Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Do beloved carols teach the wrong lessons of Christmas?

Just before Christmas, First Things reposted a 2012 article (orginally written in 2009) about the importance of hymn doctrine in Christmas carols. It was the perfect topic for this blog -- the intersection of hymn theology and the most popular church hymns of the year -- but it was also at the busiest time of the year, the last few days before Christmas.

Now, on the 4th day of Christmas, I thought I'd use the article to interpret the Anglo-Catholic (Hymnal 1940) services we attended this year.

Our Christmas 2015

This year our family went to church twice to observe American Christianity's second greatest feast day, marking the Nativity of Our Lord.

The first was on Christmas Eve at our home parish, where our youngest was singing in the youth choir. As seems to be the norm for Protestant and Catholic churches nowadays, Christmas Eve is the main event: at our parish (like many others), there are two packed services, first around dinner time (for families) and the second around midnight (for adults). As elsewhere, the former was marked by lot of cute kids reenacting the Nativity scene, while the latter included the widest variety of Christmas tunes.

The second service said Mass with hymns)was a much smaller service (in terms of liturgy and attendance) held at 9am in the morning. As we have done every year since 2003, we visited Holy Trinity in San Diego with my wife's parents — first as an ECUSA parish in their long-standing sancutary, since 2011 an ACNA parish hot-bunking with Missouri Lutherans and led by the recently-named president of Forward in Faith, Rev. Lawrence Bausch.

The Wright Thesis

Provocatively entitled “How NT Wright Stole Christmas,” the article was by Peter Leithart, Reformed theologian and president of the Theopolis Institute of Birmingham, Alabama.

The premise of the article is that the theological writings of Scottish professor (and former CoE Bishop of Durham) N.T. Wright have ruined popular Christian interpretations of the significance of Jesus Christ.

Leithart argued that Wright first ruined movies about the Crucifixion, including The Passion of Christ:
I realized that N. T. Wright has spoiled every Jesus film.  Once you’ve read Wright, you realize that none of the movies get Jesus right.  … No film ever gives us what Wright says we should be looking for: a “crucifiable” Jesus, a Jesus who does something so provocative to make the Jews murderously hostile.  In the movies, Jesus is a hippy peace-child, a delicate flower of a man, a dew-eyed first-century Jewish Gandhi.  Why would anyone want to hurt Him?
He continued (in 2009):
Just this year, I had another realization.  N. T. Wright has spoiled Christmas too.

He made me see the fairly radical difference in tone and content between Advent and Christmas hymns.  Advent hymns, as you’d expect, are full of longing, and the language of the prophets.  Advent hymns are about Israel’s desperations and hope, and specifically  hope that the Christ would come in order to keep Yahweh’s promise to restore His people, and through them to restore the nations.

Advent hymns are about Israel.  They are deeply and thoroughly political.  Advent hymns look forward not to heaven but the redemption of Israel and of the nations, the coming of God’s kingdom on earth.

When we turn to Christmas hymns, these themes almost completely drop out.  How many Christmas hymns mention Israel?  Many refer to Bethlehem as the birthplace of Jesus, but Jerusalem?

Christmas hymns focus a great deal of attention on the details of the Christmas story, as is fitting.  There are shepherds and angels, Mary and Joseph and the baby in a manger, magi from the east. Sometimes the details are inaccurate (we don’t know there were three kings), Jesus did cry when He was a baby.  And Christmas seems to elicit some of the worst and most sentimental poetry ever written.
With this gauntlet thrown down, how did this year's services fare?

Christmas Eve

While the choirs performed various introits and anthems (including a version of “In the Bleak Midwinter”, #44 in H40), the congregation sang four hymns:
  • 236 Once in royal David's city. This focuses on the details of the Christmas story, but does emphasize Jesus is fully Man and fully God.
  • 42 Angels we have heard on high. Pretty much only about the Christmas story.
  • 33 Silent night! Other than "Son of God," again a Christmas story.
  • 27 Hark, the herald angels sing. While there are obviously angels and shepherds, the second verse seems to very clearly emphasize Christ the savior (even if it only partially links to the OT prophecies):
Christ, by highest heaven adored,
Christ, the everlasting Lord,
late in time behold him come,
offspring of a Virgin's womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see:
hail, the incarnate Deity,
pleased as man with man to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel.
Hark, the herald-angels sing
glory to the new-born King.
Christmas Day
  • 12 O come, all ye faithful. Other than the allusion to John 1 in verse 6 ("Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing"), clearly a version of the Christmas story.
  • 775 Joy to the world! [Only published in the final revision of H40, this includes the familiar US tune, unlike #319]. Of all this year’s hymns, the clearest exception to the Leithart thesis.
  • 36 What child is this? Very clearly the manager, shepherd & Magi story.
  • 30 The first Nowell.  Ditto.
  • 21 O little town of Bethlehem. As the title suggests, it is much like the two previous hymns. The exception is the final verse: contrary to the Leithart stereotype, Fr. Bausch asked the congregation to mediate on this verse, which is entirely about the meaning of the coming of our savior:
O holy Child of Bethlehem,
descend to us, we pray;
cast out our sin and enter in,
be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels
the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us,
our Lord Emmanuel!
Joy to the World!

The real exception for our observance this year was Joy to the World! For many years, I remembered it as the exit hymn for a Christmas eve service: at the parishes I was at, on Christmas (as at Easter) the rectors wanted to select something that captures the exultation of the great feast and (perhaps being cynical) leaves people all pumped up.

I don't really care for the melody, because of the great range, the voice leading and that it's at the high end of my range. It's a little more interesting when I have a hymnal with Lowell Mason's harmony (which I've learned) and the organist is playing that harmony. Still, between the tune and the lyrics, it seems like a simple hymn — less nuanced than some of the others.

However, in retrospect I was selling short the 1719 text by the great Isaac Watts
Joy to the world! the Lord is come:
let earth receive her King;
let every heart prepare him room,
and heaven and nature sing,
and heaven and nature sing,
and heaven, and heaven and nature sing.

Joy to the world! the Savior reigns;
let 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.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
nor thorns infest the ground;
he comes to make his blessings flow
far as the curse is found,
far as the curse is found,
far as, far as the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
and makes the nations prove
the glories of his righteousness,
and wonders of his love,
and wonders of his love,
and wonders, wonders of his love.
Nothing of this year's services better fits Leithart's standard for an ideal Christmas carol: no baby Jesus, shepherds, angels or Magi. Instead, a song focused entire on the redemption of the world by coming of our King and Savior.

As the preface in morning prayer (at least in the 28 BCP) says from Advent 1 to January 13: “O come let us adore him.”

Sunday, December 20, 2015

When was a hymn written?

For several years, I have been contemplating the question: When was a hymn “written”? The original (and ongoing) impetus have the promos on Issues Etc. for their wonderful Internet radio station, Lutheran Public Radio, that promises “hymns from the second century; hymns from the 12th century” and so on.

But when was a hymn actually written? There are discrete steps of writing a hymn:
  1. Writing the verses
  2. Translating, selecting and editing the verses
  3. The tune
  4. Adapting and arranging the tune, including the setting the rhythm and organizing the verses and (possibly) a refrain
  5. The harmonization, including (in the last century) adding a descant
There is also the question of when are these first combined: the tune and verses may be old but when were they first sung together?

Beyond the written hymn, there are the choices of how it is performed, which could include
  1. Tempo
  2. Voices
  3. Accompaniment
These are questions I still don't have an answer to, so I expect to update this posting over the life of this blog.

Revised December 28, 2015

Sunday, October 18, 2015

St. Luke the Evangelist

October 18 is the date the church celebrates St. Luke the Evangelist. In the one year lectionary for this date (2 Timothy 4:5-15), Paul acknowledges Luke as his faithful companion on his missionary travels (as he also does in Colossians 4:14 and Philemon 1:24). What else we know is from early extra-canonical sources — as when he is reported as a physician in the 4th century Church History by Eusebius.

Luke’s Gospel and its Sequel

As our preacher noted this morning, the words contributed by St. Luke to the New Testament canon (with the third gospel and Acts of the Apostles) is second only the Pauline Epistles. The Acts of the Apostles provide a unique and invaluable account of the early church, but it was only earlier this year did I realize the unique contribution of Luke’s gospel.

