Sunday, December 22, 2013

Golden Age of Christmas Carols

Every reader of this blog knows about the importance of the Tractarian (Oxford) movement of 19th century England in revival traditional hymnody, notably with the efforts of John Mason Neale that culminated with the publication of Hymns Ancient & Modern in 1861.

However, thanks to the excellent BBC 4 series hosted by Jeremy Summerly, I realized that the 19th century brought a comparable advance (and preservation) of Christmas carols.

The sixth episode, “A Second Golden Age”, outlines the role of Neale and Sir John Stainer in the 19th century carol revival. The episode was broadcast Dec 16 (and the BBC inexplicably cancels their back episodes after 7 days). In the episode, the cause of Stainer is advocated by Prof. Ian Bradley, author of the familiar hymn reference.

The episode identifies the key books of carols of the 19th century, all of which are out of copyright and thus (most) are available free online.

In 1822, Davies Gilbert published a collection of medieval Christmas carols that included “A Virgin Most Pure” and “The First Nowel.” A second, enlarged edition was published in 1823.

Many years later, Neale acquired a copy of Piae Cantiones, a 16th century compilation of Latin carols from Swedish-speaking Finland. From this, in 1853 he and Thomas Helmore published their own collection that includes “Good Christian Men Rejoice” and his own carol, “Good King Wenceslas.”

From the same source, Neale translated the text “Of the Father’s love begotten”, which was later published in Hymns Ancient & Modern with modification by H.W. Baker.

Finally, with H.R. Bramley, Stainer published his own collection of 20 carols in 1867, expanded to 42 in 1871 and 70 in 1878. This included “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen,” “Once in Royal David’s City” and “What Child is This.” As Prof. Bradley notes, this put a large supply of singable carols in the hands of local vicars. Percy Deamer (the textual author of The English Hymnal and Songs of Praise) says “mainly to Bramley and Stainer that we owe the restoration of the carol”.

When looking for these books, I found background information at the website Hymns and Carols of Christmas (HCC) and so link that below. Some information can also be found at the IMSLP (International Music Score Library Project).


Theodoric Petri, Piae Cantiones, Greifswald, Sweden, 1582 (Reprinted in London 1910 and available from the U. Rochester Sibley Library). Summarized at HCC

Davies Gilbert, Some Ancient Christmas Carols, London, 1822 (available at Google Books) Summarized at HCC

Thomas Helmorem and John Mason Neale, Carols for Christmas-tide, London, 1853. Summarized at HCC.

Henry Ramsden Bramley and John Stainer, Christmas Carols, New and Old, London, 1871 (Available at the CCEL) Summarized at the HCC.

Henry Ramsden Bramley and John Stainer, Christmas Carols, New and Old, London, 1878 (Available at the Internet Archive)

Edith Rickert, Ancient English Christmas Carols, 1400-1700, London, 1910 (Available at Google Books) Summarized at the gcc.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Rt. Rev. John David Schofield, 1938-2013

The Rt. Rev. John-David Mercer Schofield, one of the founding bishops of the ACNA and retired bishop of the Diocese of San Joaquin, died October 28 at home, aged 75. His requiem mass will be held today at a Catholic church in Fresno.

Bishop Schofield will be remembered as one of the last Anglo-Catholic bishops of the Episcopal Church and one of the first (hopefully not the last) Anglo-Catholic bishops of the Anglican Church in North America.

In 2007, Bishop Schofield was the first of four Episcopal Church bishops to lead his diocese out of TEC, followed by Robert Duncan (Pittsburgh), Keith Ackerman (Quincy) and Jack Iker (Ft. Worth). (Ackerman retired from TEC and Quincy before the latter completed its succession.)

Along with Ackerman and Iker — and unlike Duncan — Schofield was also one of the last three TEC bishops to reject women’s ordination. In 1989, he was one of the original TEC bishops to support the Episcopal Synod of America, which a decade later became the North American branch of Forward in Faith.

In his eulogy, Ackerman wrote
The death of [Bp. Schofield] … has touched the hearts of many people throughout the world, and particularly those Traditional Anglicans who looked to him as a courageous leader, who took seriously his vows as a Successor of the Apostles and a Defender of the Faith once delivered to the Apostles.

A cradle Anglican with deep English roots, Bp. Schofield's life embodied the breadth of Anglicanism: Anglo-Catholic in theology, Evangelical in proclaiming the Gospel, and Charismatic in expression. Those with a limited view will remember him primarily for his staunch defense of the Catholic Faith which resulted in his participation in numerous events that challenged the Catholic order of the Episcopal Church.
Duncan said “His spiritual depth twinned with his unparalleled sense of humor made him one of a kind.”

Schofield retired in 2011(succeeded by Eric Menees of San Diego). Never married, he had been in poor health for years, presumably exacerbated by his self-acknowledged weight problem.

I never met Bishop Schofield, but I know several people whose careers and faith were shaped by working with him. Let light perpetual shine upon him.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

For all our saints

As noted earlier, two hymns are the obvious choice for the observance of All Saints Day:
  • The mandatory processional hymn (since The English Hymnal in 1906) is “For all the saints,” to the tune Sine Nomine by Ralph von Williams (H40: 126; H82: 287). Hymnal 1982 cheats us men out of one verse of harmony (#4) and as usual the notes are too tiny for us middle-aged choir members, but otherwise the hymn survived unscathed.
  • At some point after the children return from Sunday school, play the Hymnal 1940 song — “I sing a song of the saints of God” — with words by Lesbia Locket Scott to the tune Grand Isle (H40: 243; H82: 293).
To suggest hymns for this year’s observance of All Saints Day, I found very helpful to pull out my copy of Hymnal Studies Five, an official companion to Hymnal 1982. It certainly recommend 287 for entrance, but somehow forgets about 293 — even though it’s the last of the 63 hymns under “Holy Days and Various Occasions” (but one of only three marked for All Saints’ Day).

There are two other “saint” hymns in plain sight. One — by HS5 recommended for Communion — is “Let saints on earth in concert sing” (H40: 397; H82: 526). With text by Charles Wesley and the 17th century tune Dundee, it should be easy if unfamiliar.

The other was called to my attention by Issues Etc., and its interview Thursday with Prof. Arthur Just. The topic of his interview is the hymn “We sing of all the unsung saints.” Set to a 19th century tune, the text is by Rev. Carl P. Daw, a TEC priest, adjunct hymnology professor, former executive director of the Hymn Society of America and an acknowledged contributor to the Hymnal 1982 revision. But because it was written in 1996, it’s not in H82 but instead is only found in the 2006 Lutheran Service Book (#678).

The most useful suggestions that I found were listed in the post-communion (recessional) hymns. Two are tied to the epistle (Revelation 21:1-4,22–22:5 in the 1979 prayer book):
  • Ye watchers and ye holy ones (H40: 599; H82: 618)
  • Ye holy angels bright (H40: 600; H82: 625)
These were two of my favorites as a kid, and I see the tie of both to the Revelation reading. However, I always associated 599 with early Sundays after Trinity (although H40 lists it for the Annunciation in August and Michaelmas in September), and 600 is listed by H40 as being for Holy Innocents and Christmas 2. So neither made the cut this year.

Another recessional recommended by HS5 is “Lo what a crowd of witnesses” (H40: 569; H82: 545), set to the 16th century tune St. Flavian. I love the text (quoting the vivid imagery of Hebrews 12:1-2) but I don’t ever recall singing it in church (as child or adult).

Instead, my favorite choice (and the one I recommended for recessional) was “Jersualem my happy home" (H40: 585; H82: 620) a 16th century text set to Land of Rest, a traditional American spiritual tune:
Jerusalem, my happy home,
when shall I come to thee?
When shall my sorrows have an end?
Thy joys when shall I see?

