Book of Common Prayer, and associated missals.” Two years later the ACNA Prayerbook and Common Worship Taskforce, on which FIFNA President, Bishop Keith Ackerman, serves, produces a “theological lense” to guide the preparation of an ACNA Prayer Book. In this report the 1928 and 1549 Prayer Books are treated as if they are formularies of the Anglican Church. My analysis of the report suggests that the ACNA Prayer Book will be based upon the 1928 and 1549 Prayer Books, beloved by Anglo-Catholics. Coincidence? I leave readers to draw their own conclusions.

By Robin G. Jordan

In her article, “The Prayer Book is Not a ‘Party Book’,” Dr. Roberta Bayers, the editor of Mandate magazine, the official organ of the Prayer Book Society, makes a number of references to the “traditional Prayer Book” but does not identify which Prayer Book--the 1662 English Book of Common Prayer or the 1928 American Prayer Book. Mandate magazine has a long history of blurring and obscuring the differences between these two Prayer Books and the 1962 Canadian Prayer Book, treating the three Books as if they are different editions of the same Book. However, the 1928 American Prayer Book and the 1962 Canadian Prayer Book are substantially different Books, not only in the doctrine they embody but also the liturgical usages they permit.

The 1928 Book of Common Prayer was the first major revision of the American Prayer Book and made far-reaching and even radical changes in the American Prayer Book. Traditional evangelical Anglicanism had disappeared from the Protestant Episcopal Church by 1900. Anglo-Catholicism and Broad-Church liberalism were the dominant theological streams in the Protestant Episcopal Church at the time of its compilation. They greatly influenced its doctrine and liturgical usages.

The 1928 Book of Common Prayer is decidedly a “party book.” For example, the Order for the Holy Communion includes elements that bring it into line with the medieval Roman Mass. For an examination of the changes that the 1928 revision made in the American Prayer Book and the doctrine embodied in these changes, please see my article, “What’s Wrong with the 1928 Book of Common Prayer?”

The 1962 Canadian Prayer shows the influence of the 1928 American Prayer Book and the 1928 Proposed English Prayer Book. The English Parliament twice rejected the latter because it was too Catholic in tone.

From a theological perspective neither the 1928 American Prayer Book nor the 1962 Canadian Prayer Book are suitable for use in evangelical parishes and churches in North America. The parishes and churches that primarily use these Books are traditionalist Anglo-Catholic. At its 2009 Assembly Forward in Faith North America endorsed the use of the 1928 Prayer Book.

“2. The 2009 Assembly of Forward in Faith North America encourages the use of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer and the 1549 Book of Common Prayer, and associated missals.”

The 1662 Book of Common Prayer is a moderately “High Church” Prayer Book. The Restoration bishops who compiled the 1662 Prayer Book were Laudian High Churchmen. The 1662 Prayer Book shows the influence of the High Church 1637 Scottish Prayer Book, sometimes known as the Laudian Liturgy.

The Restoration bishops made a number of significant changes that altered the theology of the English Prayer Book and the English Ordinal. They added the rubrics directing that what remains of the consecrated bread and wine should be covered with a white linen cloth and consumed reverently after the service. “Priest” was substituted for “minister” at the Absolution in Morning and Evening Prayer and the Communion Service. "Bishops, pastors, and ministers" was altered to "Bishops, Priests, and Deacons" in the Litany. Two additions were made to the Prayer for the Church Militant in the Communion Service: To "accept our alms" was added "and oblations"; and the commemoration of the departed, "And we also bless thy holy Name…,” was inserted at the end. The Declaration on Kneeling was restored, but with the crucial alteration of "real and essential presence" to "corporal presence." A blessing of the water in the font was added with the insertion of the sentence, “sanctify this Water to the mystical washing away of sin…” into the prayer, “Almighty, everliving God…” immediately before the baptism. The Service for the Baptism of Adults was added.

In Everyman’s History of the Book of Common Prayer Percy Dearmer notes that while the Restoration bishops made a few concessions to the Puritans, they inserted into the revised Prayer Book many things that were distasteful to them. He goes on to point to his reader’s attention:

“In the most significant place of all, the Ordinal, this is specially apparent. In the old form for the Consecration of a Bishop, ‘Take the Holy Ghost, and remember that thou stir up,’ etc., were inserted the words ‘for the Office and Work of a Bishop in the Church of God,’ so as to make it indisputably clear to the public that a Bishop's office is other than that of a Presbyter. Similarly in the Ordering of Priests, before the words ‘Whose sins,’ etc., was added ‘for the Office and Work of a Priest in the Church of God, now committed unto thee by the Imposition of our hands.’ The old forms were perfectly good and had ancient precedent; but the additions were made in order to avoid misunderstanding.”

Despite these changes the 1662 Prayer Book is substantially the Reformed 1552 Book of Common Prayer. The Restoration bishops were for the most part satisfied to retain the content and form of its predecessor, the 1604 Jacobean revision of the 1559 Elizabethan Prayer Book. The latter had been the Prayer Book of the Church of England for almost 100 years. It was the first Prayer Book used in North America. The 1559 Prayer Book was the 1552 Prayer Book with only a few alterations. Among these changes the supplication against the Bishop of Rome and his detestable enormities was dropped from the Litany and the Declaration on Kneeling from the end of the Communion Service. The 1549 Words of Administration were combined with the 1552 Words of Administration. In The Shape of the Liturgy Anglo-Catholic scholar Dom Gregory Dix describes the 1552 Prayer Book.

“Compared with the clumsy and formless rites which were evolved abroad, that of 1552 is the masterpiece of an artist. Cranmer gave it a noble form as a superb piece of literature, which no one could say of its companions; but he did more. As a piece of liturgical craftsmanship it is in the first rank - once its intention is understood. It is not a disordered attempt at a catholic rite, but the only effective attempt ever made to give liturgical expression to the doctrine of ‘justification by faith alone’.”

Notwithstanding the changes the Restoration bishops made in the English Prayer Book Evangelicals in the Church of England used the 1662 Book of Common Prayer into the 1970s.

