Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Sydney Anglicans and Other Oxymorons

A Facebook friend named Mark Talley wrote something in a group called "The Society of Archbishops Cranmer and Laud" (which also happens to be the title of another blog I've posted on). He said there:

"When I asked the present Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, when he was Principal of Moore College, why the College no longer used the Book of Common Prayer in worship (although it was studied as an historical document then - I'm not sure if it even has that precarious status now), he replied that there was no longer a place for the Prayer Book in living worship.

"Furthermore, he said, it would be an obstacle to the preaching of the Gospel, rather than an aid."

That sounds like Archbishop Peter Frederick Jensen. He is the one who allows lay members to celebrate the Eucharist as if they were ordained to the priesthood. I have written about that before, as readers of The Continuum may recall. 

How does anyone recognize Anglicanism without the Book of Common Prayer? "Sydney Anglicanism" is an oxymoron. You know what an oxymoron is: Jumbo Shrimp, for example, is an oxymoron. A famous oxymoron is Grape Nuts. Actually, it is more than an Oxymoron, because it is not just a case of a second word standing in opposition to a first word. In truth, it is a double misnomer. Grape Nuts is a cereal that is neither grapes nor nuts. It has been used to explain "Christian Science," a cult with beliefs that make it neither Christian nor science. 

Sydney Anglicanism, however, is merely an oxymoron. The Sydney part is accurate. They really are in that part of Australia. But, they are not Anglicans in any recognizable way. 

To reject the Book of Common Prayer as having no place in "living worship" is to suggest that our worship is dead. We do not say that the Book of Common Prayer is essential to living worship, because Christians worship God with other forms of liturgy. But we do know that anyone who cannot worship the Father in spirit and in truth (John 4:23) using the Book of Common Prayer, simply has no understanding of what worshiping God is. Anyone who considers the Book of Common Prayer to be "an obstacle to the preaching of the Gospel, rather than an aid," simply has no knowledge of what the Gospel is.

Worshiping God in spirit and in truth is best accomplished with the truth revealed in the Bible. It has been said rightly, that the classical editions of the Book of Common Prayer are the Bible as prayer. Indeed, in the genuine Prayer Book tradition, everything is drawn out of Scripture. If the truth revealed in Scripture seems dead, it is because people have itching ears rather than ears to hear (II Tim. 4:3, Mat. 11:15, etc.). 

The Gospel is preached by words that proclaim its content. The liturgy of Holy Communion, in every classical and genuine edition of the Book of Common Prayer, cannot be celebrated without the preaching of the Gospel taking place during the very act of prayer and worship. It is rehearsed fully each and every time. For this reason, I caution against distractions during the celebration, and against long delays and silence. It must flow in order to be the people's sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, and so that each mind absorbs the full truth of the Gospel.

Spontaneous prayers have their place. But those who would cast off so fine a liturgy have nothing worthwhile to say about living worship or the preaching of the Gospel, except to itching ears. 


Anonymous said...

What a great post!!!!

John Wesley stated: "I believe there is no Liturgy in the world, either in ancient or modern language, which breathes more of a solid, scriptural, rational piety than the Common Prayer of the Church of England."

I could not agree more. Worship by means of the Prayer Book was the primary element which brought me to Anglicanism. Take the Prayer Book away and in what sense can one call oneself Anglican?

The Hackney Hub said...

Article 34 explains that worship does not have to be identical in the various national Churches. Sydney is adhering more closely to Anglican doctrine (with the exception of lay administration) than any Continuing Church, except UECNA.

Fr. Wells said...

It is not only sydney evangelicals who cast aside the prayer book tradition. read carefully the the johnny come-latelys and arrivistes who bandy about the word catholic and recite as a mantra the affirmation of at Louis, Whosev true ethos is unknown to them.

Fr. Wells said...

forgive the bad typing of a stroke survivor with only one good hand.

Anonymous said...

It sounds like the only obstacle to the Gospel in this scenario is moronic archbishops who are staggeringly ignorant of their own tradition!


Fr. Robert Hart said...

Hackney Hub:

No. Article XXXIV says: "Every particular or national Church hath authority to ordain, change, and abolish ceremonies or rites of the Church ordained only by man's authority, so that all things be done to edifying." Sydney is a diocese, not a church.

Furthermore, it says, "Whosoever through his private judgement willingly and purposely doth openly break the traditions and ceremonies of the Church which be not repugnant to the word of God, and be ordained and approved by common authority, ought to be rebuked openly..."

bob said...

such men as are given to change, and have always discovered a greater regard to their own private fancies and interests, than to that duty they owe to the publick.

That sounds like Jensen.

The Hackney Hub said...

