Monday, May 11, 2015

Undoing the English Reformation with the Anglican Church in North America

A Survey of the ACNA Doctrinal Statements and Their Theological Leanings: The Ordinal

By Robin G. Jordan

The order in which the ACNA Ordinal is arranged is the order of the 1928 Ordinal and its predecessors. This order is as follows:
The Preface
The Form and Manner of Ordaining a Deacon
The Form and Manner of Ordaining a Priest
The Form and Manner of Consecrating and Ordaining a Bishop
The Litany and Suffrages for Ordination.
The ordination services in the ACNA Ordinal, however, follow the pattern of the ordination rites in the 1979 Ordinal, using contemporary language versions of the texts from the 1928 Ordinal in place of the texts from the 1979 Ordinal.  A number of additions and alterations have been made to these rites. We will be examining these changes to the rites as they affect the doctrine of the rites.

One of the most significant changes in the ACNA Ordinal is not in the ordination rites themselves but in the Preface.  The phrase “these orders of ministry” has been altered to “these three orders of ministry.” This change is significant because it reflects an Anglo-Catholic interpretation of the Preface and excludes a longstanding conservative evangelical interpretation of the Preface, which is also how Archbishop Thomas Cranmer and the English Reformers interpreted the Preface. It is an early indication of the theological bias of the revised Ordinal, which as we shall see is unreformed Catholic.

While the English Reformers recognized three offices in the Church—deacon, presbyter, and bishop, they recognized only two orders—deacon and presbyter-bishop—a view consistent with the New Testament in which terms presbyter and bishop are used interchangeably. 

The ACNA Ordinal brings the ordination rite for deacons into line with its ordination rites for presbyters and bishops. The Examination is followed by the singing of the Veni Creator Spiritus and a period of silent prayer. The bishop says a prayer for the ordinand after which he lays hands on the ordinand, reciting a formula modeled upon the formulae in the other two ordination rites. The bishop concludes the setting apart of the ordinand with a prayer for the newly-made deacon. These changes are justified on the grounds that they restore the ancient dignity of the office of deacon. They represent significant departures from the doctrine and liturgical usages of the 1662 Ordinal and the 1552 Ordinal upon which it is based.

Archbishop Cranmer in the Preface to the 1552 Ordinal states that no man may execute the office of deacon, presbyter, or bishop except that he has been admitted to such office “by public prayer, with the imposition of hands.”  In the ordination rite for deacons in the 1552 and 1662 Ordinals the only prayer that precedes the laying on of hands is the Litany to which has been added a special petition and which concludes with a special collect. To Cranmer the Litany sufficed as “public prayer” in the form for making a deacon. He saw no need for additional prayer other than the collects before the blessing. Of the three ordination rites in the 1552 and 1662 Ordinals, the ordination rite for deacons most clearly reflects the English Reformers’ view of ordination. With the imposition of hands the bishop gives formal authority to execute a particular office. The ceremony of lying on of hands has no sacramental efficacy. While the ordination rites for presbyters and bishops are more elaborate, they reflect the same view of ordination—a view also reflected in Articles 23 and 25.

The revised ordination rite for deacons in the ACNA Ordinal, however, reflects a different view of ordination—a view of ordination close to that of the Roman Catholic Church if not identical with its view of ordination—a view of ordination that the English Reformers rejected as having no basis in Scripture. This unreformed Catholic view of ordination regards such ceremonies as the imposition of hands and anointing with blessed oil as having a sacramental efficacy. With these ceremonies the bishop confers special gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit essential to the performance of the functions of a particular ministry. These gifts and graces enable the priest to offer the sacrifice of the Eucharist and the bishop to confirm and ordain. Only a bishop in a line of succession of bishops going back to the apostles is able to confer such gifts and graces.

Among its alterations to the ordination rite for deacons, the ACNA Ordinal changes the form of the question addressed to ordinands concerning the Bible .It “avoids the necessity of asserting blanket belief.” This change was first introduced in the 1928 Ordinal and reflects the influence of the Anglo-Catholic and Broad Church Movement on the 1928 Prayer Book.

