Tuesday, April 28, 2009

What Anglican clergy can learn from Billy Graham

God proved His love on the Cross. When Christ hung, and bled, and died, it was God saying to the world, "I love you." -Billy Graham

...And be thou a faithful Dispenser of the Word of God, and of his holy Sacraments; In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
-From The Form and Manner of Ordering Priests, Ordinal.

Many "televangelists" have a bad name, as well many of them have deserved. Some have no scandals attached to them, but they come across as clowns, entertainers or as hustlers for money (robbing churches of the rightful pledges of their members). Some are trendy, or just plain weird. Billy Graham has never been like them; in fact his televised "crusades" were old-fashioned Baptist revival services; and that authenticity and genuine approach has come across with dignity that others have lacked.

Despite the obvious differences...

Yes, we know that our ministry, as Anglican priests, includes the east side of the rail, that is the sacraments; we do not wear Baptist vestments (suit and tie), and we know all of the things that create a gulf between us and them-not any specific "them," just, them. But, lately I discovered that a cable channel has been showing old videos of Billy Graham preaching in stadiums, some of which sermons I distinctly remember having seen, most likely before some of you were born. Despite the obvious differences between my Anglican ways, and the Baptist ways of Billy Graham, I recognize Someone else who was almost visibly present in Graham's Christ-centered preaching. That is, the Holy Ghost who Himself bears witness to Jesus Christ in power, animating any preacher who is not afraid to call "all men everywhere to repent."

It seems funny that Baptists and other revivalists have an "altar call," inasmuch as they have no altar. This really comes from us, however, because in every Holy Communion service we issue the true Altar Call, or the Invitation:

Ye who do truly and earnestly repent you of your sins, and are in love and charity with your neighbours, and intend to lead a new life, following the commandments of God, and walking from henceforth in his holy ways; Draw near with faith, and take this holy Sacrament to your comfort; and make your humble confession to Almighty God, devoutly kneeling.

Yes, we are able to follow up with the Absolution, as priests, for those who confess with "hearty repentance and true faith." But, have we actually taken care in our sermons to speak directly and seriously so as to give genuine weight to the words of the Invitation before the General Confession? I believe our preaching should always be part of "the ministry of reconciliation." (II Cor. 5:18) To that end I suggest learning a few things about effective preaching from a world larger than merely our own ethos. Assuming we all have the maturity to appreciate the good things of wisdom, even from those who are not of our fold, I want to point out a few things that can be learned from Billy Graham. These relate only to one part of our ministry, but an important part, namely preaching.

1. Speak directly

No flowery language, no attempt to impress anybody with sophisticated and fashionable trends. And, please, no inspirational messages or sentimental rambling from personal anecdotes. Speak directly to the real need of people, in terms they appreciate and understand.

2. Speak with authority

Constantly, Billy Graham would say, "the Bible says..." Certainly, Anglicans can say that too, and we should say it often. In the pulpit we are supposed to present God's word, not our own ideas, not even our best ideas.

3. Speak with passion

Not feigned or false passion; but certainly with an inner fire that comes from within by the Holy Spirit.

4. Speak with urgency

If we are calling people to a serious encounter with God, (which, by the way, receiving the Sacrament always is, even to those who do not know the weight of it), we should have as much urgency in our sermons as Graham exhibited in his evangelistic preaching. "For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succored thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation." (II Cor.6:2) The message must be, as it has always been in Graham's sermons, Be reconciled to God through his Son right now-there is no later. We must take care that no one, especially those who hear us week after week, depart this life without real preparation. Have we presented both a sober warning and the mercy of God in Christ? If we preach to someone every Sunday for years, as he sits in a pew, and he dies unprepared, how will we answer for what we did with all that time, all those opportunities?

5. Call sin, sin.

And do not hesitate to go against the grain, against the zeitgeist. Do not fear, at times, to mention actual sins by name if need be, and to denounce their destructive and dangerous end.

6. Call death, death

Don't fail to remind everyone that we are all mortal. Not only was this characteristic of Billy Graham's preaching, strange as that was in modern times. This was characteristic of all Christian preaching through the ages until now. It is really the Catholic Tradition to preach with this reminder of the inevitable placed before all hearers. Today, however, we are afraid to spoil the fun. We do not want to ruin, by mention of death and dying, the warm fuzzies, as if church is about a nice cozy feeling; even though death is certain, and even though we know the remedy to it.

7. Stick to the main point

Do not get sidetracked in your sermons with anything that distracts people's attention from their greatest need, that is to be always reconciled to God, to know God, and to serve God; and do not distract from the central message of Jesus Christ. The pulpit is not the place for side issues. There is no sermon time to waste on the things of this world that passes away. This is the only way, by the way, for our sermons to be in true harmony with our liturgy-or have you not noticed?

So, these are things to learn from one of the finest preachers in modern history, a master orator, and certainly a Christian man who has earned the respect of all.

Here is one example, from 1959.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Peter Toon, 1939 – 2009

Peter Toon, 1939 – 2009

Peter, son of Thomas Arthur and Hilda Toon, was born in Yorkshire, England, soon after the start of World War II. After him came Paul, David and Christine. He attended Hemsworth Grammar School, Cliff College, Sheffield; King’s College, London; The University of Liverpool and Christ Church, Oxford University. He held three Masters’ degrees and a Doctor of Philosophy degree from Oxford.

He was married to Vita for forty-seven years and they have one daughter, Deborah, who lives in California, and is married to Michael, a Naval Officer. Vita is a graduate of London and Oxford Universities, while Deborah is a graduate of Vanderbilt University in Nashville and the University of Texas at Austin.

After teaching religious studies in a College, Peter was ordained in the Church of England in 1973 in the Diocese of Liverpool. Since then he has served in parishes in both England and the U.S.A. and also as a theologian in theological houses in the U.S.A. and in England. In the last decade of his working life, he served the Prayer Book Society of the U.S.A. as its President and C E O.

Peter wrote and had published over twenty-five books, together with booklets, essays, articles. He also wrote many opinion pieces for the web. He edited Home Words in England from 1985-2001 and The Mandate in the U.S.A. from 1995 to 2008. He was much committed to The Anglican Way as Reformed Catholicism, and to the importance of the historical Formularies—Articles , BCP and Ordinal. The woes of the Anglican Communion in recent days much distressed him.

As he died on Saturday, April 25th in San Diego, and as virtually all Vita’s and Peter’s relatives and friends are thousands of miles away, there was no public funeral in California, only a service for the family based on the classic BCP. It is hoped that his remains may be interred in the family grave in Yorkshire.
May the souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace: And light perpetual shine upon them.

Soteriological Truths Common to Catholics and Classic Evangelicals

In the light of the recent unpleasantness involving ourselves and a self-proclaimed Calvinist Anglican, I thought it might be worthwhile to approach the fraught issue of soteriology eirenically, first, to clear up misunderstandings and, second, to illuminate as precisely as possible where differences appear to remain.

It is not only the events referred to above that have motivated me to do this. Relatively recently I read a nasty attack on Evangelicals and their admiration for C. S. Lewis, intimating that he would have had no respect for them, their culture or supposed puritanism. So much for his undoubted commitment to “mere Christianity” and history of caring correspondence with all sorts of people.

