Friday, December 25, 2009

Shopping for a Christmas descant

“The First Nowell,” as various sources helpfully note, was first published in 1823, although the words are believed to date to 1600 or even the 13th century. The melody first appeared with these words in 1833, but is also thought to date from centuries earlier. The arrangement we all know is that of Sir John Stainer published in 1871.

The term Nowell is Old English for the French Noël (which means birth, i.e. the birth of Christ). It's a greeting used for the Christmas feast, as recounted in the Franklin’s Tale (ca. 1395), one of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. (Some call the carol “The First Noël,” but I agree with those who say that if you’re going to say “Noël” then you should say “Le premier Noël.”)

My challenge this Christmas season was to find a descant for our choir to sing with “The First Nowell.” More precisely, I was looking for a descant for one (or two) of our younger sopranos to sing — each with beautiful voices but not a lot of experience singing descants. (As I recall from my choirboy days, one of the joys of being a soprano is that you almost always get to sing the melody.)

Finding the right descant proved a lot harder than it looked -- both in terms of what is free on the Internet and also in terms of the lack of consensus. This despite (or perhaps) because this is a very popular carol for descants. As one website snipes:
"The First Noel" is one of the most popular of all Christmas carols, known well to schoolchildren and to choral music arrangers who try to outdo each other in maximizing the registral sweep of the refrain by piling on lines of descant harmony.
First, I checked my hymnals (Anglican and otherwise) to see which ones had it:
  • Had it: Hymnal 1940, Hymnal 1982, Songs of Praise Enlarged Edition (1931), New English Hymnal (1986). I also found it in the 1975 Baptist Hymnal of the Southern Baptist Convention.
  • Didn’t have it: The English Hymnal (1906) — perhaps why it was in Songs of Praise. It’s also missing from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) and Lutheran Worship (1982): it is because the German-American LCMS types didn’t share a common culture with pre-Reformation England, or was it some other reason?
Then I went in search of descants. Using Google, Wikipedia and other sources, I found at least 5 descants (some just a descant, some involving complete re-harmonization). I don’t have date of composition, but the chronological order of birth for the descant composers is
  1. Healy Willan, 1880-1968, Anglo-Canadian, arguably the most famous 20th century Anglican choral composer after Ralph Vaughan Williams.
  2. Evelyn Sharpe, (ca. 1895-???), who is best known for the "The Bird with the Yellow Bill" and "The hum of the bees".
  3. (Sir) David Willcocks, 1919-, English.
  4. (Sir) Philip Ledger, 1937-, English.
  5. Paul Halley, 1952- , Anglo-American choirmaster of St. John's (PECUSA) cathedral in NYC from 1977-1989.

1. Willan

The Willan was the easiest to find — Hymnal 1982 has the Willan descant for the refrain only. Although I saw one reference suggesting it was first published in 1926, I couldn’t find the original or any evidence of a descant for the full carol.

2. Sharpe

I had even more trouble finding music for the other descants. My best luck was with Evelyn Sharpe — a task made more difficult due to considerable confusion between Sharpe and two contemporaries named Evelyn Sharp (one an English librettist, one a World War II pilot.) Miss Sharpe’s descant was published in 1944 as #27 in Cramer’s Descant Series. (What a wonderful idea that a publisher published a series of scores to capture descants.) However, as far as I can tell, it’s not held in the Library of Congress, and so I couldn’t figure out a way for an American to get a copy. This the one descant that I never heard.

3. Willcocks

I found a ECUSA church in Lexington, Kentucky that used a Willcocks harmonization for its 2007 Festival of Lessons and Carols — both for The First Nowell and three other Christmas carols. The Willcocks arrangement of the entire carol is on YouTube in a 2008 performance by the King’s College Cambridge. The descant is a little hard to hear over the blaring organ, but it’s quite pretty; however, it might require a professional choir (like those from the English choir schools) to pull it off.

4. Ledger

I found the Ledger harmonization in my CD collection. My favorite Christmas collection is an all-star English choirboy compilation entitled “Christmas Carols From Wells & Salisbury.” However, my reaction to the Ledger harmony was almost the same as that to Rococo architecture — too ornate and dated.

5. Halley

The final version I found was that by the (now-American) Paul Halley. Given when it was composed, I was wary at best, and one of the YouTube performances made it clear that this was not the descant for me or our choir.

6th Descant

If you listen to contemporary (pop-ish) performances of “The First Nowell,” there is another descant they are using that’s none of the above. Listening to one of my CDs, I plinked this transcription out at the keyboard:
This is certainly the descant I’ve heard many times before. It’s always possible that this is the Sharpe descant I never found.

Upon further investigation, the descant line in the first phrase is just transposing up the tenor part written by Stainer — making it the oldest of the descants. Kenny Rogers also sang this line on a 1990 CD among my collection of 35 Christmas CDs.

I don’t know where the last two descant measures came from, but it has a voice leading worthy of 16th century counterpoint and ends on the root of the D major chord.

In short, this descant is very easy to sing and thus the one we ended up using. Certainly I’d use it again, unless there was some particular reason we wanted to use the Willan (which was almost as easy to sing, but not quite as dramatic.)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

What Isaac Watts says to "us"

Two years ago, I complained how Hymnal 1982 mangled the 2nd verse of everyone’s favorite Isaac Watts Christmas hymn to elide the dreaded “M” word:
Joy to the world! the Savior reigns;
let men their us our songs employ,
while fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
repeat the sounding joy,
repeat the sounding joy,
repeat, repeat the sounding joy.
A quick Google search suggests that this particular hymnodic vandalism has not only spread throughout mainstream Protestant denominations, but also the American Catholic Church via the modern liturgy of Today’s Missal.

It was the topic of a blog posting Saturday at evangel, the wonderful ecumenical blog (hosted by the Catholic First Things) for right-thinking Christians everywhere. Biola University prof Fred Sanders first notes what my wife, I and everyone else born before 1965 knows deep down: for centuries the word “men” was used to refer to “human beings.” (Don’t get me started on the abominable non-word “humankind.”)

Sanders notes that in teaching on the original text (Psalm 98), Watts wanted to distinguish between the animate human beings and the inanimate remainder of God’s creation. We sing to the Lord because that’s why we were created: to praise God. Watts wants to make sure we’re clear that it’s the people (and not fields, floods, rocks, hills or plains) that are employing songs — rather than “all the earth” of the psalm.

I wish Sanders’ arguments would be enough to win over the inclusive language crowd in the ACNA and other groups, but I’d bet he’s just preaching (or at least drawing) to the choir. Unfortunately, being right nowadays isn’t enough.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Centuries of Christmas hits

A new list of the most popular Christmas carols has been posted by It is based on the Dictionary of North American Hymnary, an index of 4876 hymnals published in North American from 1640-1978. The list is supplemented by “about 40” hymnals published since then.

Here are the first 25 of the 29. The #1 entry was mentioned in about a third of the hymnals, and the first seven were mentioned by at least 10%:
  1. Joy to the world!
  2. Hark! the herald angels sing
  3. Brightest and best of the sons of the morning
  4. When shepherds watched their flocks by night
  5. It came upon the midnight clear
  6. O little town of Bethlehem
  7. Angels from the realms of glory
  8. Silent night, holy night
  9. O come, all ye faithful
  10. As with gladness men of old
  11. Come, thou long-expected Jesus
  12. Away in a manger
  13. O come, O come Emmanuel
  14. Thou dist leave thy throne
  15. Calm on the listening ear of night
  16. The first Noel the angel did say
  17. We three kings of Orient are
  18. All my heart this night rejoices
  19. There's a song in the air
  20. Wake, awake, for night is flying
  21. Angels we have heard on high
  22. Good Christian men, rejoice
  23. Shepherds, rejoice! lift up your eyes
  24. What child is this who, laid to rest
  25. From heaven above to earth I come
The list seems a little odd, but my guess is that the sheer number of pre-1900 hymnals skews the results away from modern tastes (not necessarily a bad thing.)

Last year Leland Ross used a similar exercise (with a smaller and more recent list of hymnals) to select his list of 16 favorite Christmas hymns. The differences might say something about the shifting of tastes, although a chronological sort on the DNAH results would do this more consistently.