Yes, Luke has unique parables, including the the Fig Tree (13:1-9), Lost Coin (15:8-10) and Prodigal Son (15:11-32). Luke 18 has the remarkable contrast of the Pharisee (“I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector”) and the tax collector (“God, be merciful to me, a sinner!“).

But what I find remarkable is how much of what we know of Jesus before his ministry — from the promise to Elizabeth through Jesus in the Temple — is found only in the first two chapter of Luke.

And as a musician (and an Episcopalian from childhood if not birth) what is also remarkable is how much of our liturgy comes from Luke. This includes the Benedictus of our morning prayer, the rejoicing of Zachararias after the birth of St. John (Luke 1:68-79):
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; * for he hath visited and redeemed his people;
And hath raised up a mighty salvation for us, * in the house of his servant David;
As he spake by the mouth of his holy Prophets, * which have been since the world began;
That we should be saved from our enemies, * and from the hand of all that hate us.
To perform the mercy promised to our forefathers, * and to remember his holy covenant;
To perform the oath which he sware to our forefather Abraham, * that he would give us;
That we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies * might serve him without fear;
In holiness and righteousness before him, * all the days of our life.
And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: * for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways;
To give knowledge of salvation unto his people * for the remission of their sins,
Through the tender mercy of our God; * whereby the day-spring from on high hath visited us;
To give light to them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death, * and to guide our feet into the way of peace.
Perhaps more significantly — at least for many Catholics (and Anglo-Catholics) — the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-56) (used at evening prayer) from the Annunciation to the Virgin Mary:
My soul doth magnify the Lord, * and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
For he hath regarded * the lowliness of his handmaiden.
For behold, from henceforth * all generations shall call me blessed.
For he that is mighty hath magnified me; * and holy is his Name.
And his mercy is on them that fear him * throughout all generations.
He hath showed strength with his arm; * he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat, * and hath exalted the humble and meek.
He hath filled the hungry with good things; * and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He remembering his mercy hath holpen his servant Israel; * as he promised to our forefathers, Abraham and his seed, for ever.
Finally, there is the Simeon's recognition of the diviity of Christ in Luke 2:29-32 (which we now use as the Nunc Dimittis in evening prayer):
LORD, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, * according to thy word.
For mine eyes have seen * thy salvation,
Which thou hast prepared * before the face of all people;
To be a light to lighten the Gentiles, * and to be the glory of thy people Israel.
Note: from my Lutheran days, all three can be found in the Missouri Synod liturgy (TLH, LSB), but the Nunc Dimitiss is used in the everyday communion service rather than evening prayer).

Invoking Luke

How do we acknowledge Luke? The 1928 BCP has a collect for this day
ALMIGHTY God, who didst inspire thy servant Saint Luke the Physician, to set forth in the Gospel the love and healing power of thy Son; Manifest in thy Church the like power and love, to the healing of our bodies and our souls; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
that was modified in the (traditional) version of the 1979 prayer book:
Almighty God, who didst inspire thy servant Luke the physician to set forth in the Gospel the love and healing power of thy Son: Graciously continue in thy Church the like love and power to heal, to the praise and glory of thy Name; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
The 1662 collect strikes similar themes with different words:
ALMIGHTY God, who calledst Luke the physician, whose praise is in the Gospel, to be an Evangelist, and Physician of the soul; May it please thee, that by the wholesome medicines of the doctrine delivered by him, all the diseases of our souls may be healed, through the merits of thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
and is only slightly modified from Cranmer’s 1549 original:
ALMIGHTIE God whiche calledst Luke the phisicion, whose prayse is in the gospell, to be a phisicion of the soule ; it may please thee, by the holsome medicines of his doctryne, to heale all the diseases of our soules; through thy sonne Jesus Christe our Lorde. 
Singing Praises for Luke

Beloved by the church, St. Luke is not quite forgotten in our Anglican hymnals. In each hymnal, as with the other saints he is is listed under Saints’ Days. Alas, he doesn’t rank with St. Michael (who had no earthly ministry), who warrants four hymns (#120-123) in H40, three in H82 (3282-284) and six in The English Hymnal.

Oremus recommended “Savior, who didst healing give,” a three verse hymn written in 1906 for TEH (#247) by Hardwicke Drummond Rawnsley. TEH pairs it with Jesus Ist Da Schönste Licht, a 18th century tune by J.A. Freylinhausen.

Hymnal 1940 lists no hymns for Luke, and the “see also” choices are vaguely about science (#515) or healing (#516). Hymnal 1982 has a generic three-stanza hymn (#231-232) where the middle stanza can be adapted for any saint, Luke among them.

However, it also has four verses of a hymn specific to Luke (#285), “What thanks and praise to thee we owe” by William Dalrymple Maclagan, 1873, set to a 1753 tune Deus tuorum militum. H82 uses verses 1,6,7 and 8 of the 8 verse hymn, altering verse 7 for clarity and verse 8 for gender neutrality. H82 (as is its want) is harmony free, but on Sunday at the 28 BCP parish I attended, the music director used the PC words and applied what appeared to be his own harmonization.

Although the hymn was written by Maclagan —  a Cambridge graduate then rector at Newington and later Archbishop of York from 1891-1908 — it doesn’t appear in TEH, Songs of Praise (Extended Edition), or the New English Hymnal. Instead, Hymnary.org implies that its first appearance was in the U.S. Hymnal 1892. The hymnal lists six (original texts) of the eight verses in (#172), set to Ely. The same six verses (#1,2,5-8) and tune appear in Hymnal 1916 (#292).

Friday, October 16, 2015

Music unites us — and divides us

On Sunday, the opening and closing hymns at the church we visited were “Glorious things of thee are spoken” (H40: 385) and “Songs of thankfulness and praise” (H40: 53). Everyone knew the hymns, we sang together, and we were united in song.

Hymns provide not just a unity in place, but in time. Yes, as a music minor I would probably have loved the respective tunes: Austria (tune by Haydn) and Salzburg (harmonized by Bach). More importantly, they are songs I have sung countless times over the decades — as a chorister, a young adult and now in middle age.

At the same time, some of my friends at another church were singing “Holiness.” At other praise band services, Christians were undoubtedly singing “Majesty,” “Shine Jesus Shine” or “Shout to the Lord”. While these song do not provide the continuity across generations or centuries of classic hymns, they do provide unity within a parish that learns and loves them.

Last month I attended a church planting workshop in the ACNA deanery of San Diego. Of the 30 or so people there, from what I know of their respective parishes, at least 25 worship each Sunday with some form of praise music — whether as the predominant style, or as part of a “blended” worship. Whether they chose this style — or the rector chose it as part of a conscious strategy to be more contemporary and welcoming to the culture — it is what they are used to.

During our two days, we did two morning prayer and one evening prayer services from the ACNA trial use liturgy. In using the ACNA liturgy over the past two years, it is my impression that the ACNA is a slightly less radical modernization than is Rite II of the 1979 prayer book. Perhaps more importantly, the differences between Rite I and II (and ACNA) are less dramatic in morning prayer than in Holy Communion.

So together, we were saying the same (mostly familiar) words, and had unity in worship, belief and purpose. This is exactly the reason Cranmer created the Book of Common Prayer.

However, if I went to their parishes — and I have been to many in the past year — I would feel like an alien or at least an outsider. Younger people who grew up on praise chorus music would feel alienated listening to Bach, Crüger, Vaughan Williams — or even Sullivan.

So at the risk of (re)stating the obvious, the Worship Wars between traditional and contemporary styles are more about the music, and less about the words. Some Anglo-Catholic leaders that I know and respect say they could give up their “thees and thous,” but that is a subject for another post.

However, I think there is a third point of difference if not division between the traditionalists and modernists: the process. When it comes to modernizing efforts, is the updating a one-time event that happens once every 400-500 years? Or is it an ongoing process — whether due to an ideology of modernization, change or quest for relevance — or a publisher’s business model of planned obsolescence?

One-time changes can and do happen, as when Luther, Cranmer and Vatican II shifted from Latin to the vernacular. These changes create disruption, but still allow continuity across generations and the centuries. Conversely, a belief in constant change – whether of liturgy or music — means that what we learned as children will obsolete by the time we escort our own children (or grandchildren) into the pews.

The TEC is committed to an ongoing process of change. The Continuing Anglicans and the REC have indicated their rejection of this ongoing process of change. For the broader ACNA, the jury is still out.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Jesus loves me … The Bible tells me so!