Thy saints are crowned with glory great;
they see God face to face;
they triumph still, they still rejoice
most happy is their case.

There David stands with harp in hand
as master of the choir:
ten thousand times that man were blessed
that might this music hear.

Our Lady sings Magnificat
with tune surpassing sweet,
and all the virgins bear their part,
sitting at her feet.

Jerusalem, Jerusalem,
God grant that I may see
thine endless joy, and of the same
partaker ever be!
The promises of eternal rest — to a tune named “Land of Rest” — seems perfect for this date. It’s also something on the draft list of hymns for my own funeral.


Marion J. Hatchett, Hymnal Studies Five: A Liturgical Index to The Hymnal 1982, New York: Church Hymnal Corporation, 1986.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Anglo-German favorites

Today our opening hymn was a familiar one for the congregation — not only for us, but a German visitor who joined us. We have special readings this month, and it turns out that the first two hymns — matched to the readings — were both based on 17th century German masters.

The entrance hymn was “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty” (H40: 279; H82: 390), a Catherine Winkworth translation of the 1680 text by Joachim Neander. The hymn is found in every English and American Anglican hymnal since the 1860s. The original text is based on Psalm 103 and 150.

My Hymnal 1940 Companion describes Neander as “the principal poet of the Reformed Church in Germany.” Our German visitor recognized the tune but not the English words, until (quoting Ian Bradley’s text) I noted German text is called “Lobe den Herren”. He also noted that the hymn was a favorite of King Frederick Wilhem III of Prussia (1770-1840).

The five verses were published in 1680. In 1863, the English translation was published (in her Chorale Book for England) by Miss Winkworth, “the foremost translator of German hymns into English in the nineteenth century.” The Hymnal Companion said that Neander picked the tune “Hast du denn, Jesu” from the Strassund Erneuerten Gesangbuch. It lists the date as 1665 while Bradley lists it as 1655.

Pulling out my LCMS hymnals, both The Lutheran Hymnal (39) and Lutheran Service Book (790) also use the Winkworth translation — but with all five verses. The Handbook to The Lutheran Hymnal lists the tune as 1665, and “Neander adapted this tune to his text in 1679.”

The gradual hymn was “Ah, Holy Jesus” (H40: 71; H82: 158). Our German visitor considered it somewhat familiar, but not a well known favorite from back home.

According to the Companion, it was published in 1630 as “Herzliebster Jesu” by Johan Heermann and adapted from a 15th century text (once attributed to St. Augustine of Hippo). The tune was written a decade later for this text by Johann Crüger (1598-1662), who served as cantor of the St. Nicholas Church of Berlin from 1622-1662. The companion describes him as “a principal fountain-head in the development of Lutheran hymnody throughout the 17th century.”

ECUSA sings the 1897 text by Robert Bridges, but the LCMS hymnals (TLH: 143; LSB: 439) they use the earlier Catherine Winkworth translation, “O, dearest Jesus,” complete with 15 verses.

Monday, October 21, 2013

ACNA: We Come to Praise (and Bury) Cranmer

On its website, the ACNA has just released a draft of its in-progress prayer book revision, a draft it calls “Texts for Common Prayer”

I had been writing a blog posting on the new ACNA prayer book — based on fragmentary data online and what I learned at the Kingdom Conference (the Oct. 11-12 convention of the Diocese of Western Anglicans). At the convention I observed the trial use liturgy, spoke to several people between sessions and attended a seminar by Bishop Bill Thompson, who is both the local diocesan and (until his retirement next June) the chair of the liturgy task force.

Now with the online release of the drafts last week (as reported by VirtueOnline), no speculation is necessary to understand what and how the ACNA plans to institute its new prayer book.

The upshot:
  • The ACNA prayer book is based on the form (but not the language) of the 1662 (CoE) Book of Common Prayer
  • It has one liturgy — contemporary — marking the end to Rite I and the traditional language that was the mainstay of all Anglican prayer books before 1960. As Bp. Thompson said during the seminar, “we felt we need to do these liturgies in the way that we talk.”
  • It will replace both the TEC and Anglican Church in Canada liturgies inherited prior to ACNA's founding
  • The ordinal is officially approved, while the Eucharist, Morning and Evening Prayer services are awaiting College of Bishop approval after feedback from the province.
New Transparency

I have been trying all year to find out what has been going on with the prayer book revision, given its obvious implications for ACNA hymnody (particularly service music). The ACNA and its task force have been holding their cards very close to the vest, whether for secrecy reasons or (as their plea for help implies) due to a lack of resources. Our parish tried the new communion service during Lent, but (in preparing this posting) I was unable to find anything substantial about the process — until last week’s posting.

The posting of the new texts, FAQs and other information marks a dramatic breakthrough in the transparency of the liturgical revision process.

For example, for the first time the ACNA has provided the names of the nine members of the “Liturgy and Common Prayer Task Force”. Below are their names and what I know of their affiliations
End of Cranmerian Language

All Anglican liturgies trace back to the work of Bp. Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury to Henry VIII and Edward VI before he was executed (after Lady Jane Grey) in 1556 for treason and heresy. Bp. Cranmer prepared the 1549 and 1552 BCP for Edward VI, while his successors prepared the 1559 BCP under Elizabeth I.

The ACNA liturgy adopts the form but not the language of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, prepared after the Stuart restoration of Charles II. The one exception to modernization is the Lord’s Prayer, which retains the 1662 (not the 1549 or King James) version: if our congregation is any indication, there was a rebellion in ACNA parishes against modernizing this prayer.

This seems to be one area of ecumenical agreement on liturgy. There was a similar rebellion against CoE modernization in England. Even the 2010 Catholic liturgical revision — which made many changes large and small — kept the 1662 prayer (omitting the “For thine is the kingdom…” added by Protestants after 1662). This prayer also provides perhaps the only prayer shared by all Christians in our country.

At the convention, Bp. Thompson said that a major goal of the text was to have contemporary text that sounded natural. Both he and a priest at the convention told me that Prof. Klukas (of Nashotah) played a central role in writing the words of the new liturgy.

In response to a question, Bp. Thompson said the task force specifically rejected the contemporary language 1662 BCP produced by the late Peter Toon, because the language was “wooden” and often updated “Ye who” to “You who” (i.e. “yoo-hoo”). The bishop said “I could see exactly what he was wanting to do and it was laudable,” adding that it provided a place for the task force to start.


The website provides answers to some Frequent Asked Questions. These answers provide important insight into the Task Force’s thinking.

Some cover obscure points, but here are some more interesting ones:
  • Like the Roman Catholic 2010 ICEL revision, “et cum spiritu tuo” is now translated “and with your spirit” instead of the incorrect translation of 30+ years (“also with you”).
  • The 1662 HC used two lessons because it was assumed to follow a morning prayer; the new HC uses three.
  • Contrary to the Latin “credo” and centuries of Western practice, the Nicene Creed retains the 1979 BCP translation of “We believe”; the FAQ explains
  • The original Greek text used "We Believe" because this Creed reflects the belief of the whole Church as a united body, as contrasted with the Apostles' Creed which is a personal profession of faith used at baptism.

Status of the Process

At the convention, Bp. Thompson said the status of the prayer book is as follows
  • Ordinal (for ordaining bishops, priests and deacons): the ACNA’s top priority due to defects in the 1979 prayer book, final text approved by the College of Bishops
  • Holy Communion: ready for trial use
  • Morning and Evening Prayer: nearly done at the convention, but now (judging from the website) apparently ready for trial use. A member of the audience praised the new MP/EP, saying it was much better for a laity-led worship than the more complex forms used in 1979, 1928 and CoE prayer books.
Bp. Thompson said that the task force has started to talk about marriage and burial (among the missing rites), and he expected that in 3-5 years a new prayer book will be released. The current releases do not include a daily or Sunday lectionary.

