"The Preachers chiefly shall take heed that they teach nothing in their preaching, which they would have the people religiously to observe and believe, but that which is agreeable to the Doctrine of the Old Testament and the New, and that which the Catholick Fathers and Ancient Bishops have gathered out of that Doctrine." A proposed canon of Elizabeth I, 1571

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Location: Bedford, Texas, United States

I am a presbyter in the diocese of Fort Worth, Texas (Anglican Church in North America). I serve as Chaplain at St. Vincent's School and as a canon of St. Vincent's Cathedral Church in Bedford, Texas. In addition to my parish duties and teaching Religion classes in the school I am also the Middle School Social Studies teacher.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Theological Principles of Traditional Anglicanism

Yesterday I was dining with a couple of priests and an aspirant in the diocese of Fort Worth, and the topic of possible Prayer Book revision within the Network came up. I think most traditionalist Anglicans would concur that there are some problems with the 1979 Prayer Book, though I use it without serious qualms myself. I was told that there have been discussions about producing a new BCP to handle these perceived difficulties of the 1979 Book. Apparently these Network liturgists (if they have undertaken or will soon undertake this work) would use the C of E's 1662 Book of Common Prayer as the basis for the revision. While one of my lunch partners yesterday thought this would be a step backward (presumably because it is too "Protestant" for his tastes), I spent considerable time with the 1662 BCP this morning and have concluded that this would make a fine foundation for a new Book. There is much to be said for a return ad fontes for Anglican worship. In any proposed new North American province, a new common liturgy would help to bind Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics together (providing that this new Book allowed for the full range of expression of traditionalist Anglican worship practices, as I am sure it will). A modernized and adapted BCP based upon the 1662 Book would reflect our common heritage as Anglicans and emphasize what we have in common with other orthodox Anglicans around the world (since the 1662 Book is the liturgy we have in our common heritage), cementing our relationships with these overseas brothers and sisters.

With this in mind I reviewed the proposed theological statement produced by the Common Cause Partners, the new alliance of orthodox Anglicans in North America created by the Network and various continuing Anglican jurisdictions. The proposal was amended to take into account the concerns of many Anglo-Catholics (particularly with regard to the use of the Thirty-Nine Articles as a basis for discipline). I find this willingness of accommodate co-religionists across the Evangelical/Catholic divide to be a great encouragement. It appears we can in fact all work together for a common orthodox future. As amended I find this a fine statement, one which all but the most Tridentine-leaning Anglo-Catholics should be able to endorse.

The statement may be found here.


We believe and confess Jesus Christ to be the Way, the Truth, and the Life: no one comes to the Father but by Him. Therefore, the Common Cause Partnership identifies the following seven elements as characteristic of the Anglican Way, and essential for membership:

  1. We confess the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments to be the inspired Word of God, containing all things necessary for salvation, and to be the final authority and unchangeable standard for Christian faith and life.
  2. We confess Baptism and the Supper of the Lord to be Sacraments ordained by Christ Himself in the Gospel, and thus to be ministered with unfailing use of His words of institution and of the elements ordained by Him.
  3. We confess the godly historic Episcopate as an inherent part of the apostolic faith and practice, and therefore as integral to the fullness and unity of the Body of Christ.
  4. We confess as proved by most certain warrants of Holy Scripture the historic faith of the undivided church as declared in the three Catholic Creeds: the Apostles’, the Nicene, and the Athanasian.
  5. Concerning the seven Councils of the undivided Church, we affirm the teaching of the first four Councils and the Christological clarifications of the fifth, sixth and seventh Councils, in so far as they are agreeable to the Holy Scriptures.
  6. We receive The Book of Common Prayer as set forth by the Church of England in 1662, together with the Ordinal attached to the same, as a standard for Anglican doctrine and discipline, and, with the Books which preceded it, as the standard for the Anglican tradition of worship.
  7. We receive the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion of 1562, taken in their literal and grammatical sense, as expressing the Anglican response to certain doctrinal issues controverted at that time, and as expressing the fundamental principles of authentic Anglican belief.

In all these things, the Common Cause Partnership is determined by the help of God to hold and maintain as the Anglican Way has received them the doctrine, discipline and worship of Christ.

“The Anglican Communion,” Archbishop Geoffrey Fisher wrote, “has no peculiar thought, practice, creed or confession of its own. It has only the Catholic Faith of the ancient Catholic Church, as preserved in the Catholic Creeds and maintained in the Catholic and Apostolic constitution of Christ’s Church from the beginning.” It may licitly teach as necessary for salvation nothing but what is read in the Holy Scriptures as God’s Word written or may be proved thereby. It therefore embraces and affirms such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the Scriptures, and thus to be counted apostolic. The Church has no authority to innovate: it is obliged continually, and particularly in times of renewal or reformation, to return to “the faith once delivered to the saints.”

To be an Anglican, then, is not to embrace a distinct version of Christianity, but a distinct way of being a “Mere Christian,” at the same time evangelical, apostolic, catholic, reformed, and Spirit-filled.

Proposed to the Partners
August 18th, 2006


Anonymous Matthew the Curmudgeon said...

