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On Philip Turner's "An Unworkable Theology"
The Prayer Book Society: News [1928 BCP] ^ | 5/25/2005 | The Rev. Dr. Peter Toon

Posted on 05/26/2005 7:56:22 AM PDT by sionnsar

Dear Fr Dick,

Thank you very much for circulating the essay, “An unworkable theology,” by Philip Turner, from First Things. It is an excellent description of the “working theology” of radical inclusivism practiced by the leadership of the ECUSA. Dr Turner is a very careful observer of this Church and he brings to that observation not only a fine mind but a deep love of our Lord and of the Anglican Way. I do hope that many people read and study this essay. I shall urge them to do so.

I agree with all of it except part of a paragraph right at the end. Here is the paragraph:

“The future of Anglicanism as a communion of churches may depend upon the American Episcopal Church’s ability to find a way out of the terrible constraints forced upon it by its working theology. Much of the Anglican communion in Africa sees the prob­lem. Can the Americans? It is not enough simply to refer to the Episcopal Church’s Book of Common Prayer and reply, “We are orthodox just like you: we affirm the two testaments as the word of God, we recite the classical creeds in our worship, we celebrate the dominical sacraments, and we hold to episcopal order.” The challenge now being put to the Episcopal Church in the United States (and, by implication, to all liberal Protestantism) is not about official docu­ments. It is about the church’s working theology­ – one which most Anglicans in the rest of the world no longer recognize as Christian.”

The first sentence may well be true, but if the C of E can stay on course, even as battered by a mighty wind, then I think the communion of churches, even if reduced to 36 or even 30, will remain.

My disagreement with Dr Turner is with the content of the fourth sentence, which contains the reference to the BCP of the ECUSA and the inference that it contains orthodox theology.

I would contend that the 1979 Prayer Book (“BCP”) of the ECUSA reflects in parts the very theology that Turner describes as causing the apostasy of the ECUSA. While the working theology of the leadership of ECUSA is as he describes it (radical inclusivism based on “love”) , seeds for this, and theological justification for it, are found in the 1979 Liturgy, and even more so, in the official liturgies that have been approved since 1979 by the General Convention.

Does Dr Turner not see that the Baptismal Covenant, so called, of the 1979 Prayer Book, with its commitment to peace and justice runs parallel to and justifies “the working theology”? It has certainly been so used for the last thirty or so years. Does he not see that the use of dynamic equivalency in translating Scripture ( see the Psalter of the 1979 Book and some of its canticles) and the entrance of the feminist agenda into the translation also provide a base for “the working theology”? When “Blessed is the Man…” [the Lord Jesus Christ]” of Psalm 1 becomes “Happy are they…” then a massive step has been taken to eliminate Jesus from the Church’s ancient prayer book. And I could go on with examples, especially from the Catechism which is a summary of the theology of the Rite II texts in the Book. (see for details Neither Orthodox Nor a Formulary, by the late Dr Tarsitano, with Peter Toon, from the PBS – call 1-800-727-1928 or visit

The point is that a Church which knowingly and deliberately set aside in the 1970s its received Formularies and imposed a new Formulary in the form of a new kind of Prayer Book, with a new catechism and ordinal, had set itself on a road which provided a basis (or at least no criticism) for its working theology, which was already in place in the 1970s, but since than has become more bold and explicit.

What I continue to fail to understand is why the Communion Institute, of which Dr Turner is a leading member, does not come out clearly and state that the ECUSA made a major mistake in setting aside in the 1970s its historic and classic Formularies and adopting new Ones (in the 1979 Book) which reflected, in seed if not in flower, the very things that have become the causes of its apostasy in the last two decades. To keep on calling the 1979 book “The BCP”, and importantly, giving it the role of Formulary seems to me to be like describing a sinking ship, the ECUSA, whilst one stays on deck commending its fine design!

Let the Institute, with its gifted members, work for the restoration of the classic Formularies, to calling the 1979 Book “The Alternative Service Book”, and to moving quickly to create another, much better and truly orthodox Book of Varied Services, to be alongside but under the authority of the doctrine of the classic Formularies. I do not want to stop people addressing the “You-God” but I heartily desire that they do so in fine language and sound doctrine and in an appropriate godly style.

--Peter Toon
posted by John Graves at 9:21 AM CDT permalink  

TOPICS: Mainline Protestant

1 posted on 05/26/2005 7:56:22 AM PDT by sionnsar
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2 posted on 05/26/2005 7:57:19 AM PDT by sionnsar (†† || Iran Azadi || Fraud in WA: More votes than voters!)
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