This morning a friend shared a newsletter mailing from Larry Warner, a professional Christian spiritual director she follows. The article began:
What if I told you that the children’s song, “Jesus Loves Me”, is a propaganda tool promoting a rationalist stance toward the Bible and subtly communicating that the Bible is not living, not active, not in need of the agency of the Holy Spirit to understand it. Rather, this song conveys that the truths of the Bible are arrived at by the applications of certain prescribed principles (hermeneutics), and a working knowledge of the original languages (primarily Hebrew and Greek) that leads to an intellectual assent to said truths.

Now, I have sung that song, encouraged others to sing that song on countless occasions. But in hindsight I now see it as heretical and unorthodox, for it deviates from the simple truth found in Romans 8 where Paul pens these words: “For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father! The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God…” It is not the Bible but the Spirit that declares it to be so – the Spirit bearing witness with our spirit!

The irony of the song … is that [it implies our] ability to have a personal relationship with Jesus who loves us … is a matter of doctrine, the Bible says it, so I believe it, rather than a truth that has been communicated to us in a personal way through the Holy Spirit that indwells us and in fact is the agent of that very love (Romans 5:5).
(Emphasis as in the original). I don’t have room to reprint and respond to the whole newsletter — nor would this be fair use — so I encourage those who are interested to read the argument in its original.

Visceral Reaction

My initial reaction was that this attack on the time-honored children’s hymn was exaggerated for effect. Fortunately, I was on the way to the gym and had an hour to mull it over.

And yes, this also upset me, because of my fond memories of the song, particularly upon the birth of our first child. After a sometimes anxiety-producing pregnancy, my wife and I were greatly relieved when she was born healthy. When I held her in my arms — only a few minutes in this world — all I could do was sing “Jesus loves me,“ both to let her know of God’s love, and also to acknowledge our gratitude to Him for making this possible. (It was totally spontaneous, and I was embarrassed that I could only recall one verse.)
About the Hymn

Ian Bradley in the Daily Telegraph Book of Hymns writes:
It was written by Anna Bartlett Warner (1820-1915). … [It] first appeared in Say and Seal (1859), a novel on which both [Warner and her sister Susan] collaborated. It rapidly achieved immense popularity as a Sunday School and missionary hymn.

[O]lder church members…remember from their youth the original rather surgery tune, written by William Batchelder Bradbury (1816-68). A native of Maine, Bradbury turned out a large number of Sunday School tunes including Woolworth which is still used for Charlotte Elliott’s hymn ‘Just as I am.’
The Cyberhymnal quotes several examples from Asian missionaries who used the song effectively in reaching children in the 19th century.

My copy of the Baptist Hymnal (1975) lists as written in 1860, with an 1862 tune. It lists four verses, as does The Cyberhymnal, although they disagree over the last two phrases of the fourth stanza. The three verses where they agree:
Jesus loves me—this I know,
For the Bible tells me so;
Little ones to Him belong—
They are weak, but He is strong.

Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
The Bible tells me so.

Jesus loves me—He who died
Heaven’s gate to open wide;
He will wash away my sin,
Let His little child come in.

Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
The Bible tells me so.

Jesus loves me—loves me still,
Though I’m very weak and ill;
From His shining throne on high
Comes to watch me where I lie.

Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
The Bible tells me so.
Theological Defense

As I worked out at the gym, I wonder what this was due to some defect in the commentator’s view of the Bible. But on the website of the firm he founded, he states:
We believe the Bible to be the infallible, authoritative word of God, written by inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

We believe that there is one true God, eternally existent in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The other possible explanation is that such a strong emphasis on the Holy Spirit is rooted in a Charismatic — IMHO excessively so — interpretation of faith.

I am not a theologian nor professionally trained, so rather than argue it point by point, let me offer two theological arguments.

First, per Sola scriptura (and Warner’s statement of faith), we Protestant Christians hold to the infallibility and completeness of Scripture. As Article VI of the 39 Articles states, “Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation.” So relying on the Bible is something we are commanded to do, as both Paul (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and Peter (2 Peter 1:20-21) attest.

Second, some Reformed traditions emphasize that our personal response, our works or something else that we do is essential to our salvation. The Lutheran (nay, Christian) response to this is that because we are imperfect — all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) — we can never be sure whether or not we are “good enough.” What kind of loving God would put us through such torture? Instead, per Sola gratia we are saved by God’s perfect grace.

Pedagogical Defense

If we were in the same room, I suspect Warner and I would find some common ground — points where we overlap, even if we are not in complete agreement. And perhaps we could both agree that “The Bible tells us of God and His promises, but it also invites (even commands) us to have a relationship with Him through his Son and the work of the Holy Spirit.”

I am certainly willing to stipulate that the theology of this children’s hymn presents an oversimplified view of God. For example, it’s not at all Trinitarian but focuses on the one member of the Trinity who was witnessed (and personified) on this earth two millennia ago.

So what? We're talking about a song for preschoolers and elementary school age kids. Are we suggesting that once they learn this song, they can stop reading their children’s Bible and going to Sunday School? Of course not.

Any teacher — or parent - will tell you that you have to start somewhere. Oversimplification is inherent not only in dealing with small children, but also with any primer — a first exposure to a new concept.

So learning of the love of God the Son seems like a perfect place to start with preschoolers, but no, we don’t want to stop there. There are plenty of other hymns — not to mention Scripture, scriptural meditations and even fiction by Lewis, Tolkien or L’Engle — that can educate, train and nurture them on their path towards adult Christian formation.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

When Common Prayer Was Common

Earlier this month, we went to a 28 BCP congregation with our teen. My wife and I had been there a couple of times (it’s a long drive) but our daughter had not. I was amazed at how much she knew of the liturgy and service music: the original (vs. modified) Nicene Creed, the General Confession (vs. Confession Lite), the Scottish Gloria, the Merbecke Angus Dei and Sanctus. (None of us knew the Kyrie).

She has almost no exposure to the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. She spent all of preschool in Rite I, and then in the next nine years split time between Lutheran, 28 BCP (perhaps three years) and then Rite I; for the last few years (until recently) she has been worshiping with the ACNA trial use liturgy. On the other hand, it was very familiar for my wife and I, who spent almost all of our first four decades (i.e the 20th century) with the 28 BCP and then Rite I.

To me, our experience was a powerful reminder of the brilliance of Cranmer’s vision: the Book of Common Prayer is a book of common prayer. At one point in history, you could walk into a church anywhere in the country (or perhaps the world) and fully participate in the service. The prayers you learned as a kid would be the ones you would say until you breath your last breath. Among creedal Protestants, the Anglican faith was more defined by common worship than a common confession because (as known to 5th century Christians) Lex orandi, Lex credendi.

Of course, this also applies to hymns and service music. Yes, churches need a variety of forms and setting — I'm now a fan of the penitential vs. ordinary time approach to service music — but continuity and familiarity are underappreciated virtues.

Books of Alternative Services Rather Than Common Prayer

The brilliance of Thomas Cranmer was to provide a new prayer book in the vernacular that both linked back to the Latin Sarum (i.e. Salisbury) Rite and standardized the liturgy across the entire church. From the 16th century until the latter half of the 20th century, this was the norm for the CoE and Anglicans worldwide.

In America,  the 1979 prayer book marked a break for ECUSA from a Book of Common Prayer to what Peter Toon correctly noted was an Alternative Services Book. It provides multiple services and multiple variants, and also started the process of ongoing prayer book revision. The 2015 TEC convention vowed to start a new round of prayer book revision, in part to offer a new “gender neutral” version of the 1928 BCP marriage rite for high church LGBT parishioners.

We would love to say that Mother England has avoided these liturgical and doctrinal errors, but they haven’t. Planning a future trip to London, I found that “prayer book” services listed on the CoE church locator website were a small fraction of those local parishes.

With liturgy — as with bible translations — the 21st century model seems to be that revision is an ongoing process of modernizing the language — and the theology — rather than maintaining continuity with previous generations.

Traditional Language and Process

It’s hard to tell what the ACNA will end up doing. It opted for a single unified prayer book — rather than variant services — but following the 1978 Rite II model of a radical break from Elizabethan English. (To be fair, this is exactly the model promoted by Toon himself). It’s hard to tell if this will be a one-time or ongoing process: the disadvantage of having a standing (rather than temporary) committee on liturgy or music is that they will feel a need to do (i.e. change) something.