What happens between now and when the texts become an official printed prayer book? The ACNA website explains:
With the exception of The Ordinal, which has been authorized and adopted, and is The Ordinal of the Province, the other materials offered in Texts for Common Prayer are “working texts” approved for use by the College of Bishops. These working texts are not yet finalized, awaiting response from the experience of their wide use in the Church. With that in mind, these rites are commended as appropriate forms for worship in the present season. The Archbishop’s instruction to the Liturgy and Common Worship Task Force was the production of rites that were “so faithful and attractive that the Church would want to use them.” The hope in making Texts for Common Prayer available now is to give evidence that the assignment is well underway, and to invite the whole Body of Christ into the process of receiving and perfecting.
All services are contingent upon approval of the ACNA College of Bishops — unlike in ECUSA/TEC, the laity play no role in approving a new prayer book.

It will take some time to pour through the 96 pages of the new liturgy and compare it to earlier texts. I’ll post additional observations once I have more time to study the texts.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Evangelical Church in North America

The Anglican Church in North America has always been an interesting compromise. Today at the diocesan convention of the Western Anglicans, keynote speaker (and ACNA primate) Robert Duncan described ACNA as “three streams, two integrities and one church.”

During his subsequent answers to written questions, Bp. Duncan described the two integrities (two views on women’s ordination) and the three streams
  • “First of all, evangelical. We hold ourselves accountable to the word of God.”
  • “The second stream, the Catholic stream, holds itself accountable to tradition.”
  • The third stream was once called the “liberal” (sometimes now Charismatic). It was defined by a willingness to be free within the power of the Holy Spirit — but more recently has meant free to do anything.
Since the founding of the Church of England in the Tudor era, the tension of the Anglican Church has been most visibly between the evangelical and Anglo-Catholic wings of the church. The Oxford movement of the early 19th century was the most successful effort of the past half-millenium to restore the influence of Anglo-Catholics within the CoE. The two sides share power in the CoE, although the Evangelicals appear to be dominant (while many of the liberals left the CoE to become Methodists).

Abp. Duncan’s address — and the worship of the entire diocesan convention — make it clear that the ACNA is an Evangelical church with little room for Anglo-Catholics. In theology, ACNA may position itself in the historic (Reformed) Christian tradition, but in terms of worship style it’s distinctly modern.

At all four services, the 7-piece praise band (with drummer) performed a series of 21st century CCM tunes. A few were familiar to the congregation members, and many (although not all) appear to be worshipping to praise music at their home parishes. Two of the services had one token hymn each.
Rehearsal by Diocese of Western Anglicans praise band, October 12
I’ve been in all three California dioceses — San Joaquin, Western Anglicans and the proto-diocese of San Francisco Bay. The first two are conservative theologically (at least on WO), but it’s clear liturgically that both (like the Bay Area) are largely following the contemporary worship fad, marginalizing worship (and music) that would have been the only worship style one would have seen in an ECUSA church 30 years ago. Our form of worship may be (Rite II) liturgical, but in terms of music we in ACNA are all Pentecostals.

The archbishop commands us to be “in the world but not of the world.” But conforming our worship style to contemporary culture — Pop Goes Religion as Terry Mattingly put it — seems to imply that we must join the culture to reach it.

Yes, every generation adds its music to the canon. But throwing away centuries of tradition — all of the prior canon — in favor of the past five years is a hubris only a Baby Boomer could attempt (even if the nominal reason is appealing to millennials).

In the meantime, we Anglo-Catholics will go gray and die while waiting for another Oxford-style revival (much as the Baroque revival in the 1960s and 1970s brought back Bach and other music that had been largely forgotten in this century). Or we can join and support the Schism I churches, which — despite their many faults — are the one Anglican institution in this country that will pass along our historic liturgy in the state that they received it.

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Lord has promised good to me

Instead of going to work today, I went to a funeral. It was held at a Lutheran church — formerly ELCA, now LCMC. (For Anglicans, LCMC is a group of about 80 continuing Lutheran churches that would have joined LCMS except they want to ordain women.)

Although the Lutheran Book of Worship was in the pews, the order of service was printed in the bulletin:
  • Greeting
  • Amazing Grace (LBW #448): 3 verses
  • Prayers
  • Recollections of family and friends
  • Scripture: Psalm 23, Revelation 21:1-6, John 14:1-6
  • Homily
  • Prayer
  • The Lord’s Prayer
  • How Great Thou Art (LBW #532): 2 verses
Initially, what I was curious about was the challenge of mounting an ecumenical funeral (memorial) service. I'm guessing less than 20% of the congregation were regular parishioners, and the overwhelming majority was under 30. Because the Lord’s Prayer was the King James version,  half the congregation (perhaps more) knew it well enough to recite it in unison.

Amazing Grace went well enough, although I was surprised how few people were singing. (It may be because many don’t normally sing.) We ended with the greatest hit of Carl Boberg (1859-1940), based loosely on his 1885 Swedish poem “O Store Gud” and a Swedish folk tune. The pianist played the tricky rhythm faithfully, but the congregation had trouble singing it without the music (or at least I did).

In the middle were the familiar passages of mourning and the promises of the New Covenant. Everyone knows Psalm 23, but I didn’t realize what was in Revelation 21:4:
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. [ESV]
And then for the first time, I heard John 14:2 in the context of John 14:6:
2 “In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?
3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.
4 And you know the way to where I am going.”
5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”
6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
The pastor had an unenviable job, perhaps one of his hardest tasks of the year: explain the death of a 23-year-old man to his parents, his older brother, and a room full of (largely unbelieving) twenty-somethings. This means overcoming the classic “why does a loving God let good things happen to bad people” objection, only more so.

The pastor, the man’s mother and his friends recalled a sensitive, caring and troubled young man. The homily was based on John 10:10
[Jesus said to them] “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
The beginning of the passage seems to fit the man’s (ultimately unsuccessful) fight with his personal demons; the end, the pastor said, reminds us of the promise of eternal life made by Jesus himself.

Or, as the traditional Requiem prayer from the Latin mass
Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine,
et lux perpetua luceat eis.
is translated by the Rite I burial service in the 1979 ECUSA prayer book:
Rest eternal grant to him, O Lord:
And let light perpetual shine upon him.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Create in me a clean heart

During my brief period as an LCMS Lutheran, I grew to love The Lutheran Hymnal (1941). Like Hymnal 1940, the hymnal was a brilliant integration of many streams of music that served faithful Christians for decades during the postwar era, until revisionists took ahold of the liturgy and “improved” it.

One thing to admire about TLH was the simplicity of the service music: there were no alternative variants, but a standard text and tune at every point in the service. For example, morning prayer (which our parish did semi-monthly) comprised pp. 5-14 of TLH.

On pp. 12-13 was a simple 17th century tune that followed the sermon, with the text “Create in me a clean heart”:
This morning, I was reminded of that tune when a parishioner read this passage from Psalm 51:
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.
12 Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.
(I’ve shown the KJV text available in 1941, but this morning we used the ESV).

The tune is no longer part of the LCMS liturgy with the Lutheran Service Book (2006). However, as a sop to the blue-haired faithful, it is reprinted (with the same harmonization) as Hymn #956.