While the ACNA Ordinal draws heavily on texts from the 1928 Ordinal, it omits the optional use of an alternative formula at the imposition of hands in the ordination rite for presbyters. In The American Prayer Book: Its Origins and Principles (Charles Scribner’s Sons,1937) Edward Lambe Parsons and Bayard Hale Jones discuss the importance of this addition to the American Ordinal:
In the American books, one important addition was made in 1789 in the service for Priests, by inclusion of an alternative Sentence of Ordination: “Take thou Authority to execute the Office of Priest in the Church of God, now committed to thee by the Imposition of our hands. And be a faithful Dispenser of the Word of God,” etc. This form omitted the words from the Fourth Gospel, “Whose sins thou dost forgive, they are forgiven; and whose sins thou dost retain, they are retained.” The purpose of the alternative was of course to make the service more acceptable to the evangelical groups who disliked the sacerdotal implications of the English form.
The First Formula of Ordination bore an uncomfortable similarity to a phrase in the Roman Catholic ordination rite for priests. The canons of the Church of England required clerical subscription to the Articles of Religion and the Articles provided doctrinal standards for interpreting the Prayer Book. By these standards the doctrines reflected in the Roman Catholic rite are not consistent with the teaching of Scripture.

In The Tutorial Prayer Book for the Teacher, the Student, and the General Reader (Harrison Trust, 1913) Charles Neil and J.M. Willoughby give the received interpretation of the formula, which is based upon the English Reformers’ view of ordination.
This formula consists of a prayer, an address, and a charge. The Bishop, by speaking these words, doth not take upon him to give the Holy Spirit, no more than he doth to remit sins, when he pronounceth the remission of sins; but by speaking these words of Christ ... he doth show the principal duty of a minister, and assureth him of the assistance of God s Holy Spirit, if he labour in the same accordingly.
(See also pp. 96, 322, n.) The words Receive ye the Holy Ghost, do not occur in any Ordinal prior to 1200 A.D.
The wording of this formula would not become a major cause of controversy in the Church of England until Anglo-Catholics began to challenge the accepted interpretation of the formula and to reinterpret its meaning according to Roman Catholic teaching in the nineteenth century. The Articles of Religion also came under fire from the same quarter with Anglo-Catholics lobbying for the abolition of clerical subscription to the Articles.

To avoid any suggestion that the bishop confers the gift of the Holy Spirit in any way in ordination, more recent Anglican service books have substituted different wording for the formula “Receive the Holy Ghost….”
“Almighty God grant unto thee the gift of the Holy Ghost for the Office and Work of a Presbyter now committed unto thee by the Imposition of our hands….” The Book of Common Prayer of the Free Church of England (1956)

“Therefore, Father, through Jesus Christ your Son, give your Holy Spirit to N.; fill him with grace and power, and make him a priest in your Church.” The Book of Common Prayer (1979) of the Episcopal Church in the USA

“Send down the Holy Spirit upon your servant N for the office and work of a priest in your Church.” The Alternative Service Book 1980 of the Church of England

“Send down your Holy Spirit upon your servant N, whom we consecrate in your name to the office and work of a priest in the Church.” The Book of Alternative Services (1985) of the Anglican Church of Canada

“God of grace, through your Holy Spirit, gentle as a dove, living, burning as fire, empower your servant N for the office and work of a priest in the Church.” A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)

“May God empower you, through the Holy Spirit, for the ministry of presbyter in the Church of God, now committed to you by the laying on of our hands.” The Prayer Book of the Church of England in South Africa (1992)

“Send down the Holy Spirit upon your servant N, whom we set part by the laying on of our hands, for the office and work of a priest in your Church.” A Prayer Book for Australia (1995)

“Send down the Holy Spirit on your servant N for the office and work of a priest in your Church.” Common Worship (2000) of the Church of England

N, may the Holy Spirit stir up all the gifts of God that are in you for the ministry. May he equip you with all wisdom, strength, and power necessary for the execution of the duties pertaining to the priesthood. We lay our hands on you to confirm your ordination to this ministry. In the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.” Our Modern Services (2002, 2003) of the Anglican Church of Kenya

Pour out your Holy Spirit upon your servant …. for the office and work of priest in your Church….” The Book of Common Prayer (2004) of the Church of Ireland
All of these service books were available to the ACNA Liturgy and Common Prayer Task Force that drafted the ACNA Ordinal.  The retention of the formula “Receive the Holy Ghost…”in a contemporary language version and the omission of the alternative formula point to one conclusion: it is not by coincidence that the ACNA Ordinal reflects unreformed Catholic positions on ordination, as opposed to reformed Anglican positions. This conclusion is supported by the other changes that the ACNA Ordinal makes in the American Ordinal. 