From the DNAH list, two hymns Ross didn’t have were “Brightest and best of the sons of the morning” and “As with gladness men of old.” Meanwhile, his list ranked “What child is this” and “Good Christian men, rejoice” much higher than the multi-century version.

One Christmas hymn Ross mentioned that was completely absent from the DNAH list: “Go tell it on the mountain,” first published as a “Negro spiritual” in 1907 — although the refrain predates its publication. Personally, I think adding this hymn (#99) is one of the few improvements in Hymnal 1982 — as opposed to “Good Christian friends, rejoice” (ouch) or its mangling of “Hark, the herald angels sing.”

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Setting the canon of Advent

Ever since last year’s posting quoting Leland Ross on the canonical Christmas Carols, I’ve been wanting to make a similar list for Advent hymn. I’ve been investigating this off and on all fall. What I present here is too little and a little later than I would have liked, but it is all I’ve got time to summarize thus far.

I consulted two seminal hymnals (The English Hymnal from 1906 and Hymnal 1940) and one modernist hymnal (Hymnal 1982). The latter was because I was giving advice to someone who uses that hymnal, not because my opinion of it has changed, but it does provide a proxy for what hymns were in common use in PECUSA in the late 1970s. I wish I could have also consulted Hymns Ancient & Modern (1861) — as well as some of my Lutheran hymnals — but ran out of time.

Exactly seven Advent hymns show up in all three hymnals with the same tune. Two of these hymns I’ve previously written about:
  1. “Creator of the stars of night,” tune: Conditor alme Siderum. TEH: 1, H40: 6 Tune 1; H82: 60
  2. “Hark the glad sound! the Savior comes,” tune: Bristol. TEH: 6T1; H40: 7; H82: 71
  3. Hark, a thrilling voice is sounding,” tune: Merton. TEH: 5; H40: 9; H82: 59.
  4. “Lo, he comes with clouds descending,” tune: Helmsley. TEH: 7; H40: 5T2; H82: 57. The Americans also have St. Thomas (H40: 5T1; H82: 58), which seems equally good but is somewhat easier to sing.
  5. O come, O come Emmanuel,” tune: Veni Emmanuel. TEH: 8; H40: 2; H82: 56.
  6. “On Jordan's bank the Baptist's cry,” tune: Winchester New. TEH: 9; H40: 10; H82: 76.
  7. “Wake, awake, for night is flying,” tune: Sleepers, Wake. TEH: 12; H40: 3; H82: 61,62. (Note: This is the subject of a 11/23/2009 podcast at Issues Etc.)
A close runner up is
  1. “Thy kingdom come! On bended knee” appears in all three hymnals but not with the same tune. H40 (#391) and H82 (#615) use St. Flavian while TEH (and its 1986 successor the New English Hymnal) list Irish; the TEH (#504) alternately recommends St. Stephen. This is indexed as a general hymn, but listed by both TEH and H40 as a hymn “also” used for Advent.
Of those that showed up in two hymnals, my personal list of honorable mentions:
  1. Come, thou long-expected Jesus,” tune: Stuttgart, justifiably the first hymn in my favorite hymnal (H40: 1; H82: 66). I find the words by Charles Wesley to be perfect for signaling the beginning of Advent.
  2. “The King shall come when morning dawns,” tune: St. Stephen, H40: 11; H82: 73.
  3. “Christ whose glory fills the skies,” tune: Ratisbon, H40: 153; H82: 7. (H82 inflicts a new tune Christ Whose Glory as hymn #36). This is another H40 “also” Advent hymn, also with words by Wesley.
Four other hymns were found in two of the three hymnals — “O Word, that goest forth on high” (H40, H82), “The world is very evil” (TEH, H40), “Thy kingdom come, O God” (TEH, H40) and “Watchman, tell us of the night” (H40, H82) — but don’t seem to fit into the same category as the first 11. Only the first one (“O Word”) is listed in the Advent section, while the others are recommended alternates in the TEH and/or H40. (H82 doesn’t directly list alternates — I suspect they are in one of the hymnal companions.)

Finally, a 12th hymn is not listed as “Advent” but is recommended by H40 for Advent III and matches the H82 (Year C) reading for Advent II.
  1. “Love divine, all loves excelling,” tune: Hyfrydol, H40: 479T1; H82: 657. TEH and NEH print Charles Wesley’s words with other tunes, but I can’t imagine why anyone would ever sing anything but Rowland Prichard’s greatest hit.
The latter might seem like a stretch, but the phrases “Joy of heaven to earth come down” and “Come, almighty to deliver” do suggest a fit to the Advent theme. I’ll use any excuse to sing Hyfrydol, particularly if I can sing harmony.

Today at church we did two of the holy dozen: “Lo, he comes with clouds descending” and “Come thou long-expected Jesus.” I’m hoping that we’ll sing most of the remainder before Advent is over.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

San Diego wrent asunder

The latest court ruling has come in for two San Diego Anglican parishes, and — as with the recent run of news — the news was not good: both St. Anne’s (Oceanside) and Holy Trinity (Ocean Beach) have lost their cases at the Superior Court level. (Rev. Joe Rees, the new rector of St. Anne’s, issued a statement Friday, but I’ve seen no comment from Holy Trinity).

The San Diego paper has thus far ignored the story, but the Oceanside paper published a story Saturday. Former Anglican jleecbd has sympathy for the plight of these nearby parishes, but predicts — as consumers of the Anglican Fudge — they are merely deferring equally serious doctrinal issues down the road.

Bishop Mathes gloated by suggesting that the current occupants of the disputed buildings “come home,” knowing full well they won’t. He also claims to plan to rebuild the Oceanside parish as TEC outpost. However, there is no announced plan (nor any plausible plan) for reusing Holy Trinity, which — only 1.6 driving miles from All Souls (Point Loma) — has made a niche over the past 40 years by being traditional in contrast to all things trendy and progressive at All Souls.

I recall when Mathes was narrowly elected in November 2004 over Bishop Anthony Burton, the traditionalist candidate. Mathes was sold as a “moderate” but immediately began governing from the hard left. (Sound familiar, anyone). The shift from Bp. Hughes (a true moderate) to Mathes brought one of the most rapid exoduses of parishes from any TEC diocese over the past decade.

If you look at the Diocese of Western Anglicans (ACNA) congregations, six of the 22 parishes are from San Diego County — far out of proportion to the 3 million San Diegan’s share of the population of Southern California (19+ million) and Arizona (6.5 million). Not listed is St. Anne’s — I’m told that its former rector (Tony Baron) was not interested in joining ACNA, but the new rector was more open to the possibility.

Of these 7 San Diego Anglican parishes, five had already lost their buildings. No word on whether the two remaining parishes will be able to remain through Christmas in the buildings that loyal Christians paid to build and support over the past decades.

Meanwhile, the lead defendant in California — St. James Newport Beach — is continuing its case in Orange County Superior Court, despite losing a recent appeal to the US Supreme Court. (Perhaps they hope the court will recognize the legal absurdity of the TEC claim to be a hierarchical church.) No word on whether Holy Trinity (whose former warden was City Attorney of San Diego) plans to also appeal, but from Rev. Rees’ statement, it sounds like St. Anne’s plans to concede.

I’ve worshipped at three of the seven parishes, and so I know none of these decisions were ones made lightly. Instead, like parishes elsewhere in California, most (if not all) must work on building a new parish utilizing temporary facilities.

It’s possible that St. Anne’s has a favorable property alternative only a mile down the road. In 1994, fed up with the direction ECUSA was heading, St. Anne’s rector (Rev. Gary Heniser) quit the ECUSA to form Church of the Advent, a new parish of the Charismatic Episcopal Church. A few years ago, they acquired space at the old (but serviceable) Methodist church in Oceanside when that church moved across I-5 to bigger facilities. The CEC is more charismatic than Episcopal — not counted as “Anglican” by “San Diego Anglicans” — but the long ties between Father Heniser and his former flock might facilitate some sort of cooperation.