It might be asked: “Why investigate soteriology ecumenically when it has all been done before? Why re-invent the wheel?” The main reason for repeating the effort is that I wish to do so with maximal specificity, since it has often been claimed that previous ecumenical agreements have been reached only by the deliberate use of equivocal language and ambiguity.

So, I will start by listing beliefs definitely held by the Roman Catholic Church (which is that part of the Church that has most clearly and exhaustively defined its soteriology) and also held, I believe, by Evangelicals. The propositions in this first section are all drawn from pre-Vatican II Roman sources, in particular, St Thomas Aquinas (e.g., Summa Theologiae P2a: Q110 A1, Q113 A1-8 & Q114 A1-5 and P3: Q68 A2 & Q69 A9-10), The Council of Trent (Sessions Five and Six), and the old standard works of moral theology written for confessors. The second section will list apparent differences, either between the RCC and other Catholics and Evangelical Protestants, or between Catholics more generally and Evangelicals.

Proposed Agreements

1. Fallen Humanity is affected, even fatally wounded, in every part of its nature due to the original sin of our primal Parents.
2. Without God taking the initiative with prevenient grace, we cannot freely choose salvation.
3. Forgiveness of sins cannot ever be earned by us at all.
4. Forgiveness is solely earned by Christ and Him crucified.
5. We receive forgiveness of sins by penitent, living faith (which faith includes, at least implicitly, obedient acceptance of the requirement for Baptism precisely because Christ has ordained it), and are thus declared and considered innocent of sin by God, and thus not liable to condemnation and thus eternal punishment.
6. This saving faith is a pure gift of God and cannot be earned by us any more than forgiveness can (see 3). It includes trust in God’s mercy through Christ toward us.
7. This faith does, however, involve an act of will by us, our will being enabled and “freed” by prevenient grace (see 2 and 6).
8. At the same time we are forgiven, we receive an inner transformation by grace, which is connected to a renewed identity. (NB: Inasmuch as the gracious forgiveness subsists in the Divine will, within the eternal and foreknowing love of God, it precedes causally and temporally the inner transformation. Inasmuch as the forgiveness is an experienced reality subsisting in the human subject, it depends on faith in those capable of it, which depends on the inner transformation of the human will spoken of here and in 6 and 7.)
9. This renewal and the continual aid of God's Spirit enables further acts of obedience and growth in grace.
10. The aforementioned acts of obedience, also known as “good works”, receive heavenly (or even, according to God's will, earthly) reward, based on the gracious divine promise. They please God, and demonstrate the reality of our living faith.
11. But they do not transfer us from darkness to light (see 3), or in themselves strictly earn any reward as if they were intrinsically morally perfect insofar as the acts proceed from us, or as if they availed with God other than in the context of His mercy (which includes simultaneously not imputing sins).
12. The salvific process described above (see 5 onwards) can be initiated, (a) before baptism if living faith (which faith is by nature also penitent and informed by love of God) is present, or (b) after baptism if baptism was originally received “in bad faith” or impenitently or insincerely.

Apparent Disagreements

A) For Roman Catholics and many other Catholics, the word “Justification” includes in its definition 5, 8 and (later) 9 above. The latter two are also called “Sanctification”. Therefore, the justness or righteousness of Justification is taken to include the positive aspect of infused righteousness and also the negative aspect of sins remitted unto innocence.
B) For most Roman Catholic theologians (with notable exceptions down the centuries even till today) it is thus implied that St Paul invariably used Justification and the related words (from the Greek dikaio- stem) in the same way as A.
C) For Evangelicals and some Catholics, “Justification” includes 5 but not 8 or 9, the latter belonging only to “Sanctification”. Therefore, the justness of justification is simply a “standing” or status in God's eyes based on the remission of sin, and has no basis in the actual state of the justified.
D) For most Evangelicals, it is generally assumed (with notable exceptions down the centuries even till today) that St Paul invariably used Justification and the related words (from the Greek dikaio- stem) in the same way as C.
E) For Roman Catholics there is a “temporal”, finite punishment for post-baptismal sins which is not automatically remitted by forgiveness and which, other things being equal, must be undergone for the sake of justice and for “purifying”, educative purposes.
F) For Evangelicals (and many Catholics), there is no unremitted, “owed” punishment after forgiveness, though there may be “needed” discipline for purifying, educative purposes (though this would only be while we were “in the body” according to the vast majority of Evangelicals).
G) For Roman Catholics, the reward in 10 above can be considered to include eternal life in itself.
H) For Evangelicals and many Catholics, the reward in 10 must be considered additional to the gift of heaven itself.
I) For Roman Catholics, part of the “superfluous” reward (called, by analogy, “merit”) of one living Christian can be transferred to a dead Christian undergoing E above by prayerful request, in order to partly or wholly wipe out the temporal punishment or penalty.
J) For Roman Catholics, the superfluous (to the one meriting) merits of I form a corporate whole with Christ’s Infinite Merits (which themselves are the ultimate source for I), this corporate whole being called the “Treasury of Merits”.
K) For Evangelicals and many Catholics, the word “merit” is inappropriate and the rewards of good works belong only to the actual workers of good and can be neither superfluous (in the sense of “more than God requires or deserves in obedience”) nor transferred, though the more holy the Christian, the more effective their intercessory prayers in general (though only on earth for most Evangelicals).
L) Thus there is no “Treasury of Merits” insofar as the Saints’ merits would be added to Christ’s. Only Christ’s merits are intrinsically perfect and a fount of salvation or blessing.
M) For Catholics, if 12a and 12b do not occur, then baptism effects 8, even in infants where conscious faith is not possible, and permanently “seals” the soul with a “mark”, so to speak.
N) For Catholics, if 12a occurs then baptism only gives the mark and makes more secure and permanent 5 and 8 already given.
O) For Catholics, if 12b occurs then only the “mark” is given to the soul, identifying it as under the obligation of the New Covenant, but the grace of 5 and 8 are not given until living faith is present.
P) For Evangelicals, 12a should always occur in preparation for “adult” baptism. If it does not, there is no guarantee baptism does anything inwardly (though it outwardly “marks” before God and man the person as in some sense within the New Covenant), even if the person is sincere, intellectually believes and wants to repent and become a Christian, that is, even if he is not described by 12b. [NB: I am not certain this is the Classic Evangelical position, though it seems consistent with their system. I would welcome clarification.]
Q) For Evangelicals, if 12a occurs, baptism grants an increase of grace and outwardly marks the recipient, and signifies and “seals” the regeneration already given.
R) For Evangelicals, if 12b occurs, grace is not given, only the outward mark, until living faith is present.
S) For Catholics, serious sins should be confessed before a priest, but before this happens these sins are forgiven by contrition, an act of repentance motivated by the love of God. (How serious or public the sins must be and whether this obligation is of Divine Right rather than ecclesiastical precept for all non-venial sins is not universally agreed among Catholic theologians.)
T) For Catholics, the abovementioned confession should be as complete as possible and reasonable in revealing serious sins and attrition, which is repentance motivated by hatred of sin and fear of God (though not servile fear of hell alone that would continue the sin if possible), is probably sufficient for obtaining forgiveness, as the act of auricular confession and the grace of absolution will turn this lesser penitence into that of S above.
U) For Evangelicals, no sin must be confessed before men, but they can be, though it need not be a priest. All sins are for given by truly penitent faith.
V) For Evangelicals, there are no rules governing confession before men except honesty. (The lesser repentance of attrition can be demeaned by them as worthless and ineffectual. On the other hand, the necessity of love for God to effectual, saving faith has also been disputed.) Absolution is seen as declaratory only, not effectual, unless perhaps it provides a necessary spiritual assurance to aid faith.
W) For Catholics, 5 to 9 above can occur without final salvation occurring necessarily, though ll given the grace of final perseverance will be finally saved.
X) For Classic Evangelicals, 5 to 9 cannot genuinely occur at all to one not finally saved, but only to those predestined to eternal life, the Elect.
Y) Therefore, for Evangelicals, baptised infants are only regenerated (and not necessarily in baptism?) if they are of the Elect.
Z) For Catholics, one cannot be infallibly or finally certain of final salvation except by private revelation. However, a Christian should be certain through Hope of God’s omnipotent mercy and help achieving this end, barring his own defection by free will.
AA) For Evangelicals, every genuine Christian can and should (as part of living faith) seek and experience a moral certainty of final salvation, also known as “assurance”.
BB) For Catholics, all 7 sacraments contain (in a mysterious sense) grace and confer it as long as the recipient has living faith or is not old enough either to sin seriously and wilfully or to make an act of faith.
CC) For Evangelicals, the 2 great Sacraments promise grace but do not contain it, and confer grace only due to the faith they engender in the promise. Other rites have no promise but may still increase grace through faith being encouraged.

