Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Need for a Strong Centre

When I was a kid four out of five parishes were "Central Churchmanship." The acid test was to walk in and ask the retired military looking chap stood dishing out hymnals and prayer books whether the parish was High Church of Low; the more puzzled he looked, the more "Central" it was. Doubtless our puzzled friend knew perfectly well what High Church and Low Church meant, but he was having great difficulty seeing how they had anything at all to do with his parish.

So far as he was concerned the "C of E" took its theology from the Authorized Version, Thirty-nine Articles and the Book of Common Prayer in just the same way as he took his political cue from the Daily Telegraph. This dependence on the BCP was the essence of "mere Anglicanism" and when the Prayer Book began to be undermined by the various alternative liturgies the whole thing came unravelled. The Prayer Book had been a great bulwark against liberalism on the part of the laity because they absorbed its memorable prose from childhood and it had become engrafted into their souls.

The Church in the 1970s suffered from Revisionists to both right and left. The destruction wrought by those to the left-wing revisionists is pretty easy to see, but the damage done by those to the right is more difficult to assess. However, the consequences of "right-wing revisionism" are something that those of us in the Continuing Anglican Movement have to live with every day.

The major problem with right-wing revisionism is that it attempts the relocate the "centre" of Anglicanism much further on the Catholic side of things than any of our forefathers in the faith since the Elizabethan era would have found acceptable. Their vision of what they call "Anglicanism" is not the real thing that grew out of the 1559 Settlement, but a fanciful reconstruction of early Edwardian Anglicanism. The latter is basically Henrician Catholicism, plus the 1549 BCP and married clergy. It's major advantage for the catholic revisionists is that it avoids the whole issue of the Thirty-nine Articles of 1571 and their precursor, the Forty-two Articles of 1553.

Unfortunately, this church never existed in history. The Church of England of Edward VI's reign was an ideological battleground. The conservative, led by Stephen Gardiner, favoured the continuation of the national Catholic Church of Henry VIII's reign. The reformers wished to push forward with their plans to being England into line with the moderate reformed states of the Rhineland. Neither would have been satisfied with what eventually emerged under Elizabeth I; Gardiner would have found it too radical; Cranmer might well have found it too conservative.

The Church that emerged after 1559 was Reformed Catholic. Elizabeth's Archbishop (Parker) favoured a return to the 1552 BCP, but with the traditional vestments. The Articles, which emerged from the Archbishop's theological circle, committed the Church of England not to Calvinism or Lutheranism, or any other "ism" but to a Christian humanist reading of Scripture guided by the writings of the Early Fathers - especially the Four Latin Doctors. This, of course, placed the Church of England in the same family as the Lutherans and the Reformed, but it did not commitment them to any of their more extreme theological opinion.

Of course, being somewhat open ended theologically, the mainstream of Anglican thought has moved around a bit, depending on what was perceived as the most authentically Patristic theology. Naturally this led to the High Church Calvinism of the late Elizabethan and Jacobean bishops, the English Arminianism of Charles I; and the "beign and comfortable air of liberty and toleration" favoured by the High Churchmen of the Hanoverian Church.

In Victorian era, the mainstream of old High Churchmanship developed not into Tractarianism or Anglo-Catholicism, but into the old Central Churchmanship of the 1870s to the 1960s. Their respect for Scripture, the early Fathers and the Anglican Settlement made them the stabilizing influence within the Church of England. In some respects, the Central Churchmen held the Liberals, Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals in creative tension with each other. Now that the Central Churchmen have declined, the other parties have developed into separate, increasingly incompatible, traditions.

One major failure for the Continuum has been its failure to uphold this central tradition. Bishop Doren tried, in vain, to steer the infant ACC towards Central Churchmanship, but in the end, the Catholic Revisionist tendancy proved to be dominant, at least at that time, leading to the breech that led to the creation of the United Episcopal Church of North America. This failure to continue the Central Anglican tradition has limited the appeal of the Continuum - driving away middle-of-the-road and Low Church Anglicans and Episcopalians, and creating a Church, which is at least as Revisionist as TEC, albeit without the liberal revisionist heresy and goofiness.