TLH didn’t offer credits for service music, but LSB helpfully notes
Text: Psalm 51:10-12
Tune: Johann Georg Winer, 1583-1651, adapt.: setting, The Lutheran Hymnal, 1941
Schaffe in Mir, Gott
Our gradual used this text, but a much more contemporary setting attributed to Keith Green. I was able to find a few versions on YouTube, but the official Keith Green version seems to be more plodding and schmalzy than what our praise band did. Still, if they had asked me, I’d request the Winer version.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

I want my, I want my NIV!

Technology changes society — often in unexpected ways, and sometimes not in good ways.

In 1981, the music industry was changed forever. MTV premiered on cable channels, and all of a sudden consuming music wasn’t just listening, but watching. (As Dire Straits famously proclaimed: “I want my MTV.”) Major acts ended devoting up to half their production budget for video promotions — videos for which they don’t receive a penny.

Today, people are shifting to electronic books for their tablets. When visitors come to our house for the first time, I point out the bookshelves in my office (custom-built last year) and joke that my grandchildren will ask: “Grandpa, why did you need so many shelves to store books on your iPad?” Others may use online services, such as

This brings me to the February decision (which I only recently noticed) made by the NIV copyright owners (and its allies) to discontinue availability of the 1984 NIV and only offer the 2011 edition. While I’m more of an RSV/ESV kinda guy, we did give our eldest a pocket 1984 NIV for confirmation and expected it would get decades of use.

The copyright owner is Biblica (née the International Bible Society), the translation was developed by the Committee on Bible Translation (CBT), while the publisher Zondervan has exclusive North American rights.

The 2011 translation is controversial mainly (but not entirely) because it substituted inclusive language for male nouns and pronouns. The language is a compromise between the original 1984 NIV and the (even more aggressively gender neutral) TNIV, but it appears it’s more like the latter than the former.

I found summaries of the controversy on Diane Montgomery’s blog and Michael Marlowe’s Bible Researcher site. In June 2011, the largest US Protestant body (the Southern Baptist Convention) disapproved the new NIV for its members and (unsuccessfully) for its LifeWay bookstore chain:
WHEREAS, Many Southern Baptist pastors and laypeople have trusted and used the 1984 New International Version (NIV) translation to the great benefit of the Kingdom; and

WHEREAS, Biblica and Zondervan Publishing House are publishing an updated version of the New International Version (NIV) which incorporates gender neutral methods of translation; and

WHEREAS, Southern Baptists repeatedly have affirmed our commitment to the full inspiration and authority of Scripture (2 Timothy 3:15-16) and, in 1997, urged every Bible publisher and translation group to resist “gender-neutral” translation of Scripture; and

WHEREAS, This translation alters the meaning of hundreds of verses, most significantly by erasing gender-specific details which appear in the original language; and

WHEREAS, Although it is possible for Bible scholars to disagree about translation methods or which English words best translate the original languages, the 2011 NIV has gone beyond acceptable translation standards; and

WHEREAS, Seventy-five percent of the inaccurate gender language found in the TNIV is retained in the 2011 NIV; and

WHEREAS, The Southern Baptist Convention has passed a similar resolution concerning the TNIV in 2002; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, June 14-15, 2011 express profound disappointment with Biblica and Zondervan Publishing House for this inaccurate translation of God’s inspired Scripture; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we encourage pastors to make their congregations aware of the translation errors found in the 2011 NIV; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we respectfully request that LifeWay not make this inaccurate translation available for sale in their bookstores; and be it finally

RESOLVED, That we cannot commend the 2011 NIV to Southern Baptists or the larger Christian community.
Don’t get me wrong. We live in a free country. Publishers should be allowed to distribute and preachers and laity are entitled to use whatever worship resources they desire.

What bothers me is the discontinuation of the previous edition. In January, blogger Zania, a Christian computer scientist from New Jersey, highlighted the problem:
The NIV 1984 Bible is all but gone. I don’t know if it’s a homicide or suicide. I don’t know if I should phrase that it started falling ill in 2010 and now died at the end of 2012. I don’t know if we intentionally or unintentionally let the enemy change an integral translation that fed the souls of many for 28 years. Its traces can still be seen on and in popular mobile Bible applications such as’s Youversion. You can also snag one from’s NIV 1984 Closeout sale. But it’s all but gone from giant online retailers like and when I visited my local brick and mortar Christian book store last week they told me that NIV’s United States publisher, Zondervan, ordered them to turn in all 1984 versions in exchange for 2011 equivalents. As one of my beloved translations of the Protestant’s Bible I will miss it.
Worse, Bible Gateway — which a year ago offered the 1984 NIV, TNIV and 2011 NIV on its website — in February was forced by Biblica to discontinue offering the two older editions:
The NIV remains the most popular English contemporary translation, with more than 450 million copies distributed since it was first published in 1978. During the transition to the most recent edition of the NIV (first published in 2010), the older 1984 edition and the TNIV were made available for more than two years on Bible Gateway to make it easy for people to compare the upgrades in the text as they transitioned to the current edition. This transition period mirrors the earlier two-year transition from the 1978 version to the 1984 version. Now that this transition period is over, the NIV’s worldwide publisher, Biblica, has requested that we remove the older 1984 and TNIV editions from Bible Gateway, and we are complying with their wishes.

Since the latest edition of the NIV was published in December 2010, over 11 million copies have been distributed and it has been adopted by thousands of churches, ministries, authors and other publishers around the globe. We understand your disappointment that the 1984 edition of the NIV is no longer available, but we hope you’ll grow to appreciate the updated NIV, as many other Bible Gateway visitors have done.
The justification by Biblica comes across as self-important at best and arrogant at worse:
It is customary for Bible publishers to focus their efforts on the most current edition of their translation, and to make available only the best, most up-to-date work of their translators. This is the case with the updated NIV, as it is for most other major Bible translations. For example, seven different editions of The Message have been published since 1993, but the only one available today is the most recent, published in 2002. The same is true for the NASB (last updated in 1995), the NLT (last updated in 2007), and the ESV (last updated in 2011).

There is only one NIV, which was commissioned by a broad coalition of evangelicals in the 1960's. The original charter of the NIV called for rigorous, ongoing attention to both the source languages of Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic, as well as the target language of English as it is spoken today. The current, updated NIV represents the best available NIV translation, and is thus the edition Biblica is committed to continue publishing and has chosen to make available on websites.
Biblica can't remove the two paper copies of the 1984 NIV from our house, and I just ordered a third. However, they can (and did) remove the Internet copies on and other websites. And since there is no vendor that offers used e-books, the e-book NIV I could have bought 8 months ago is no longer available. Biblica has also forced Bible software publishers to drop the old NIV, which from my own experience means previous customers who paid for it will be unable to access it when they buy a new machine with a new OS that doesn’t run the old software.

(This seems to be trend specific to gender-inclusive translations, although a quick visit to Amazon suggests that the NRSV has not completely extinguished the RSV. Still, TEC is happy to sell Hymnal 1940 to us bitter clingers.)

This is also ironic given the trends of the Internet towards making all versions of historic worship resources available to scholars and laity. Today, the 1549, 1552, 1559 and 1662 CoE prayer books are available online, as are the 1789, 1892 and 1928 US prayer books. But then current bible translations are treated more like commercial products — complete with planned obsolescence — than worship resources.

To me, this seems very much like the New Coke debacle. (A history lesson for millennials: after introducing New Coke in 1985, Coca-Cola first offered Coca-Cola “Classic” in parallel and then soon abandoned New Coke). However, Biblica doesn’t have the visibility of Coca-Cola and thus it’s less likely to prompt a public rebellion; many unsuspecting Christians will wander into their local bookstore and buy the “new and improved” NIV without knowing the controversy.

