Saturday, January 28, 2017

39 years of Continuing Anglicanism

On this day in 1977 was the consecration of the four former ECUSA priests as the founding bishops of the Continuing Anglican movement in Denver. I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but it changed American — and global — Anglicanism forever.

Fast forward 39 years. The Anglo-Catholics who stayed behind in ECUSA would have to admit the ones who left were right about how ECUSA would turn out. Those who joined ACNA on or after 2009 have now separated from ECUSA (most at great cost), and they have a liturgy that’s more like the 1928 in substance even if it’s more like Rite II in language.

But instead of a single jurisdiction — they chose the name “Anglican Church of North America” — the Continuing movement fractured again and again: the lesson of 500 years of Protestantism seems to be that once you’ve done schism – placing your own personal theological convictions over ecclesial authority — it’s easy to keep doing so. The issues that divided the Continuing churches seemed to be authority and a desire to keep purple shirt, rather than actual doctrine.

The one piece of good news is that four of the alphabet soup are having a joint synod in October. The synod will bring together (at least for a week) the Anglican Church in America, Anglican Catholic Church, the Anglican Province of America, and the Diocese of the Holy Cross. As a Californian, I’d like to see the Anglican Province of Christ the King participate, but it’s been in turmoil since the resignation and death of its founder, Bp. Robert Morse — one of the Denver four.

Today's Newest Clergy

Clergy at end of Saturday’s ordination service
Source: Diocese of the Holy Trinity Twitter feed
Today I attended an ordination for a former classmate of mine, the newest clergy member in the Anglican Catholic Church. Sean Patrick Michael Cochran became be a bivocational deacon, the first deacon for St. Mary Magdalene in Orange, California, assisting its rector, Fr. Neil Edlin. In honor of Deacon Cochran’s heritage, at the recessional we sang all seven verses of “I bind unto myself today” (H40: 268) while the organist played preludes and postludes on Irish melodies by Charles Villiers Stanford.

The consecrations were done by Bp. Stephen Scarlett, whose see is at the Denver cathedral that was the home of Bp. James Mote; Scarlett was consecrated in 2013 by Bp. Mark Haverland (today the head of the ACC), who in 1998 was consecrated by Mote. (Today’s service was in the pro-cathedral in Newport Beach, Calif. where Scarlett spends most of his Sundays).

After Bp. Scarlett read the opening part of the 1928 BCP ordination service, he noted that the prayer book had assumed a stable church. Left unsaid was that the nature of belief, the role of the church, and the role of the Episcopal (or Anglican) church is fundamentally different than 90 years ago.

Instead, he argued, each deacon — like others in the church — needs to be a missionary. He listed three specific ways:
  1. Christian witness. The customary evangelical conception is that witness is going to tell a non-believer. However, today’s Anglican cleric needs to model a deeper spiritual life of prayer that will potentially transform the life of those who find it. “As we grow in our spiritual life, that is our witness ...and evangelism is inviting others into that life of prayer"
  2. Seeking out the lost sheep. Again, we think of seeking the sheep as being those who wandered off — or never set foot in the church; but, Scarlett argued, the lost may already be in the pews, but alienated. Implicitly referencing Mark 2:17, he cited Jesus’ admonition that the physician has come to heal the sick; the clergy need to look inside and outside the church to find new avenues to reach the lost.
  3. Discerning one’s own spiritual gifts. Even if two people have the same order, they have differing gifts (1 Corr. 12). To be effective, clergy and laity need to honestly understand their talents so they can apply them to support the mission of the church.

The music and liturgy were great, but too often Anglo-Catholic churches are organized as museums to historic worship rather than something relevant to potential members. I hope that the path laid out by Bp. Scarlett will be effective in growing the church. Even in places where it doesn’t give us more Christians, it should give us stronger Christians — strengthening the faith of the Remnant that we have in the pews — which certainly has to be numbered among our goals even this is less exciting than attracting more “butts in seats.”

Friday, January 13, 2017

Favorite Lutheran Epiphany hymns

Last Tuesday, the listeners of Issues Etc. answered an open call for their favorite Epiphany hymns. Host Todd Wilken hosted a 56 minute session with the various listener comments.

As Pastor Wilken noted, Epiphany has three roles in the liturgical year
  • The eponymous feast, commemorating the visitation of the Magi, representing more broadly the expansion of the mission of the Church to reach the Gentiles.
  • The transition between Christmas and Lent (which IMHO is more about Christmas at the beginning and explicitly pre-Lent at the end)
  • The home of specific feasts, such as the Baptism of our Lord and (for Lutherans) the Feast of the Transfiguration
As with other shows, the audience was primarily (if not entirely) Lutheran — and thus the votes represent a LCMS audience (presumably picking their hymns from the Lutheran Service Book or The Lutheran Hymnal).

The two most popular choices (with four votes each) were the first two Epiphany hymns in the LSB:
  • “Songs of Thankfulness and Praise” (LSB: 394; TLH: 134; H40: 53): text by Christopher Wordsworth. In the LCMS hymnals they use a St. George by 19th century English organist George Elvey. However, the Anglicans (ironically) use Salzburg, written by 17th century German Protestant composer Jacob Hintze (working for the Calvinist Great Elector of Brandenburg) and harmonized the great Lutheran Kapellmeister — J.S. Bach himself.
  • “O Morning Star, How Fair and Bright” (LSB: 395), with text and tune by 16th century Lutheran pastor Philip Nicolai. The earlier translations were “How Lovely Shines the Morning Star” (TLH: 343) and "How Bright Appears the Morning Star” (H40: 329),
Other hymns from the Epiphany section of the LSB that were mentioned (and would be familiar to Anglicans) were As with Gladness Men of Old (LSB: 397, TLH: 127; H40: 52), Hail to the Lord's Anointed (LSB: 398; TLH: 59; H40: 545) and Brightest and Best of the Sons* of the Morning (LSB: 400, TLH: 128; H40: 46).