In order to halt the revisionism, Continuing Anglicans need to return to our inherited tradition. Our central tradition is based on the Bible, the Early Fathers, the Articles of Religion and the Prayer Book. We need to be very careful about how much we borrow from other traditions. It is a little difficult to take seriously a parson who appeals to the uniqueness of Anglicanism whilst borrowing heavily from the ceremonial customs and theology of Rome or Geneva. It is time to stop being embarrassed about Classical Anglicanism, and return to our foundations.

Friday, March 19, 2010

First Evensongs

One thing that one encounters in the BCP Lectionary is the provision for Sundays and Major Feasts to have a "First Evensong" as we used to call it in England. The liturgical day, like the Jewish day, begins at sunset which means that, in effect, Evensong can belong either to the day ending and the day commencing.

Usually the 1928 BCP treats the Evensong as belong to the day that is ending, but in the case of major feasts the older custom is followed and a "First Evensong" is provided. Most of these are to be found in the Table on pages xliv and xlv of the 1928 BCP. Others, such as that for the Eve of Ascension Day are to be found in the main lectionary.

In the notes I gave in my last Blogpost, two days are affected by this provision; March 24th, when Evensong is not that of the Wednesday after Passion Sunday, but that the First Evensong of the Annunciation, and April 24th when Evensong is not that of the Saturday after Easter III, but First Evensong of St Mark.

Sundays have a little complication of their own. Although the Psalms and Lessons usually come from the daily lectionary table and follow on from those of the previous day, the rubric on page 90 allows the collect of the Sunday to be used on Saturday night, or on the eve of a feast. This is a relic of the old custom of having first Vespers for Sundays.

Although Sundays and Feasts have first Evensongs, Ferias - ordinary days - do not. Thus Ash Wednesday, a privileged feria, has no First Evensong.

The question of whether minor feast days have a one or two Evensongs is a bit vexed. The older custom is that they do, so some unofficial books like "The English Office" make provision for commemorations when feasts follow one after another. For example, this week saw St Patrick on Wednesday, St Cyril of Jerusalem on Thursday, and St Joseph today. So it appoints the collects as follows:

17th Morning Prayer
1. St Patrick
2. Ash Wednesday

17th Evening Prayer
1. St Cyril of Jerusalem
2. St Patrick
3. Ash Wednesday

18th Morning Prayer
1. St Cyril
2. Ash Wednesday

18th Evening Prayer
1. St Joseph
2. St Cyril
3. Ash Wednesday

19th Morning Prayer
1. St Joseph
2. Ash Wednesday

19th Evening Prayer
1. St Joseph (which EO treats as a major holyday)
2. Ash Wednesday

In old-fashioned Anglo-Catholic handbooks, such as Ritual Notes 9th edition, "Simple Feasts" had only a First Evensong. Dearmer, in as much as he addresses the ssue at all, seems to favour this position too. However, many today follow the custom of the 1960 Breviary and 1962 Missal, and grant first Evensongs only to Sundays and Major feasts. This would seem to be the strict letter of the 1928 BCP, but in that case it has to be remembered that no provision was made for Black Letter Days at the time of publication. By the time the first "Lesser Feasts and Fasts" appeared in 1963 minor feasts were being understood as running from midnight to midnight like ordinary days.

I instinctively follow the older, more complex, custom; but then I would! As a result I treat the liturgical day as running from sunset to sunset. Sundays and Red Letter Days have both a First and a Second Evensong, and black letter days only a first Evensong. However, the second part of this usage finds little or no justification in the rubrics of the 1928 BCP, but is simply a taking over of the older custom contained in the Sarum Missal and Breviary.

The Prayer Book Calendar

I am surprised by how many folks have difficulty with understanding the methodology behind the Church Calendar. I usually explain it this way:

Sundays come in two varieties - Greater Sundays which take precedence over any feast, and Lesser Sundays do not.

In the 1928 BCP these greater Sundays are:
The Four Sundays of Advent
The 'Gesimas
The Six Sundays of Lent
Easter Sunday
"Low" Sunday
Rogation Sunday
Sunday after Ascension
Whitsunday
Trinity Sunday

All other Sundays are, of course, Lesser Sundays.