Among ACNA member bodies, the Reformed Episcopal Church has had relatively infrequent revisions of its prayer book — in 1873 (when it broke from ECUSA), 1963 and 2003. My impression is that the latter is recommended but not universal among REC churches.

For those that left ECUSA in between REC and ACNA — i.e. those Continuing Anglicans who quit ECUSA over the 1979 prayer book — they have been defined by their use of the 1928 BCP. In retrospect, their 1977 concerns about theological and liturgical revision have proven remarkably prescient.

Despite their severe fragmentation, these Schism I jurisdictions share a single unchanging prayer book (However, their prayer book differs from 1928 in that the lectionary was revised in 1945). This is probably the only pocket of liturgical unity in all of North American Anglicanism, continuing to live out Cranmer’s vision.

Still, having a book doesn’t define a process: It is a good prayer book, but what will the process be if there is something that must be updated? How will these churches reject recent heresies of the post-Biblical church?

In the end, I was struck by how dramatically easy it was for our family to worship using the standardized rite. Our daughter had never set foot in either in this church or a church of its province (ACC); the 28 BCP parish we previously attended was APCK. In terms of liturgy or theology, there is more variance within the TEC (or ACNA) than there is between the various jurisdictions of the continuing church.

So this raises (once again) the obvious question: if it’s the same faith, same worship and same prayer book, why are there dozens of Continuing jurisdictions in the US — other than 30-year-old grievances and a desire to propagate (or retain) purple shirts?

Thursday, September 17, 2015

What is Anglicanism Without Doctrine?

In the US, we have seen the successive separation from ECUSA of the the REC, Continuing Anglicans, AMiA and then the various factions that make up the ACNA. All were over doctrinal issues, and none of those who left are officially recognized by Canterbury as part of the Anglican Communion.

Now, with the last Lambeth conference a failure, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has announced a conference of global Anglican leaders that (for the first time) includes the spiritual leader of the ACNA. The Daily Telegraph reports:
The Archbishop of Canterbury is preparing to gamble his legacy on a high-stakes plan to overhaul the 80 million-strong worldwide Anglican church in what he sees as a “last throw of the dice” to avert a permanent split over issues such as homosexuality.
His aides liken it to a plan to have “separate bedrooms” to stave off divorce within the AC, allowing different factions to have different doctrines while retaining some ties to the CoE.

ACNA Abp. Foley Beach says he’ll decide whether or not to attend after consulting with the other GAFCON allies. However, journalist David Virtue argues that going would be a mistake:
First of all, if there is no "common doctrine," Anglicanism itself is meaningless. What does it mean to be Anglican if two different versions of the same faith are tolerated! To be an Anglican means a specific identity, a specific theological outlook. The Scriptures and the Gospels, the Apostolic Church, and the early Church Fathers are the foundation of Anglican faith and worship that make up the Anglican Communion.

The Church of England is part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. It worships the one true God, who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It professes the faith that is uniquely revealed in the Bible and set forth in the Catholic Creeds (the statements of faith developed in the Early Church that are still used in the Church's worship today). The Church is called to proclaim that faith afresh in each generation.

So the question must be asked again, can the two groups, orthodox and heterodox, live under the same roof and still call themselves Anglican? I think not. It is impossible. Most TEC bishops have denied the creed in one form or another, the worst case being John Shelby Spong who was never disciplined for his outright heresies. Walter Righter, Gene Robinson, and Katharine Jefferts Schori -- the latter has denied the bodily resurrection of Jesus and calls personal conversion a Western heresy.

For nearly two decades, the Global South primates and the GAFCON bishops have argued, pleaded, and fought with TEC to repent of its heresies. They have steadfastly refused to do so.
Without a confessional (like Lutherans or Presbyterians) or a central authority (like the RCC), the Church of England and its children have been notoriously squishy on doctrine throughout their 450+ year existence as a Protestant church apart from Rome. Some of this was the direct consequence of efforts to end civil war after the conflicts over the Tudor succession.

Our central doctrinal statement — the 39 articles — reflect the famous “Elizabeth fudge” of trying to be both Reformed and Catholic. Since that time, the (latitudinarian)  “broad church” was an attempt to hold together a range of Christian beliefs. However, in the 16th century, both the Reformed and Catholic faith were recognizably Christian and (largely) based on Biblical teaching, as were the subsequent evangelical and Anglo-Catholic interpretations of Anglicanism.

Virtue is right that the doctrinal innovations of the past three or four decades are not the same church as those who hold to the earlier interpretation of the Anglican faith. We no longer share a prayer book, ecclesiology or governance, so if we don’t share a doctrine, how is this “one faith”. So while the current (and previous and next) archbishop don’t want the divorce of the Anglican Communion to fracture on their watch, they are powerless to mend the irreconcilable differences.

The Telegraph makes clear that some of the Church of England will be leaving to join ACNA, GAFCON and the majority of the world’s Anglicans. If the modernists get Canterbury, perhaps the traditionalists can claim York, the other historic see of the CoE. From an architectural standpoint, it would be more than a fair trade, and the seat is currently held by an Africa-born bishop sympathetic to the Global South.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

ACNA Announces Baptism Services

The ACNA and its Liturgy and Common Worship Task Force this week announced
(via Twitter)  the addition of four new services to its Texts for Common Prayer:
  • Holy Baptism
  • Confirmation
  • Baptism with Confirmation, Reception and Reaffirmation
  • Renewal of Baptismal Vows
The task force proposals were approved by the House of Bishops at their June meeting in Vancouver. (However, they were actually posted back in July and the change log shows that there have been no changes since then).

These new services are added to the trial use versions of the main services — morning prayer, evening prayer and communion — released in Fall 2013. (Due to defects in the 1979 prayer book ordinal, that was drafted first and is already officially approved).

The Task Force hopes finish drafts of all texts by 2017, and then combine those with feedback to produce a final version.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Catholic Lutherans

During my brief (mostly Missouri Synod) Lutheran period, I learned a lot about the goals and role of Martin Luther and his early followers (particularly Melanchthon and Chemnitz), and the role they played in launching and defining the Reformation and a Protestant understanding of Christianity.

As an Anglo-Catholic, I find a lot to like about the (doctrinally orthodox) Lutheran teachings and believers. One reason is the strong liturgical worship promoted by traditionalists such as Issues Etc. and its advertisers. But as a catholic Christian, I also found many of the ideas of Calvin (and particularly Zwingli) as a bridge too far — let alone the Puritans and Anabaptists.

The quandary in understanding Lutheranism is its love/hate relationship with the Roman Catholic Church. Luther was a monk who wanted to reform the church and its excesses, creating a separate movement only when the 16th century church made it clear it didn’t want to be reformed. At the same time, there persist many ideas of the early Lutherans — including in the Book of Concord — that emphasize the 16th century persecutions and conflicts in the early Lutheran church; even to this day, many Lutherans (falsely) feel a need to reject RCC practices. Today, those differences seem exaggerated in a post-Christian culture, at a time when we Biblical Christians are more similar than different.

The American Lutheran Smörgåsbord

Despite many mergers in the 20th century, the 8% of American Protestants who are Lutheran (vs. 3% for Episcopal/Anglican) are fragmented across numerous denominations and jurisdictions. From 1990-2000, there were three major groups:
  • Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), descendant of the Scandinavian Lutheran churches. With about 3.8 million members today (per Wikipedia), it the largest and most liberal — it is among Lutherans what TEC is among Anglicans — and is in full communion with the liberal mainstream Episcopalians, Congregationalists, Presbyterians and Methodists.
  • Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS), derived from the German Lutherans of the 19th century. It is the next largest at 2.2 million members, and is probably most similar (liturgically if not theologically) to traditional Anglicans.
  • Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), which in my experience felt more evangelical than Lutheran. 
Two smaller groups broke away from ECLA in this century. In 2001, the Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC) was formed in 2001, in response to ELCA entering into communion with TEC. In parallel to the ACNA, in 2010 the North American Lutheran Church (NALC) was formed in response to ELCA theological modernizations, notably its support for gay marriage.

The NALC recently planted its seminary HQ at the Trinity School for Ministry, the training ground for the evangelical wing of the ACNA. Like much of the ACNA, the NALC (and LCMC) declined to join the LCMS because (like the ELCA) they support women’s ordination; thus, the NALC is analogous to the pro-WO wing of ACNA. With its opposition to WO and support for traditional liturgy, the LCMS is the Lutheran body closest to the Anglo-Catholic faction of Continuing Anglicans, but it also participated in a 2013 ecumenical summit with both the ACNA and NALC.