For the objections to the NIV to have meaning, the market share formerly held by the NIV will have to be replaced by other translations. The KJV provided a common understanding of the Bible for 300 years or so, when it was replaced by 3 or 4 20th century translations (of which the NIV was the most popular in the US). Perhaps this mark the end of the unity of the NIV (at least among American evangelicals) for some 30 years. As Trevin Wax wrote on The Gospel Coalition:
I am at a loss as to why the NIV 2011 will force the original NIV out of commission. Why not keep both in circulation? Goodness, we can still read translations like the King James which are hundreds of years old.

It’s ironic that the NIV 2011 revision is scheduled to coincide with the 400th anniversary of the King James Version, the most popular and most influential English translation of all time. Unfortunately, the launch of this new revision will have the opposite effect of the KJV. The King James Version united Bible readers around a common text. I’m afraid the NIV 2011 will speed up the growing fragmentation of evangelicals in regards to Bible translations.
Unless Biblica admits their mistake, my grandchildren won’t be reading the Bible that our eldest uses. But fortunately they will have many other fine translations to choose from.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Next Anglican hymnal: three verse minimum

One thing I don’t get about how hymnals present some hymns: why only two verses?

Take today’s communion hymn, “Take my life and let it be.” (H40: 408, H82: 707), written in 1874 by Frances Ridley Havergal, the daughter of English vicar and hymnologist William Henry Havergal. It was written as she prayed for the conversion of some of her friends, who were visiting her for five days.

It’s listed as only two verses in Hymnal 1982, which is prone to abbreviating hymns (in addition to tiny notes for singing). But Hymnal 1940 has the same fault — and in this case, seems to have instigated the problem (since it’s nowhere to be found in Hymnal 1916). Both have the familiar 1861 tune, Hollingside, by John Bacchus Dykes, first published in Hymns Ancient & Modern.

The English Hymnal (#582) has three verses, but an unfamiliar melody “from Plymouth Collection (U.S.A.) 1855.” It’s not in the previous (Hymns Ancient & Modern) or subsequent (New English Hymnal) CoE hymnals, suggesting that this British text has survived better in the US than in England.

The most recent LCMS hymnal, the Lutheran Service Book, has all 6 verses and two completely different tunes (Patmos is #783, Hendon is #784). The former, fittingly enough, was composed by W.H. Havergal. Apparently these six verses were also the ones used by CCM musician Chris Tomlin when in 2003 he re-popularized the song (to the tune Hendon).

In the ECUSA hymnals, it turns out that each verse combines two verses of Miss Havergal’s original. The tune is instead of merely 77.77.

Thus, verses #1 and #2 of the original become the first verse of #408:
Take my life, and let it be consecrated, Lord, to thee;
take my moments and my days, let them flow in ceaseless praise.
Take my hands, and let them move at the impulse of thy love;
take my feet, and let them be swift and beautiful for thee.
Then the second ECUSA verse is a composite of the remaining four verses:
Take my voice, and let me sing always, only, for my King;
Take my intellect, and use every power as thou shalt choose.
Take my will and make it thine; it shall be no longer mine.
take my self, and I will be ever, only, all for thee.
Instead, in the new Anglican hymnal I would restore all the verses (as the Lutherans have) — in this case grouped in pairs to the Dykes tune:
Take my voice, and let me sing always, only, for my King;
take my lips, and let them be filled with messages from thee.
Take my silver and my gold, not a mite would I withhold;
take my intellect, and use every power as thou shalt choose.

Take my will and make it thine; it shall be no longer mine.
take my heart, it is thine own; it shall be thy royal throne.
Take my love; my Lord, I pour at thy feet its treasure store;
take my self, and I will be ever, only, all for thee.
This is the exact text from the 1906 CoE hymnal. Perhaps we could even re-export it back to Britain.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Come, ye faithful

One of my favorite hymns for the Easter season is “Come, ye faithful, raise the strain”. It’s a perennial favorite for many congregations (and denominations) — featured in 318 hymnals (according to However, it never seems to quite make the cut for Easter Sunday — but could get used for an Easter Vigil, sunrise service, or other second service on Easter day.

Since this is the last Sunday of the Easter season, it seems an appropriate time to remark on this hymn. In particular, the Issues Etc. radio show (i.e. podcast) last month ran an hour-long hymn study on the hymn with Dr. Arthur Just of Concordia Seminary in Ft. Wayne, Indiana.

In addition to being familiar and well-liked, from an objective standpoint the hymn has two things going for it. One is the theological content of the text — largely based on Exodus 15 — which was  the subject of most of Prof. Just’s interview.

The other is the source. It’s one of two familiar Eastern hymns written by St. John of Damascus (died ca. 749). The other hymn is the beloved “The Day of Resurrection”, H40: 96, H82: 210. Both were translated from the Greek by John Mason Neale, and in fact, they are two of the 14 Easter season texts in Neale’s 1862 compilation Hymns of the Eastern Church (available free at CCEL and Google Books).

The hymn is intended for Low Sunday. The Historical Edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern, the Hymnal 1940 Companion, the ELCA Hymnal Companion to the Lutheran Book of Worship and Prof. Just all recommend it for Easter 2, Doubting Thomas Sunday. In Hymns of the Eastern Church, Neale himself lists this as one of four Odes from the Canon of morning prayer by St. John of Damascus intended for “St. Thomas’s Sunday.”

There is no agreement over the tune, which has changed repeatedly over the years. In the Church of England, Hymns Ancient & Modern (#133) uses a tune called “St. John Damascene”. The English Hymnal(#131) uses Ave Virgo Virginum, from the 16th century songbook by Johannes Leisentritt. This is also the combination published in Songs of Praise (#144), and the New English Hymnal (#106) many decades later.

However, this tune is not found in United States PECUSA hymnals. The hymn was not published in the 1872 Hymnal of the Protestant Episcopal Church. However, the 1892 The Church Hymnal (#110) and Hymnal 1916 (#170) include the hymn with four verses by Neale set to the 1872 tune St. Kevin by Sir Arthur Sullivan. The (Hutchins) 1896 revision of the 1892 hymnal also lists a second tune, Rex Regum.

In the 20th century, Hymnal 1940 (#94) lists two tunes: Gaudeamus Pariter  by Johann Horn (1544) with St. Kevin as the 2nd tune. In Hymnal 1982, these became #200 and #199 respectively, although (as H82 is wont to do), for the latter tune it drops all but the melody.

The latest LCMS hymnal, Lutheran Service Book (#487) uses Gaudeamus Pariter, as did the Issues Etc. interview segment.

The text was first published as an 1859 article on “Greek Hymnology” in  the journal The Christian Remembrancer (p. 304). The same four stanzas appear in his 1862 compilation:
Come, ye faithful, raise the strain
of triumphant gladness!God hath brought his Israelinto joy from sadness:loosed from Pharoah's bitter yokeJacob's sons and daughters,led them with unmoistened footthrough the Red Sea waters.

'Tis the spring of souls today:Christ hath burst his prison,and from three days' sleep in deathas a sun, hath risen;all the winter of our sins,long and dark, is flyingfrom His Light, to whom we givelaud and praise undying.

Now the Queen of Seasons, brightwith the day of splendor,with the royal feast of feasts,comes its joy to render;comes to glad Jerusalem,who with true affectionwelcomes in unwearied strains Jesus' resurrection.

Neither might the gates of death,nor the tomb's dark portal,nor the watchers, nor the sealhold Thee as a mortal:but today amidst the twelvethou didst stand, bestowingthat thy peace which evermorepasseth human knowing.

