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Anglicanism – what kind of future?
The Prayer Book Society [1928 BCP] ^ | 11/18/2005 | The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon

Posted on 11/18/2005 4:21:19 PM PST by sionnsar

Post Pittsburgh Conference Reflections:
A discussion and prayer starter!

To make suggestions as to what future the Anglican Way has in North America, and especially within a nation that has a major, competitive supermarket of American religions, one needs to begin by asking and answering a question.

It is this: What does the Anglican Way have to offer to people, who are searching to know God, that will enable them to love and worship Him and also love and serve their neighbor? And more particularly, What, if any, are the features or distinctives of the Anglican Way, which make this Way not only different from other similar groups but a true means of coming to know God and enjoying communion with Him?

[Questions like these are asked by the Roman Catholic and Orthodox authorities when small “Anglican” jurisdictions (e.g., the Traditional Anglican Communion and the Charismatic Episcopal Church) come to them asking for a uniate status or similar relation of association. The authorities wish to know what is truly worth preserving for the generations to come in the tradition of worship, doctrine and discipline of the petitioning jurisdiction.]

So what is unique, or at least very special, about the Anglican Way as a major jurisdiction in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church of God? Why should people seek membership of the Body of Christ through its administration of the Sacraments and proclamation of the Gospel? And, why should Anglicans engage in the great commission of the Lord Jesus to evangelize, teach and baptize and thus seek to enlarge the membership of the Church of God through this jurisdiction?

One way to answer this question is via the empirical method, to study as a social scientist what goes on in the churches called Episcopalian or Anglican in the USA. The strength of this approach is that it provides you with information which then can be compared with that from Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, Mega-churches, Community churches, and so on.

Another way is to look at the formation of the Anglican Way as Reformed Catholicism in the sixteenth century and seek by looking at these origins and developments from them to ascertain what are its foundational principles, doctrines and standards.


If we go the route of descriptive social science then we shall probably receive a picture of a denomination that is united in several things – e.g., in having sacred space at whose center is a holy table or altar, of making the Eucharist its major service, of reciting a Creed and the Lord’s Prayer in it, having a basic structure or shape to this Eucharist which includes a “sharing of the Peace”, giving Communion in two kinds, calling its clergyperson a Rector, having someone in ultimate charge outside who is the Bishop with a diocese, being ruled locally by a vestry of ten or so people and belonging to a diocese.

At the same time we shall also probably learn that there is great variety – e.g., in the type of music used, the layout of the building, the way people dress for church, the size of congregations, the provision of facilities for children and for education; the actual prayer and doctrinal content placed within the common structure of the Eucharist, the forms of ceremonial used, the way the clergy dress, the amount clergy are paid, the types of theology and doctrine taught and preached, the approach to sexual ethics and relations, especially homosexuality, attitudes to other churches, including fellow Anglican/Episcopal groups, preferences in politics, and commitment to evangelism, mission and social service locally.

Probably a general impression arising from such study would be that of assuming that the Anglican Way is such a mixed bag that its appeal is not national but local, that is a local parish is found attractive for one or another specific reason by local people. These reasons for attracting people locally will probably usually be those very things which are common to all churches such as right location, right times of service, right size of congregation, right provision of facilities for kids and the elderly, good music program and so on. A person attending would tend equate what is Anglican with what he experienced and thus would probably be wholly out of place and sorts at another different Anglican congregation ten miles away, unless it happened by chance to work from a similar model (e.g., the purpose-driven church created by Rick Warren of the famous Saddleback church).

Now we would probably also find in the study that some people travel a long way to a given Anglican church because of its claim to be preserving and continuing as far as it is able the basic distinctives of the long Anglican tradition. That is, this church uses for its worship an edition of the Prayer Book that is based on the original Book of Common Prayer from 1549 and 1552 [e.g. the English 1662, the USA 1928 and the Canadian 1962]; it has music which was specifically composed for use with this Prayer Book; it provides on the Lord’s Day the series of services from that Prayer Book – Morning Prayer, Litany and Holy Communion, and then in the afternoon or evening, Evening Prayer, and all in the traditional language of English Public Prayer. It teaches a form of Christianity based on the Bible supplemented by the Creeds, Catechism and the historic Anglican Formularies. And that in its general use of symbol, ritual and ceremonial it follows one of the long-standing approaches, either “low” or “high” or somewhere between.