Clearly, affinity to Roman Catholic doctrine does not come easily to traditional Lutherans. The ELCA is the only American Lutheran church to endorse the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification. Meanwhile, the LCMS explicitly rejects that declaration and any attempts to minimize differences between Lutherans and the RCC over the doctrine of grace and salvation. As the editorial head of LCMS’s publisher, Pastor Paul T. McCain, wrote in 2010:
Ten years after it appeared, we still continue to hear that the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification was a “breakthrough” between the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran Church. The media loves to perpetuate this myth. In fact, the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification is a fraud. It was a sell-out by revisionist Lutherans to Rome.

Rome is not to be faulted in any of this. The Papacy maintained the historic position of the Roman Church, and did not change it. Mainline liberal Lutherans, however, compromised the key doctrine of the Scriptures and the very heart of the Lutheran Confessions.
Thus, my general sense is that — unlike for Anglo-Catholics — (Roman) Catholic doctrine holds no particular attraction for traditional (particularly LCMS) Lutherans.

A Catholic Lutheran Church

My visit this summer to the International Congress of Catholic Anglicans made clear to me the importance in Anglo-Catholic theology (if not Anglicanism more broadly) of the continuity of Anglicanism to the early, undivided church. Like Catholics and Orthodox, we are creedal, subscribe to many of the ecumenical councils of the first millennium, and have sought to maintain the apostolic succession. We harken not only to the traditions of the Apostolic church of the 1st century, but also the traditional interpretations developed (particularly in the 2nd-4th centuries) as Christian clergy and theologians wrestled with early heresies and schisms.

In many ways, the Reformed and Catholic nature of Henry’s Church of England (and the Anglican faith more broadly) seemed like a minimalist reformation of the 16th century RCC, rather the more dramatic changes of Calvinism and the Puritans. Next to Anglicans, Lutherans seemed the least radical of the Protestants in rejecting pre-Reformation Christian doctrine that was recognizable (if modified) in the 16th century Roman Catholic Church. Still, I haven’t thought of them as asserting unity with the undivided church.

Lutherans are certainly creedal, with the Apostles’ Creed occupying a central role in Luther’s Catechism and all three creeds central to the Lutheran confession captured by the 1580 Book of Concord compiled by “the second Martin” and others. As in Rome and Canterbury, the Athanasian  Creed among Lutherans makes repeated reference to the “catholic” (i.e. universal) faith. In the current LCMS prayer book/hymnal, the Lutheran Service Book (2006), the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds refer to the “holy Christian Church,” but with this footnote:
Christian: the ancient text reads “catholic,” meaning the whole Church as it confesses the wholeness of Christian doctrine. [LSB, pp. 158,159,174,175,191,192,206,207,264]
By endorsing the Niceno-Constaintinopolitan and Athanasian Creeds, Lutherans implicitly and explicitly recognize the work of the first four ecumenical councils (325-451). Given the ongoing conflict between German Protestants and Catholics, the Book of Concord seemed more focused on 16th century (Roman Catholic) councils, notably the Council of Trent which began the Counter-Reformation.

The Scandinavian Lutherans endorse apostolic succession while (due in part to obstruction by 16th century Catholic bishops) the Germans do not. Like the Swedish Lutherans, the CoE and ACNA were able to launch new churches that inheirited the apostolic succession their clergy received in their former jurisdiction.

Given all this, I was surprised recently to hear this house ad on Issues Etc. quoting one of the speakers on its 2015 conference audio DVD:
[Will Weedon] I don’t know about you: I want no part of some church that began in 1517.

[Todd Wilken] Pastor Will Weedon speaking at this year’s Issues Etc. “Making the Case” conference.

[Will Weedon] I am not interested in it. Why would I be? I want the Church that began with Jesus Christ, which was founded by his Apostles, and in which the teachers of the Church continued to teach for centuries. I want to be part of that Church.

And the self-understanding of the Lutheran church is that we are the Catholic church of the West.
A regular guest on the Internet radio show, Pastor Weedon seems like an authoritative spokesman for LCMS doctrine as its director of worship since 2012.

Further Context

I don’t have a copy of the $300 DVD, so I wrote to Pastor Weedon to ask if he had a paper or script for what he had presented. In response, I got a lengthly email and a copy of one of his earlier writings.

In response to my email referring to the
[I heard] recent Issues Etc. ads that quote you as saying at Making the Case 2015 that the Lutheran church hearkens back to the early (i.e. undivided) church.  … I don't associate it with Lutheran theology.
he replied in part:
it’s actually an assumption and common place for us Lutherans.  …This is what Scripture teaches (citing the Scriptures). This is how the Church has always understood what Scripture teaches (citing the Fathers). This is exactly what we are teaching and nothing new.

The great Martin Chemnitz in his monumental Examination of the Council of Trent very bluntly states: “We confess we disagree with those who invent opinions which have no testimony in any period of the church. We hold that no dogma that is new and in conflict with all antiquity should be accepted.” I:258.
With his email, he included an essay that was also posted to his blog and his earlier parish website, which began:
Learning from the Fathers
Many times, Lutherans are challenged with:  “Well, where was Lutheranism before Luther?”  The implication is that Rome or the Eastern Orthodox have some sort of “corner” on the great church Fathers.  But Lutherans have never believed this to be true.  The Fathers repeatedly present the same or quite similar approaches to doctrine as the Lutheran Confessions do.  Here are some citations from the Fathers that may be of help in dispelling the notion that “Lutheranism” is a johnny-come-lately to the Church scene:
The essay offers quotes from the Patristic Fathers that support Lutheran theology, grouped using the three solas: sola scriptura, sola fide, sola gratia. The quotes cite Ambrose, St. Basil the Great, St. Clement, St. Cyril, St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. John Chrysostom, St. John of Damascus and St. Thomas Aquinas, among others, from collections such as the 127-volume Fathers of the Church and the 28-volume Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers.

These quotes aren’t going to convert a Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox to sola scriptura. At the same time, they remind us that early tradition points us (as it did the undivided church) back to Holy Scripture.


Creedal Protestants share with each other — and Rome and the East — an adherence to the canon of scripture, the ecumenical creeds and the teachings of the early Fathers. They differ in terms of ecclesial authority: Anglo-Catholics give considerable deference to tradition, the Orthodox give primacy to its specific canon of Holy Tradition, while Rome vests ultimate authority in the Magisterium.

Compared to other Protestants, Anglicans and Lutherans ascribe a greater role to tradition (including the early Fathers) in interpreting scripture. Still, Lutherans have more of a sola scriptura orientation than their Catholic or Orthodox counterparts, perhaps guided by Martin Luther’s final statement at the Diet of Worms that said
wenn ich nicht durch Zeugnisse der Schrift und klare Vernunftgründe überzeugt werde; denn weder dem Papst noch den Konzilien allein glaube ich, da es feststeht, daß sie öfter geirrt und sich selbst widersprochen haben, so bin ich durch die Stellen der heiligen Schrift, die ich angeführt habe, überwunden in meinem Gewissen und gefangen in dem Worte Gottes.…
In other words,
Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason - I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other - my conscience is captive to the Word of God.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Some are fed up with bad church music

Regular readers know that Hymn #335† is one of the few additions that I believe worth preserving from Hymnal 1982. Yes it has a sappy tune – and difficult voice leading – but it effectively puts to music the red letter text of John 6:44-51. In doing so, it provides an appropriate communion or post-communion prayer that teaches the congregation the meaning of what they may be taking for granted.

When I visited Hymnal 1982 parishes from 1990-2010, I often requested it — as when I studied abroad for two months and asked to sing it the last Sunday I was there (before returning to my Hymnal 1940 home). Other than concerns about overuse, the respective music directors were always glad to oblige.

On the traditional music side, apparently not everyone cares for this hymn. A priest friend reposted this picture (“I Am the Bread of Life: new verse”) on Facebook

Trying to explain the post turned out to be more complex than I anticipated. It was originally posted August 24 to the Facebook group “I'm fed up with bad church music.” The posting (thus far) has 133 comments and 737 Likes from the group’s 11,030 members. But that’s only the beginning.