I submit these lists for consideration and discussion. Are the agreements accurately described? The disagreements? Are there ways of reconciling the latter? I believe there are, in many cases, and have sketched some approaches to this end in the past. May the One Lord and Saviour grant us unity in truth.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Second Sunday after Easter

Isaiah 40:1-11

Psalm 23

I Pet. 2:19-25

John 10:11f

I believe that today's Gospel can be expanded to include the next two verses, giving us a fuller context:

Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.

The scriptures we have heard today tie together very profound mysteries about Christ’s sacrificial death, His patience and suffering, and about the care for us that the Risen Christ shows even now by continuing to guide His Church.

“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” So wrote Isaiah in his famous Suffering Servant passage, the passage from which Saint Peter draws in today's Epistle. I have said before that the Suffering Servant passage goes beyond Christ’s atoning death, predicting as well his resurrection by telling us that he would, after death, “prolong his days” as the agent of God’s will.

It predicts the day of Pentecost by telling us that Christ would “divide the spoil with the strong.” This echoes words from Psalm 68: 18: “Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men.” In this way the Holy Spirit reminds us, through the prophetic oracle, that all of the grace, and, indeed every gift, that God gives to us has come by way of the cross of Christ.

St. Anselm taught that Christ did all the work, and after earning a great reward for his labor, gives all of the benefits of his work away. He gives all of the earning, profit and reward to us. For, he is God the Son, and has need of nothing. St. Peter puts it to us with great force: “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree.” That’s the first message. Christ offered himself as the Lover of mankind, in fact, as the one who loves you. He is the sacrifice not just for the whole world, but for you; dying as much for each as for all. This is why I tell you so often; when you look up at the crucifix where he pours out his soul unto death, and you see his love there, take it personally.

We see in our Collect that we are to look upon Christ’s death and suffering as both an example of godly life and as the sacrifice for our sins. Unless we know that 53rd chapter of Isaiah, we cannot understand what Saint Peter is saying, nor can we fully grasp the meaning of today’s Gospel, or those other words of Isaiah from the 40th chapter: “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.” All that gentle care and goodness involved His death; and the Shepherd is the Risen Christ who cares for His Church until the Day when he comes again in glory. It is not enough to picture the Good Shepherd gently carrying a lamb in His arms, unless we see the print of the nails in His hands.

His goodness and love are demonstrated by His death. He has nothing else to prove. If His ways seem hard to learn, or His commandments seem burdensome, we must remember that He already has shown His love; therefore, we ought to trust that what He requires of us is due to His love- it is all for our good.

As the Shepherd He cares for us and commits the cure of souls to earthly pastors who represent Him. The true ministry of bishops and priests is to aid the salvation of your souls. Easy church membership is a disservice. We must not make everything too easy, because if we do that we frustrate the working of God’s grace in your lives. This is why even in Easter we may need to be reminded that we do not stop carrying the cross in this life. We cannot set our affection on things above (Col. 3:2) without the aid of the cross, that is, the cross we must carry as His disciples.

And, there is no Gospel without the cross. It is no coincidence that the religious bodies that have considered themselves too sophisticated to believe in the resurrection of Christ have become the ones who fit Saint Paul's description as "enemies of the cross of Christ." (Phil. 3:18) Their Christ has no nail prints in His hands, no cross, because the cross without the resurrection is the opposite of hope. They are left with "eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die." Their happiness ends in sorrow, their party ends in despair. But, the carrying of the cross ends in hope; it ends in the resurrection. We do not join in with the Hedonism of modern society and modern religion, because we have too much to hope for.

"Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as He is pure." (I John 3:1-3)

Only as the Risen Christ, scars and all, he still leads us. With the marks of his death yet in his hands, his feet and his side, the living risen Christ, our Shepherd, leads us. So, we follow not only the example of patience and holiness; we follow His direction and hear His voice. Herein is a great danger: We can be religious without hearing His voice; we can build churches without hearing His voice. Remember, the Hebrew word sh’mai means both to hear and to obey. If we obey Him, then we will know Him as He knows the Father. “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” ( John 17:3)

In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Peter, Susan and Lucy, upon hearing that Aslan is a lion, ask, “is he safe?” Mr. Beaver answers: “Lord love ya’ child. ‘Course he’s not safe. But, he is good.” As we all know, Aslan represents Jesus Christ. And so C.S. Lewis provides a true insight for us: The Lord is not safe, but He is good. Goodness means that he does not deal with us as we deserve, but for our well-being. To save your soul from eternal death He endured the cross; and to give you the full benefit of His cross He provides the cross for you to carry as His disciple, so that you may purify yourself as He is pure. That is, to live with the purpose of being made holy. This is goodness, not safety. Christianity is not a safe religion; it is, in fact, the stuff of which martyrs are made. There is no Gospel without the cross. There is no Gospel without the Risen Christ. To follow the Good Shepherd we must go through the valley of the shadow of death, and fear no evil. We have this hope in ourselves, because we know that when we shall see Him we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.

"Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow in his steps."