As a non-Anglican (almost-back in the day but not quite), it was the
obsession with the 1662/1928 BCP that turned me off-like they were canonized as scripture. I have no qualms with the '79 BCP for the most part but it could be better. As for a starting point I say "SARUM". A proper revision of it would be the best in my not so humble opinion.

6:12 PM  
Blogger Caelius said...

One, I agree with the Curmudgeon about starting with Sarum.

Two, the Eucharistic theology of 1662 is dubiously catholic. Note, for instance, that the rubrics require fraction during the Words of Institution. This traditionally has been a way to deny Real Presence, even that of "a heavenly and spiritual manner," one would presume. How many priests in Fort Worth would stand for that?

12:12 PM  
Blogger father wb said...

The problem with starting with Sarum is that it would totally alienate evangelicals. And catholics have NO future in the Anglican Communion apart from evangelicals. The enemy of our enemy, etc. If you are going to be an ANGLICAN catholic, you've got to make room for evangelicals.

And frankly, I agree with the spirit of the Common Cause statement: if you are going to be an Anglican, you ought to be able to affirm these things... because you are going to be "in communion" mostly with people who do affirm them, and who take them pretty seriously. And what sense does it make to be "in communion" with someone if you don't share the same faith with them? Very little, I would say.

I totally agree, Tex. I have been saying this for some time. If we take "lex orandi, lex credendi" seriously, then we need to have a common pattern of orandi, which we don't now. Nor have we for some time... neither within ECUSA, nor within the Communion. The trend in official Anglican devotional books ("books of common prayer" so called) has been toward a devotional buffet containing dishes ranging from Coleridgian pantheism, to Tridentinism. Anglicans have been free to pick and choose. That seems to me to be the spirit of 1979, as well as of (e.g.) Common Worship. There's little "common" about it. And it certainly doesn't foster a "communion" of faith and piety.

1662 is the logical place to start, as it is the only book (or at least the most recent book) that has a legitimate claim as being the common patrimony of all Anglicans.

2:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A simple question: What is wrong with the 1928?

8:44 PM  
Blogger The Bovina Bloviator said...

A simple question: What is wrong with the 1928?

Anonymous, an excellent question: The two spikey Anglo-Catholic churches at which I worship both use the 1928 BCP along with the missal and there are many low churches too that only use the 1928 BCP. Might the desire to go back to the 1662 BCP have more to do with using it as the universal wellspring with which to create an improved "modern" prayer book, i.e. using modern English but with wording more felicitous than the hippy-dippy lingo that so egregiously lards the 1979?

Personally, I am happy with either 1928 or 1662 (go to the Rev'd Dr Toon's www.Anglicans at Prayer.com to see in copious detail the differences in BCPs over the years). I suppose I am in a small minority that should like to see the continued use of Tudor English in our services but it really is not difficult to understand and it lends a majesty, poetry and sheer beauty to our worship that modern English cannot come close to equaling. The last time I checked, high school students were still reading Shakespeare in his words, not some dumbed-down modern version. Why not the same for our prayer book?

10:13 PM  
Blogger Dr Surik said...

There are so many issues intertangled here it is hard to know where to begin.

First is the issue of whether 1979 needs trashing or fixing. One wouldn't want to lose the valuable gains made with this book, such as the improvements in the Eucharist, the holy week services, the three year lectionary.

Second is what sort of language style should be used. As there are still some who prefer tudor English, why not permit the option of either traditional or contemporary language, provided both linguistic styles are made to mean the same thing--in other words, drop older verb endings and forms and translate words that have changed or dropped out of usage.

Third, what should be used for the basis of the book? Returning to Sarum is impractical, especially when the scholars cannot agree on what Sarum really was, textually and ceremonially. 1549 is the parent of all Anglican liturgy, and it has been said that all prayerbook revision since 1552 has been an attempt to get back what was vandalized in the second Edwardine book. 1662 has an unusable Eucharistic canon designed to deny Catholic truths. The English 1928 book fixed many of the problems with the 1662, but still left more undone than the US 1928 book. The US 1928 book bears the fruit of the Scottish liturgy, carefully adjusted over the years, although it bears many faults, quite a few of which are patient of heresy--even more so than the 1979. One might look at the 1953-1967 Prayer Book Studies, which do not partake of the later problems in the 1979 book, but why reinvent the wheel? There are two options perfectly suited. The first is the Anglican Missal in the American Edition, and the second is the Book of Divine Worship. The BDW contains both traditional and contemporary linguistic styles, plus it fixes the parts of the 1979 that are patient of heresy (which, we must admit, are really few indeed, pace the rant-ers.

The conclusion is obvious that the BDW is the best choice from an Anglican perspective, and it even bears the added benefit of being the first Anglican liturgy since Sarum to be approved by the Patriarch of the West.

7:26 AM  
Blogger J. Gordon Anderson said...

The main problem I see with the 1662 is the chopped up prayer of consecration. I think it makes much more sense the way it is in the 1928 BCP, which of course is closer to the orginal BCP of 1549.

And the previous poster mentioned some good stuff about the 1979 BCP - I would agree. The Holy Week offices, order for reconcilliation, and noonday prayer and compline, are all nice additions.

Some priests have suggested using the Anglican Service Book as the basis for a new BCP. That might not be a bad idea.

8:21 AM  

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