The Church's Holydays are divided into Greater (Red Letter) Holydays and Lesser (Black Letter) Holydays.

The Greater Holydays include all the feasts of Our Lord, including Ascension and Transfiguration, the feasts of the Apostles and Evangelists, St Stephen, Holy Innocents, St. John Baptist, St Michael and All Angels, and All Saints' Day.

All other holydays are minor holydays.

The "Joker in the Pack" so far as the classification of Sundays and Holdays is concerned is the small number of Privileged Ferias - weekdays with a special status. In the 1928 BCP they are Ash Wednesday and the weekdays of Holy Week. These take precedence over Red Letter Holydays. The other special category are the two Privileged Octaves of Easter and Whitsunday.

So, the order of precedence in the 1928 PECUSA BCP is:

Greater Sundays
Privileged Octaves
Privileged Ferias
Greater Holydays
Lesser Sundays
Lesser Holydays

This table of precedence is neccessary because the Church's Calendar has to reconcile a lunar based Calendar that controls the date of Easter with the Solar based Calendar that controls the date of Christmas and Saints' Day. Because the date moves with the lunar calendar, Easter can occur anywahere between March 22nd and April 25th according to the aspect of the Moon.

So how does all this work out in practice.

The month or so that surrounds Easter is usually the most complicated of the Church's Year. So, using the lesser or "black letter" holydays from the 1963 Lesser Feasts and Fasts to supply the minor Holydays absent from the 1928 BCP I have worked out the Calendar from today until the end of April. Hopefully I have not incorporated any goofs!

MARCH

Fri 19th - St Joseph
Sat 20th - St Cuthbert

Sun 21st LENT V (Bl. Thomas Ken, suppressed)
Mon 22nd - James De Koven
Tue 23rd - Gregory the Illuminator
Wed 24th
Thu 25th - ANNUNCIATION - Proper Preface
Fri 26th
Sat 27th

Sun 28th - PALM SUNDAY
Mon 29th - Monday in Holy Week (Bl. John Keble - suppressed)
Tue 30th - Tuesday in Holy Week
Wed 31st - Wednesday in Holy Week (Bl. John Donne - suppressed)

APRIL

Thu 1st - Maundy Thursday (Bl. F. D. Maurice - suppressed)
Fri 2nd - Good Friday
Sat 3rd - Easter Eve (Richard of Chichester, suppressed)

Sun 4th - EASTER - Proper Preface (Ambrose, suppressed)
Mon 5th - Easter Monday - Proper Preface
Tue 6th - Easter Tuesday - Proper Preface
Wed 7th - Of Octave - Proper Preface
Thu 8th - Of Octave - Proper Preface (Bl. William Muhlenberg - suppressed)
Fri 9th - Of Octave - Proper Preface (Bl. William Law - suppressed)
Sat 10th - Of Octave - Proper Preface

Sun 11th - EASTER 1 - Proper Preface (St Leo - suppressed)
Mon 12th - Bl. George Selwyn
Tue 13th
Wed 14th - St Justin Martyr
Thu 15th
Fri 16th
Sat 17th

Sun 18th - EASTER 2
Mon 19th - St Alphege
Tue 20th
Wed 21st - St Anselm
Thu 22nd
Fri 23rd
Sat 24th

Sun 25th - ST MARK (EASTER 3 is commemorated)
Mon 26th
Tue 27th
Wed 28th
Thu 29th
Fri 30th - St Catherine of Siena

By the way, commemoration in the Anglican tradition is confined to the use of the Collect of the Day which is replaced by the feast is used after that of the feast. It should also be noted that the Collect for Advent is used everyday from Advent Sunday toChristmas Eve; that of Ash Wednesday daily from Ash Wednesday to the day before Palm Sunday, and that for Palm Sunday on the first three days of Holy Week. Those of the major feasts with Octaves - Christmas, Epiphany, Easter, Ascension, Whitsunday, and All Saints' Day - are used throughout the Octaves

In the next installment we shall discuss "Fast and Abstinence."