Friday, April 24, 2009

Valid and invalid Confirmation

Recently a man from one of the Continuing jurisdictions mentioned to me that he is uncomfortable about his own Confirmation, because it was only a few years ago that he was confirmed, and that was in the Episcopal Church (U.S.A.). I suggested that it may well be the Holy Spirit speaking to him. During my entire time as a Continuing Anglican I have known that the Confirmations of the Episcopal Church have become insufficient, dubious at best. The practice in the Diocese of the Chesapeake under Bp. Joel Johnson was to disregard them as invalid. I am happy to say that the Anglican Catholic Church also sees the Confirmations in the Episcopal Church since 1976 as invalid. I am troubled to learn, however, that some other jurisdictions have never dealt with this issue conclusively. Not to add another argument, but simply to state the matter in a polite if robust manner, I am posting here a letter I once wrote to a bishop in a jurisdiction that had not yet taken the same stand we take in the ACC.
- - - - - - - -

Feast of Saint Ambrose of Milan 2005

Your Grace:

Again, I express that I am thankful to God for His grace that was evident when you visited us last month; and that remains evident among us. I believe the people made the right decision, namely, to receive their bishop as Christ Himself, with respect for the Apostolic office.

To follow up on our conversation, I want clear direction about the problem of Confirmations that have been performed by bishops of the Episcopal Church using the Confirmation Rite of the 1979 alleged Book of Common Prayer. My concern about the Rite itself is not merely that it has no statement of Sacramental Intention (which is bad enough), but that one of the revisers who created that Rite boasted to my brother, Fr. Addison Hart, when he was a seminarian in the 1980s, that they had changed the theology of the Church. It is not due to a mistake, but by deliberate non-Intention, that, in their Rite, no mention is made of receiving the Holy Spirit and His gifts.

The practical side of this matter is of concern to me, not because of the adults who have escaped from that sect who come forward for Communion in our churches, but rather that that we do not deny the grace of the Sacrament of Confirmation to anyone. And, this is further complicated by the fact that, after twenty-six years of the 1979 book, the probable lack of a valid Confirmation Rite in ECUSA affects more than one generation. Obviously, as a new generation of ECUSA clergy springs up, their bishops would have to be seen as invalid anyway, and their entire abandonment of Christianity would force us to disregard as valid their sacraments that depend upon the Sacrament of Holy Orders. So, we would be faced at some point with having to regard their refugees as people who could not validly have been confirmed. Since the matter will be forced upon us due to the corruption of their orders, we are not being hasty in taking a look at the Confirmation Rite itself, aside from its dependence on a valid episcopate.

In my own congregation many of the people were confirmed long before the ’79 book was in use, and so the question is irrelevant to their needs. But, I have hopes for new people coming in; and the presence of one young family that may be coming into this church, from ECUSA, has the potential of making the question relevant fairly soon. The question is whether we may present for Confirmation people who will want this sacrament, and will have come to believe that they cannot trust the ceremony performed by the ECUSA bishops with their defective Rite. Real Confirmation is, as we know, an indelible sacrament; and, never have I come across a provisional version of the form for Confirmation. Neither am I sure that the ’79 Rite is grounded sufficiently to warrant a provisional Confirmation; rather, it appears that we can be certain that no valid Confirmation was performed at all. I am bringing this up not to hinder people who have attained to an age of reason, have been through the act of what they regarded as Confirmation, and are accustomed to receiving Communion. In fact, it is not about the Sacrament of Communion that I raise the question. It is about the grace given in Confirmation itself. When and under what conditions, may we present to your Grace for Confirmation a person who was “confirmed” using the ’79 Book, but who wants to be certain that his Confirmation is valid? It is the specific grace of this particular sacrament that prompts me to ask. An analysis of the Rite in ’79 Book does not show any Intention to Confirm according to the beliefs of the Holy Catholic Church.

Hoping this finds your Grace well, I remain,

Yours truly,

Robert Hart +

The terrible burden

And test of a mantle

Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out. Acts 5:9

The leaders of God's people in the pages of scripture bore their authority with prophetic insight concerning the moral condition of God's people. In the Old Testament there was no fooling Moses, Joshua, Samuel or the prophets of Israel. As Nathan confronted David with the words "thou art the man," it was no real surprise to the back-slidden ruler. And, so we see in the New Testament that Saint Peter the Apostle could not be fooled by the attempt of Ananias and Sapphira to lie to the Church, and therefore to the Holy Spirit himself as God present in his people.

A claim of Universal Authority over the Church carries with it the weight of exercising that pastoral office with the same prophetic insight that was the expected χάρις of all apostles and prophets in the pages of scripture. To make a claim of infallibility in teaching imposes the same burden, for the Bible reveals that we cannot distinguish between doctrine and prophetic insight in something as weighty as teaching authority. Peter could not be fooled in the case of these two liars who wanted more praise from their fellows than honesty would have permitted. He spoke to them and God took their breath away. A distinction between the gift to teach sound doctrine with all authority, and the responsibility to deliver the helpless among God's people from the oppression of sinful and false shepherds, indicates a standard far lower than the power we see in God's representatives as we find them in the pages of scripture.

In a recent e-mail exchange, a former Anglican priest who has begun to swim the Tiber in recent years, has expressed his indignation at Ed Pacht and me for referring to his denomination not as The Catholic Church, but as the Roman Catholic Church. We have tried to make clear the simple fact that this is not an expression of disrespect, and certainly not of malice, but rather a necessary way for us to state our own identity as belonging to the same Church we profess every time we say either of the two Creeds in the regular practice of our liturgical life. We cannot refer to the Catholic Church in such a way as to exclude ourselves, and neither can we teach our people to do so.

But, if we were even to consider this man's demand, we would have to ask on what basis? The problem with the demand is the weight it puts on the See of Rome, even if we were to call it the See of Peter. Does the clergy scandal of recent years tell us that we should trust that one See so completely as to hand over our polity in exchange for its single rule? What confidence could we have, even if we bought the claim to a χάρισμα of Infallibility in matters of doctrine (which claim was not made before 1870), to an Ecclesiastical authority that spent years doing nothing about complaints that children were being abused, and that certain bishops were living in an openly "gay lifestyle" that scandalized the faithful?

How valid is the claim to infallibility of doctrine without some sort of moral and prophetic insight, and what damage may result someday from yielding Universal Primacy to a See that failed to keep its house in order? I am glad that the new sheriff in town, that is the town of Rome, is going about to clean things up. But, I am not able to see why anyone trusts the system itself.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Since Easter we have posted many things. But, I want to bring to the attention of anyone who may have missed it, the Easter Sermon from 1606 of Lancelot Andrewes. It is not too far from Easter Day to go back and make this an item for study during this season.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Via Media refined

The term via media (Middle Way) has been associated with Anglicanism since the 19th century, and is generally understood to mean a middle way between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism. In recent years Roman Catholic apologists and a specific circle of very Low Church Protestant Anglicans (strange bedfellows indeed), including fairly respectable individuals such as Alister MacGrath, have tried to gang up on us, and say that the real middle way (via media) was between Lutheranism and Calvinism.