As a believer, even if all the remaining court cases go badly, I expect to see the successful rebirth of the Anglican faith in San Diego, Orange County, LA, the Central Valley and even pockets of the Bay Area. I fell sorry, however, for those in their 70s or 80s, whose last memories on this earth will be of the bitter court fights, dislocation, uncertainty and despair. Perhaps they will place their hopes in their children and grandchildren, who merely face challenges of money — not the risk of death or imprisonment in the early Christian church, or modern day China or Sudan.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Reformed but not Catholic

Many summaries of the Anglican faith describe it as “both Catholic and Reformed.” Sometimes this middle way has been called via media, until that term got corrupted by a leftwing TEC advocacy group.

However, the Church Society — the leading Evangelical group in the Church of England — not surprisingly prefers Reformed over Catholic. In the summer issue of its newsletter Cross†Way (reprinted by David Virtue), staffer David Meager summarizes the debate held at the group’s annual meeting:
Church Society met in May for its annual Conference at High Leigh. The aim was to determine whether the fundamental nature of the Church of England is 'Catholic' (i.e. unreformed) or 'Reformed'.
On the opening day Roger Beckwith addressed the question of whether the CofE was historically 'Catholic' or 'Reformed.' Roger explained that although Anglo-Catholicism and Liberalism had made inroads in the last 150 years the basis of the CofE was in fact reformed.
Roger then explained that the word 'catholic' meant 'universal' or 'general' and should not be confused with Roman Catholic or Anglo-Catholic, but rather 'catholic' expresses those who hold the common Biblical faith. Since the CofE Formularies acknowledge the ancient creeds (which also contain the word catholic) the CofE can therefore claim to be both catholic (in the true sense of the word) and reformed (unlike the Church of Rome which can be called neither catholic or reformed since it has distorted the catholic doctrine of justification by faith alone.)
This tension between Evangelical and Anglo-Catholic dates back (as the article makes clear) to the 17th century fights of the Puritans both to assert control over the church and the crown, and their periods of vigorous suppression, particularly under Charles I. But of course the tension continued for the next three centuries, over the theology of liturgy (especially the words of institution). Tensions flared anew after the 19th century Anglo-Catholic revival under the Oxford Movement.

The Evangelicals have made common cause in the US with Anglo-Catholics to create ACNA, and share many of the same objections to ECUSA theological innovations. However, before acquiring a common enemy in the revisionists there have been longstanding tensions between the Evangelical and Anglo-Catholic factions both in the US and UK.

What I found troubling about the Cross†Way account (and presumably the Church Society) position was the assumption (or deliberate distortion) that all Protestants are Calvinists — or that differences among Protestants are less significant than those between Protestants, Catholics and Orthodox.

Lutherans are clearly not Calvinists, and (despite some fudges by Philipp Melanchthon) they reject many Calvinist doctrines. I’ve been very blessed to learn from Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod) worship and online websites. Unlike the Anglicans, they actually have a confessional doctrine, contained in the Book of Concord.

Sincere there is no Anglican confession and very ambiguous doctrinal definitions, I find myself most guided by Lutheran doctrine. Like the Anglo-Catholic faith, it places a great weight on Christian tradition, except that the Lutherans reject the most egregious Papal excesses of Luther’s day. (Yes, I know that’s oversimplifying). It is thus possible to see an overlap between Lutheranism and the idea of Anglo-Catholics as “Catholic without the Pope,” much more than I can see common ground between the Anglo-Catholics and the 21st century Calvinists.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Something scary: Reform!

As a parent and a suburbanite — as well as someone who occasionally watches TV — today is defined as Halloween. A few of us (maybe more Anglicans than other Prods) will remember the Celtic link. As the TEC rationalization for a Halloween-specific liturgy helpfully explains:
The term “Halloween”, is shortened from “All-hallow-even”, as it is the eveningbefore All Hallows' Day. Halloween originated with the Celtic tribes who lived in Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and Brittany. For the Celts this Festival marked the endof summer - the coming of winter. For Celts it is a time when the bridge that separates the world of the living and the world of the dead becomes firmer,allowing spirits and ghosts and ghouls to cross over. These spirits or departedsouls are honored and asked to grant luck and prosperity
However, as someone who briefly walked on the German side, today is also the 492nd anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses to the door of the church in Wittenburg. The Lutheran church (or at least the LCMS churches I’ve attended) make a big deal about this every year — it is their day, and that makes sense since it marks the beginning of their branch of Christianity and (John Calvin notwithstanding) the Reformation. I’m still hoping to make it to Wittenburg in 2017 for the festivities but perhaps that’s a forlorn hope.

The more I learned about Luther — the theses, his small and large catechism — the more I liked. On the big issues (sin, salvation, communion) I didn’t see anything in Lutheran doctrine that would prevent me from being an Anglican. And often I find it comforting to read Lutheran doctrine, precisely because the Lutherans actually have doctrine rather than those squishy 39 Articles that encompass a wide range of (sometimes conflicting) Anglican beliefs.

With the Vatican’s recent invitation to disaffected Anglicans, 2009 seems like a particularly interesting time for Anglicans (and Protestants) more generally to think about Luther and the Reformation. Martin Luther didn’t set out to create a new church but to reform the existing one. Similarly, many Anglo-Catholics long more for a Catholic church without its faults rather than dream of a perfected CoE.

Another interesting recent development is that the Catholic intellectual journal First Things has started a blog called evangel for evangelicals to help promote dialog among American Christians. (LCMS pastor/blogger Rev. Paul McCain has been spotted making comments there). The news peg of Reformation Day has extended the ongoing conversation of what divides and unites Christians across the Tiber. For example, Hunter Baker (whose parents were Catholic and Church of Christ) on Friday summarized his dilemma as follows:
The division of the church scandalizes me, especially in the world we live in. Part of the reason we lost as much as we did in American culture is because the Protestants worried more about “Romanism” than they did about secularism.

I wish I could see the Reformation’s end in sight, in a way that would somehow satisfy us all.
This was not the only evangel posting about Reformation Day. Blogger Jared Wilson notes that if the Catholics are excessively ceremonial, when it comes to (Calvinist) Protestants:
we are Keystone Kops over here. We are the Million Stooges, the overflowing clown car.

I think one reason the Reformation was so brilliant, so powerful, so swift in its spread, and still such an anchor—honestly: Luther and Calvin and Zwingli,, but especially Luther, make me feel sane—for many of us today is because as it was taking shape and rescuing hearts, there was no Protestant Church yet to discredit it.
I’d like to think that’s the one thing that liturgical Protestants (esp. Anglo-Catholics) do well. We are a serious bunch, focusing on preserving the faith through the generations, without either infallible pontiffs or all-too-fallible televangelists. (Of course, the bells and smells and other rituals often take the place of actual belief — but hey, nobody’s perfect.)

On a happier note, “Byzantine Calvinist” blogger David Koyzis posted a YouTube video of Luther’s famous doctrinal hymn: Ein' Feste Burg ist Unser Gott, noting its derivation from Psalm 46, a psalm that provided comfort to Luther during his long fight to reform the Church. (Like the LCMS types, Koyzis favors the original syncopated rhythm rather than the even rhythm most of us know.)

Even if the latest efforts at church reunification bear fruit, there will be many more Reformation Days in which Protestants and Catholics worship separately the same God who gave us the same Scriptures.

If nothing else, I think we should rejoice that the splintering of the church brought us all those great stanzas from the Protestants hymnodists: Luther, Watts, Wesley — with translations by Winkworth — as well as tunes from Bach, Haydn, Vaughan Williams, S.S. Wesley and so many others. I still love my medieval Catholic plainsong (as translated by J.M. Neale), but our Sunday worship would be impoverished if we lost all the music that has been written in the past 450+ years by Protestant apologists.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

River Tiber no longer deep nor wide

Today’s announcement that the Roman Catholic church is welcoming Anglicans into the fold is far more sweeping than had been rumored over the past few years. (Yes, as a reader pointed out in response to Sunday’s posting, many of the Schism I types have long longed for reunification with Rome.)

The best coverage so far is in the Telegraph (sorry Ruth) which points out that the plan creates a church within a church that is broader and deeper than previous accommodations to Eastern- and Anglican-rite Catholics. The Guardian notes that (as long expected) the 500,000-member Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) is first in line, and the TAC primate makes it clear they will immediately start working on building institutions of cooperation and unity. (Time to print more Tiber River Swim Club t-shirts).