Why then is the 1662 Book of Common Prayer little used in evangelical parishes and churches in North America? High on the list of reasons for its infrequent use is lack of familiarity. North American congregations and clergy have not been exposed to the 1662 Prayer Book, its doctrines, its liturgical usages and its proper interpretation. Also high on the list is that North American congregations and clergy have grown accustomed to services in modern English. Clergy prefer the greater variety that the more recent service books offer. They also fear that they will loose members of their congregation and put off first time worship visitors if they switch to the 1662 Prayer Book. The language of the 1662 services would become an impediment to the gospel ministry of their parish or church. Identification of the 1662 Prayer Book with being “High Church” is very low on the list if it is on the list at all.

Local factors may discourage the use of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer in a particular region. For example, here in western Kentucky conditions are not favorable to the use of services from the 1662 Prayer Book: there is a definite bias against liturgical forms of worship. The three dominant religious groups are Baptist, Church of Christ, and Methodist. These three groups not only have the most churches in the region but most of the unchurched comes from one of these backgrounds. The most common form of worship is non-liturgical, or more accurately informally liturgical, with local traditions determining patterns of worship. These patterns of worship are generally fairly simple; consist of hymns, gospel songs, and contemporary forms of church music, extemporaneous prayer, a sermon, and on occasion the Lord’s Supper; and contain few if any liturgical elements such as the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostles’ Creed. Formal liturgical worship is equated with Roman Catholicism.

There is also a trend in North America, the United Kingdom, South Africa, Australia and elsewhere particularly among evangelicals to abandon formal and official church liturgies and to replace them with informal local patterns of worship. Where this trend has gained ground Sunday worship in Anglican evangelical parishes is indistinguishable from that in non-Anglican evangelical churches.

Dr. Bayers’ article is misleading in its assertion that the doctrine of “the traditional Prayer Book” predates the Oxford movement and “the doctrine of its prayers adheres to the theological consensus of the 16th century Reformers.” As we have seen in the case of the 1662 Prayer Book such a claim is not entirely true. Its theology may predate the nineteenth century Catholic revival but bears the stamp of the seventeenth century Catholic reaction. In the case of the 1928 American Prayer Book and the 1662 Canadian Prayer Book it is even less accurate. These two Prayer Books may retain elements of the Reformed 1552 Prayer Book but their theology is no longer Reformed. For example, both Prayer Books give expression to the doctrine of Eucharistic sacrifice. They are hardly Prayer Books suitable for use in evangelical parishes and churches.

Of the three Prayer Books the 1662 Book of Common Prayer is closest to the Reformed 1552 Prayer Book in doctrine and liturgical usages. It kept most of the Biblical-Reformation theology of the later. The 1928 American Prayer Book and 1962 Canadian Prayer Book, on the other hand, incorporate doctrinal and liturgical changes that the later Tractarians, or Ritualists, favored. They are much more Catholic in tone than the 1662 Prayer Book.

In Archbishop Cranmer’s Immortal Bequest The Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England An Evangelistic Liturgy, Samuel Leuenberger draws attention to the numerous “revivalistic,” or evangelistic elements in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. Its Biblical content and evangelical spirit has borne fruit even when those using the 1662 did not value this content and spirit. In the 1928 American Prayer Book and the 1962 Canadian Prayer Book these elements are weakened, obscured, or eliminated.

Some evangelicals shy away from the use of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer due to the nineteenth century Tractarian reinterpretation of that Prayer Book particularly of certain expressions in the Baptismal Services and the Catechism and the Special Absolution in the Office for the Visitation of the Sick. However, the language of the Baptismal Services and the Catechism is charitable and should be interpreted by more formal statements of doctrine (e.g., the Thirty-Nine Articles) and ultimately by Scripture. The famous Gorham case sanctioned this view of the sacrament of Baptism in the Church of England. The “I absolve thee” in the Office for the Visitation of the Sick was intended to mean “I declare and pronounce unto thee God’s absolving grace.” The Special Absolution and rubrics of the Office for the Visitation of the Sick were not meant to teach the necessity of auricular confession.

There has in recent years been some interest among evangelicals in the translation of the services of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer into modern English and the adaptation of the 1662 Prayer Book to the mission field in North America. In 2007 the Anglican Mission in America and the Prayer Book Society undertook as a joint project the preparation of what were supposed to be contemporary English versions of the services of the 1662 Prayer Book for use in North America. The working group that was put together under the chairmanship of the late Dr. Peter Toon quickly lost sight of its original purpose. The service book that they produced—An Anglican Prayer Book (2008)--draws heavily from the 1928 American Prayer Book, the 1928 Proposed English Prayer Book, and the 1962 Canadian Prayer Book and is arguably even more Catholic in its theology than these Prayer Books.

In its Jerusalem Declaration the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) recognizes the place of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer in global Anglicanism.

“6. We rejoice in our Anglican sacramental and liturgical heritage as an expression of the gospel, and we uphold 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.”

It commends the translation and local adaptation of the 1662 Prayer Book.

What is needed is a North American edition of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer with the text on one page and explanatory notes on the opposite page, accompanied by a modern English translation of the 1662 services with additional forms of service and prayers, to help foster interest in the 1662 Prayer Book among evangelicals in North America. They could be published as a single volume or as a two volume set. A series of pamphlets on the different services of the 1662 Prayer Book like those Associated Parishes published on the 1979 Prayer Book might also be beneficial. In a future article I will examine what can be further done to acquaint Anglicans and Episcopalians in North America with the classic Anglican Prayer Book and its predecessors the 1552, 1559, and 1604 Prayer Books. I will also look at how a formal liturgy can be introduced to those who are accustomed to informal patterns of worship.

The Lord's Supper Helps Christians 'Keep it Real'

As someone who has spent all 47 years of my life in Lutheran churches, I am very familiar with Martin Luther's complex teaching regarding the Lord's Supper. I have seen plenty of people over the years struggle to grasp his puzzling perspective that Christ's literal body and blood are located "in, with and under" the bread and wine. Luther's highly nuanced description of communion 500 years ago was a curious twist on the Roman Catholic position.