Friday, March 12, 2010

To my Friends in the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC)

As many of you know, I was a priest in the Traditional Anglican Communion for some ten years, and thus have a certain familiarity with the way in which that body evolved between 1994 and 2007.

When I first joined the TAC back in 1994, it was pitched to us as a broad and welcoming Anglican Church where traditional Anglo-Catholics, Central Churchmen, and Evangelicals were equally welcome and equally esteemed. The English province was allowed to accord the Thirty-nine Articles a higher status than the Affirmation of St Louis, and no-one seemed to bat an eyelid at the fact that we had English Missal and lace at St Agatha's, Portsmouth; surplice, tippet and North end at St Paul's, Liverpool, and the English Use somewhere else. In other words, the TAC was the old church without the heresy and goofiness, and the various churchmanships were welcome to coexist within the one Church.

I first became aware of a change in outlook about 2001. It was clear that the House of Bishops was stepping up the pressure for the TAC to assert a more definitively catholic identity. This was accompanied by various rumblings about contacts by our bishops with the Roman Curia. Fair enough, thought I, we do, after all, live in an ecumenical age. By 2004, it was clear that the Primate and his representatives were in serious conversations with some folks in Rome, and that he had hopes of us being granted by Rome what I can only call Uniate status. We were asked not to discuss or speculate, but to await the result of the discussion.

Finally, in 2007, almost all of the TAC's bishops and vicars-general signed the Roman Catholic Catechism saying, in effect, that "this what we believe." Partly in response to this offer to submit by the TAC and to the pleadings of FiF(UK) and others, we have the Papal Letter announcing the potential for the creation of the Anglican Use Ordinariates within the Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church. The Anglican Catholic Church of Australia and the Anglican Church in America have already responded favourably to the Papal initiative, but I am sure there must be a minority in both churches who wish to continue as Anglicans.

Like me, their quest since leaving "the Lambeth Communion" has been to stay with what Peter Toon called Classical Anglican. When the TAC House of Bishops signed the Roman Catholic Catechism, I took that as the signal that it was time for me to move on. I had been deeply impressed by the stance of the United Episcopal Church in proclaiming itself to be "the old Episcopal Church cleansed of heresy." This, of course, was the very thing that had been offered when I had first joined the TAC in 1994, and had slow disappeared thereafter.

So where does the UECNA stand?

The United Episcopal Church of North America stands for Classical Anglicanism. An Anglicanism that is based on the Holy Scriptures, the three ancient Creeds and the doctrinal decrees of the first seven Ecumenical Councils. The UECNA also regards the 1928 Book of Common Prayer and the thirty-nine Articles of Religion as essential parts of our Anglican heritage. Both our commitments to both the Church of the Seven Councils and to the Anglican Reformation are written into the UECNA Constitution and cannot be changed, or bartered away, without the consent of the whole church at two successive General Conventions. We have no ceremonial tests, and equally welcoming Broad Churchmen, Anglo-Catholics, and Low Churchmen.

I would love to welcome some of my former colleagues from the Anglican Church in America and the Traditional Anglican Communion into the United Episcopal Church. We are the old Church without the heresy and goofiness, and although we are small, we can offer a safe and assured future for those who wish to maintain their Classical Anglican identity. I can also promise that the bishops will be honest and up front with their clergy, and allow them their proper share in the governance of the Church.

If you are interested in the UECNA please contact me either at my office (928) 778-6018, or by email revpdr@msn.com

Monday, March 8, 2010

Loyalty to the Prayer Book

Anglicanism involves a series of loyalties, not just to an institution but also to a certain way of understanding and doing things. If one does not grasp that about Anglicanism then one is likely to fall into the same trap as the TAC, which, in its effort to make peace with the Papacy, has got into the habit of treating Anglicanism as nothing more than an ethnic variation of Catholicism - like the Irish or Hispanic Roman Catholic Parish up the street. This reductionist view of Anglicanism is historical hogwash, not to mention theologically dubious.

When the Church of Ireland was disestablished in 1871 it chose four epithets to describe itself - Catholic, Apostolic, Reformed, Protestant. It chose these words because it felt each one of them conveyed an important concept in defining the Church's character, outlook, mission, and purpose. I propose to look at each one of these terms in turn, and draw out a little of their theological and historical meaning.