The fact is, if we say that Anglicanism was a via media between Lutheranism and Calvinism, there is some truth to that. And, if we want to deny that it was a via media between the Continental versions of the Reformation and Rome, there is some truth in the denial. Indeed, the Church of England Reformers did agree with the Lutheran camp on some things, and with Calvinists on some things, the whole time agreeing with both against the errors of Rome. And the doctrines of Rome were seen as making the Gospel itself vague and obscure at best, as well as being subject to no permanent and fixed discipline (indeed they did not know what the Council of Trent would impose). However, in England what we find most clearly is a via media between the Continental Reformers and the past. Specifically, the past of the Church of England, and the past of the whole Western Church. It is this that even notable figures like MacGrath have missed.

The subjects of debate during the Reformation period were not new ideas and new subjects. These debates had gone on for centuries, and they were ignited in the 16th century. But, the tradition of debating these matters was old and time honored.

Despite misleading assertions to the contrary, the polity of the Church of England, as reflected in Law, never accepted the validity of ministers who lacked episcopal ordination (the deceptions of some who may have flown in under the radar not withstanding). Furthermore, when the Preface to the Ordinal was composed, it gave no new definition to the words, "bishops, priests and deacons." Rather, without any new definition or any attempt to describe the offices mentioned in any "reformed" sense, the Preface merely speaks of the intent to continue what has been from the beginning.

It is evident unto all men diligently reading holy Scripture and ancient Authors, that from the Apostles' time there have been these Orders of Ministers in Christ's Church; Bishops, Priests, and Deacons. Which Offices were evermore had in such reverend Estimation, that no man might presume to execute any of them, except he were first called, tried, examined, and known to have such qualities as are requisite for the same; and also by publick Prayer, with Imposition of Hands, were approved and admitted thereunto by lawful Authority. And therefore, to the intent that these Orders may be continued, and reverently used and esteemed in the Church of England, no man shall be accounted or taken to be a lawful Bishop, Priest, or Deacon, in the Church of England, or suffered to execute any of the said Functions, except he be called, tried, examined, and admitted thereunto, according to the Form hereafter following, or hath had Episcopal Consecration, or Ordination.

This, in and of itself, was far too conservative for the Puritans, those who wanted to force "Calvin's Geneva Discipline" on England. This conservatism, along with rites esteemed by the Puritans to be "papist" and therefore in accord with the "errors of Rome," was defended by Richard Hooker. The whole point of writing the things that he did about the polity of the Church of England, was to defend that polity to other Protestants. It was why Hooker wrote what he did about "Right Reason," in its proper usage a defense of Tradition and Antiquity as well as a defense of the Church's lawful authority.

Recently, I have received astonishing e-mails (astonishing because of a blend of ignorance and confidence in what they assert) from people in a certain new kind of "Reformed" Anglicanism, no doubt those who call themselves Calvinists without any regard for older schools of Calvinism, boasting great things about why the Church of England kept the orders of ministry, but did not mean to. After these self-appointed teachers spill and waste tons of e-ink in their incredible forums ("incredible" as in lacking credibility), all they accomplish is a grand deception. Among the many bits of non-sense, I was treated to yet another bleating of a new popular mantra: "Hooker never says that the polity of the Church of England was of Divine origin." By "polity of the Church of England" we may take it they mean episcopacy.

It takes a blindfold, or at least very dark glasses, not to notice that the whole point of Hooker's defense against the Puritans requires, as its basis, that episcopacy was indeed of Divine origin. He allows the possibility that Calvin's Geneva discipline, born of an emergency when the clergy abandoned the churches, may have justification. Even then, he does not say that it was right, only that the situation may well have forced it as a solution. That he rejects it for England is based on his criticism that it is not what the Church was given in Antiquity, and that it is not scriptural; Puritan claims to a scriptural basis for the "church government" of Geneva, are targeted in his criticism also. The obvious point is that he defended the polity of the English Church as both Ancient and Scriptural (for why else would he bother to say the other is not in accord with Scripture?). The only thing he did not say, perhaps because it did not need to be said, was whether or not episcopacy is essential, that is, of the essence of the Church. But, neither was that a point that was discussed at all.

His defense of rites and of polity in the Church of England esteemed to be "popish" by the Puritans and by others in the Reformed churches, such as Knox, demonstrate the fact that Anglican conservatism bewildered them. That it was a via media between the other Reformers and the Past is simply because the Church of England never threw out the baby with the bathwater. The English saw no need to reinvent the wheel.

The episcopacy of the Church of England was not maintained lightly, and not without apologetics such as Hooker's, and later of Andrewes and others. Yet, some would have us believe that the English Reformers did not mean to do what they did, did not mean to establish the polity with force of law that they did establish, and really wanted to do the opposite. By their logic, the Preface as quoted above, wrote itself while no one was looking.

The via media was a middle road between extremes whenever and wherever extremes forced people to make unnecessary and unhealthy choices where no choice ought to be made. It was a middle way that remained Catholic in its Protestantism, because to reject the past in its entirety is to saw off the limb upon which one sits. Episcopacy was the most noticable via media fact, a fact openly shown to everyone.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

First Sunday after Easter

I John 5:4-12
John 20:19-23

“And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.”

At the beginning of Saint John’s First Epistle we see a connection between the fellowship that the Apostles had with Jesus Christ during the years in which they followed Him from town to town, the relationship they maintained with Him after His resurrection, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit that began to be manifested on the day of Pentecost. Among those charismatic realities we are given the sacraments that belong to the priesthood, chief of which is the Blessed Sacrament of the altar. This continued fellowship with the Risen Christ is, in a sense, Part II of the Incarnation. It is the Incarnation as it continues to affect the fallen world through His Body the Church, from which the Lord is never absent. He is its chief member, the Head of the Body.

So now, hear these words from that Epistle:

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.

We should think together about how this brings us to the words in the fifth chapter that we have read this day, especially, “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.” We should reflect on the charismatic reality and power of the Church, and of how we remain in this blessed fellowship. We should reflect on how the hands of the apostles handled the Risen Lord, and how their eyes saw Him, and how we continue in that fellowship. We should reflect upon the reality of His Presence in the Blessed Sacrament when our eyes see and our hands handle the Word of Life even here and now. All of this is part of having fellowship with the Apostles, and in that fellowship, fellowship with God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ, that our joy may be full.

We speak of the Sacramental Life, and we need to know that this is, indeed, Part II of the Incarnation. The Sacramental Life is everything that we have read about. We know that our Lord came to his earth by taking the limitation of human nature into the infinity of His Divine Person as God the Son, time into eternity, creation into uncreated Life, man into God. The means of our salvation are physical, located in time and space, visible in history. His conception and birth, the Nativity in Bethlehem wherein the words of Christopher Smart ring true: “God all bounteous, all creative, Whom no ills from good dissuade, Is incarnate and a native of the very world He made.” In going “about doing good and healing all that were oppressed by the Devil” the Son of Man made use of matter, the touch of His hands and the vibrations of his voice, serving to heal through these means. By taking all of our sins and dying on the cross as the “sacrifice for sin,” and then after death “prolonging His days” by rising again, He used the physical means of our world, our home, to bring us salvation. He bore in His own body our sins on the tree, and by rising to life again destroyed death, and the one who has the power of death.