It was posted by John Kersey, president of “The Oxford Centre for Leadership,”  a training and mentoring program in the UK. His LinkedIn profile says he is also faculty at universities in Costa Rica and Dominica, and a professional concert pianist. However, he is also (as of Feb. 2015) the primate of the New York-based Apostolic Episcopal Church, established in 1925, which is “a western-rite extension of The Chaldean Catholic Church” whose ecumenical mission is “to act as a center for the reunion of Christendom.” Finally, he is head of the Abbey-Principality of San Luigi, a Catholic community (and “sovereign principality”) established in 1883 by French and Spanish Benedictine monks with ties to Syria, England, Africa, the U.S. and Jackson Browne.

Whew! I thought my life was complicated.

† The words and music for “Bread of Life” were written in 1966 by Sister Suzanne Toolan, RSM (b. 1927)

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Non-Sunday worship

At Pray Tell, a Catholic monk from Minnesota, lamented the light attendance at Saturday’s services for the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. And I discovered that the Assumption (called the Dormition of the Theotokos) is a big deal for our Eastern friends — one of Twelve Great Feasts — as my Anglo-Orthodox (now more Orthodox than Anglican) book club was nearly deserted Friday as the Orthodox

It’s not a day I ever remember celebrating as a lifelong Protestant. August 15 is listed (by TEC and CoE) as a Holy Day for Mary†. I think it’s safe to say that the more Reformed wing of the Anglican Communion do not ascribe a supernatural assumption of Mary’s body into heaven, even if some individual Anglo-Catholic parishes do.

However, Father Anthony Ruff makes a more general point:
[Modern Catholics believe] holy days aren’t that important anymore, and liturgical time should not interrupt real time, which is what happens in one’s real (and very busy) life in the secular world.

We still kept the holy days of obligation in the tiny parish where I grew up in southern Minnesota. … But miss Mass? Not on your life.

The holy day liturgy said, more than any religion class or episcopal statement could, something about the claim the church makes on us.

“We have our own schedule,” the liturgy was saying to us, “and it’s not the world’s schedule.” Just think for a moment what that said about Christian identity and the church’s relationship to broader society. It said it especially strongly when two obligatory days fell inconveniently a day apart, Saturday plus Sunday, or Sunday plus Monday.

The holy days of obligation are there to form us in an alternative narrative. The liturgy tells us that it has its own integrity on its own terms. The liturgy is countercultural, not by behaving like an obnoxious culture-warrior, but simply by being itself.

That’s too bad. I wish we could put Ascension back on Thursday, and maybe even Epiphany back on the 12th day of Christmas. And tell everyone that God is still God, even on Saturdays and Mondays.
He is talking to me. There are only three church holidays I have regularly observed midweek over the past 30-40 years: Christmas, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. (And I’m not very good about Good Friday). Yes, I’ve been to Holy Innocents and Epiphany services (it helps this is during a slow time of the year), and as a tourist to England we would always try to catch an Evening Prayer at the cathedral we visited. But I can’t recall a single Annunciation, Ascension or Transfiguration service. (There might have been an All Saints’s Day — as with Epiphany, there are good hymns.)

At the same time, there’s a chicken-and-egg dilemma. During my Lutheran period, our choir sang at Epiphany, so we were all there. I can’t say that most of the parishes I’ve attended have midweek services for Holy Days (except for Thanksgiving, a local favorite).

As a suburban Anglican, I don’t think it’s realistic to try to match the RCC (let alone the Orthodox) for the frequency or intensity of our midweek Holy Days. Instead, I would build up the adherence to the Daily Office – whether personal or corporate — and remind worshippers of these important days by using the collects and readings that are designated to educate us about these days.

† Footnote: On Friday, Issues Etc. rebroadcast an August 15, 2013 broadcast — with the Missouri Synod's director of worship — on why the Lutheran church remembers the Blessed Virgin Mary on this date. Rev. Will Weedon noted that the Protestant Reformers rejected the idea of Mary (and the saints) hearing our prayers as intercessors between Christians and God. However, he said, the Lutherans [like the Anglicans] continue to commemorate the saints in their annual liturgical calendar.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Bringing ICCA back to California

There has been considerable interest here in last month’s International Catholic Congress of Anglicans. In the past week, I’ve given brief summary presentations on the ICCA to two groups in the San Diego deanery of the Diocese of Western Anglicans. Saturday’s was to (mainly) laity hosted by Fr. Lawrence Bausch of Holy Trinity (at his Lutheran-owned sanctuary) — the new president of Forward in Faith North America (FiFNA).

Thursday’s presentation was before the deanery’s steering committee (all the clergy and a few laity). This latter (slightly longer) presentation is posted to Google.
The report is mainly a summary of my earlier posts to this blog, including the 350 attendees — among them 24 US bishops. I tried to summarize the major themes of the congress, focusing on the undivided Catholic church, and conciliarity among Anglicans and between Anglicans and other Christians. (I also mentioned how much I enjoyed the opportunity to enjoy corporate worship over the four days of the conference).

Seminary Education

I highlighted two topics of particular interest. One was the on the future of theological education. On Thursday morning, there was an official session featuring the head of Nashotah, Trinity and Cranmer (REC’s Dallas seminary) seminaries. At an (unofficial) Tuesday night session, the head of Nashotah outlined its vision while seeking financial support from attendees.

As Fr. Bausch pointed out Saturday, as the seminary goes, so goes the church. The leftward drift of the ECUSA seminaries anticipated the subsequent drift of the national church. In other words, as the seminaries turned out poorly trained (or intentionally corrupted) clergy, those clergy went out and shifted the thinking of the broader church.

In my opinion, the need for properly trained clergy seems even more urgent in today’s context. This is not the established church of 19th century England, or even the 20th century ECUSA that brought a disproportionate share of American senators and presidents. Today, fewer laity (or even clergy) were raised in Anglicanism, and many laity (unlike any time in US history) grew up without prior knowledge of (or even exposure to) the church. Against errors of poorly trained clergy, the natural balance provided by experienced vestry and other laity will be absent in many parishes.

While the seminaries of the Continuum are directly under control of local bishops, the ACNA’s two favored seminaries have alumni and other ongoing ties to TEC. Although drift by these seminaries seems unlikely, in 1950 none of us could have anticipated what would happen in the next 50 years at GTU, Seabury Western, CDSP and other TEC seminaries.

The LCMS faced these same issues in the 1970s: in the Seminex crisis of 1974, it stood firm for doctrinal consistency over the protests of faculty (and media) seeking greater freedom to depart from the denomination’s teachings.The LCMS today continues to enjoy the benefits of its resolute stand 40 years ago.

Church Planting

The other topic of special interest was about church planting. An official session Wednesday afternoon by Fr. Chris Culpepper and Fr. Lee Nelson talked about why Anglo-Catholics need to plant churches. At an unofficial session on Monday, these two and others talked about what FiFNA and other groups can do to support church planting.

In the next few weeks, I hope to post more news on this latter topic.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Mending Episcopal Schism Among American Anglicans

Anglo-Catholic worship was so much easier when I was a kid. Anglican worship meant the Episcopal Church of the United States of America, so you would shop around for a place that had at least some high church worship.  But the theological innovations of the 1970s fractured Anglo-Catholics, perhaps permanently — first in 1977 with the Continuing churches formed out of the Congress of St. Louis and then the ACNA launched in this century.

ICCA made impressive progress in addressing this fracture, with the broad representation of US Anglo-Catholics across a wide range of jurisdictions. We had the Schism I (Continuing Anglicans aka Continuum), Schism II (ACNA), pre-Schism (Reformed Episcopal Church) and non-Schism (a very small number of TEC clergy). Of course, there were also at least five African bishops and one retired English bishop (Michael Nazir-Ali).

There is schism both within and between these schisms. The 19th and 20th century secessionists (i.e. REC and Schism I) don’t ordain women to any order (including deacon) and most use the 1928 or 1662 BCP.

In the final sermon Friday, REC Bp. Ray Sutton joked that they agreed on almost everything and got along on almost nothing. The Continuum is badly fractured: according to Wikipedia estimates the big four (ACA, ACC, APA, APCK) only account for 2/3 of Schism I. This ongoing fragmentation has made a running joke of the claim to be the true apostolic church: several referred to “alphabet soup” and the need to mend these division — at least within the Continuum.