This controversial dissection of the elements seems to distort the true meaning of the meal our Lord instituted. It is an unfortunate distraction which takes attention away from the cross where Christ died for sinners. The real purpose of communion as stated in Scripture is to "proclaim the Lord's death until He comes." (1 Cor. 11:26) Amidst the many chains which fell off Martin Luther when he placed his faith in Christ alone, he couldn't seem to shake loose of his Catholic obsession with the communion elements. You won't find this obsession in the teaching of our Lord or His apostles.

Even though the Lutheran church does not teach that believers chew Christ's flesh or swallow His blood at the Lord's Supper, there nevertheless tends to be an enormous emphasis upon "the real presence" of Christ in the bread and wine. In response to Luther's perplexing opinion on this matter, I have often asked people: "What about the real presence of Christ in the heart of every believer 24 hours a day?"

Before Jesus ever instituted the Lord's Supper, He taught what it means to "eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood." (John 6:53) The words of our Lord in the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John clearly lay out the biblical teaching on this matter. Jesus said, "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him." (John 6:54-56) This eating and drinking of Christ's flesh and blood is a spiritual eating and drinking. Those who are trusting in Christ and His death on the cross for their salvation are eating and drinking His flesh and blood every hour of every day, which includes those brief moments when they participate in the Lord's Supper.

Religious people who have not been born again through repentance and faith in Christ are not spiritually eating His flesh and drinking His blood. In those instances, their participation in the Lord's Supper provides no spiritual benefits. A preoccupation with "Christ's body and blood" being located in the bread and wine of the Lord's Supper misses the point of the meal. It is a misguided fixation held by many today. I guess that shouldn't surprise us. The early believers in Corinth didn't do any better.

The early Christians often held an "agape (love) feast" when they came together. Today, we call such meals "potluck dinners." Christians brought food and wine to those early love feasts. Unfortunately, some in Corinth who could afford to bring more than others tended to share it among themselves rather than with everyone. They were humiliating some of their fellow believers. It was a travesty and St. Paul rebuked them with these words: "I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good….there are divisions among you…..as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk….Do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing?" (1 Cor. 11:17-22) Needless to say, they were not "keeping it real" with God or with one another. Keep reading.

The bi-vocational pastor

I recently attended the funeral of a 95 year-old man. He was a bi-vocational minister. He paid the bills by working as an electrician. But his calling drove him to the tent revivals and churches.

Bi-vocational pastors serve outside the spotlight. In my denomination, however, approximately half of all pastors are bi-vocational. They are many, but they get only a fraction of attention given to pastors of larger churches. They receive little recognition, but they are the workhorses of churches that do much of the heavy lifting.

Though I now pastor full-time, I served for two years as a bi-vocational pastor of a tiny church in central Kentucky. We started with 6 people. It was my first pastorate, and I had no idea what I was doing. I drove two hours one-way to get there. My preaching was awful, and I had to lead music with a karaoke machine while my girlfriend (now wife) played an out-of-tune piano. The church was dying. The people were tired. The building was falling apart. And there was no air-conditioning.

I loved that church. Still do. Keep reading.

Be Careful What You Promise – A Major Mistake of Pastors

Over promising results and thus creating unrealistic expectations is one of the biggest mistakes pastors make. In my thirteen and a half years of working in the stewardship field I have seen this mistake played out from large to small churches. Pastors and church leaders attempting to convince the congregation to approve moving forward with some initiative almost always over promise the results. It is not that they are being disingenuous it is simply that they always tend to project the best possible outcome. As such they over reach and over promise. Keep reading.

Related article: Tonga's church built in hope, faith, and pride, collapses in debt

Somalia's al-Shabaab Bans Red Cross Aid

Humanitarian efforts in Somalia have ceased, as al-Shabaab rebels have announced a ban on International Red Cross (ICRC) workers from providing aid.

The drought that has taken over Somalia is quickly getting worse, and the ICRC ban will deeply concern aid workers and organizations in the region. Al-Shabaab claims that the ICRC has "repeatedly betrayed the trust conferred on it by the local population and, in recent weeks, falsely accused the Mujahideen [al-Shabaab fighters] of hindering food distribution."

A statement from al-Shabaab said, "A thorough inspection of ICRC warehouses and food depots throughout the Islamic Administrations governed by the Mujahideen has revealed that up to 70 percent of the food stored for distribution by the organization was deemed unfit for human consumption."

The group responded by setting fire to "nearly 2,000 metric tons of expired ICRC rations intended for distribution."

Reports show the desperation of Somalis, as the worst drought in 60 years ravages the nation. Susan Rice, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, stated in July, "The reason the aid has not gone in sufficient quantities into south and central Somalia is because al-Shabaab has prevented those capable of delivering large quantities of aid from having access, and when they have had access, they've taxed them, harassed them, killed them, and kidnapped them."

The U.N. predicted as many as 750,000 deaths as a result of the drought. Al-Shabaab has taken advantage of the situation to exert even more force and violence against Somalis who disagree with its radical Islamic ideology. Al-Shabaab recently arrested a Muslim father for allowing his children to convert to Christianity. The sons fled Somalia after their conversion. Keep reading.

Nigerian Christians Plead With President for Better Protection After Fresh Attacks

As the terrorist attacks decimating Nigeria continue, its citizens are blaming the government for failing to protect them and asking why President Goodluck Jonathan is not doing more to save the Christians under attack by Islamist extremists.

These latest calls mark a stark reverse of public opinion for President Goodluck Jonathan, who was hailed as the "Nigerian Barack Obama" as he took office in May 2010, for his promise to bring change and prosperity to the most populous African country.

Jonathan, a Christian and whose middle name Ebelechukwu means "God's Mercy," has admitted that members of his own government that he helped form might have sympathies toward Boko Haram, the Islamist terror group that has been attacking churches and government offices, a CNN report revealed. Citizens have become so angry with these revelations that they have even taken to the streets carrying mock coffins and placards calling him "President Badluck."