The British press (including the Telegraph and Times) make it clear that Archbishop Williams was gobsmacked by the announcement. (It’s such a great term — and perfect here — so I’m surprised they didn’t use it). Meanwhile, the US press is doing its typical terrible ahistoric job of covering the ongoing fissures in Anglicanism, as pointed out by former Episcopalian (now Orthodox) religion writer Terry Mattingly in GetReligion.

I don’t pretend to understand all the theological and ecclesiastical implications of the announcement, nor to be able to predict how popular the option will be with Anglican clergy or laity. The British press makes it clear that this will have a major impact in the UK and its 25 million nominal Anglicans; if only 10% jump to Rome, that’s more than the 2 million remaining in the TEC.

In the US, there is the lingering problem here of a corrupt RCC hierarchy tolerating and then covering up all those priests who were buggering little boys. (It was also a problem in Canada and Ireland). The worst news is out, but the scandal is not quite over.

Here in the US, I’m guessing that Schism I Anglo-Catholics will leap at the opportunity, but the Schism II evangelicals will prefer to keep their own ACNA hierarchy and their ordained women; today Abp. Duncan made it clear he’s not ready to sign up. I believe the fragile confederation that is ACNA will be put to the test, as individuals, parishes and even dioceses (Ft. Worth? San Joaquin?) are tempted to follow the Anglican Church in America (the US branch of TAC) and swim the Tiber.

Update 4pm: Abp. Duncan and Williams share a common interest in keeping the Continuing Anglicans with the CoE/AC rather than have even more join the Tiber River Swim Team. My initial reaction was that if Abp. Williams (and the other instruments of communion) are going to recognize ACNA and bring them into the Anglican Communion fold, he should do it sooner rather than later. Bp. Martyn Minns of CANA essentially said the same thing this afternoon.

So without knowing who and when and how many parishes, priests and parishioners, it’s impossible to predict what this will do to Anglican worship. The Telegraph notes that in the UK, some Anglicans may prefer the new translation of the Roman rite while Catholics could choose Anglo-Catholicism over the mod liturgy that passes for the RCC nowadays.

The one prediction I feel comfortable making: the English-speaking Anglican Catholics (Catholic Anglicans?) will need to develop a liturgy shared around the world, whether based on 1662 BCP or some other instrument. Once the dust settles — and a significant number of ex-Anglicans are aboard — I’d expect the first order of business would be a new prayer book, of course under the doctrinal supervision of the Vatican and presumably in cooperation with the ICEL.

It is a leap of faith to say that this international cooperation would also extend to finding a replacement for The English Hymnal and Hymnal 1940. However, I think this suggests that the chances for a New Anglican Hymnal in North America are becoming close to nil. Perhaps the Schism I, II Anglo-Catholics will adopt the Catholic-Anglican hymnal when/if it becomes available, but that is clearly more than a decade off.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The journey away

My radio presets include a Protestant station (Family Radio) and Catholic station (EWTN). Flipping to EWTN on consecutive Mondays, I heard the weekly show “The Journey Home” (5pm PT, 8pm ET). The website lists the future schedule, while the EWTN RSS feed (podcasts) has links to MP3 files of past programs.

The theme of the show is that those (mostly Protestants) who convert to Catholicism are “coming home.” Like all inter-Christian evangelism, this is a theologically touchy topic, but I thought the (obviously Catholic) host handled the subject with dignity and respect.

That said, it was depressing that the two programs I heard were Anglicans (both with an Anglo-Catholic bent) who gave up on ECUSA/TEC and chose Rome over one of the Continuing Anglican groups. They (perhaps in keeping with the overall show theme) are highly intelligent, educated and articulate converts to Rome.

The September 28 show was an interview with Mary Moorman, who did her PhD dissertation at Southern Methodist U on the sale of indulgences — an improbable choice for a proto-Catholic if there ever was one. Apparently now she’s a prominent speaker in the Anglican Use movement of the US Catholic church.

Last week’s (Oct. 5) show was an interview with Dr. Scott Carson, a philosophy professor at Ohio University. Depressingly, when Carson was doing his PhD at UNC Chapel Hill, his parish priest was Bob Duncan — the same Bob Duncan who’s now the primate of ACNA. Carson thought Rev. Duncan was a great preacher, but that wasn’t enough to keep him in the Anglican faith.

Tomorrow’s (Oct. 12) show is said to be “Fr. Trevor Nicholls, Former Anglican Minister [sic].” (Side note: by denying the priesthood of Anglican clergy, the webmaster seems to minimize the decades of Anglo-Catholic dialog over recognition of Anglican orders.) Ordained a Catholic priest in 1990 by Cardinal O’Connor, Rev. Nicholls is one of the few Catholic priests with grandchildren.

This reminds me of how torn my wife and I have been facing the lousy choices presented by TEC’s recent theological decay. Of all the couple friends we have had since we were married, nearly all came from the ECUSA parish where we spent nearly 10 years of our earliest married days. Of the friends we made,
  • One family is Roman
  • Another is Greek Orthodox
  • Another is at a nondenominational Bible church
  • Another (the most “liberal”) moved away and is at a TEC parish
  • A few remain at our former ECUSA parish, which is becoming less orthodox and more “moderate”
The first rector has retired and his replacement is still there. Of the assistants who moved on, one is Antiochian Orthodox, one is a Catholic layman, one is a TAC priest who (with the rest of TAC) may become Anglican Use Catholic, one went to Ft. Worth (and I hope on to ACNA), and one is no longer in the ministry.

I think we’re the only ones among this group trying to stay Anglican by hanging on to the thin thread of Continuing Anglicanism — the rest would rather switch than fight. Will we give up Anglicanism too?

More generally, after 400+ years is this the beginning of the end of the historic Anglican faith in North America? And what does it say for the Anglo-Catholic faith elsewhere in the world — Australia, New Zealand and even England? The Anglican expression of the Christian faith may continue in the Global South, but much/most of this has an Evangelical rather than Anglo-Catholic orientation.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Hymnal free, harmony free

For today’s recessional, our small congregation gave a hearty rendition of Sir Arthur Sullivan’s greatest hit. No, not HMS Pinafore — but Onward Christian Soldiers. The tune (St. Gertrude) has a great oompa bass line, of the sort you’d expect from someone who’s composed for a tuba in a brass band. Yes, Sir Arthur’s harmonization is very 19th century, but it’s a lot of fun and quite singable — Hymn 557 in my favorite hymnal.

This reminded me of my experience last month, singing one of my favorite tunes: Hyfrydol, the Rowland Prichard tune that appears twice in Hymnal 1940. The first time was with my favorite words: Charles Wesley’s “Love Divine, All Love’s Excelling” — the pre-communion hymn from our wedding, when I had a photocopy of the hymn (#479) in my coat to sing the harmony and all the words. The next Sunday was with W.C. Dix’s “Alleluia, Sing to Jesus” (#347), a very good hymn but without the personal significance for me of Wesley’s wedding words.

But there’s a rub. The first time we sang Hyfrydol, it was at a hymnal-free church where the words are projected on the screen rather than bound in a book in the pews. (This parish is normally a rock-band CCM church, but does Rite I hymns at the early service to humor the small pocket of traditionalists). The second time (with the second-choice lyric) was with good ol’ Hymnal 1940, harmony edition.

As I remarked two months ago, there is a sense among many of the contemporary worship crowd in Schism II that hymnals are passé. These folks would argue “let TEC keep Church Publishing Inc.” because we won’t be needing a printed hymnal anyway. (The Schism I crowd seems committed to Hymnal 1940 for at least another generation).

The problem is, hymnal-free is also harmony-free. Without printed music, learning the tune is a bit of a challenge for newcomers (e.g. from another Christian denomination or for kids), while singing harmony is impossible for all but the most accomplished musicians (most of whom are sitting in the choir loft). Although I’d sung the Hyfrydol harmony many times, it was too complex without having the music or having a chance to practice beforehand.