Note that for the latest hymnal for the “conservative” LCMS, the title phrase “Sons of the Morning” in Reginald Heber’s 1811 text was inexplicably changed to politically correct "Stars of the Morning" in the LSB.

As was true seven years earlier, the German Lutherans (and their hymnals) omit two of our favorite Anglican hymns for the season: “What star is this, with beams so bright” (H40 #47) and “Earth has many a noble city” (H40 #48).

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Celebrating the Circumcision

Today is the feast that has been known since the 6th century as the Feast of the Circumcision. In the Book of Common Prayer, from Cranmer's original 1549 to the 1928 American edition, it’s called the Circumcision of Christ.

Feast Day

What we know of the circumcision comes from one verse in Luke’s gospel: “And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.” (Luke 2:21, ESV). This makes reference to his parents learning of his name in the Annunciation (Luke 1:31) and the dream of Joseph (Matthew 1:21). The Bible doesn’t say much about the ceremony, nor about that of his cousin John (Luke 1:59-79), but the nature of the ceremony of circumcising and naming Jesus was as expected for the male child of line of Abraham (Matthew 1:1-16).

The theological issues of the Circumcision are discussed in a December 2014 episode of Issues Etc. featuring Dr. Arthur Just, which was rebroadcast a week ago. As they note, the Circumcision of Jesus is obedience to the Old Covenant, while it is meaningless for the New Covenant (Colossians 3:11).

The 1549 BCP acknowledged this history with its collect (in modernized spelling) that persisted through 1928:
Almighty God, which madest thy blessed son to be circumcised, and obedient to the law for man; Grant us the true circumcision of thy spirit, that our hearts, and all our membres, being mortified from all worldly and carnal lusts, may in all things obey thy blessed will; through the same thy son Jesus Christ our Lord. 
In the 1979 prayer book, the feast has been renamed The Holy Name and the collect drops all reference to the Circumcision. Marion Hatchett, in one of his more partisan apologies for the ’79 revisionism, quotes someone else as saying Cranmer et al “turned the day into a commemoration of circumcision, rather than of the Circumcision of our Lord” (Commentary on the American Prayer Book, 169) — without explaining why the book drops all reference to circumcision rather than trying to shift the emphasis to The Circumcision.

In the ACNA trial liturgy, it’s called The Holy Name of Our Lord Jesus Christ, but the collect puts more effort into explaining the theological significance of the feast:
Almighty God, whose blessed Son was circumcised for our sake in obedience to the Covenant of Moses, and given the Name that is above every name: give us the grace to faithfully bear his Name, to worship him in the Spirit given in the New Covenant, and to proclaim him as the Savior of the world; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Festal Hymns

In Hymnal 1940, there is one hymn (#113) for “The Circumcision” and 10 alternate hymns that focus on the holy name. In Hymnal 1982, there are five hymns (#248-252) listed for “Holy Name”, and the one circumcision hymn is gone. One hymn in common between the two is “Jesus, Name of wondrous love!” (H40: 323; H82: 252). However, as you might expect, the list of alternate hymns in H40 includes a variety of hymns about the name of Jesus that are sung at other times (e.g. what’s now called Christ the King Sunday) such as “At the Name of Jesus” (H40: 356; H82: 435).

The English Hymnal (1906) has two hymns (#36-37) for “The Circumcision of Christ” and my copy of Hymns Ancient & Modern (1868 edition) lists three hymns (#55-57). The common thread is “The ancient law departs” (A&M: 55, H40: 113), with the familiar tune St. Michael from the Genevan Psalter by 16th century composer Louis Bougeois. The hymn was dropped from The English Hymnal (1906) and Hymnal 1982.

The Hymnal 1940 Companion credits the original French text to Sebastian Besnault, as published in 1736. The 1860 translation of five verses is credited to the first edition of Hymns Ancient & Modern:
The ancient law departs,
And all its terrors cease;
For Jesus makes with faithful hearts
A covenant of peace.

The light of light divine,
True brightness undefiled,
He bears for us the shame of sin,
A holy, spotless child.

His infant body now
Begins our pains to feel;
Those precious drops of blood that flow
For death the victim seal.

Today the name is Thine,
At which we bend the knee;
They call Thee Jesus, child divine!
Our Jesus deign to be.

All praise, Eternal Son,
For Thy redeeming love,
With Father, Spirit, ever One,
In glorious might above.
It immediately entered the American hymnody with Hymnal 1874, but by 1940 retained only three of the five verses (1,2,4). The missing third verse is an important one in explaining the Circumcision as the first time that Christ shed his blood for mankind, when he (with the help of his earthly parents) fulfilled the Mosaic covenant so that it might be abolished.

Still, this very familiar tune (what’s not to like about a Genevan Psalter tune?) and the text that matches the festal day seem like one that should be embraced (not ignored) whenever the appropriate collect and/or readings are scheduled for church.

Update: Former Anglo-Catholic (now Ordinariate Priest) Fr. John Hunwicke defends the recent decision of the RCC to de-emphasize the Circumcision in this feast, and instead emphasize the BVM and the Incarnation.