Journalist and commentator Tolu Ogunlesi, who writes for Nigerian newspapers and has been featured in several major U.S. publications discussing Nigerian issues, expressed to CNN that the president "has come across as clueless when it comes to dealing with Boko Haram." He added: "No senior security officers have lost their jobs, nothing seems to have been done."

The attacks by Boko Harem have been blamed for threatening the very unity of the country and for the rising tensions between Muslims and Christians.

Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, president of the Christian Association of Nigeria's (CAN), decried the Nigerian government's failure to protect Christians from attacks and accused some security agents of taking sides. Keep reading.

Related article: Nigeria Needs Greater Christian Support, Governance Observers Say

Marijuana legalization makes Wash. state ballot

Washington state could become the first state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana under an initiative that has qualified for the November ballot.

The pro-pot organization New Approach Washington submitted nearly 278,000 valid signatures in order to qualify a proposal that would legalize the usage of marijuana by those ages 21 and over, Reuters reported. Marijuana would be sold at specific stores, and no one under the age of 21 would be allowed to enter the store. Marijuana would be prohibited from being consumed in public and sales would be taxed.

California voters rejected a similar proposal in 2010, 54-46 percent. Although several states allow medicinal marijuana, no state has legalized marijuana's recreational use. Keep reading.

Monday, January 30, 2012

The ACNA Theological Lens: The Guiding Principles Behind the Proposed ACNA Prayer Book—Part 5

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.

Evangelical worship

In their latest 28 minute chat, Phillip Jensen and Kel Richards discuss ‘Evangelical worship’.

Is our theology reflected in what we do in church?

See the video at phillipjensen.com. Stimulating, as always, and a good antidote to much of the ritual and mysticism that’s common in churches.

Originally published on the Anglican Church League website.

Small Does Not Mean Struggling

For a hint of what this wonderful book is all about, check out Chapter 1, listed below for your pleasure:

A Parable of Comparison
Chapter 1

While pasturing in rural Kentucky, I enjoyed the woodlands. In the spring, the trees would burst in a beautiful display of yellows, oranges, and greens. Unnoticed under the canopy of oaks and hickories were smaller trees called dogwoods and red buds. The red buds (also known as Judas trees) would display blood red flowers. Beside them, the dogwoods would bloom soft white and gold. When the flowers faded, these smaller trees would vanish, blending back into the forest.

One day while hiking I came upon a strange sight. In the midst of the forest, a convocation of trees was in session. I hid myself and listened in on their proceedings as Brother Oak stood behind the council rock to speak.

The chair wishes to thank Brother Sequoia for that stirring speech entitled ‘How to Produce Tons of Nuts Without Going Nuts’. We have received fraternal greetings from the Woodland Creatures Association, thanking all of us for providing the much needed fruits that sustained them over this last winter. Now the chair recognizes our distinguished committee composed of Brother Hickory, Brother Ash, Brother Elm, and Brother Maple.”

The oak gave way to a very large hickory which moved ever so slowly behind the rock.

“The task before us was of the greatest and gravest concern. Our special called committee could not have done this work without the encouragement of our distinguished chair, Brother Oak,” Brother Hickory said. “Our assignment was to determine if the smaller members of our association were, in fact, trees.” Now I’ve never seen trees speaking to each other before, so I’m not completely sure, but it seemed as if there was a nervous pause. Scanning the crowd, I noticed that the majority of attendees were smaller trees - - dogwoods, red buds, cedars, and so forth.

“After a diligent comparison of the small trees to ourselves we have come to the conclusion that they are not trees in the general sense of the word,” Brother Hickory said. “They are not as tall and don’t produce as many leaves as we do. Their fruit and seed production is far below ours, nor do they enjoy the clear sunlight. Their contribution to the woodland fauna is negligible compared to us. Not only that, but they also drain the necessary resources from the forest floor that we need to continue our grand work. However, in the interest of unity and fidelity, we move that the small trees be allowed to remain as members of our fraternity.”

Brother Oak now stepped up behind the rock. “Are there any questions?”

A dogwood stood and addressed the podium. “Brother Oak, what sense does it make to compare us to you? Any such comparison would, of course, render the results the committee has reported. We smaller trees are indeed trees. We have bark, roots, branches, stems, and leaves. We flower, bear fruit and seed. We provide for the woodland wildlife in many ways. In short, we follow the Creator’s pattern. We may not be as grand as you, but we are still trees.”

A muffled sound of affirmation rolled across the gathered assembly. Silence followed. Then Brother Oak said, “It is the opinion of the chair that this matter be referred back to the committee for further review.”

The convocation quickly broke up and I returned to my wanderings before being detected. I mused at how ridiculous it was for the larger trees to assume that the smaller ones weren’t really trees at all. Is the dogwood less of a tree because it doesn’t reach to the height of the oak’s grand canopy? Of course not.

When we think about small, medium, large, and mega-churches, we must ask ourselves the question – is bigger really better? Smaller churches are smaller due to many different factors, but they are still churches. So why is there such an emphasis on making things big? If we took a red bud tree from the forest and planted it in an open field where it had plenty of sunshine and no competition for root space, it would remain small. We ask the question – shouldn’t every tree (read church) grow to huge heights with a grand canopy producing tons and tons of mass for the woodland fauna? The answer is each tree behaves according to it's creation. The same is true for the church. The small church is unique and has been strategically placed in a community by the Lord. It may not have the large budget and huge programs of a mega congregation, but it has everything it needs to impact its community for the kingdom.

Too many churches and pastors labor under the illusion that they aren’t doing enough for the kingdom because they are small. Let me relieve you of that burden. Smaller does not mean less than, but it does mean different. So much is written and geared toward the large and mega church audience that it can feel like the small congregation is ignored. Ironically, the large and mega church is trying to capture the small church feel. That’s why they have so many pastors and staffers to handle the larger audience. They really want what you have! So if you are serving in a small congregation – whether rural, urban, or suburban – focus on your strengths. Remember the dogwood and red bud. They bring beauty and grace to a spring-time woodland that is gray and dreary. They are not less than the other trees, they are just different. Their difference is their strength. Look around your church and I guarantee you there is at least one thing that your church does better than anyone else. Celebrate that strength and continue to do it, even if it doesn’t seem “big” enough.