The doctrine of a rite is not only expressed or inferred its texts and their particular ordering but also in its ceremonial. Even ceremonial that is optional must be considered in evaluating the doctrine of a particular rite. This is especially the case when the ceremonial is incorporated into the rite itself and not in a separate section after the rite and in the absence of a disclaimer to the effect that no particular doctrinal significance is attached to the ceremonies permitted by the rubrics in the rite, and the use of such optional ceremonies is not to be understood as implying any doctrines other than those contained in the Articles of Religion of 1571 and The Book of Common Prayer of 1662.

Ceremonies are not theological neutral. They are not entirely free of past and present doctrinal associations. These doctrinal associations may go back centuries and cannot be dismissed lightly.

The vesting of a newly-made deacon with maniple, stole, and dalmatic permitted in the ACNA ordination rite for deacons has longstanding doctrinal associations. So does the vesting of a newly-ordained priest with stole and chasuble and the anointing of his hands with oil permitted in the ACNA ordination rite for priests; the presentation of a newly-consecrated bishop with a pastoral staff, the anointing of his forehead with the oil of chrism, and his presentation with a pectoral cross, an episcopal ring, and a mitre permitted in the ordination rite for bishops; and the prostration of the candidate as an alternative to kneeling permitted in all three rites. They are not innocent ceremonies. They point to unreformed Catholic doctrines related to the Eucharist and apostolic succession. Their inclusion in these rites is an affirmation of these doctrines even thought their use is optional. The doctrines in question and the ceremonies associated with them were rejected by the English Reformers who found no basis for them in Scripture

The rubrics of the ACNA ordination rite for priests require the bishop to give the new priest a Bible in one hand and a chalice in another. The giving of the chalice has longstanding associations with what the Roman Catholic Church regard as the most important duty of the priest—the offering of the sacrifice of the Mass. The rubrics do not prohibit the filling of the chalice with wine mixed with water or the nestling of a paten with an unconsecrated host on it in the chalice. In the Roman rite the giving of these instruments of ministry, along with the authorization to function as a sacrificing priest, forms the essence of valid ordination. 

The English Reformers rejected the entire Roman Catholic concept of Christian ministry as a sacerdotal priesthood. In order to remove any possibility of misunderstanding, the 1552 Ordinal discontinued the giving of a chalice to the ordinand. The sole instrument of new priest’s ministry in the reformed Church of England would be the Bible. Phillip Edgcombe Hughes in Theology of the English Reformers (Horseradish, 1997) makes an important point.
This does not mean, however there is no longer a ministry of the sacraments, but rather that the sacraments, being sacraments  of the gospel, can not rightly be separated from the ministry of the word. Thus the bishop still says to the candidate: “Tke thou authority to preach the word of God and to minister the holy sacraments.”
It is noteworthy that while the rubrics of the ordination rites in the ACNA Ordinal permit the optional use of a number of ceremonies to make the rites more visibly unreformed Catholic in doctrine and liturgical practice, they do not permit the omission of the giving of the chalice to make the ordination rite for priests more acceptable to evangelicals to whom the sacerdotal connotations of this ceremony are objectionable.  The ACNA Ordinal makes no attempt to comprehend Anglicans who hold the reformed Anglican view of Christian ministry and ordination.

The ACNA College of Bishops has publicly stated that this version of the ACNA Ordinal is the final version authorized for use in the ACNA. No proposals for further revision of the ACNA Ordinal will be entertained. However, the Provincial Council has enacted no legislation authorizing its use nor has the Provincial Assembly ratified such legislation Under the provisions of the ACNA Constitution the Provincial Council, not the College of Bishops, has final authority in this matter. See Article V of the ACNA Constitution. The College of Bishops is clearly overreaching its authority. The unreformed Catholic doctrine of the ACNA Ordinal and the College of Bishops’ position on the ordinal points to the strong influence of vested interests in the College of Bishops—vested interests that seek to make room for only one school of thought in the ACNA—their own.

Photo credit: Pixabay, public domain

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