Meanwhile, the chasm between Schism I and II is even more daunting. Yes, the Anglo-Catholic parishes and dioceses joined ACNA with one diocese (now several) actively if not aggressively ordaining women. ACNA’s unresolved resolution of WO was the elephant in the room. There are three possible outcomes — the current stalemate continues, the factions get a divorce or (least likely) the male clergy view wins out — and only the latter two would satisfy Schism I.

On the one hand, there seems to be jealousy among some Schism I clergy — who have toiled in relative obscurity since correctly diagnosing the ECUSA malaise almost 40 years ago — at the visibility and favorable press that ACNA has won. Having a national unified denomination certainly helps, as did ACNA’s successful efforts by Bp. Bill Atwood to build ties of communion and fellowship with the GAFCON overseas churches.

On the other hand, the Schism I clergy and laity have been proven correct. The path that TEC was on in 1978 was leading exactly as they predicted, and (in retrospect) there wasn’t much to be gained by waiting — in fact, leaving before the Dennis Canon was actually a better strategy. (This is not to deny the numerous errors in executing the Schism I strategy).

Personal Ties Among the Episcopate(s)

While at ICCA, it was clear that many of the Continuum and ACNA clergy had never met: I found myself introducing Anglo-Catholic clergy (particularly within California) who would have been close colleagues if not for the current jurisdictional mess.

The greatest opportunity came with the episcopate, i.e. the bishop from the various jurisdictions. According to the program, the 23 North American Anglican bishops almost exactly balanced between ACNA (10) plus ex-TEC (2) and Continuing (7) plus REC (4):
  • ACA (Anglican Church in America) 1: Stephen Strawn
  • ACC (Anglican Catholic Church) 2: Mark Haverland, Stephen Scarlett
  • ACCC (Anglican Catholic Church in Canada) 1: Shane Janzen
  • APA (Anglican Province of America) 1: Chandler (Chad) Jones
  • DHC (Diocese of the Holy Cross) 1: Paul Hewett
  • UECNA (United Episcopal Church of North America) 1: Peter Robinson
  • ACNA (Anglican Church in North America) 10: Keith Andrews (Western Anglicans), Bill Atwood (International), Foley Beach (South), Bob Duncan (Pittsburgh), Bill Ilgenfritz (Missionary Diocese of All Saints), Rich Lipka (Missionary Diocese of All Saints), Clark Lowenfield  (Western Gulf Coast), Eric Menees (San Joaquin), Alberto Morales (Quincy); Stephen Leung (Anglican Network in Canada)
  • REC (Reformed Episcopal Church) 4: Royal Grote, Winfield Mott, Sam Seamans, Ray Sutton
  • TEC: Keith Ackerman (retired) 2; William Wantland (retired)
The other 10 bishops participating were as follows:
  • PNCC (Polish National Catholic Church) 1: Paul Sobiechowski
  • UK 3: John Fenwick (Free Church of England), John Hind (CoE, retired), Michael Nazir-Ali (CoE, retired)
  • Global South 6: Michael Hafidh (Tanzania), Fanuel Magangani (Malawi), Brighton Malasa (Malawi), James Min Dein (Myanmar), Valentine Mokiwa (Tanzania), Stephen Than Myint Oo (Myanmar)
Co-host Bp. Keith Ackerman toiled tirelessly to get these bishops to get to know each other, through informal and formal meetings, celebrating together and serving on the drafting committee together. I counted 23 purple shirts at a quick informal gathering that Ackerman called on Tuesday morning (not include Beach).
Their number dwindled as the week went on. At the opening evensong Monday night I counted 16 bishops processing and three purple shirts in the pews. At the closing Holy Communion Friday, the numbers had dropped to 11+2 (Nazir-Ali only processed as the Tuesday morning celebrant) with many of the Continuum bishops having already left.

Some of the non-Anglo-Catholic bishops made only brief appearance. ACNA primate Foley Beach showed up to preach at Tuesday’s first communion service and then left for the airport. His predecessor Bob Duncan — of Anglo-Catholic liturgy but evangelical view of Holy Orders — stayed much longer, leaving on Thursday. While their respective sermons emphasized common aspirations and challenges of orthodox-minded Anglicans post-2003, the Schism I bishops (understandably) saw little prospect of being in communion with them.

Skunk in the Room

Some of the bishops were more used to getting along than others. Ackerman, Ilgenfritz, Lipka and Menees, Morales and Wantland from the ACNA, Sutton from the REC, and Hewett and Jones from the Continuum are all members of the FiFNA Council (i.e. governing body). Bp. Jones in particular seemed to go out of his way to be conciliar in his address to the Congress, while Bp. Sutton seemed to have the most experience working with both camps.

However, the ACNA clergy and laity couldn’t stop talking about Wednesday night’s sermon by Abp. Haverland, head of the Anglican Catholic Church. (I happened to miss this evensong because we were wrapping up our church planting session and I never made it over there in time).

The sermon (posted at Philorthodox and Anglican Continuum) began with the assertion that the path of the Schism I parishes was more theologically sound and consistent than the Schism II.  This is not particularly surprising, and in fact the ACNA defense of their delay in leaving ECUSA has emphasized the pastoral and conciliar value of their choices of the past 30+ years, not their theological purity.

However, the part that everyone was talking about the next morning was the following, particularly one key paragraph (emphasis added):
I congratulate the ACNA for leaving the Episcopal Church and Anglican Church of Canada.  Every one of you who made that change did a good thing and one, I hope, that you do not regret.  But that departure can only be a good first step.  For ACNA is really not a Church but a coalition of dioceses. The coalition is for some purposes only, and the communion of the dioceses is impaired and imperfect.  The ACNA has retained the central flaw of the recent Lambeth Communion because it permits member dioceses to ordain women to the three-fold ministry, and therefore implicitly claims that the central Tradition is not decisive and may be set aside.  ACNA is not a return to orthodox Anglicanism, but only a return to the impaired state of the Lambeth Communion that began in 1975 and 1976. 
Of course, the issue of women’s ordination has not yet been resolved in the ACNA. And the newest head of the ACNA last year defended the right of member dioceses to continue such ordination rather than wait for a resolution:
First, let me say that I think a voluntary moratorium [on ordination] would actually not ease the tension. I think it would pour gasoline in the fire. Part of that is, in our constitution and canons, we have left the issue of women’s ordination for each diocese to decide. A lot of people came into the ACNA in good faith that their perspective – including those who ordain women—would be protected and guarded. And, people who believe in ordaining women hold their position by conscience and can Biblically argue it, although I disagree with them. This issue is a very important thing to them, and so I think it would create a lot of tension.
Confirmation from the Grave

In large part, this tension within and between Anglican groups was precisely anticipated by Rev. Peter Toon in December 2008, only four months before his untimely death. He wrote a a brief summary of the two groups, published at Virtue Online:
Continuing Anglicans in America: what's the difference between "The Continuing Anglican Church" of 1977 and "The Anglican Church in America" of 2008
by Dr. Peter Toon

Here I want to compare and contrast in a very preliminary way, the two major secessions from The Episcopal Church [TEC] of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

Seceders of the 1970s
The seceders from TEC of the late 1970s intended to create an expression of the Anglican Way as "The Continuing Anglican Church" which

Recent Seceders
To call the seceders from TEC over the last decade and specifically over the last year or two as Continuing Anglicans will be a shock and an offense to some people. However "The Anglican Church in America" came into existence on Dec 3, 2008, because of schism and secession. Within this Church are four former dioceses of TEC and many congregations which are either former TEC parishes or splits from TEC parishes. Obviously there are some participants who had not been involved in secession, the Reformed Episcopal Church for example, but the majority of the claimed 100,000 members were formerly of the TEC.

Regrettably there is very little dialogue and cooperation between the two expressions of Continuing Anglicanism in the U.S.A.
And one of his observations about the ACNA shows that the issue cited by Abp. Haverland and Abp. Beach was as true at its founding as it is today:
[The ACNA] Uses "Province" in a wholly innovatory way, causing it to mean "a hybrid of differing groups working in a specific, geographical territory in a semi-competitive way but cooperating in major matters."
I think “a coalition of dioceses” is a succinct way to summarize Toon’s point. Since the founding of the ACNA, the various dioceses seem united in their rejection of the TEC while differing over matters that divided the TEC from many in the Global South almost 40 years ago.