Therefore, to conclude that salvation is sacramental in nature, that it depends on the Incarnation, and is both the Church’s message and ministry, is to understand the apostolic fellowship about which Saint John taught us. It all comes from the richest truth gleaned from that simple phrase “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” Without a flesh and blood Jesus who is fully God and Fully man, and without His resurrection by which he ever lives to make intercession for us, and without His continued ministry through His Body the Church by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we could not enter, let alone remain in the fellowship of which Saint John speaks. But, we have our Lord Jesus who is fully God and fully man, risen from the dead, our Great High Priest, our only Mediator, our Advocate and Propitiation, who calls you and me to live in fellowship with him and his Father, that fellowship he established in the Church of the Apostles so long ago, and which has never passed away from heaven and earth. We need to be in that fellowship. We are invited in, welcomed in, and even urged in. The benefits are eternal.

We see from the Gospel this day that our Lord ordained the Apostles, and that this included the priestly gift of the power to absolve sins. Make no mistake. This is the power about which the people had rejoiced when “they glorified God, because this power had been given unto men (Matthew 9:8).” To the Jews of that time, when the temple yet stood, this was indeed a priestly power. In the Law of Moses, the laws of Kippur, Atonement, required a priest to offer sacrifice for the penitent Israelite who, coming to the priest, made his confession of sin. In order to reconcile the penitent to God, the priest was required to make atonement. But, he could not kill himself, and so had to slay an animal in sacrifice (in his own place as the atonement), so that remission of sins could come through the shedding of blood. Of course, to the Israelites, it was only natural to understand confession of sin in relation to the priests and sacrifice.

For us, the sacrifices are a type and shadow of the real sacrifice, that of Christ on His cross. So, on our altars we do not shed blood, but rather we obey the words, “do this as oft as ye shall drink it, in remembrance of Me.” “Types and shadows have their ending, for the newer Rite is here.” So too, when we hear confession, we speak words that are the sacramental matter and form to effect genuine absolution. When the Lord granted to men this power in His own words of Ordination, He handed on the priestly ministry of forgiving sins that is granted by His own priestly act as the true Atonement, the real Kippur, by the shedding of His own blood. The Risen Christ has, by this sacrifice, given to the Church, by means of apostolic and priestly ministry, this great gift as part of that fellowship, “this life [that] is in His Son.”

Some of you may feel the need to make a private confession other than the General Confession, and that may very well be the voice of the Holy Spirit directing you. If so, do you fear the pain of making confession? Consider His pain by which this gift is given. Do you fear the embarrassment of confessing your sins to a man? Consider His humiliation by which this gift is given. Do you want fellowship with the Church of the Apostles? Do you want, through that fellowship, the fellowship with God and His Son Jesus Christ? Consider the One who allowed himself to be completely forsaken by all, so that he could restore you to this fellowship. Do you want your joy to be full? Then do not be afraid to come and confess your sins. The Risen Christ, using even now the means of this physical world, the presence of men who hear, the vibrations, that is the sound of your words of confession and their words of absolution, gives this wonderful certainty that your burden is laid down, and your soul healed.

This healing comes from the Incarnation; it all comes from the manifestation of the Word of Life in the Flesh; it is continued as Christ remains incarnate here in His body the Church. The Risen Christ is known to us in the waters of Baptism, in the Apostolic gift of Confirmation. He is known to us in the priestly ministry of the forgiveness of sins. He is known to us in the Breaking of Bread.

Even now, in His Body the Church, by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, those charismatic realities that make the sacraments genuine and powerful, He yet goes about doing good, healing all who are oppressed by the Devil. Even now, this very day, within His Body the Church, He gives the fullness of this rich salvation. “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.”

Friday, April 17, 2009

Turin Shroud could be real, says scientist

Nothing particularly surprising in this, first reported a week ago (on Good Friday)

Turin Shroud COULD be real, says scientist who originally said it was a medieval fake
By Niall Firth (Last updated at 1:39 PM on 10th April 2009)
To believers it is the burial cloth of Jesus Christ, miraculously marked with his image. But the Turin shroud was widely dismissed as a hoax in 1988 when scientific tests found it could not be more than 1,000 years old. Now one of the scientists who first studied 12 foot-long sheet has spoken - from beyond the grave - of how he came to believe that it could be genuine. A video made shortly before Raymond Rogers died in 2005 has been discovered, in which the U.S. chemist reveals his own tests show the relic to be much older - dating back to between 1,300 and 3,000 years ago...(Read the whole article here.)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Being Filled with the Spirit

This is another post based on modified sermon excerpts with some additional material.

At the first Pentecost we are told of the disciples assembled in the upper room that “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as the spirit gave them utterance.”

What is this filling of the Holy Spirit?

The word filled implies an overwhelming experience or a complete involvement of heart and mind. In his letters St Paul urged that we “be filled with all the fullness of God”, “[l]et the word of Christ dwell in [us] richly”, and “be filled with the Spirit". The contexts suggest that all these are basically equivalent [Eph. 3.16-19 and Col. 3.16-17 cf. Eph 5.18-20].

At Pentecost the filling was waited for in prayer, as Jesus had told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem until power came upon them, but this was a sovereign act of God. It was not something simply caused by the people’s prayers, which had already been going consistently for over a week by this time. The Holy Spirit came upon them “suddenly” and miraculously. This reminds us that God will work in his way and his time and sometimes break in upon our devotions with an extraordinary power.

But Paul makes clear in his letters that we can choose to be filled with the Holy Spirit in an ongoing way. Indeed, he exhorts his readers in Ephesians, “be filled with the Holy Spirit”, and the Greek means “be being filled”, it is equivalent to the present continuous tense in English. He connects this exhortation with loving Christ and knowing His love for us, instruction to praise and give thanks to God, including in song, and to constant praying generally (Eph. 3.16f, 5.18-20, 6.18).

Even in Acts, people who were “baptised with the Spirit” at Pentecost could be filled again later in response to fervent prayer (4.31). Being filled with the Holy Spirit does not have to mean a once-for-all, once-only experience.

And what does the filling with the Holy Spirit result in? Fire in today’s Lesson. The Fire which represents power, purification, the comforting warmth of God’s Presence and fervour or passion. In other parts of Acts being filled with the Holy Spirit is commonly associated with being filled with joy. The Gospel appointed for Pentecost from John concentrates on the light of truth and the comfort of peace from that Fire. And so we see that the Holy Spirit ignites heart and mind, emotions and thoughts. Being Spirit-filled will usually mean consciously experiencing that Presence, power, purification, peace or passion abovementioned to a great degree at times. And it will involve an insight into spiritual things that transcends mere intellectual knowledge.

But He also gives gifts of power, with each Christian being given a gift to glorify God and edify (build up) the Church. In Acts the gifts of tongues and prophecy are often mentioned as first signs of the Spirit being poured upon believers. Many other gifts are mentioned in Acts and the rest of the Bible, including, teaching and healing, pastoring and even serving the poor. This reminds us that the Holy Spirit fills us, if we let him, not simply for the sake of our own feelings or faith, but for ministry.