Catholic - comes from the Greek for "the whole" or "universal." Anglicans have retained both the universally accepted Scriptures - Old Testament, New Testament, and Apocrypha - but also maintained the traditional understanding of how Scripture is to be read. Article 7 makes it clear that not only is the Old Testament not contrary to the new, but that it also preaches Christ. The Articles in accordance with the teaching of St Jerome, also grants a particular status the the Apocrypha - that it is inspired, but not to be used on its own to estabish doctrine. This point of view is consonant with the teaching of both the Eastern and Western Churches from the fourth century down to the Council of Trent when the Roman Church gave the Apocrypha full Canonical Status. The Anglican tradition also accepts the three Catholic Creeds - the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed and the Athanasian Creed. It also retained the universally accepted ministry of Bishop, Presbyter/Priest, and Deacon, and the Dominical Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion. At the same time it acknowledges the sacramental character of confirmation, penance, marriage, unction, ordination. All of this is in line with the Church's teaching in the fourth and fifth centuries.

The use of word Apostolic makes two associations in my mind, and both of them were probably in the thoughts of the framers of the Church of Ireland Constitution. The first association is that an Apostolic Church is one founded on the principles of the Apostles, if not by the apostles themselves. This asserts the Anglican claim to have returned to the faith of the primitive Church. The second is that it also reminds us of the doctine of Apostolic Succession in which the transmission of Holy Orders is associated with the preservation of an orthodox (rightly glorifying) Faith in the Blessed Trinity.

The next two terms unfortunately make certain modern Anglicans cringe "Reformed" and "Protestant" but nonetheless, it takes a revisionist historian on something stronger than good port to argue that they are not part of the Anglican heritage.

The first of these "Reformed" was doubtless agreed upon because it reflected a High Church - Low Church consensus that we have since lost. High Churchmen of the period would have seen Anglicanism as reformed when compared to the relatively unreformed Church of Rome. To this Low Churchmen (Evangelicals anyway) would have added their understanding that Anglicanism at least tolerated the tenets of Reformed Christianity including Predestination, Receptionism, and Charitable Presumption attitude to the doctrine of Baptism Regeneration, all of which would have been questioned by Protestant High Churchmen.

Finally, there is the term Protestant. This historically has its origins in the Protestatio of the Evangelical Princes against the Emperor Karl V's attempts to reimpose Catholicism in Germany. It also carries the sense of a Protest in favour of reform, the sufficiency of Scripture and a return to the Christianity of the Patristic Age, which is what both Luther, and the later Anglican Reformers were trying to achieve. Perhaps it is William Van Mildert (1767-1836) who summed up this positive reformation best when he wrote that, "at the Reformation the Church of England became protestant in order to become more truly and fully catholic."

Another thing to which Anglicans adhere is the liturgy. The Book of Common Prayer represents the reformation of the liturgy as surely as the Thirty-nine Articles and the Homilies represent the Reformation of doctrine. The Prayer Book revised and condensed the service of the mediaeval Church with some definite objects in mind. For a start, the liturgy was put into English (and at a later date Welsh, Irish, Gaelic, Jerrais, Manx and a host of other languages) so that worship would be in a language "understanded of the people." It also removed Prayers to the Saints - whilst acknowledging the Communion of Saints through the Calendar - and also removed all legendary material. Just from this rather casual enumeration of the principles behind the Prayer Book one can see why Bishop Manning of New York and Bishop Nichols of California both slammed the relatively moderate American Missal as "misrepresenting" the Prayer Book. It is also notable that until the 1960s English clergymen promised to use the official liturgy of the Church - the 1662 BCP, and the 1928 BCP is part of the doctrine, disciple and worship of the Church which American clergymen give their oath to uphold.

It is absolutely no coincidence that the Thirty-Nine Articles are placed in the back of the Book of Common Prayer. The two of them together are a sort of Anglican "here I stand." A repudiation of either is really a repudiation of Anglicanism itself. I believe that for Anglicanism to prosper in the twenty-first century it is neccessary to return to our Anglican heritage, and that without dissimulation or special pleading.