Originally posted on the Bivocational and Small Church Leadership Network.

Interview: Apologist on Mov't to Bring Apologetics Back to Church

An increasing number of Christians are drifting away from their faith because of the lack of good answers to their spiritual questions, warns apologetics author Mark Mittelberg in an interview with The Christian Post.

The author of The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask as well as his latest release, The Reason Why Faith Makes Sense, believes that the plethora of misinformation found in bestselling, so-called religious books, and the rapidly growing number of skeptical websites have Christians second-guessing themselves.

Mittelberg's passion for getting answers to the myriad of questions about Christianity in the hands of believers and non-believers led him to team up with author and speaker Lee Strobel more than a year ago. The two apologists have formed The Institute at Cherry Hills, an apologetics and evangelism ministry at Cherry Hills Community Church in Highlands Ranch, Colo.

The institute is aimed at innovating new approaches to defending and sharing the faith – and helping answer, "How do I really know this stuff is true?"

Mittelberg and Strobel plan a series of national simulcasts to be hosted at churches across the country, starting in March. The event is called, "The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask," based on Mittelberg's book title.

The Christian Post asked Mittelberg last week to discuss the ministry of Christian apologetics via an email interview. Keep reading.

Ordinariate Watch: Former Anglo-Catholic priest David Moyer denied ordination in Roman Catholic Church

It’s becoming a pattern:

The former Anglo-Catholic priest of the Church of the Good Shepherd, Rosemont, Fr. David L. Moyer has been denied his final step into the Roman Catholic Church following 10 years of ecclesiastical wandering that started with The Episcopal Church, migrated through the Diocese of Pittsburgh, Forward in Faith, the Church of the Province of Central Africa, and the Anglican Church in America, a branch of the Traditional Anglican Church.

Moyer said he received a letter from Fr. Jeffrey Steenson, Ordinary for the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, informing him that Archbishop Charles Chaput (Philadelphia) has declined to give him his votum (a promise) to proceed toward ordination in the Roman Catholic Church.

Moyer’s history is almost as chequered as that of John Hepworth, the TAC archbishop whose entry into full communion with Rome must come as a layman. In losing his battle with TEC over his parish, he ended up suing his own attorney and leaving a trail of bitter people in the process.

Kano schools empty after Nigeria attacks

An abandoned satchel hangs outside one of the many empty classrooms in an Evangelical Church school in the northern Nigerian city of Kano, where some 185 people were killed in a series of explosions last week.

Hundreds of parents have chosen not to bring in their children.

The leader of the Islamist militant group Boko Haram, which says it carried out the attacks, has issued a chilling threat that primary and secondary schools may be targeted next - in revenge, he said, for killings at conservative Islamic schools in the north.

Brightly dressed head teacher Bosede Yusuf is determined never to leave town.

She has already received many invitations to join friends in the UK and in mainly Christian parts of southern Nigeria.

"As the head, if I decide to leave, everyone else will leave. That's why I'm still staying around," she said.

She added: "I believe it is only when God directs me to move that I'll move." Keep reading.

Related article: Can Nigeria's Christian President End Religious Conflict and Unite the Country?

Partial attention

In every age, one of the great challenges of ministering, is knowing what must be preserved and what should be changed as we respond to a changing world.

In the 21st century one of the areas that we need wisdom in how to respond, is what Linda Stone calls continuous partial attention. It is a phenomenon that everyone has observed, but should we ignore it, use it or react against it? Keep reading.

Women bishops are coming to the Church of England, says leading opponent

The Church of England is on an unstoppable path to women bishops, their most senior traditionalist opponent has conceded.

The Rt Rev John Hind, the Bishop of Chichester, has led opposition to ordaining women as bishops but said that it was now certain to happen.

He spoke ahead of a key vote next week by the General Synod, the Church's governing body, on plans to allow women to lead dioceses, which is currently not allowed.

A leading proponent of women bishops, the Bishop of Oxford, also described their ordination as "inevitable", saying that it would "happen very soon".

The synod will decide next week on a series of motions about women bishops, including a draft code of conduct which sets out how they would be introduced and what would be on offer to Anglicans who remain opposed to their creation.

The votes in London will be the first opportunity for the current synod to signal its intentions over what is expected to be the final vote on women bishops at this summer's General Synod in York.

If the legislation is passed women bishops could be ordained in 2014. Keep reading.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Good Question!

Whether asked by children or adults, sincere questions about faith deserve our attention—even when they come at inconvenient times.

The first-grader I mentor enjoys a simple, delicious game we play. For the first few minutes we meet, we ask one another questions—and with every answer comes an M&M.

This week we started off with me asking, "What's your favorite color?" He answered, ate his M&M, and asked me, "What's your favorite color?"

After my response, I slid him another M&M and asked, "What's your favorite food?" He replied and asked, "What's your favorite food?"

After a couple more duplicate volleys, I suggested that we ask each other different questions. "What's it like to be a first-grader?" I said.

After he responded, I slid him an M&M, and he asked, "What's it like to be old?"

In his book Always Kiss Me Good Night: Instructions on Raising the Perfect Parent, J. S. Salt compiled parenting advice from 147 kids. One child gave clear and simple counsel: "Help me with stuff I don't understand." Keep reading.

Haitians Turning to Christ, Abandoning Voodoo Practices 2 Years After Earthquake

Two years after a devastating earthquake killed an estimated 300,000 people in Haiti, Christianity is fast replacing Voodoo in the lives and practices of the people, a missionary has revealed.

According to the Central Intelligence Agency World Factbook, there is a fusion of beliefs in Haiti – 80 percent of people profess to be Catholic, and another 16 percent are Protestant yet roughly half of the population still practices Voodoo.