If this church has all the facilities that the others do – good parking, provision for children and elderly – and is friendly, it has as much chance of growing as do the others, even though initially new people will need to adjust to the use of traditional prayer language and of set liturgy as well as dressing in a way that does not suggest they are attending a religious leisure activity.

A suggestion

Since the advent of a variety of services and liturgies beginning in the 1970s, and with the new definition of “common prayer” as a common shape rather than common whole texts having entered the scene, the unity of the Anglican Way as it is gathers on the Lord’s Day for worship of the Holy Trinity is most difficult to identify and see because the variety is so intense. This situation will surely continue and intensify unless there is determination and will to find a common center and agree some basic rules of deviation from that center.

I suggest that the only reason for the Anglican Way to exist in such a vast supermarket of religions is to be what it said it was in 1549 and what it continued to say it was until the 1970s in the West and still says it is in places like Nigeria and Uganda. That is, it is an expression of Reformed Catholicism, and (to quote Canon A5 of the mother Church, the C of E) “the doctrine is grounded in the holy Scriptures, and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church that are agreeable to the said Scriptures. In particular, such doctrine as is to be found in the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordinal.” [Regrettably the ECUSA abandoned this commitment in 1979 with its rejection of the Anglican Formularies and the making of a book of varied services with a false title into its new formulary.] Anglican uniqueness as a jurisdiction before God in the one Catholic Church is in this grounding and commitment of Reformed Catholicism. If it departs from this foundation, style and ethos then it has no real reasons for being a separate reality at all.

To recover a genuine Anglican identity, evangelical and anglo-catholic Episcopalianism belonging to The Network and the American Anglican Council has a long route to take in the USA. It has to recover not only the authority of the Scriptures in a wise and godly way but also the secondary authorities, the historic, classic Formularies. It has to recover a way of worshipping that is truly Reformed Catholic and not imitative of popular charismaticism or generic evangelicalism or Tridentine Rome or ecumenical norms from the World Council of Churches. It has to develop ways of evangelism and instruction that lead converts naturally into classic liturgical ways of worship with godly habits and devotion [and not into generic Protestantism or the like].

In all this, to meet people where they are, Episcopalians will need to have a contemporary language form of its classic Book of Common Prayer (a contemporary form of the 1662 BCP as also of the 1928 & 1962 editions). They will need to think out ways of using the classic services in either the traditional language or the contemporary equivalent in such a way as to use the gifts of the congregation, in music especially. One can think of new music settings for the whole services, e.g., for the Canticles and Psalms, the Litany, the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer and the Sursum Corda. The local band or orchestra can exist along with the organ. The main thing is that they need to envisage a situation for the future where there will be a common text in use in two parallel forms which contains a common doctrine that is Reformed Catholic and in this unity there will be comprehensiveness of churchmanship, style, and ethos. The place of female clergy if any and the use f any Alternative or additional forms of services can be worked at later when the actual reality of Reformed Catholicism is on its way to being restored.

Right now what can be done is this: the contemporary version of the classic BCP can be prepared. Some of the work has already been done but there is yet much to do, and it will require a small dedicated team, including one or two with a real feel for language to be read in public. [go to and look at the book, Worshipping the Lord in the Anglican Way….Parallel texts]

Further preparation could begin by clergy and lay leaders studying and using for their devotions the services of the classic BCP. [Please note that at there are CD’s for sale on which in pdf form are collections of first-class books by leading Anglican theologians expounding the BCP, Ordinal and Articles.]

I personally optimistically look for some organization or church or society to take up the challenge to provide – at first for devotional use and then when refined for public worship – the full text of the BCP in contemporary English, so that it can be seen and felt by many who need to use contemporary English to address God what is Reformed Catholicism and how it is expressed in worship, prayer and devotion. To date many have expressed interest in this project but no specific group has yet volunteered to sponsor the project and raise the say $25,000.00 needed to produce a good edition of multiple copies of the book.

If the above be in God’s will for the Anglican family, may he show us the way.

TOPICS: Mainline Protestant

1 posted on 11/18/2005 4:21:20 PM PST by sionnsar
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2 posted on 11/18/2005 4:21:56 PM PST by sionnsar (†† || (To Libs:) You are failing to celebrate MY diversity! || Iran Azadi)
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