The basic unit of Anglicanism is the Diocese. It is the Bishop who has liturgical authority. "It is not necessary that Traditions and Ceremonies be in all places one, or utterly like; for at all times they have been divers, and may be changed according to the diversity of countries, times, and men's manners, so that nothing be ordained against God's Word"

BCPAnglican said...

I agree that there is no reason to be Anglican without a version of the Book of Common Prayer. If any committed Christian feels that the Prayer Book is an obstacle in some way, then he/she should have the honesty to follow some other Christiantradition congenial to his/her theology: Roman, Eastern Orthodox, Presbyterian, Baptist, etc.

John A. Hollister said...

Fr. Hart makes an excellent point. However, that is only part of the story.

For the Book of Common Prayer tradition is more than just a key artifact of Anglicanism. It is the first, the longest-lasting, and to date most successful, project to translate the Western Catholic forms of the Eucharist and the Divine Offices--the two roots of all Catholic worship and devotion--into English.

As such, the BCP tradition is really the ancient Catholic (that is, Universal) and Orthodox (that is, Right-Believing) Church that is native to English speakers (but which was redacted in such an inspired fashion that it has also proven remarkably adaptable to many other languages and cultures).

As such, it deserves to be considered one of the three most significant families of Christian liturgy, right up there along with the Roman and Eastern Orthodox/Byzantine rites.

Anonymous said...

Hello Rev, Wells, I am glad to see that you are posting again after your ordeal.

Roger du Barry

Jack Miller said...

I find myself somewhat agreeing with both Hackney Hub and Fr. Hart. There is a case to be made that, as to doctrine, Sydney holds closely to that of the English reformers including Hooker who followed. That said. The BCP ought not to be optional in that it contains much that fleshes out the meaning of those doctrines in the 39 Articles. My understanding is that the BCP serves as part of the confessional standards of the Anglican Church.

Also, the BCP liturgy serves as a kind of regulative principle of worship. "What's that!", you say? Yes, it is basically RPW compliant.** The principle undergirding the RPW is that the church cannot require of believers, nor impose, anything in worship that is not taught in Scripture. The first sentence of Article 6 clearly supports that understanding. Sydney errs to the degree it adopts modern innovations (e.g. lay-administered Eucharist) which are not taught in Scripture nor historically found as a practice in the church, i.e. until relatively recently. The BCP is a liturgical worship that was not only affirmed by the English reformers but also the leading Continental reformers such as Bucer and Vermigli. It meets the test of Scripture.

Unfortuanetly, once untethered from the BCP the worship of the Anglicanism tends to drift here and there depending on current understanding or fads. As that happens the doctrine of that worship slowly begins to change...

**There is a necessary question to be answered as to which BCP is most faithful to Scriptural worship and that of the 39 Articles.

Sorry for the length. I find this a fascinating topic, though.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Hooker would not have agreed with the Sydney Anglicans on any of their departures from good ecclesiastical polity. On various points of theology, I'm sure I would agree with them as would we all. They may or may not say the Creed in their services, but they can say it honestly.

What I am defending is the Book of Common Prayer, and possibly the whole idea of using a recognized and authorized liturgy of any kind. I have come across people who think that to be Spirit-led and empowered, worship and prayer have to be spontaneous. But, they end up offering "the prayers of the just" - "Lord we just want to praise your name...we just ask you to...we just lift up..." etc. There ends up being very little evidence of Spirit or truth as they ramble on, and not always a certainty that we can say "amen."

Jack Miller said...

I'm in agreement with your defense of the BoC and more generally an authorized liturgy... and I would add - a liturgy that has its roots in the Reformation era.

I would also add, at least in my opinion, that Hooker would not only disagree with the Sydney departures re: worship but that he might have a bit of an issue with the rather Romish leaning worship practices sometimes found in the continuing churches. Those practices came after Hooker under Laud and later still with the Oxford movement.

RC Cola said...

The BCP has its roots in the Reformation? So...which Reformer rode Marty McFly's Delorian back to the 11th century and helped St Oswald write the Sarum Rite, on which Cranmer based the BCP?

The leaves and branches may be protestant, but the ROOTS of the BCP are Catholic.

Jack Miller said...

That reformer was Thomas Cranmer, who reformed the Roman Mass bringing the liturgy into conformity with the Reformation doctrines of grace. The Anglo-Catholic theologian Gregory Dix stated that Cranmer's BCP liturgy was built around the reformed doctrine of justification through faith alone. Also see Ashley Null's book, Thomas Cranmer's Theology of Repentance.

RC Cola said...

If the BCP is truly a product of the Reformation, then it defies logic that the folks in Sydney would cease to use it.
I think I am not alone when I identify Anglicanism with the Book of Common Prayer. I frankly do not see how one can simultaneously claim to be Anglican, yet discard the keystone of the Anglican faith.