The are the same stanzas used consistently by ECUSA hymnals since 1896. Hymns Ancient & Modern uses a slightly different version of the 4th verse (“Alleluia now we cry”). Both The English Hymnal  and the New English Hymnal include only the original four. The Lutheran Service Book has five verses — with the final verse expanded into two — but no author is credited with the new translation.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

A funeral for a Baroness

Wednesday was the funeral for Margaret Thatcher (1925-2013), Britain’s second greatest prime minister of the 20th Century (after Churchill), who in her three consecutive terms transformed the British economy and society.

The service for Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven was held at St. Paul’s Cathedral, which lacks the official history of Westminster Abbey but makes up for it with architectural grandeur and scope (having been for centuries Britain’s tallest building). I couldn’t watch live, but it was covered by her old ally the Telegraph and her nemesis the Guardian (among others).

Since her death, I’ve been reading a wonderful biography by American Claire Berlinski, entitled There is No Alternative: Why Margaret Thatcher Matters. It credits her Methodist upbringing (and the influence of her father) for her great political success.

I don’t know much about English Methodists — other than the Wesley family and their hymns — but the order of service posted at the Telegraph and the St. Paul’s website seems very Church of England to me. The words to the hymns were very familiar to my ECUSA-raised upbringing (although the tunes were not).

The headline on the Telegraph service commentary termed it “a miraculous pairing of words and music.” As Christopher Howse wrote:
From the moment her coffin was met at St Clement Danes with the words, “We who are baptised in the death of Christ,” the topic was something universal: death. This was not divisive but, in the words of the Bishop of London, “the common destiny of all human beings”. It was, yesterday, as if the millions watching were following a stage tragedy. The difference was that this was a true story, and the tragic flaw of the heroine was not a moral failing but mortality itself.

The Church of England service emphasised two things: the reality of death, with no demurring, and the hope of resurrection. “The days of man are but grass,” read Prebendary Rose Hudson-Wilkin. “For as soon as the wind goeth over it, it is gone.” Left at that, it would be no more than Hadrian’s sad farewell to the soul: “Animula, vagula, blandula.” But it was not left at that. From deep, dim waters it strove upwards towards the light.

“Let not your heart be troubled,” the Prime Minister read from the Gospel of St John. “I go to prepare a place for you.” Those were words of Jesus, and, in the passage read, Thomas usefully responded, “Lord, we know not whither thou goest.” Nothing could rub in more sorely that we cannot see beyond the dark and narrow gates of death.
The text was from the Authorized Version (King James for us Yankees), including the Lord’s Prayer and a reading by her granddaughter of Ephesians 6: 10-18.

The opening sentences sung by the choir include these three (or at least two) very familiar passages, to a setting by William Croft:
I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.
John 11. 25, 26

I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth. And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another.
Job 19. 25-27

We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away: blessed be the name of the Lord.
1 Timothy 6. 7 and Job 1. 21
Other music included “How lovely is thy dwelling place,” an adaptation of Psalm 84 that’s one of my favorite songs from Brahms’s German Requiem.

The first congregation hymn was “He who would valiant be,” adapted by Dearmer and Vaughan Williams for The English Hymnal from text by John Bunyan (the great Puritan author) and an English folk tune. From The Cyberhymnal description, it seems an odd hymn to put in a CoE hymnal:
Words: John Bun­yan, Pil­grim’s Prog­ress, 1684; mo­di­fied by Per­cy Dear­mer in The Eng­lish Hym­nal (Lon­don: Ox­ford Un­i­ver­si­ty Press, 1906). Bun­yan wrote these words dur­ing his 12-year pri­son sent­ence for re­fus­ing to con­form to the of­fi­cial state church.
The “official state church” in this case was the 150-year-old CoE, which was too Anglo-Catholic for the Puritans and many others of the severe (or seriously) reformed faith. So this hymn in a 20th century Anglican hymnal celebrates defiance of the 17th century Anglican church.

Lady Thatcher’s funeral used the TEH version (#402) with the tune to Monks Gate, while H40 (#563) lists St. Dunstan’s and H82 (in a rare improvement) includes both tunes (#565 and #564 respectively), albeit without harmony for the former.

In a similar vein, the final congregation hymn was “Love Divine” by Charles Wesley. Raised on H40, the version to Hyfrodol (H40: #479) had very strong resonance with me, even before Mrs. Nine and I sang it at our wedding.

However, apparently that’s not the tune used by the CoE. TEH (#437) lists Moriah, while Songs of Praise, Enlarged Edition (#573) has the Welsh Moriah and the English Exile. Among CoE hymnals, only in the New English Hymnal (#408) do we see Blaenwern, the 1905 tune by William Rowlands used at Lady Thatcher’s funeral.

Other than the 1905 date, I haven’t found much about Blaenwern, perhaps because I only have a limited collection of books on English hymns. Ian Bradley lists five tunes, including three no longer used: the Purcell tune Westminster that Wesley favored, Love Divine by John Stainer (in the 1889 Hymns A&M and NEH), and Airedale by Charles Stanford. Bradley continues
Nowadays the hymn is generally sung to one of two equally majestic Welsh tunes: Hyfrydol by Rowland Huw Pritchard (1811-57), a loomtender’s assistant in the Weslh Flannel Manufacturing Company’s mills at Holywell; and Balenwern by William Penfro Rowlands (1860-1937).
One last note on Blaenwern: it’s the tune used with these lyrics at the wedding of the Queen’s grandson to Kate Middleton held two years earlier — and two miles away — at Westminster Abbey.

The service concluded with the Nunc Dimittis (in English) from Stanford’s Evening Service in G. Again, the words are very familiar but the tune is not; H40 has seven settings of the Nunc Dimittis, but none match the Stanford setting. By the end of the service, I would have would have heard many familiar texts, but (except for Brahms) not to the expected melodies.

Interestingly, the only overlap between Lady Thatcher’s service and the 2007 service for (Episcopalian) Gerald Ford is the Brahams — “How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place” (in English) from the German Requiem.

I won’t be having a state funeral, but perhaps my friends and family will host one at my local parish church many decades hence. I feel I can’t go wrong with these examples: the Brahms and “Love divine” would top my requests for my own funeral (assuming our local choir can handle it). My third request would be “The Lord is my Shepherd” (Psalm 23) from Rutter’s Requiem; we did the psalm for my dad’s funeral, but the choir at his church wasn’t up for the Rutter setting on such short notice. In general, I’m not a big Rutter fan, but this piece is the most haunting setting I’ve ever heard of this text.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Saving the next generation of Anglo-Catholics

Today we attended the closing service for the annual youth retreat of the San Diego Anglicans. Nearly 50 teens from the San Diego ACNA parishes were in attendance, as were their parents, other supportive parishioners and of course the retreat leaders.

Abdicating our Anglo-Catholic Leadership

Watching the contemporary, evangelical Anglican service made me realize how much we Anglo-Catholics have abdicated our responsibility to train the next generation of faithful Christians. If we don’t expose the young generation to the beauty of a thousand years of liturgy — or acquiesce to the myth that young people are only interested in contemporary worship — the traditional liturgy will be lost, at best to be rediscovered a century or two hence.

The arguments for contemporary worship seem to be associated with the evangelical wing of the Anglican tradition, whether among theological liberals or traditionalists. Their ongoing desire to be “relevant” supplants hymns (and organs and four-part chorales) with CCM.

What’s wrong with praise music? Why should we try to preserve traditional hymnody?

While I personally object to the guitars and pop melodies of contemporary worship, I realize this is a "classical" vs. "pop" music argument that is unlikely to be won any time soon. For my generation, training in music meant training in the classical Western tradition, renaissance to romantic with a little 20th century thrown in for good measure. However, since that time, the whole pop-infused culture (and the decline of musical education more generally) means that classical radio stations and record label are dying while every big city has a dozen or more pop stations.