From my hymnal shopping, it’s clear that printed hymnals with music (let alone harmony) are a comparatively recent phenomenon. Many of the CoE parishioners who died and left behind The English Hymnal or Hymns Ancient & Modern often as not left behind a book with just the words. Still today, a lot of TEC (or Continuing Anglican) churches have melody-only hymnals for some or all of those in the pews.

My guess — and it’s only a guess — is that the four-part hymnals in the home date back to when the middle class could afford a piano in the home. In 1909, the most expensive item in the Sears Roebuck mail-order catalog was a $138 piano, making home music available to most farm families across Midwest and Plains states. Today, a 61- or 88-key electronic keyboard is available for $100 from Costco or big box electronics stores — equivalent to $4 in 1909 dollars.

Thanks to Bach and his successors, four-party harmony has been part of Christian worship for 300 years, and part of pew-singing for at least one third of that period. Let’s hope that technology is used to preserve this important musical and liturgical element, rather than to remove it.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Communicating, preserving and celebrating the faith

Today’s RCL (Year B) epistle (and the subject of part of the sermon) was James 5:13-20. It touched me, because it bears directly on the purpose of Anglican music — and this blog.

The first verse of the passage by St. James is quite clear:
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.
This really crystalized my thinking about the essential question: why do hymns matter? It’s a question I’ve been trying to answer since I started this blog — I intuitively knew that hymns play a crucial role in worship, but I couldn’t articulate why.

Today, I think I have a clear answer. As with other elements of corporate (shared) liturgy, hymns serve three purposes:
  • To communicate the faith. Before Gutenberg, Christians didn’t have personal Bibles and learned the faith from liturgy. Even today, children (and perhaps casual Christians) learn their earliest and perhaps most lasting theological lessons from hymn lyrics (a crucial reason why the words matter.)
  • To preserve the faith. Regular readers know of my devotion to timeless hymns and the continuity they provide to the faith across the millennia. Our oldest hymnal dates from the 6th century, with written music perhaps 500 years later. Such continuity is part of conveying an eternal in our eternal Father.
  • To celebrate the faith. Ever since I can remember, the part I most enjoy about Sunday — what gets me out of bed and out of the house (usually) on time — is singing the hymns. I go not to listen to a performance, but to be part of the corporate worship.
Borrowing from the Hebrews, clearly hymnody dates back to the church’s beginning. St. Paul wrote to the church at Colossus:
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
Or, as I sang in college from Mendelssohn’s 2nd Symphony (“Lobgesang” or Hymn of Praise):
All that hath life and breath, sing to the Lord.
Which brings this back to the purpose of this blog. The sermon was (in part) about the final sentence of the passage from St. James:
My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
I now believe that this blog (and the research it represents) will be my own personal ministry as a Christian, perhaps for my remaining days. I didn’t start this blog to win points on Judgement Day (if that’s even possible), but to share what I learn as part of my own search for deeper understanding.

I’ve been terribly gratified by the the observations and feedback from readers over the past 30 months, and hope that this dialog will continue.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Finding Hope

Recently I was looking for books on hymns at, hoping to find some of books suggested by The Hymn Society of America available cheaper from a used bookseller. (Sorry, HSA — if I have to pay new prices I’ll buy it from you, but money is tight right now.)

Browsing for these books produced some interesting ads from Christian booksellers and other peddlers of hymn books. The most interesting find was an online database from Hope Publishing (est. 1892), entitled “Hope Hymnody Online”.

Hope is pretty clear about what they’re doing and why. To enter the site, it says
In order to use the Hope Publishing Company online hymnody website you must reside in the United States or Canada. Hope Publishing Company owns or administers the contents in these territories. You may download one copy of any selection for your own personal use. To make any further copies you must get permission from Hope Publishing Company or belong to and report the copying activity to CCLI, LicenSing or By selecting "I Agree" you are verifying that you reside in the U.S. or Canada and will only legally use the contents accessible on the site.
To download a PDF, it similarly says:
You have selected to download a copy of the hymn. You have permission to print one copy for your personal use. To make any further copies (for your church congregation, church bulletin, an overhead slide or computerized projection,etc...) you must get permission from Hope Publishing Company or belong to and report the copying activity to CCLI, LicenSing or
In other words, they want you to sample their content and then recommend it for your church to sing (which will generate revenues).

What’s in the database is not all that exciting: hymn texts, their authors and the names of possible tunes to use with them. No authoring dates (they are obscured by a 20th century copyright date), no history, no music. It’s also skewed towards their post-1960 collection, although it does list older Christmas hymns. (PDFs seem available only for the recent ones).

One contemporary composer that I recognized was Carl P. Daw, Jr., an Episcopal priest who served on the Hymnal 1982 committee and has a number of hymns there. (He’s also currently executive director of the Hymn Society.)

The choice of search options are pretty interesting, however: title, tune name, author, composer, meter. There is a list of themes such as Advent, Christmas, Easter, Lord’s Supper and a few dozen more.

What seemed unique was the option to search (even in this limited pool) by scriptural reference. For example, a search for John 14:6 matches 30 hymns, including this one by Christopher Idle
God the I AM who does not change
brings mercies ever new;
no time nor space exceeds the range
of One whose grace this world finds strange-
yet we have found it true.

So Jesus Christ, from yesterday
through all todays the same,
the same for evermore, the Way,
the Truth by whom alone we pray,
the Life, the sovereign Name:
While the content (the product) is little too contemporary for my taste, it certainly will be of use to others. It also offers a model of how traditional Christian hymnody could be presented by a university or non-profit research group.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Still love those Germans

In one of my earliest posts, I wrote about the contribution of German composer to Christian liturgy, in addition to that of Martin Luther and his “Mighty Fortress” hymn.

In his blog “Thinking out loud,” LCMS pastor Rick Stuckwisch lists his favorite 120 German hymns, most of which have been published in the most recent LCMS hymnal, the Lutheran Service Book. The most common names are Martin Luther and his successor Paul Gerhardt. I was surprised that Philipp Nicolai only appears twice, and by listing the author and not composer, Stuckwisch does not directly identify the contributions of the great Johann Crüger.

To me, 120 German hymns seems excessive — but then 120 COE hymns would not. Clearly some of them are ones that I forgot were of German origin, notably “Break Forth, O Beauteous Heavenly Light,” written by Johann Rist and composed by Johann Schop. What I do recall is the Bach harmonization of Schop’s tune, printed as a Christmas hymn in Hymnal 1940 (#25) and even Hymnal 1982 (#91).

Friday, September 18, 2009

Walter Dennis and his Canon lose a big one

The Rt. Rev. Walter Dennis and his ”Dennis Canon“ have been on a roll recently, winning major court cases in California and most states outside Virginia. There was an increasingly presumption that the Canon was valid, despite the obvious legal holes.

On Friday, the highest court in South Carolina issues a ruling resoundingly rejecting the Dennis Canon. As always for the Schism II property fight, Anglican Curmudgeon has the authoritative coverage.

There is no guarantee this will become an influential precedent. All Saints, Pawleys Island had an unusually strong title to their property. Also, the California Supreme Court is notorious for ignoring precedent and going its own way, as when it invented a right to gay marriage.

Still, conflicting state rulings are the textbook reason for the US Supreme Court to take up the Dennis Canon. This could be the best hope for the California parishes facing permanent loss of their properties.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Liturgy and architecture

Titus 19 referenced an article from Lawrence, Kansas about Trinity Episcopal Church, a TEC parish that is going back to the future to attract Kansas U students:
When the church decided to add a new service in fall 2006, instead of looking forward, it looked back.

Way back. As in the fourth century.

The result is a unique celebration of Christianity referred to as the Solemn High Mass. A mystical meeting of old traditions in a setting where blue jeans and T-shirts are appropriate, the Sunday night service features incense, music and what the church, 1011 Vt., refers to as all of the “major propers” including the Kyrie Eleison, the Gloria in Excelsis, the Credo, the Sanctus and Benedictus and the Agnus Dei, which are chanted.

Performed only during the Kansas University school year, the service, which began its 2009-2010 season last Sunday evening, has snagged a crowd young and old, Episcopalian and not, says the Rev. Paul McLain, the church’s curate.
The “4th century” argument seems hyperbolic. It’s hard to tell, but this sounds like no Opus Dei or Tridentine Mass. I’m pretty sure there was no 4th century Christian worship in North America, so the 21st century English will be a bit of an anachronism.