However, it is no secret that Christianity has been expanding as a religion in Haiti – and a host of Christian missionaries and charity organizations who flew to the Caribbean nation to help the millions in desperate need have also contributed to a large conversion movement.

One such group, the Haiti Foundation of Hope, a Christian organization addressing the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of the people in the impoverished rural communities of northern Haiti, has built a number of community health programs in local villages and has seen firsthand people giving up their Voodoo beliefs and turning to Christ.

"The background of the religious belief in Haiti has been Voodoo. This came from Africa, and has been integrated into Catholicism. My experience is that as Haitians have come to know the love of Christ, there has been a huge number of people who have left the Voodoo and turned to Christ," Linda Markee told The Christian Post. Markee is the secretary, board and founding member of the Haiti Foundation of Hope and has spent two years living and working in the Caribbean nation.

"After the earthquake especially, people were turning to the Lord. Every single person that was in Haiti felt the earthquake – it wasn't just people in Port-au-Prince that felt it. Everyone has been affected by it – most have lost family members. In a country where there is no real decentralization of the government – they all felt it. And I have seen people come to Christ, and have not gone back to Voodoo." Keep reading.

On Heretics and Helpfulness: Relating to Those Outside of Orthodoxy

How do we relate in a helpful way with those who are (or are perceived to be) outside of orthodoxy? When you choose to interact with people with such views, there are certainly consequences to pay but, I propose, there can be benefits to reap in the right circumstances.

Bad examples exist where evangelical Christians have been used by those outside orthodoxy to legitimize their aberrant views. In addition, the scriptures warn us away from false teachers. Yet, I believe in interaction around the scriptures in a way that leads to helpful conversations and theological clarity when such people are considering (or engaging in) moves toward orthodoxy.

Probably the most prominent example in modern times has to be the Worldwide Church of God. They were once a non-Trinitarian, heretical cult (their term, not mine), and are now an evangelical denomination and a member of the National Association of Evangelicals. Keep reading.

N.Y. Senate committee passes church/school bill

A New York State Senate committee has stepped in on behalf of churches that soon will not be allowed to meet in public schools in New York City.

Sponsored by assistant Senate Majority Whip Martin J. Golden, the bill would "prevent school districts from excluding groups from meeting on school property because of the religious content or viewpoint of their speech, including allowing religious worship services."

I salute the New York State Senate Education Committee on taking bold and decisive action on this important issue," said New York City Councilman Fernando Cabrera, who urged state legislators to address the matter. "I am confident the Assembly will follow suit, and urge Gov. [Andrew] Cuomo to sign the legislation when it reaches his desk."

If S6087A, approved by the committee Jan. 24, does not pass, New York City would become the first major city nationwide to ban churches from meeting in public schools. Keep reading.

Congregation sets goal: 100 new church plants

Mowing the grass surrounding the community center where the fledgling congregation was meeting, a Jacksonville youngster was unaware years ago that it would be the first of many churches he would have a role in planting.

The elementary school student was determined to do his part to grow a church that had started in his family's living room.

As a seminary student in Louisville, his green thumb in planting churches again blossomed while launching churches around the country and later planting churches for Highview Baptist Church there.

Perhaps church planting was in Jimmy Scroggins' spiritual DNA, with the 40-year-old pastor now setting his sights on starting new churches among South Florida's an estimated 6.6 million unreached people. As pastor of First Baptist Church in West Palm Beach, he has set a goal of leading in the launch of 100 new churches in the three-county region. Keep reading.

Anglican congregations moving forward after losing church buildings

Carla Long is overcome with sadness every time she sees the unoccupied church building in her East Buchtel Avenue neighborhood.

“It’s heartbreaking. That church has been a beacon of light in this neighborhood,” said Long, 46. “We always called it a hospital because it was a place where you could go for comfort and healing.”

Long is a recovering addict who found support at Holy Spirit Church when it was located at 825 E. Buchtel Ave. The congregation moved out of the building in July, after losing it in a court battle. Keep reading.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The ACNA Theological Lens: The Guiding Principles Behind the Proposed ACNA Prayer Book—Part 4

By Robin G. Jordan

In this article we continue our examination of The Initial Report of the Prayerbook and Common Worship Taskforce of the Anglican Church in North America with an examination of Section VII of Part 2 of the report. The first thing we notice is that the Prayerbook and Common Worship Taskforce in its title to this section omit any reference to the Thirty-Nine Articles.
VII. The catholic faith, as set forth in the Creeds and expressed in the liturgical life of the Church, provides our common praxis (lex orandi est lex credendi)

As 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 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.]

This omission is significant. The reason for this omission becomes self-evident in the first subsection.

1. The Holy Trinity communicates the love between the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit in the act of creation. As created in the image of God, we were made for union with God, and so are instinctively drawn to God in all of our choices [Emphasis added]. However, as creatures who have fallen into sin, our loves have become distorted and turned inward.

We inevitably choose self-gratification and lesser goods over the love of God and love of one another. We thus live in a tension between satisfying immediate desires and wanting to please God and benefit humankind. We are called to love God with all our hearts and our neighbors as ourselves, but we find ourselves entrapped in false loves.

Compare this subsection with Article 9:

Original sin stands not in the following of Adam (as the Pelagians do vainly talk), but it is the fault and corruption of the nature of every man that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam, whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil, so that the flesh lusts always contrary to the spirit; and therefore in every person born into this world, it deserves God's wrath and damnation [Emphasis added]. And this infection of nature doth remain, yea, in them that are regenerated, whereby the lust of the flesh, called in Greek phronema sarkos (which some do expound the wisdom, some sensuality, some the affection, some the desire of the flesh), is not subject to the law of God. And although there is no condemnation for them that believe and are baptized, yet the Apostle confesses that concupiscence and lust has itself the nature of sin.

In the next subsection we read:

2. God’s grace and initiative are always prior to all our responses; As God has given us both intelligence and will, we alone of all God's creation can (through grace) choose to respond to God’s initiative in love; but we refuse the love of the Holy Trinity: We can offer God our worth-ship or turn away from Him to value other things. The choice is ours.