Looking Forward

The bishops of the ICCA seemed able to worship together, (in most cases) celebrate and take communion together, and continue the dialog that has been managed by the FiFNA leaders since the TEC’s first ordination of women in the 1970s. The Ft. Worth gathering didn’t resolve their differences, but it did introduce hundreds of clergy and laity across the aisle to people they wouldn’t have otherwise met.

As layman who has attended orthodox TEC, ACNA and Continuing parishes for the past 25 years, the differences between these groups seem exaggerated. Yes, since 2006 it is implausible for a parish (or individual Anglican) to claim to be Biblically orthodox while remaining in the TEC. But within the broad swoop of Christianity — let alone Western or global religious belief — these two groups of non-TEC Anglicans are more similar than different.

As demonstrated by the ICCA, they share the desire to retain an continuous link to the historic undivided Christian church, with beliefs and practices consistent with the Christians of the 1st millennium (if not the Nicene era). Their differences are far less than those held together by the Broad Church of the CoE for most of the past 450 years, or within the original Anglo-Catholic revival of the 19th century. So why can’t we all get along?

Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Bride of Christ

One of the topics at the recent ICCA was the question of the ordination of women in the Anglican church. It is a topic that largely unites Forward in Faith North America, whose tract on sacraments states:
The sacrament of Holy Orders … is administered to baptized men in whom the Church discerns a special vocation in three successive modes. One is first ordained a deacon, who represents Christ the servant of those in need and assists in public worship. Deacons may be ordained priests to represents Christ in preaching, celebrating, blessing and absolving in the Lord’s name. Priests may be ordained bishops, receiving in episcopal consecration the fullness of the priesthood of Christ with a calling to guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church.
However, this is not a position shared by the ACNA, which is divided over women’s ordination — nor by TEC, ELCA and other mainline Protestant that entirely favor it.

The issue of women’s ordination was the subject of several talks at the ICCA, including a Wednesday afternoon keynote by Bp. Michael Nazir-Ali (CoE), a Tuesday lunchtime talk by Nazir-Ali and Abp. Mark Haverland (ACC), and the banquet talk by former ECUSA priest Alice Linsley.

Most (not all) Christians agree that Jesus called men as apostles and that the church had only male pastors for the first 1800+ years. Two of the arguments for changing that policy (to ordain women) are an issue of societal fairness, and the belief that Jesus limited his ministry to men because of the cultural conditions of the day (when Jewish society would not have respected women leaders). In response, Haverland said that Jesus (who worshiped with tax collectors and other sinners) didn’t seem to be constrained by Jewish culture.

All of the speakers noted the obstacle that this change posed to ecumenical cooperation with the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, which reject women’s ordination. Of course, seeking to restore the unity of the Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church was a major goal of the ICCA and Anglo-Catholics more generally.

On Thursday, Bp. Keith Ackerman (until recently FiFNA president) was interviewed on Issues Etc. about the impact of the CoE ordaining its first six women bishops in the past year. He said that Church of England want to change the terminology of the Trinity from personhood of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit to the functionalist view of Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier.

The terminology dates at least to the 17th century mathematician and theologian John Wallis (according to a 2008 book by Jason Vickers) and was picked up by John Keble in his 1833 sermon “National Apostasy” that launched the Oxford Movement. It was used as a gender-neutral Trinity by late 20th century Catholic liberals, and in 2008 the Vatican proclaimed it invalid for use in baptism.

Ackerman (like Haverland and Linsley the week before) also noted that ordaining women to the priesthood — by which priests offer the sacrifice in Christ’s stead — does violence to the metaphor of the church as the bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:25, 27; Mark 2:19-20).

Still, for Anglo-Catholics there remains the question of how to affirmatively integrate women into the church’s ministries. Haverland argued against “clericalism” — the view that church ministries are reserved for ordained ministry. Nasir-Ali speculated about the creation of orders for women that include evangelism and intercession. Nazir-Ali also argued that women should be ordained vocational deacons (as some Anglo-Catholic ACNA dioceses and parishes do — but the Continuing churches do not). He argued there were women deacons present in the early Church, and that the Orthodox church had women deacons until the 11th century.

Ackerman noted that the CoE change is a direct consequence of being a state church and having its policies changed through the political process. While it is only one of the 39 provinces of the Anglican Communion — and most provinces do not ordain women priests or bishops— the COE’s historic role and the See of Canterbury mean that it retains an outside role as a voice of Anglicanism in the communion and the world.

Here perhaps is a silver lining for Continuing Anglicans in the US. In the UK, the polity and governance of the CoE are subject to a vote of the parliament and under the heavy influence of the prime minister. In the US, while we lost our buildings and had to start over, we have the option of choosing our own faith and doctrines under the freedom of association guaranteed by the 1st Amendment. The Tractarians of 1833 were right to fight against state control of the church, and it is a lesson that American Christians must remember in the 21st century.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Thoughts about ICCA 2015

More than 300 attendees are now home after last week’s International Catholic Congress for Anglicans (ICCA†) sponsored by Forward in Faith North America. Let me see if I can sum up the overall conference. (For those who did not attend, see my other stories, those from the Wannabe Anglican blog and a limited number of tweets).

† Google says there are at least three other ICCA 2015 conferences.


The conference was intended to be an extension of the six Anglo-Catholic Congresses held in London and Oxford in 1920, 1925, 1927, 1933 and 1948. Unlike the 19th century Oxford Movement, I’d never heard of these before and wish I’d read a little about them before coming so I’d understand better the detailed references that some of the speakers made (particularly to the first Congress).

Still, the organizers did a great job of setting a coherent theme, picking speakers and topics to fit that them, and integrating the message together in a logical order. Having been to dozens of conferences in the past 30 years, I know such coherence is rare if not unheard of. The theme of conciliarity with other Christians (especially Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox) was well argued and persuasive.

The caliber of the speakers was impressive. The organizers knew what they were doing in who they let speak. The prominence of Bp. Michael Nazir-Ali was particularly well deserved — given both his intellect and moral clarity — and (alas) shows the loss to the Anglican Communion with Tony Blair’s 2002 decision to reject him in favor of the progressive Rowan Williams, who proved unequal to the task of managing the conflicts between the communion’s affluent liberals and the traditional views of the more numerous Global South.

The formal statement was negotiated, edited, presented (twice) to the attendees and then issued Friday (see FiFNA and Virtue Online editions). It referred to the importance of the Church having a unified (i.e. Catholic) body bound by “both the authority of the Word of God written and the authority of the Church.” It calls attention to the importance of continuity in the faith (as implemented by apostolic succession) and the unfortunate drift within the Anglican Communion away from such faith and authority.

The Congress also marked the passing of the torch from outgoing FiFNA president Bp. Keith Ackerman to its new president, Fr. Larry Bausch, the long-serving rector of San Diego’s most Anglo-Catholic ACNA parish.


With the Internet, virtual reality and the death of distance, there is considerable question as to the future of face-to-face meetings, but there are two benefits we would not have realized if reduced to a mere webinar. Much of the benefit was getting like-minded people under the same roof, particularly those from the 1970s-era continuing churches and the more recent ACNA defectors from ECUSA. I met several dozen new people, and hope some of these contacts will be important to my future understanding and contribution to the church.

Also, not having been to seminary, I underestimated the powerful effect that regular corporate worship has in bringing people together and creating unity: my friends and family didn’t believe me when I said the three daily services were the highlight of my day. Not having participated in regular cathedral-style worship since my childhood, I also learned a lot about the conduct of worship.
Bp. Nazir-Ali processing as celebrant for Tuesday’s communion service
Particularly powerful were the opening evensong and closing communion services, with the procession of bishops and clergy. On Monday I counted 16 bishops processing (three not) which is more bishops than I’ve ever seen (more even than a consecration service). The choir of more than 40 men, women and children filled the hall of St. Andrew’s, the neo-Gothic parish in downtown Ft. Worth that (it turns out) was the childhood parish of several of the priests present.


The Congress was a difficult, time-consuming and expensive event to organize. As in the 1920s, it’s not something that could be done every year. For that matter, as a Anglo-Catholic layman, I’m not sure I can ask the finance committee (i.e. my wife) to approve every year a one-week absence, six nights of hotel, plane ticket, local transportation and registration. Still, it provided an invaluable learning opportunity for Anglicans who are traditional in their faith and worship, and I’m grateful to Fr. Bausch for inviting me to attend.