I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, as preserving the traditional liturgy for the new generation is an important goal. However, this would have been considered normal liturgy at a high church (“bells and smells”) PECUSA parish, so the oddity isn’t all that odd — other than my comparison to the liturgical drift of the past few decades.

No word on whether the parish also plans to preserve traditional theology; the Bishop of Western Kansas is considered a TEC moderate, e.g. on the Windsor Report. However, Trinity is in the Diocese of Kansas, whose bishop is listed as a Gene Robinson supporter. Stand Firm in Faith counts him as a KJS apologist.

Still, perhaps the most interesting paragraph was only indirectly related to liturgy:
Solemn High Mass was introduced to Trinity in 2006 by its former rector, the Rev. Jonathon Jensen. Before leaving in June for his current post at the Trinity Cathedral in Little Rock, Ark., Jensen described his thoughts behind the addition of the old-style service this way: “… Lots of churches in Lawrence do contemporary worship, and that’s wonderful, but this is a 150-year-old downtown church that looks like an old English church and we have a fantastic organ and a wonderful chorale tradition, and we know what we can do best. And it’s not contemporary. It’s that (old style). And, so, we wanted to have this distinct offering.”
I’ve always wondered about the link of liturgy and architecture, but this raises more questions than it answers.

For example, do you need an old sanctuary (or old-looking sanctuary) to do traditional worship? (Or to attract parishioners looking for traditional worship?) Similarly, is it inappropriate to have a rock band in the such a building? Trinity seems to have a standard Rite II service on Sunday mornings, but the website doesn’t say what kind of music it has.

Update: Rev. Elizabeth E. Evans of the TEC and GetReligion seems to be similarly skeptical of the claimed “ancient” nature of the Trinity Episcopal worship service.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Inclusive language

One of the objectionable problems of modern PECUSA (and later TEC) liturgy is the rush to gender inclusive language. For example, the RSV was retired in favor of the NRSV, mainly to change a lot of “men” to “people” (and of course to sell new books). Fortunately, the ESV has the translation corrections to the RSV without the political correctness of the NRSV.

On Sept. 2, the Issues Etc. gang hosted an interview with Vern Poythress of Westminster Seminary-Philadelphia on gender inclusivity in the next translation of the NIV. The MP3 file and more information are available at the Issues Etc. archives. Dr. Poythress is co-author of a book on the gender controversy in the previous update of the NIV.

Dr. Poythress does a great job of spelling out the four possibilities for mapping Greek (or other) original text onto the English
  1. The original is unambiguously masculine.
  2. The text is unambiguously masculine, but the point made could apply equally to both sexes
  3. The text is masculine, but ambiguously so (for example, if “brothers” normally means males but could also be used for a mixture of males and females)
  4. The original does not have a gender indication, and thus would most accurately be translated as gender neutral
Despite the obvious sympathies of Dr. Poythress (and host Pastor Todd Wilken) against gender inclusivity, this seems to be a fair discussion of the issues involved — except for those that want all or none of the four cases translated with inclusive language.

Of course, the issues for hymns are even more daunting, because the meter means that the writer lacks the option of using “brothers and sisters.” Hymnal 1982 certainly mangled most of the high-profile Christmas carols, and showed even less restraint in cramming gender inclusivity into less-known hymns.

This is going to be a huge issue for when (or if) North American Anglicans produce a new hymnal, since the evangelical wing of ACNA (let alone their female clergy) are much more sympathetic to gender inclusivity than the three FiFNA diocese or any of Schism I.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Works without faith

A famous but controversial passage of the Epistle of James concludes:
"Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness"—and he was called a friend of God.

You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.

And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?

For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. (John 2:23a-26)
From what I heard this weekend, a childhood friend of mine found the opposite case — works and words without faith — while attending a large Episcopal congregation a few years ago.

It was an odd coincidence: she was never an Episcopalian before (or since), but for few years ago attended the large, upscale parish that I had attended as a kid. She and her husband were drawn to the intellectualism of these high church Episcopalians —the people, the seminars, and of course the high church liturgy with great music. This is a parish that is very high church; for decades, it had the most formal and consistent classical music ministry of any ECUSA church within 50 miles, including a children’s choir patterned after the CoE model.

However, my friend — a onetime Billy Graham volunteer who was always more Christian than any denomination — discovered a jarring reality. The senior priest (no “pastor” at St. Apostasy) didn’t believe most of the key tenets of the New Testament or the creeds: no virgin birth, no miracles, and agnostic on the bodily resurrection. (“Something big” happened to embolden the Apostles, but that’s all he’d admit).

When asked why he recited the words every Sunday if he didn’t believe them, the priest said it was part of the tradition of the church and he wanted to uphold that. (Sounds his stool was missing one leg).

Of course, this puzzles me. Where did this Christless Christianity come from? What kind of “Christian” seminary turns out priests who don’t believe in what has been accepted Christian faith since 325 A.D.? Even if James is right — “faith without works is dead” — certainly he (not to mention centuries of subsequent theologians) would admit that works without faith were never even alive.

Instead of faith, the focus of St. Apostasy is on good works, as part of the Episcopal 2.0 vision of church as an über-social services agency — an emphasis on social justice over evangelism. The website proclaims its outreach and mission, with 11 highlighted community ministries (including LGBT and “Peace and Justice”).

None of the ministries include making converts or spreading the good news. Indeed, this is very European: like the great state cathedrals of Germany and Sweden, more like museums with music than a church. Some say the CoE is only a few years behind. (By comparison, the Catholic cathedral in Köln seemed more authentic in its worship.)

I’m no theologian, but it seems like what distinguishes the Christian faith from Judaism and other Abrahamic religions is two things: belief in the bodily resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, and the exclusive faith claims that Jesus made (e.g. John 14:6, Luke 20:41-44).

Much as we want to preserve traditional worship, we Anglo-Catholics should not make the mistake of seeking common cause with the High Church Progressives like those of St. Apostasy. We have more in common with other Bible-believing liturgical Christians, whether Lutherans (LCMC, LCMS, WELS), (Confessing) Methodists, Catholics and even the rock band Schism II Anglicans.

While the form of worship makes it difficult to make a hymnal with the CCM crowd, the substance — transmission of the one true catholic apostolic faith — will make it impossible to find common ground with those High Church non-Christians that seem to control many TEC parishes.

Perhaps we will need to have a hymnal that spans the various liturgical denominations. Overseas Americans often find themselves worshiping in any English-language Christian church (or at least any English-language Protestant church), so those who travel (or live) abroad are already familiar with some degree of ecumenical liturgy.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Schism I, II inventory

Today David Virtue posted an inventory of US Anglican groups:
  • TEC
  • Schism II, i.e. ACNA: AMIA, CANA, Uganda, Kenya, FiFNA, ARDF
  • Schism I: ACC, APA, APCK, TAC, UECNA, EMC and 52 smaller groups
He also lists the ACC, ACiC and ANiC in Canada.

He has estimated populations (by # of parishes or clergy) for some groupings (AMIA, CANA) and not others (REC, all of Schism I).

According to the 2007 TEC Census (the “red book”), the TEC had about 7,000 parishes, 2.1 million baptized members and average Sunday attendance of 728,000 in 2007. (Some report ASA of 768,000, but that includes non-US dioceses, which is comparing apples and oranges.) Of those, 4 dioceses (with 189 parishes, 49,000 baptized members and ASA of 19,000) left TEC for ACNA — but not all of the parishes in those dioceses left. Of course, other parishes have been leaving TEC before and since — that’s where the AMiA, Uganda and Kenya parishes have come from (whether they left as a congregation or merely as individuals).

ACNA overall claims 100,000 members and an ASA of 69,000. So I’m guessing that the AMiA and the REC actually account for more ACNA parishioners than do the ACNA Four (the 4 TEC refugee dioceses).