Grace is mentioned in the second sentence of this subsection almost as an afterthought. If the phrase “through grace” had not been added to the second sentence, it would convey the idea that God’s grace and initiative is manifest in the gift of intelligence and will. What we have here is semi-Pelagianism if not Pelagianism in disguise. Compare this subsection with Article 10:

The condition of man after the fall of Adam is such, that he cannot turn and prepare himself, by his own natural strength and good works, to faith and calling upon God. Wherefore we have no power to do good works pleasant and acceptable to God, without the grace of God by Christ preventing us that we may have a good will, and working with us when we have that good will.

The third subsection separates God’s Word from Holy Scripture, referring to God’s Word in Holy Scripture. It makes no mention of the New Testament teaching that “faith comes by hearing the word of God.” We only told that God’s Word convicts us of sin and guides us in fulfilling God’s will.

3. God’s Word in Holy Scripture both convicts us of sin, and provides guidance in fulfilling God’s will. The admonitions and warnings given by God throughout the Old Testament, as well as throughout the New Testament, remain as instructions necessary to our own present growth in Christ’s Body.

The fourth subsection fails to mention that the Creeds are authoritative because they agree with the Holy Scriptures. Rather it stresses that they authentically express the “rule of faith” of the Church in the second century. This is an example of giving more authority to antiquity and therefore tradition than to Scripture, placing the “rule of antiquity” above the “rule of Scripture.” While asserting that the Creeds are “authoritative statements of Trinitarian Christian belief, it neglects to identify the basis of their authority.

4. The three Creeds--the Apostles, the Nicene, and the Athanasian--are authentic expressions of the second century “Rule of Faith” and are authoritative statements of Trinitarian Christian belief. Along with the Holy Scriptures, the faithful historic episcopate, and worship in Word and Sacrament, the Creeds distinguished apostolic faith from heresy in the early Church, and continue to be authoritative to the present day.

The Creeds tell us who God is, and what He has done for our life and our salvation in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The fifth subsection makes no mention of the Scriptures. By the use of such phrases as “Apostolic witness” and “practices of the first Christians” the taskforce appears to imply that tradition is revelation equal to Scripture. Both Scripture and tradition are the “Apostolic witness.”

5. The Church as the Body of Christ, in spite of the distortions of belief or the misuse of authority due to human sin, has been continually called back to the Apostolic witness and practice of the first Christians as the normative standard and “lens” through which present-day belief and practice must be evaluated.

Here again the rule of antiquity is placed above the rule of Scripture.

The taskforce identifies what it describes as “definitive marks of Christian identity” but does not specify what it means. For example, the phrase, “continuity with the apostolic Church,” is open to a wide range of interpretations, as is “worship in Word and Sacrament.” Are we to conclude on the basis of a lack of these marks that Baptists, Congregationalists, and Presbyterians are not Christians because they do not conform to Anglo-Catholic ideas of “continuity with the apostolic Church”? Are we likewise to conclude that members of the Salvation Army and the Society of Friends are not Christians because they do not take an Anglo-Catholic view of the sacraments? With this particular choice of marks the taskforce appears to have adopted an exclusionary policy similar to that of the nineteenth century Episcopal Church that dechurched all denominations that did not have bishops and forbade Episcopal ministers from associating with their ministers. According to this subsection congregations that do not recite the Creeds every Sunday or “celebrate God’s gracious presence in the sacraments” are not a part of the Church.

6. Canon and Creeds, continuity with the apostolic Church, and worship in Word and Sacrament continue to be definitive marks of Christian identity. All play definitive roles in Christian worship. When she gathers to worship, the Church reads the Scriptures, proclaims her faith in the Creeds, proclaims the Word of God in the preaching of the Gospel, and celebrates God's gracious presence in the sacraments. Through the presence of the Holy Spirit, the Church is shaped through Scripture and Sacraments, and thus lives the faith expressed in the Creeds upheld from the time of the Apostles.

Article 19 tells us that the visible Church of Christ is a gathering of believing people in which the pure Word of God is preached and the sacraments are ministered with due order and discipline as ordained by Christ. It does not prescribe how often the sacraments must be administered. Nowhere in Article 19 or elsewhere in the Articles do we find any reference to the celebration of “God’s gracious presence in the sacraments,” an inference that Christ is present in or under the forms of bread and wine in the Holy Communion, or Lord’s Supper.

Historic Anglicanism recognizes the Word and the Holy Spirit as the means through which God works to make us willing and able to obey God’s purpose. Historic Anglicanism does not separate the sacraments from the Scriptures, as the taskforce appears to do in this subsection. The sacraments are God’s Word made visible. The Scriptures and the sacraments both proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Lord’s Supper makes known the Lord’s death until he comes (1 Corinthians 11:26). The sacraments are effectual because they answer their purpose, the purpose for which they were instituted. They both arouse and also strengthen and confirm our faith in God (Article 25).

The taskforce in this subsection appear to suggest an equivalence of the authority of the Creeds with the authority of the Bible. The authority of the Creeds comes from their agreement with the teaching of Scripture. Article 8 states, “The three Creeds, Nicene Creed, Athanasius' Creed, and that which is commonly called the Apostles' Creed, ought thoroughly to be received and believed; for they may be proved by most certain warrants of Holy Scripture.” They derive their authority from the Scriptures. They have no authority of their own.

The seventh subsection not only gives a place to tradition as a form of revelation but also makes room for John Henry Newman’s doctrine of development.
7. In this time between the Ascension and the second coming of Christ, God has not left the Church without guidance. Through meditation on the Scriptures, through worship and prayer, through faithful theologians and saints, the Holy Spirit has continued to guide and revivify the Church throughout her history. The Holy Spirit guides the Church through enlarging our understanding rather than imposing new doctrines or disclosing new revelations contrary to the catholic and apostolic faith the Church has inherited, and of which she is the trustee.