Instead, today’s service highlighted two more fundamental problems of the contemporary, praise music-oriented liturgy that seems to be dominant in the ACNA and AMiA (as with the ECUSA that these parishes fled).


The first problem is the ahistoric hubris of praise music. While the hymnals of 1860, 1906, 1940 or 1982 include new hymns (sometimes from the hymnal editors), they also retained the best hymns from four or five centuries of Christian liturgical worship.

Today, the praise music leader makes the assumption that worship music began in 1960 (or 1970 or 2000) and nothing older than that is relevant for our pop-infused culture or Christians.

With one exception, I didn’t know any of the songs from this afternoon’s service. However, by noting key phrases from three praise songs, I was able to look them up later
There were no hymns, not even from the 60s — so if these were representative of the whole service, then the leaders assumed that teen-suitable music was composed before 2001.

This is hardly the only Anglican service to take this approach. (Intentionally) I haven’t been to a lot of praise music services, but this seems typical of the ones I’ve seen.

Who authorized these worship leaders to throw out Christian worship and start over again? Is this something that the church should do every century, generation or (in this case) every decade? What about linking believers to the message, historic role or linkage of the faithful through the ages? If you reset the canon of hymnody every decade, how will parents ever share the same musical heritage as their children?

In the end, this is the fault of the clergy who either exercise, delegate or abdicate their authority over the content of liturgy. Will we also throw away scripture, theological essays, creeds, or prayers when they’re more than a decade old? That’s the way of the TEC, not a denomination that claims to be theologically orthodox and anchored in Anglican tradition.

Shallow Roots

The second problem of today’s service was the utter vapidity of the lyrics. Rather than being anchored in scripture — direct quotations or paraphrases — the emphasis is on the emotive.

Let’s take Cannons by Phil Wickham:
It's falling from the clouds
A strange and lovely sound
I hear it in the thunder and rain
It's ringing in the skies
Like cannons in the night
The music of the universe plays

You are holy great and mighty
The moon and the stars declare who You are
I'm so unworthy, but still You love me
Forever my heart will sing of how great You are

Beautiful and free
Song of Galaxies
It's reaching far beyond the milky way
Lets join in with the sound
C'mon let's sing it loud
As the music of the universe plays
Contrast this to the great Anglican hymnodist Isaac Watts, e.g. Hymn #289 in Hymnal 1940, composed nearly 300 years ago:
O God, our help in ages past,
our hope for years to come,
our shelter from the stormy blast,
and our eternal home:

Under the shadow of thy throne,
thy saints have dwelt secure;
sufficient is thine arm alone,
and our defense is sure.

Before the hills in order stood,
or earth received her frame,
from everlasting thou art God,
to endless years the same.

A thousand ages in thy sight
are like an evening gone;
short as the watch that ends the night
before the rising sun.

Time, like an ever-rolling stream,
bears all its sons away;
they fly, forgotten, as a dream
dies at the opening day.
As usual, the praise song is about me, me and me, while Watts and is writing about God.

Relevance and evangelicalism does not have to mean shallow. Consider Charles Wesley, the prolific hymnodist and leader of the Methodist revival in (and eventual schism from) from the Church of England and Hymn #479 in my favorite hymnal:
Love divine, all loves excelling,
joy of heaven, to earth come down,
fix in us thy humble dwelling,
all thy faithful mercies crown.
Jesus, thou art all compassion,
pure, unbounded love thou art;
visit us with thy salvation,
enter every trembling heart.

Come, almighty to deliver,
let us all thy life receive;
suddenly return, and never,
nevermore thy temples leave.
Thee we would be always blessing,
serve thee as thy hosts above,
pray, and praise thee without ceasing,
glory in thy perfect love.

Finish then thy new creation;
pure and spotless let us be;
let us see thy great salvation
perfectly restored in thee:
changed from glory into glory,
till in heaven we take our place,
till we cast our crowns before thee,
lost in wonder, love, and praise.
The shallow, emotive nature of most CCM calls to mind the parable of the sower (Matthew 13, Mark 4, Luke 8). The gospel of Luke is particularly relevant:
5 “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it.
6 And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture.
7 And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it.
8 And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold.”

9 And when his disciples asked him what this parable meant,
10 [Jesus] said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’

13. And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away.
The evangelical preacher and parishioner can bring great enthusiasm to their faith, but (as in the gospel parable), what happens when the enthusiasm fades? As my daughter could have explained in elementary school, sugar provides a short-term energy rush, but the human body needs a more balanced diet (with protein) to build muscle and long-term endurance.

After the service, I approached a young (college graduate) member of our parish who, as it turns out, felt as I did about the CCM emphasis on emotion over belief. This evening, he e-mailed me this quote from Seraphim Rose, a San Diego-born Orthodox monk:
“A person must be in the religious search not for the sake of religious experiences, which can deceive, but for the sake of truth."
The risk of inculcating our children with a shallow faith is creating shallow Christians who will wither away in the face of our relentlessly secular culture. If we are trying to preserve the faith for all generations, we should inculcate a deeper and more durable faith — one more anchored in the proven faith and tradition across the millenia.

What Can We Do?

The role of the Anglo-Catholic parishes, clergy, laity and musicians should not merely be to serve the graying 28 Prayer Book/Rite I refugees, but to raise a new generation of Anglican believers in North America. We should not abdicate this responsibility to our evangelical brethren, but continue articulate and stand for our principles in preserving the historic faith.

The uneasy alliance that is the ACNA should be willing to embrace such an option: in theory, the denomination should be willing to support a diversified approach to continuing the faith that has existed for centuries. However, the ACNA’s recent liturgical efforts (as the emphasis on contemporary worship at most ACNA parishes) suggests that this is unlikely to happen. Anglo-Catholicism still has its proponents — at Nashotah, PB USA, FiF and the Schism I parishes — but they’re not running the ACNA.

We still have the attention of the praise band children who sing Watts and Wesley on Sunday morning, if not the rest of the year. Perhaps a few grandparents (or parents) can put their foot down to make sure the next generation hear the full canon of Christian of Christian music, rather than just a shallow slice of the past decade.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

ACNA needs repentance even more than TEC

Note update based on October 2013 revised ACNA liturgy.

For Lent 2, the RCL reading was Luke 13:1-9, where Jesus says “unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” and then tells the parable of the fig tree. Our pastor used it to preach a blunt sermon about repentance.

Unfortunately, this was the Sunday he decided to use the “Contemporized Version: Trail Edition December 2012” of the new ACNA liturgy. I’ll save the arguments about the overall pros and cons for another time.

What was stunning — stunningly awful — was how we responded to his altar call for repentance in this new (“trial use”) corporate worship.
The Confession and Absolution of Sins
We pray to you also for the forgiveness of sins.
Celebrant and People:Have mercy upon us, most merciful Father;
in your compassion forgive us our sins,
known and unknown, things done and left and undone;
and so uphold us by your Spirit
that we ay live and serve you in newness of life,
to the honor and glory of your Name;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
I was not the only person to point out to our pastor that this was a notably brief and thin confession. (Even his wife said so). But, more importantly, if you look closely, it’s not a confession at all. It’s like a little boy who says “please forgive me” without first saying that “I was wrong.”