Virtue doesn’t provide Schism I figures, but (better than nothing) here’s what Wikipedia lists — presumably from the corresponding websites — for US members of the 6 largest Schism I groups:
  • ACC (Anglican Catholic Church): 135 parishes, 10,000 members
  • APA (Anglican Province of America): 69 parishes, 6,000 members
  • APCK (Anglican Province of Christ the King): 45 parishes and 8,000 members
  • The US arm of TAC, which is ACA (Anglican Church in America): 100 parishes, 5,200 members
  • UECNA (United Episcopal Church of North America): 18 parishes
  • EMC (Episcopal Missionary Church): 50 parishes
So by this, I’m guessing that these big six are about 415 parishes and 35,000 members. Figure the other 52 groupings as 100 parishes, that would give us slightly more than 500 Schism I parishes and about 42,000 members. The ACNA Four had a Sunday participation rate of about 42%, suggesting an ASA of about 18,000 people.

Add these numbers up that gives this estimate of US Anglicans† in pews on an average Sunday:
  • TEC (less ACNA Four): 709,000 (89%)
  • Schism II: 69,000 (9%)
  • Schism I: 18,000 (2%)
  • Total: 796,000
Will any of those remaining in TEC eventually leave? Those remaining span the gamut from traditionalists left in the Southeastern US, to social justice progressives who don’t actually believe in the literal truth of the Nicene Creed but find TEC a convenient vehicle for their causes; clearly the latter are more representative of the TEC clergy.

I’d like to think that if the Dennis Canon didn’t exist, the Schism II exodus would increase by 50% or more. But this is just a thought experiment unless some court eventually finds the Canon invalid — since the whole point of the Canon is to avoid a repeat of the Schism I exodus.

Still, will there be bridges for ongoing dialog and cooperation between Schism I, II and fellow travelers stranded behind enemy lines (e.g. to create my new hymnal)? The AAC and FiFNA were supposed to be this, but they now seem to be branches of ACNA. The Anglo-Catholic SSC certainly spans all three, but it seems more of a religious order than a group involved in the various political or jurisdictional disputes of the day.

† Yes I know that Schism I is not in the Anglican Communion and TEC may get kicked out. For now let’s call them all Anglican, since they all claim to be Anglican in some way shape or form.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Parallel Lutheran decline

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is the largest Lutheran body in the US with about 4.7 million members. Last week the ELCA had its own gay clergy vote to parallel that of the TEC. (Of course, the ELCA and TEC are in communion with each other).

German-born Lutheran theologian Uwe Siemon-Netto lamented the decision in his own recent commentary:
East Germany called itself German Democratic Republic, or GDR, for 40 years. Germans used to quip that this acronym stood for a threefold lie. The GDR was neither German, nor Democratic, nor a Republic. One wonders whether a similar analogy could not be made for the ELCA now that its national assembly of this denomination supposedly committed to the "Sola Scriptura" principle stressing the authority of Scripture.

Is it still "evangelical"? Surely not. Is it still "Lutheran"? No way. Is it in fact still "Church" in the original sense of this word deriving from the Greek vocable "Kyriake" (belonging to the Lord)? That depends on which Lord are we talking about - God or a wimp who does not care whether His word is mocked? The Greek word for church is "ekklesia," meaning "called out." In the light of the ELCA's new sexuality decision we must ponder the identity of the Spirit the largest Lutheran church body in the United States seems to follow these days.

To state it bluntly, there is nothing Lutheran about what has happened in Minneapolis.
I won’t say that misery loves company, but the situation of the remaining Lutheran faithful parallels that of American Anglicans watching the abandonment of the faith by their former Episcopalian colleagues.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Singing the praises of Issues Etc.

As noted in earlier postings, I’m been a big fan of Issues Etc. It’s played a tremendous role in acquainting me with Lutheran theology and also the efforts of traditionalist Christians to push back against a secular culture.

The LCMS radio show hosted by Todd Wilken has done shows on specific hymns and more broadly on the role of music in liturgy in 2008 and 2007.

However, in catching up on some broadcasts earlier this year, I want to call attention to two shows on famous German Lutheran church musicians
Time does not permit me to summarize the two shows, but I commend them to those interested in religious music — available either via the links above, the archive webpage or iTunes podcasts.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Schism II, III: Can't we all get along?

The president of the American Anglican Council has called for Schism II and Schism III Anglicans to get along:
My hope and prayer is that those orthodox Anglicans within TEC and those orthodox Anglicans who have departed to the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) will be able to work charitably together for the good of the global communion. The orthodoxy of the entire Anglican Communion is now at stake. TEC is pressing its false gospel overseas, and trying to keep the Archbishop of Canterbury in a state of paralysis. It is time for all the orthodox Anglicans in North America, Canadians and Americans together, to work with the orthodox Anglicans represented by the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FCA) Primates' Council, and with Dr. Williams if he is willing, to build a stronger, more cohesive, orthodox Anglican Communion …
The few orthodox leaders remaining in the TEC are making calls similar to those who recently left. However, it seems as though those remaining in TEC have limited options without running afoul of the TEC hierarchy and its strictures. That which is optional will be made mandatory, a new prayer book will come out that’s even worse than the 1979 version.

And what about Schism I? Or was the AAC, formed in 1996, too wedded to the 1979 prayer book to consider the 1928 BCP crowd?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Questioning the unquestioned

Conflict within TEC is tearing the church apart, giving it negative publicity, anguish for many members on both sides, and enriching lawyers at the expense of ministry. My friends in the LCMS are 5-15 years behind on the same paths, except that instead of “815” they have “LCMS Inc.” and without the Dennis Canon, they won’t waste money on the lawyers.

The controversy has also been tremendously emotionally draining for me and many other Anglicans who find themselves searching for Schism I parishes, escaping with Schism II parishes, sitting in fence-sitting parishes, or trapped behind enemy lines.

However, this controversy has brought retrospection and self-examination for all of us. I (and many other Anglicans) have spent much of the past decade examining and articulating our faith and the reasons that we believe what we believe.

This calls to mind the famous quote by Socrates: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” In addition to its philosophical, educational and personal growth implications, it also provides a rationale for Christian apologetics.

This epiphany was prompted by reading a couple of postings recently by Schism II ex-Episcopalians. The Schism I folks all went through this 30 years ago, but at the time most of us were not paying attention (perhaps because our local priest or bishop was still doctrinally sound).

One is last month’s open letter by the Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan, archbishop of ACNA. An excerpt:
The North American poet, Robert Frost, once wrote: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the road less traveled by. That has made all the difference.” For Anglican Christians, for the Instruments of Unity (Communion), for interdependent Provinces, for ordinary believers, there is a choice to be made. The choice is between two religions, two roads, two cities, two sets of conflicting values and behaviors. In Deuteronomy, chapter 30, Moses sets the choice as between blessing and curse, life and death. For contemporary Anglicanism the present choice is this stark.
Another example comes from G.W. Barry, a former St. Edwards (San Jose) parishioner, posting on the Bay Area ACNA discussion forums:
The New Testament letters Paul wrote to Timothy have been the most helpful to me throughout this process. I urge you to pick up your bible and prayerfully read his relatively short but challenging message. The values we model matter – they matter to our children, and they matter to the community at large. Timothy is warned about false teachers and urged to uphold his faith in Christ.

Paul also discusses the qualifications of a church leader and he lists specific criteria. There is also a rather sobering admonition regarding those who would “quibble over the meaning of words,” (I Tim 6:4) and those who “spend their time arguing and talking foolishness.” (I Tim 1:6) It is not mine to interpret it for you in light of this controversy, but I have God’s promise that He will use those inspired words just as Paul told Timothy He would: “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives.” 2 Tim 3:16.

“For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to right teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers to tell them whatever they want to hear” 2 Tim. 4:3
She concludes:
I have been reminded that we are not to judge, rather, we are to love one another as Christ loves us. At the risk of quibbling over the meaning of words, context is important here. There are two meanings for the word “judge”, one is to condemn someone for a behavior, and the other is to “discern” or to make a choice between options. I believe we are called to judge in the sense that we need to discern what it means to remain faithful and choose to stand firm in our faith, and what is essentially false teaching. For me, that meant letting go of a church that is drifting into territory I discern to be forbidden.
Did people write (or read) letters like this before they had to make difficult choices? Having to define your faith — in order to shop for a doctrinally sound parish — is far more time consuming than just spending a hour a week in the nearest PECUSA franchise, as most of us did 15 years ago.

