Friday, March 11, 2016

New ACNA Daily Office Lectionary Partisan, not Unitive

Can the Cushite change his skin, or a leopard his spots? If so, you might be able to do what is good, you who are instructed in evil.  Jeremiah 13:23

By Robin G. Jordan

Anglicans have been historically divided on whether readings from the Apocrypha should be used in services of public worship. Evangelicals and other Protestant-minded Anglicans have questioned the appropriateness of the use of these readings for a number of reasons.

Among the principal objections to the use of readings from the Apocrypha are that Jesus and the apostles make no reference to the Apocrypha in their teaching.

The Jews rejected the Apocrypha as a part of God’s revelation to his chosen people.

The Roman Catholic Church did not officially accept the Apocrypha until the Council of Trent in 1546, more than 1500 years after its books were written. Its acceptance was a part of the Counter-Reformation, the Roman Catholic Church’s response to the Protestant Reformation.

Most of the Church Fathers of the first four centuries of the Christian Church rejected the Apocrypha as Scripture. They included Jerome, Origene, Cyril of Jerusalem, and Athanasias.

Before and after the Council of Trent the books of the Apocrypha were separated from the canonical books of the Bible in the editions of the Bible in which they were published.

The books of the Apocrypha contain false teaching. Tobit countenances the practice of magic (Tobit 6:5-7). Tobit also teaches that sinners may obtain forgiveness of their sins by giving alms to the poor (Tobit 4:11; 12:9). Second Maccabees teaches that the living may make atonement for the sins of the dead with offerings of money (2 Maccabees 12:43-45).  .

The books of the Apocrypha were not published in the Authorized Version (or the King James Version) of the Bible after 1611. They appeared only in the 1611 edition. The Authorized Version was the official Bible of the Church of England until the Revised Version was published in 1885. The Revised Version’s Apocrypha was not published until four years later.

In 1871 the Church of England’s Table of Lessons was revised. The readings from the Apocrypha was reduced in number and were limited to three books—Ecclesiasticus, Wisdom, and Baruch. The books of the Apocrypha which were known to contain false teaching such as Tobit and Second Maccabees were avoided. This revision reflected the discomfort of English Churchmen with the use of readings from the Apocrypha in public services of worship.

In 1922 the Church of England’s Table of Lessons was revised again. This time the number of readings from the Apocrypha was increased. Readings from the Apocrypha on Sundays were authorized for the first time. Before 1922 readings from the Apocrypha were confined to week days and holidays—a norm which Anglican theologian Roger Beckwith notes is “a norm worth remembering.”

The 1922 lectionary was “the first installment in the Prayer Book revision” that produced the ill-fated 1928 Proposed English Prayer Book, which Parliament twice rejected due to its Anglo-Catholic doctrine and practices. The new lectionary reflected the growing influence of Anglo-Catholicism in the Church of England during the 1920s.

In 1926 the Church of Ireland revised its Prayer Book and its Table of Lessons. While the Church of Ireland generally followed the Church of England’s 1922 lectionary, it replaced the readings from the Apocrypha with readings from the canon of the Bible, particularly the Revelation to John.

In its 1922 Prayer Book the Canadian Church also adopted the new English lectionary. Where it differed from the English Church was that it avoided readings from the Apocrypha on Sundays and on weekdays unless canonical alternatives were provided. In this way Anglo-Catholics who used readings from the Apocrypha in their public services of worship and Evangelicals who objected to their use in public worship were able to use the same lectionary

The 2012 Church of England lectionary for The Book of Common Prayer and Common Worship, like the Canadian lectionary 90 years earlier, provides alternative canonical readings for all readings from the Apocrypha.

The new ACNA Daily Office Lectionary makes no such provision. The number of reading from the Apocrypha is rather high when compared with the older Anglican lectionaries. They include a number of readings from Tobit, which as we have seen contains false teaching.

The high number of readings from the Apocrypha goes well beyond reading the books of the Apocrypha for examples of life and instruction of manners. Rather it treats the books of the Apocrypha as if they inspired and therefore equal in authority to the canonical books of the Bible.

Indeed the new ACNA Daily Office Lectionary in its number of readings from the Apocrypha resembles the Roman Catholic Church’s Liturgy of the Hours lectionary.

The high number of readings from the Apocrypha and the absence of alternative canonical readings points to the strong influence of Catholic Revivalism and its unreformed Catholic doctrine and practices upon the members of the Prayer Book and Common Liturgy Task Force and the College of Bishops and to their lack of commitment to a comprehensive Prayer Book. 

In an interview former Archbishop Robert Duncan justifies the inclusion of readings from the Apocrypha in the new ACNA Daily Office Lectionary on the basis that two canticles used in the service of Morning Prayer in a number of Anglican service books are taken from the Apocrypha. These extracanonical canticles are Benedicite and Benedictus es. They are two sections of an expanded form of the canonical Psalm 148 and were used in synagogue worship in the Jewish diaspora.  In the 1926 Irish Prayer Book Psalm 148 is provided as a canonical alternative to the Benedicite.

Two other extracanonical canticles are commonly used in Anglican services—Gloria in excelsis and Te Deum laudamus. If one adopts former Archbishop Duncan’s logic, then it is acceptable to use extracanonical readings from other sources such as the lives of the saints or even the Quran or Bhagavad Gita in the Daily Offices on the basis of the inclusion of these two canticles in Prayer Book services.

Marginalization involves the relegation of an individual or group to an unimportant position within an organization or society. This means that their views are not taken into consideration when important decisions are made—decisions like what readings will be included in a new Daily Office Lectionary.

To date the views of  Anglicans who uphold and maintain the faith of the Church as expressed in the Holy Bible, the Anglican Formularies, and the Jerusalem Declaration are not receiving in the development of worship resources for use in the Anglican Church in North America the kind of thoughtful attention that they deserve as stakeholders in the ACNA. Their views are being treated as unimportant and inconsequential. In other words, they are being marginalized.

This has happened in the past in other Anglican jurisdictions whenever Catholic Revivalist ideologues have occupied the place of power in the jurisdiction. They invariably seek to shape the life of the jurisdiction according to their vision of the Church, marginalizing those who do not share their views. Like the leopard, they cannot change their spots.

They may talk a lot about church unity but it is a unity that serves them and their aspirations, discourages opposition to their shaping of the jurisdiction's life, and does not require sacrifices on their part.

1 comment:

J MW said...

Have you stopped posting about ACNA now?