It makes the Church’s “inherited” faith the test by which the truth of a doctrine must be tried, not Scripture. In doing so, it clearly departs from the Thirty-Nine Articles and historic Anglicanism.

Consequently, the dialectical view of the Anglican theological vocation expressed in the eighth subsection is not particularly surprising.
8. Faithfulness to Scripture and apostolic faith does not mean simply repristinating the practices of a bygone period. There will always be an on-going dialectic between reformation and “return to the sources,” and preaching the Word, administering the Sacraments, and living faithful lives in such a way as to communicate Christ in our contemporary world.

As R. T. Beckwith draws to our attention in The Church of England: What It Is And What It Stands For, the Church of England and historic Anglicanism are confessional:

The Church of England is a church that uses confessions of faith to express the teaching of the Bible. This means that it a confessional church - something which is often denied, but in the teeth of the facts. Even the laity are required to accept the catholic creeds as conditions of being baptised and confirmed and partaking of holy communion. The catholic creeds, handed down to us by the early Fathers, concentrate on teaching about the Holy Trinity and the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ; but the 39 Articles (to which the church’s authorised teachers are required to assent) add teaching on three other important areas of biblical theology, namely Revelation, Salvation and the Sacraments. [R. T. Beckwith, The Church of England: What It Is And What It Stands For, London: Latimer Trust, 1992, 2006, p. 17.]

Any Prayer Book based upon this “theological lens,” as examined so far, while it might be well received by Anglo-Catholics and Broad Church Anglicans, would be thoroughly unacceptable to conservative Evangelical Anglicans and Anglican Evangelicals committed to the classic Anglican formularies and authentic historic Anglicanism. The College of Bishops’ approval of the report raises serious questions about the College’s own commitment to the classic Anglican formularies and authentic historic Anglicanism. The GAFCON Theological Resource Group in Being Faithful: The Shape of Historic Anglicanism Today stress that acceptance of the Articles’ authority is “constitutive of Anglican identity.” [Nicholas Okoh, Vinay Samuel; Chris Sugden, General Editors, Being Faithful: The Shape of Historic Anglicanism Today, London: The Latimer Trust, 2009, p. 37.] A body that does not fully accept their authority, as is the case of the Anglican Church in North America, is not fully Anglican. A key ingredient that goes into the making up of an Anglican identity is missing.

So what's an "open door" to do with the Gospel?

One of the challenges of maintaining ministry or witnessing relationships is knowing when and how to offer spiritual input into another person's life. It's easy when "visitation" of people who first visited your church is your only model of sharing the Gospel or offering ministry to others. You know the purpose of the meeting, the other person knows it, and the conversation isn't really started until the spiritual purpose is introduced. That's fine in that context.

But what about your family members -- the people you share holidays, family events, and life's ups and downs? What about your co-workers, neighbors, friends at your gym, or other people you interact with on a consistent basis? Every conversation isn't about the Gospel or other spiritual issues. In fact, if that is all you talk about you may find you don't have too many of these people in your life. They see you coming -- and go the other way.

As Christians, we have a responsibility to share the Gospel. We want to do that as often as appropriate. We are also supposed to be kind, not browbeating people or otherwise being a nuisance. When that happens, the Good News becomes bad news! None of us want that. So, when and how do you help your friends and family consider spiritual issues, particularly the Gospel? You look for open doors of opportunity. Keep reading.

Looking for Jesus in All the Wrong Places

Why do we want to see God’s face when it’s only going to kill us?

I recently found myself in worship singing,

Open the eyes of my heart, Lord
Open the eyes of my heart
I want to see You
I want to see You.

And then I ducked. Keep reading.

Pastors Debate 'Should Denominations Go Away?'

Seven influential megachurch pastors took part in live unscripted discussions on different approaches to ministry in the second round of The Elephant Room – an event billed as "conversations you never thought you'd hear" from pastors.

Held in Aurora, Ill., and broadcast to over 70 locations around the U.S., the discussions were mediated by James MacDonald of Chicago's Harvest Bible Chapel and Mark Driscoll of Seattle's Mars Hill Church.

With nondenominational churches growing across the county, the role of denominations and church networks was the first topic discussed.

Jack Graham, a pastor affiliated with The Southern Baptist Convention, told audiences that there is "no question denominations are diminishing in their impact, [and] frankly, a lot should go away. Especially those whose theology and commitment to world missions is basically nonexistent."

Most people in today's culture aren't looking for a church affiliated with a denomination, he said. Rather they are looking for "a 'Jesus Church' and a church preaching truth and grace."

Graham doesn't necessarily see affiliation with a denomination as a bad thing, especially ones like the SBC that have a long history of conservative theology and are giving millions of dollars to "fulfill the Great Commission." Keep reading.

Related article: Influential Pastors Weigh in: Is There a Right Way to Present the Gospel?

The Church of England: All Theological Education to be Centralised According to Synod Motion being Tabled Next Week

When Synod meets on February 6th-9th, the headline catching debates are on issues such as women bishops and assisted dying. Yet the scheduled debate on the Sheffield Report could be as significant and radical as any other, but could easily slip by unnoticed.

The working group, which began meeting 18 months ago under bishop Steven Croft, was set up to consider how the Church of England should respond to government changes in the way Higher Education is funded. While the report opens with the issue of funding, and is being tabled at Synod in that light, the report recognises "that part (but only part) of the motivation for developing the common suite of awards is financial." (paragraph 37). Moreover, no financial costing has been made available.

The focus of Synod members will most likely be on the women bishops bill. Consequently the radical suggestions of the Sheffield report - that all theological education providers will have to move to a centralised common syllabus and HE award scheme by 2015 - could we waved through unnoticed. While exemptions are possible, they seem specifically designed for Oxford and Cambridge.

Most concerningly, Synod are being asked to approve the program and timetable before crucial questions have been resolved, such as: What shall the content of the centralised syllabus be? How can it possibly be faithful to the broad range of traditions (conservative evangelicalism, charismaticism, anglo-catholicism, etc.) without simply defaulting to the "lowest common denominator" (paragraph 8)? Keep reading.