Lex orendi, lex credendi certainly applies. Discard the BCP and soon you discard the Anglican faith. What now makes Sydney Anglican? Why are they not Methodists or Dutch Reformed, or simply non-denominational Protestants?

What constitutes the Anglican Identity, and how does Sydney adhere to it?

Big. Problem.

Jack Miller said...


Where do you see me making a defense of Sydney's worship or that they are holding fast to "true" Anglicanism? Aside from stating that they hold closely to the doctrines of the English reformers, which as Fr. Hart notes isn't necessarily a distinctive of being Anglican, I take issue with their departures. In fact I wrote in my first comment:

Unfortuanetly, once untethered from the BCP the worship of the Anglicanism tends to drift here and there depending on current understanding or fads.

and I state that Hooker would... disagree with the Sydney departures re: worship...

Lastly, a question - if Anglicanism is to be equated strictly with the use of the BCP in worship, are parishes that regularly use the Anglican Missal and not the BCP suspect also?

Fr. Robert Hart said...

The Missal service is the BCP service with elaborations. The hymnal is also elaboration.

Jack Miller said...

Fr. Hart, my point is not to argue against the Missal (leaving that for another thread!), but to simply point out that using it is not using the pure BCP liturgy. If, as RC Cola says, to discard the BCP is to discard the Anglican faith (isn't the Anglican faith the Christian faith?), then to innovate or elaborate away from that book, i.e. the Missal - is one then moving away from the authentic "Anglican faith?" I would suggest that RC's definition of Anglicanism is too narrow, while at the same time agreeing that to stop using the BCP for worship is moving away from traditional Anglican liturgical practice. And again, I'm not condoning the Sydney liturgical practices.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

The Missal adds things that are meant to enrich the experience of worship (a matter of taste). Though there are parts of the Missal I do not choose to use, for the most part it is all about the Holy Communion Service word for word as it is in the BCP. Adding verses from the Scriptures (from the Psalms mainly) in the form of Minor Propers, and a few devotional prayers ("Lord, I am not worthy...") does not take away the BCP, anymore than singing hymns does.

Jack Miller said...

I take your point, Fr. Hart. As I wrote, I'm not making the argument here that to use the Missal is to cease being Anglican, only that it adds to the "pure" liturgy and thus we might not want to strictly equate Anglicanism with using strictly the BCP liturgy... Especially in light of Article 34.


RC Cola said...

Jack, sorry I missed that portion of one of your earlier posts. Over the course of days, I forget what's been said before and just send based on the last comment read or remember.

I never made a one-to-one identification of the BCP and Anglicanism. The BCP is a constituent part of what it means to be Anglican. I don't see how one could be an Anglican without. On the other hand, I could see how other denominations could use the BCP no qualms (or very few). I don't think that is too narrow to think that all Anglicans must use a BCP. Now if I said that all Anglicans must use the 1662, wear tippets, no vestments that smack of Romanism, etc., that would be narrow.

Also, I don't really think we're too far off from agreeing on things here. It would probably just require that I read more carefully and remember what was written.

Jack Miller said...


Agreed, not too far off, so... Let's get together and, maybe have a wee dram... we'll continue this good conversation.

Actually, I really do wish that many who comment here could gather around a dinner table for an evening and converse on topics such as this. That would be something, wouldn't it?

RC Cola said...

Tell you what, if I ever find myself in North Carolina I'm going to drop in on St Benedict's parish. I'd like to see the look on Fr Hart's face when I say, "Hi Father. I'm RC Cola. Let's have lunch."
I think a Continuum "reunion" would be interesting to say the least.

AFS1970 said...

Such a gathering is a fine idea, and thoroughly in line with the Anglican conferences that sprung up recently. However the internet being what it is are the logistics even possible? Perhaps it is a thing for Skype.

For that matter if it weren't for the internet, would we even know what is going on in Sydney? I remember reading about the early days of what would become the continuum and hearing about small meetings and newletters. comparing that to the speed at which the ACNA reacted and formed up makes me wonder what could have been accomplished if the technology had been 30 years more advanced.

Jack Miller said...


Funny, about your reunion "drop-in" at Fr. Hart's church. My wife and I have had the same day-dream.

Fr. Hart, better keep an eye out!

Joshua Bovis said...

Very interesting post.

Would love to engage with the subject but feel that this link may be a good starting point.


in Christ
By the way I am Anglican minister born and raised in Sydney, (trained at Sydney Mission and Bible College), did my curacy in Newcastle Diocese, now serve in Armidale Diocese and I love the BCP and use it daily for morning and evening office. It is gold! My view is for Anglicans to not be familiar with it, is to throw out the crown jewels.