So, how can we be filled with the Spirit? Above I mentioned prayer, praise, love of God and knowing His love for us. Are these causes or effects? Both! The acts of faith and love and fervent prayer that progressively open us up to God's inspiration (in the literal sense of the last word) are of course themselves enabled by the Holy Spirit. It's "grace upon grace". But along with all of this there must be a particular element: explicit desire.

A monk named Joseph came to a monk called Lot and said to him: “ Father, according to my strength I keep a moderate rule of prayer and fasting, quiet and meditation, and as far as I can I control my imagination: what more must I do?” [He’s basically saying “I’m trying my best to be a good Christian, but something still seems to be missing.”] And the old man rose and held his hands toward the sky so that his fingers became like flames of fire and he said: “If you will, you shall become all flame.” [Sayings of the Desert Fathers, quoted in The Ladder of the Beatitudes by Jim Forest]

God wants us to be filled with His Spirit. He wants us to be filled to the brim, totally alive. To be like this we need not only to turn away from sin and choose to do good, we must DESIRE God. We must seek for Him with all our heart, we are told in the Old Testament [Jer 29:13]. We need to persistently pray to God that he will grow us in the Holy Spirit.

Throughout the Bible God tells us that we need Him more than anything else, and that we need to realise this and act upon it.

In the Old Testament we are also told to “Seek the Lord and his strength: seek his face evermore.” [Ps 105]

Jesus said “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. … If ye … know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” Lk 11:9-13.

We need to desire the fire! “But, to be honest,” you might say, “I don’t! I can’t manufacture those feelings you are talking about. It wouldn’t be ‘real’. So, how can God expect this of me?”

The first answer to that question is that it may not start with a feeling, but a choice. “I will seek God.” The second answer is that we can pray “Lord, I don’t feel this great want for you: but I want to want. Please give me this hunger, that you may satisfy it.” This may sound like a strange prayer, but God appreciates honesty. The third answer is that once we realise and really take seriously what God is — his holiness and perfection, that he is our ultimate source of every blessing — and we think and pray about it, we can begin to desire him.

Once we have this desire, how do we feed it, make it stronger? The answers are not exactly exotic or super-surprising! We ‘feed the need’ by getting a taste for God. Where? In God’s Word and Sacrament approached in faith and expectation at every Mass. Come expecting and trusting God will do something in you, whether you feel anything or not. Where else do we go to increase our desire for God? Bible-reading and prayer. As much prayer as possible.

I have spoken in the past about our “yes” to God. The important point to remember is that this yes is pro-active. We do not wait for God to call us on the mobile [cell-phone for Americans] and say “Do this!” so we can say “Oh, alright, if I have to.” We have already been told what to do. Seek God’s face. Be filled with his fullness.

You see, all other desires lead to eternal disappointment if we set our hearts on them as our ultimate happiness. The thing we convince ourselves we must have is always less than it seems, and temporary: except for God.

And so we pray: Lord, fill us with the living fire of your Holy Spirit. Amen

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Charismatic reality of the Church

Having greatly enjoyed Fr. Kirby's recent post, Anglican Catholicism and the Charismata, especially in light of the fact that Easter takes us directly into Pentecost, I want to add some lessons learned from experience in light of Scripture. I will number these observations and do so with relevant passages of Scripture

1. Luke 24:45-49:

Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things. And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.

Acts 1:4-8:

And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at his time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

Inasmuch as the Lord Jesus Christ never commissioned his Church to act apart from the Holy Spirit, we need to consider two ways in which we depend on the direct action of God the Holy Spirit. This means two things: 1) We must depend on Him, and 2) we can depend on Him. The Holy Spirit is necessary for us, and he is reliable.

The risen Lord Jesus Christ told his Apostles to wait for the Holy Spirit to come on them with his power. The mission of the Church in this world is never meant to be carried out merely by human wisdom and strength, and in reality it cannot be. The danger, in our own way of doing things, is that we may come to rely too much on how well planned the services are, and how well organized our churches are in operation, as if merely carrying out a human program could ever establish the Kingdom of God. If we are not praying for the power of the Holy Spirit to be with us all the time, we cannot do the work that Jesus Christ commissioned.

2. I Corinthians 14:29

Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.

I Thes. 5:19-21

Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.

Heb. 13:17,24

Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you...Salute all them that have the rule over you, and all the saints.

It may be argued, and argued well, that some of the things Fr. Kirby mentioned in his article have dangers in them; and this is especially so of such gifts as prophecy that warrant appreciation for lay members of the Church to present God's word, whether teaching, writing or declaring a message they believe to come directly from the Holy Spirit, and that needs to be spoken and heard. The first danger is egalitarianism of a kind that diminishes the authority of a bishop (ἐπισκοπή) and of a priest (πρεσβύτερος) in the mind of the people. The same New Testament that teaches us the Church is the Body of Christ, and that every member has gifts of ministry, also has the words quoted above that require obedience and respect for authority within the household of God.

Furthermore, that every alleged word from God was subject to judgment, from the beginning, led to the principle of Quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est. When teaching or prophecy, in whatever form or format, is presented, no new thing unheard of heretofore can be accepted, inasmuch as Scripture itself contains "all things necessary to salvation," a fact well established by the judgment of the whole Church. "All things" in Scripture have been proved already; every good thing in doctrine is held fast in what we may now call the Tradition.

Nonetheless, the Holy Spirit is never a silent partner in the Scriptures, and his communication takes many forms that we neglect to our peril. He is the One who actually speaks the word of God to each heart, when the Scripture is read, or when we teach and preach. If we may add a sola into the discussion of theology, it is this: Sola Spiritu Sancti. The Holy Spirit alone makes the scales fall from our eyes, and he alone makes a heart into good ground. The best preaching, and the reading of Scripture itself, bring forth no fruit without his own former and latter rain on the good ground of the heart.

Also, it is a mistake to imagine that prophecy is about doctrine. It may well be that we need to hear simple direction and guidance, and it obvious that we benefit from "edification, exhortation and comfort" (I Cor. 14:3). These are not matters that involve claims to new revelation, but matters that are practical and beneficial, and which fall inside the safe enclosure of the Tradition.

3. I Cor. 14:32,33

And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.

"There it is said that a recent convert named Montanus, while Gratus was proconsul of Syria, in his unbridled passion to reach the top laid himself open to the adversary, was filled with spiritual excitement and suddenly fell into a trance and unnatural ecstasy. He raved and began to chatter and talk nonsense, prophesying in a way that conflicted with the practice of the Church handed down generation by generation.”
Apolinarius as quoted by Eusebius in The History of the Church.

It is assumed, especially by those who have never experienced such gifts as tongues, prophecy or interpretation of tongues, that these particular gifts involve a loss of self-control that appears to be a form of possession. However, it is partly because the "prophets" of Montanism exhibited such behavior that their claim to be speaking by the Holy Spirit was rejected in the judgment of the Church. Their wild enthusiasm led to a practice that "conflicted with the practice of the Church handed down generation by generation." This shows us two things: Loss of self-control was not a part of the charismatic experience judged by the Church to be authentic, and that a practice of how to prophesy was handed down in the Tradition, not a loss of the gift.