It might even force a few Anglicans to (gasp!) actually read their Bibles. A cradle CoE friend of mine is very active in Bible Study Fellowship. For at least two years, he has (gently) been nudging me to join a BSF class. This year, it may actually work.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Anglo vs. Roman

Updated 5pm Aug. 10 based on two comments from reader Nicholas below.

Since the Oxford movement, many Anglicans have been so enthusiastic about Catholic-style liturgy — to the point that many of Anglo-Catholics claim (post-Vatican II) to be more Catholic than the Roman Catholics.

A few Anglo-Catholics even want to be Catholic. Over more than a year, the Traditional Anglican Communion (and their US affiliate the Anglican Church in America) has been exploring how it might get into communion with Rome and the Pope (who I guess they would then call the Holy Father). Rumor has it that the plan has some support in Rome, and the TAC’s archbishop still hopes to achieve such a result. (My impression is that the ultimate result would be to become another Anglican-rite Catholic church, but the Vatican seems to have said nothing official yet).

I’ve always wondered, however, what doctrinal issues lurked under the surface — not the obvious authority ones, but ones about our conception of God and man’s relationship to him. Clearly there must be some doctrinal questions that enter into borrowing between various Christian denominations and groups, unless the lyrics are such pablum as to encompass everything from Opus Dei to the Unitarian Universalists. (When I took a Hymnal 1940 hymn (#55) to sing at my local LCMS church during a midweek Lenten service, the rightfully pastor insisted on seeing the hymn first.)

I was reminded of this when driving down the road listening to EWTN (aka the “Global Catholic Radio Network”). On the show, the host made reference to a line from the Easter Vigil (which Wikipedia helpfully describes thus: “In the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion, the Easter Vigil is the most important Mass of the liturgical year…”).

I didn’t have a pen, but one key phrase stuck in my mind that allowed me to look up the passage using Google®:
What good would life have been to us,
had Christ not come as our Redeemer?
O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam,
which gained for us so great a Redeemer!
Now I understand the broad point, but the happiness and necessity of The Fall — which my reader Nicholas points out is “Felix Culpa” in the Latin — seemed alien to any Protestant teaching I’d ever seen. I checked a few sources:
  • Reformed. Because Anglicans “both Catholic and Reformed,” I started with the Westminster Confession. Not surprisingly for Calvinists, The Fall was pre-ordained, while Adam, Eve and their descendants are “dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the parts and faculties of soul and body.”
  • Lutheran. The Small and Large Catechism mention sin in terms of repentance, forgiveness and redemption of sins, but I didn’t see any discussion of Original Sin in any form. I don’t have the 55 volumes of the printed Luther’s Works (from ELC/LCMS) in printed form, or the searchable CD-ROM. (Now on sale!)
  • Anglican. Looking at the 39 Articles, Article X has Free Will and XI has Sola Fide, Article IX is the most directly relevant:
Original sin standeth not in the following of Adam, (as the Pelagians do vainly talk;) but it is the fault and corruption of the Nature of every man, that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam; whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil, so that the flesh lusteth always contrary to the Spirit; and therefore in every person born into this world, it deserveth God's wrath and damnation.
Given that, I can’t see any Protestant singing “O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam, which gained for us so great a Redeemer!” I’d appreciate pointers to any hymn (from any source) that incorporates this theology, particularly if it’s an official hymn in any Protestant hymnal.

As reader Nicholas points out in the comments below, the theology of “Felix Culpa” is very similar to that of the 15th century English carol Adam Lay Ybounden — although that would clearly be pre-Reformation, pre-Anglican.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Who needs a hymnal?

In this blog, I have been ruminating on the next American Anglican hymnal, what will be in it, and which Continuing Anglican groups will contribute to it — or if there will even be enough Anglicans to make a hymnal. This blog is my homework to get ready for that revision, although I’ll probably need to go to Kaplan (or whatever the Anglican music equivalent is) once the revision plans are announced.

However, one thing I haven’t asked is: do we need a new hymnal? No, I’m not asking if Hymnal 1940 needs updating — it certainly needs some improvements, and we want to stop bailing TEC out of its fiscal overstretch.

Perhaps more germane is the rising number of non-hymnal evangelical parishes out there, who probably wouldn’t buy a hymnal even if it were produced — let alone share a hymnal with us Anglo-Catholics. Even if they had a list of hymns they liked, the fashion is to rotate through new workship music so that little or nothing is older than the preschoolers. (The Catholic church seems to have caught this fad in printing a new Today’s Missal every few months.)

But that comes back to the basic points of why the Anglican (and Lutheran and Catholic and Methodist and Baptist and Adventist and …) denominations have long had their own hymnals. For now, I want to limit myself to pew hymnals, rather than service books (such as 12th century missals) intended only for choir or clergy.

I can think of three reasons why a hymnal exists:
  • To distribute the words and music in a cost-effective fashion. In worship, this is being displaced by PowerPoint projectors and at home by TheCyberHymnal and other Internet sites.
  • To make sure we’re all singing the same thing — to provide a common culture and shared worship across different parishes of a denomination. This has been my fundamental argument for timeless hymns against those pursuing the fad-of-the-day, whether musical fads embraced by CMM worship leaders or social-political fads pursued by the cultural revisionists.
  • As a way of validating a common doctrine shared by the church theologians and other leaders. If any parish priest or music director can pick any variant of any hymn off the web (or out of a book) and sing it, then how do the bishops and other church leaders know that the music is being used to reinforce the one true catholic and apostolic faith rather than promote heresies and other false doctrine?
This last point is the subject of a posting Saturday on Brothers of John the Steadfast, a blog representing those LCMS clergy and laity who will be forced (ala ACNA but without the lawyers) leave the LCMS in the next decade and form their own synod.

Guest blogger Holger Sonntag quoted Martin Luther hymself as he wrote the introduction to three Lutheran hymnals, explaining the theological role of the hymnal in Christian worship. What I found amusing (or troubling) is that a tendency towards faddish hymnal revision is nearly 500 years old:
Now there are some who have given a good account of themselves and augmented the hymns so that they by far surpass me and are my masters indeed. But others have added little of worth. And since I realize that there is going to be no end to this haphazard and arbitrary revision which goes on from day to day, and that even our first hymns are more and more mutilated with each reprinting, I fear that this booklet will ultimately fare no better than good books everywhere, namely, to be corrupted and adulterated by blunderheads until the good in it will be lost and only the bad remain.
So where is the Rt. Rev. N.T. Wright decrying the New Anguish Hymnal? I realize he is busy with other Anglican matters (and writing and selling books, ala C.S. Lewis) but isn’t this a matter of some import? In fact, most clergy seem to think music selection should be left to the musicians, although I have found a few that will devote the time due its central role in reinforcing the theology of any given worship service.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Extraterrestrial liturgy

Both Beliefnet and the Times of London cover the under-reported event of the first Holy Communion on the moon, conducted July 20, 1969 by Buzz Aldrin prior to his historic moonwalk.

Aldrin wrote about this in the October 1970 Guideposts magazine (which was later printed in the July 1989 issue). The story was also recounted by Eric Metaxas (in his 2005 book) and his blog
I opened the little plastic packages which contained the bread and the wine. I poured the wine into the chalice our church had given me. In the one-sixth gravity of the moon, the wine slowly curled and gracefully came up the side of the cup. Then I read the Scripture, ‘I am the vine, you are the branches. Whosoever abides in me will bring forth much fruit.’
Aldrin’s notes for the brief service were auctioned in 2007 for nearly $180,000.

Blogger Bosco Peters in NZ observes that Aldrin was one of the most educated of the early astronauts, with an MIT Ph.D. — and of course a committed Christian. Peters would like to claim Aldrin as an Anglican, but in fact Aldrin was an elder in a Presbyterian parish in suburban Houson.

It is encouraging that parish (and one other) still commemorate this historic communion. Somehow I'm less comforted by the 2003 ECUSA resolution asking that it be marked as a “lesser feast” in Episcopal liturgy, sharing July 20 with “Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Amelia Bloomer, Sojourner Truth, & Harriet Ross Tubman-Liberators and Prophets.”