Compare this to the 1662 BCP:
Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Maker of all things, Judge of all men;
We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness,
Which we, from time to time, most grievously have committed,
By thought, word, and deed, Against thy Divine Majesty,
Provoking most justly thy wrath and indignation againſt us.
We do earnestly repent, and are heartily sorry for these our misdoings;
The remembrance of them is grievous unto us; The burden of them is intolerable.
Have mercy upon us, Have mercy upon us, most merciful Father;
For thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, forgive us all that is past;
And grant that we may ever hereafter serve and please thee in newness of life,
To the honor and glory of thy Name; Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The words are the same as I recited since childhood from the 1928 (US) Book of Common Prayer, and was also preserved in Rite I (at least as the approved variant) in Rite I of the 1979 prayer book. (Except for the “Amen” and medieval spelling, the same words are also found in Cranmer’s 1549 BCP).

Most surprisingly, the proposed ACNA liturgy is even less substantial than the watered down Rite II (Confession Lite) in the 1979 prayer book:
Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
have mercy on us and forgive us;
that we may delight in your will,
and walk in your ways,
to the glory of your Name. Amen.
At least the Rite II worshipers say “we confesses that we have sinned against you in thought, word and deed,” unlike what the ACNA liturgists are proposing we say.

In the Church of England’s 2000 book of alternative services, Common Worship, there are four different communion services. Order One resembles our US Rite II, whether in contemporary wording (p. 169) or traditional (p. 209). Order Two (traditional, p. 237) parallels the 1662 BCP, while the contemporary (p. 257) shows that Cranmer’s confession can be expressed in 21st century language:
Almighty God,
Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
maker of all things, judge of all people,
we acknowledge and lament our many sins
and the wickedness we have committed time after time, by thought, word and deed against your divine majesty. We have provoked your righteous anger
and your indignation against us.
We earnestly repent,
and are deeply sorry for these our wrongdoings;
the memory of them weighs us down,
the burden of them is too great for us to bear.
Have mercy upon us,
have mercy upon us, most merciful Father.
For your Son our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake,
forgive us all that is past;
and grant that from this time forward
we may always serve and please you in newness of life, to the honor and glory of your name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
This is essentially the same language (I haven’t compared it word for word) that Peter Toon and the Prayer Book Society used in An Anglican Prayer Book, their 2008 update of the 1662 BCP for AMiA.

As Toon noted, the trends has been away from a Book of Common Prayer to a series of books of alternative services, with local option to choose among the many variants. As such, a thin gruel for confession seems inevitable for ACNA: but there’s no reason it should be less than our TEC brethren — or that it should drop the centuries-old theology as expressed in contemporary language.

Ever since I came back to the church in my 30s, the confession has been the most powerful moment of the service, when we “acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness.” It was only later, as I studied Lutheran and Reformed theology, that I realized that this personal confession of sinfulness was (at least for some traditions) the essence of the Protestant faith.

I know that mega-church pastors don’t want to use the “s” word. But ACNA, even its evangelical wing? It’s time for the ACNA Liturgy Task Force to repent of its efforts to water down the millennia-old worship and theology that is part of our shared Christian heritage.

Update: The Texts for Common Prayer (released October 2013correct this problem with a more theologically sound confession and even the “s” word:
The Deacon or other person appointed says the following
All who truly and earnestly repent of your sins, and seek to be reconciled with your neighbors, and intend to lead the new life, following the commandments of God, and walking in his holy ways: draw near with faith and make your humble confession to Almighty God.


The Deacon and People kneel as able and pray
Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
maker and judge of us all:
We acknowledge and repent of our many sins and offenses, which we have committed by thought, word, and deed,
against your divine majesty,
provoking most justly your righteous anger against us.
We are deeply sorry for these transgressions.
The burden of them is more than we can bear.
Have mercy upon us, most merciful Father;
for your Son our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake,
forgive us all that is past;
and grant that we may evermore serve and please you in newness of to the honor and glory of your Name;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
This correction renders moot (makes obsolete) the earlier criticisms of the draft ACNA liturgy.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ancient Penitence

For the first time in many years, I began Ash Wednesday with a service and the imposition of ashes. (In previous years, the only service I could attend was at night but this year it was the other way 'round).

One advantage of doing it early is that it makes fasting until service pretty easy. (Just to avoid this loophole, I had bread for lunch and held off on a real meal until dinner). Another (dis)advantage is facing the world with a smudge on my forehead.

To prepare for any conversations, I tried to do a little research on the practice. In my Oxford History of Christian Worship, it mentions Ash Wednesday only twice. In one, it speculates that a penitential Lent began in the late 4th century and the 46 days (pushing it back to Wednesday) was common “before the late fifth century.” (P. 118) It also mentions Ash Wednesday as a time of penitence, established by the late 4th century in the Gelasian Sacramentary. This oldest extant Roman missal mentions scheduling Ash Wednesday (p. lxxiv in the 1894 English edition) but not ashes.

Fortunately, I was also watching my favorite podcast, Issues Etc., and their Monday show included a discussion of the topic. The third segment was entitled “Does the Season of Lent Have Pagan Origins?” and was a 25 minute interview with Pastor Joseph Abrahamson of Clearwater Lutheran Parish, a group of LCMS churches in Minnesota. (Highly recommended for anyone contemplating the meaning of Lent).

The gist of the interview was to summarize his research for the article “Redeeming Holy Days from Pagan Lies — Ash Wednesday and Lent,” published earlier this month online on the Steadfast Lutherans website. Pastor Abrahamson had much better information than the learned scholars from my liturgical library.

Here’s the money quote:
St. Athanasius, who led at the Council of Nicea to defeat Arianism—a denial of Christ being truly God and man in one person—was a bishop in Alexandria, Egypt. He wrote annual Festival letters to the Church as they prepared to celebrate Easter. In the year 331 he wrote in order to encourage his congregations in Egypt to keep the Lenten fast for 40 days. Athanasius directs the readers to many Scriptural examples and exhortations to moderation, self-control, and fasting for repentance, Athanasius gives several Bible examples of the 40 day fast, especially of Christ’s 40 day fast...
He continues
That this was practiced in Rome and elsewhere is seen in St. Athanasius’ letter from the year 340 A.D. when he returns from a meeting of pastors/bishops from all around the world, and he encourages his own congregations to continue in the same practice of the 40 day Lenten fast as does “the rest of the whole world.”
So for my Christian (particularly low church) friends, I’d say that Lent was practices at least as early as 331, as old as the Council of Nicaea (325) and older than the final Nicene Creed itself (381). For my non-Christian (or unknown) friends, I’d give a simple punchy statement: “Ash Wednesday was already the norm by 340 A.D.”

Abrahamson is not very helpful on the ash question itself: the name is known, but the imposition of ashes is not explicitly mentioned. He recites various examples of why ashes were a common form of penitence in the Old Testament, but no smoking gun.

Thus armed, I walked out to a variety of meetings at work today, dreading the awkwardness but reminding myself that we need to live our beliefs (and not leave our light under a basket). Among my coworkers, one Christian said she wished she could go to service today but probably couldn’t; another talked about his dilemma as a moderate Presbyterian as the PCUSA splits into its traditionalist and loony left contingents. Several others recognized the significance but didn’t otherwise comment. Only two people said “you have something on your forehead,” one of whom was corrected by another person in the same meeting: “It’s Ash Wednesday.”

Perhaps the most interesting discussion was with a Jewish woman in her 30s who (to the later distress of her mother) had ashes imposed in her parochial school kindergarten: it’s her oldest religious memory. We talked briefly about penitence: it was a rare chance at work to highlight Judeo-Christian commonalities in an increasingly secular culture.

We (Jew, Christian, Muslim, atheist) are all imperfect, sinful beings following down the millennia-old path of our spirtual forebears, Adam and Eve. As the priest quoted Genesis this morning as he imposed the ashes: “you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”