Due to a lack of order and balance that comes from the Biblical Catholic Tradition of the Church, the practice of Pentecostalism has, too often, been in many ways too Montanist, a wild kind of Enthusiasm that creates false doctrines, with public overlapping of Holy with demonic and carnal activity that is never sifted by "proving all things." This may create Satanic expressions of pride on the part of some who have become obsessed with themselves, which in turn creates competition, bitterness and resentment. This kind of undisciplined religion appeals all too often to paranoid personalities, individuals already disposed to consider their delusions to be not only true, but self-evidently true to all. These are the works of the flesh, not the fruit of the Spirit, as contrasted by St. Paul in the fifth chapter of his Epistle to the Galatians (in fairness, many of their own pastors know all this only too well, and guide their people in ways that avoid these specific traps).

However, as much as we do not want to be like the Montanists, we do claim to be the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church (that is, as Anglicans, to be part of that same Church established by Christ). Just as it behooves us to avoid the unnatural raving, chatter and nonsense of Montanus, it behooves us also to consider "prophesying in a way" that is consistent with "the practice of the Church handed down generation by generation.” We do well to think hard upon the words, "Let all things be done decently and in order" (I Cor.14:40), without losing the meaning of the first five words of that sentence.

4. Acts 5:15

Insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them.

I have seen miracles of healing that make it impossible for me to disregard the reality of the charismata in the Church; these have included an obvious and visible miracle of healing directly associated with the gift of tongues, and with faith that the Holy Spirit at times directs a member of the Body of Christ in what to do, and even in how to do it. Why was Peter's shadow an instrument for healing, or as we read in another place, his handkerchiefs? Why did Jesus spit on the ground and heal one man by placing this mud on his eyes, but healed another blind man simply by speaking? There is in this a mystery: Mysterious as this is, we can be certain that it is wise to be guided by the Holy Spirit in ways that are directly related to the gifts of faith and healing with the working of miracles (I Cor.12:9,10), for with His direction comes a certainty as to what will follow. This is why, apart from faith as a virtue, there is a specific charism of faith.

Of course, the shadow and handkerchiefs of Peter, the mud Jesus used made from his own spittle, and the hem of our Lord's garment, should all lead us to think sacramentally. We use oil and/or the laying on of hands, and we say about every sacrament that it is charismatic.

But, if we fear to let all things be done, they can never be done decently and in order.

Monday, April 13, 2009

An Easter charge

Our frequent reader (and my good friend) Warwickensis posted a really good short meditation/charge for this Easter, found at


ed pacht

Anglican Catholicism and the Charismata

What is the Anglican Catholic position on the gifts of the Spirit, that is, those given for ministry in the Church, including healing, prophecy and tongues, for example? It is well known that gifts such as those aforementioned, with their more palpably “extraordinary” nature, are those which are emphasised and encouraged in the Pentecostal churches and Charismatic Movement. A common corollary claim is that these gifts were lost or repressed due to false Church teaching after the Apostolic Age and a progressive ritual and ceremonial Pharisaism in worship.

However, evidence from the post-Apostolic primitive Catholic Church indicates that gifts such as prophecy and healing did not cease with the Apostles and that liturgies were not considered so rigidly defined and prescribed that spontaneous words and worship were excluded. For example, the Didache allows prophets to offer the Eucharistic prayers by inspiration and St Justin Martyr notes that the celebrant “offers prayers and thanksgivings according to his ability”; St Irenaeus refers to recognised prophets and healers of the Church; and the practice of “Jubilation” (singing praise joyfully and freely “without words”) was commended by Ss Augustine, Chrysostom and Jerome, and Cassiodorus attests to its continuation in congregational worship in his time, the late sixth century. And, since that time, there has never been an official decree of the Church Universal condemning this earlier flexibility, nor could there be.

Nevertheless, there is no doubt that fixed liturgical forms grew in size and detail of ceremonial instruction over time, such that there was no room left, it appeared, for either clergy or laity to offer spontaneous worship (out loud) or use gifts such as healing or prophecy within the liturgy. Outside the liturgy scope for use of these gifts remained, and it should be remembered that this is where the gifts had often been used from the beginning (e.g., Ac. 3.1f, 8.4f, etc., Jam. 5.14f).

In fact, many gifts are not naturally or mainly used within the liturgy. We see this when we look at a list of the gifts. There is no one complete list of them in the Bible. There are, instead, a number of partial lists, none of them identical to any of the others (e.g., Ro. 12.6-8; 1 Co. 12.8-10, 28; 1 Peter 4.11). Here are some of the gifts: practically serving the Church, giving practical aid to those in need, contributing generously financially, administration, encouraging people, communicating special knowledge and wisdom, creating beautiful art, architecture, music and literature for the Church (Ex. 31.3f, 1 Chr. 25.1, 28.12, 1 Ki. 4.29-34, the whole book of Psalms, Da. 1.17 cf. v.4), celibacy (1 Co. 7.7), teaching, pastoring, evangelising, prophesying and healings. Some gifts are obviously miraculous, some look less amazing, but all are necessary for the healthy running of the Church. How we categorise gifts does not seem particularly important, since, as St Paul said, the Spirit distributes the gifts to each as he wills (1 Co. 12). Jesus also taught that the Holy Spirit does what he likes, as it were (Jn 3.8). A number of the gifts overlap.

The charismata most relevant to the liturgy are those word-based ones implied in 1 Co. 14.26, where the congregational context is particularly in view. In other words, hymnody, teaching, prophecy, and tongues with interpretation (which is effectively equivalent to prophecy: 1 Co. 14.5).

It might be plausibly argued that there is a gradual concentration of the Ministry of the Word (and even ministries such as healing) even during the time of the New Testament into the presbyteral domain, the work of the ordained clergy. For example, one might suggest that the early liturgical, magisterial and preaching work (done in conjunction with the Apostles and Apostolic Men such as Timothy) of the prophets and teachers of the Church (Ac. 13.1f, 1 Co. 12, 14) becomes less and less associated with them as a distinct, named group and more and more associated with the presbyters/bishops in the later period and later letters of St Paul (Ac. 14.23, 15.2,23, 20.17, Ph. 1.1, 1 Ti. 5.17, Tit. 1.5, Jam. 5.14f). There is no mention of the former being appointed by means of human, even Apostolic, choice, but instead they appear to be inspired by direct Divine appointment and empowerment (1 Co. 12.11). The clergy, on the other hand, are appointed via human mediation, though also with Divine inspiration (1 Ti. 4.14).

Yet neither the New Testament authors nor the Fathers (in their consensual teaching) say that the miraculous or prophetic gifts had ceased or become exclusively clerical. Some Evangelical Protestants claim that 1 Co. 13.8f implies that prophecy and tongues ceased when the “perfection” of the completion of the New Testament came to be. But the context itself -- “then face to face” -- and the normal Patristic exegesis shows that the “perfection” which will replace these gifts is that on the other side of Death and Judgement, the Beatific Vision. While St John Chrysostom taught some gifts had been impermanent and had ceased, his was not the generally agreed position. St Augustine assumed cessation originally, but changed his mind in the light of further experience and observation. St Symeon the New Theologian insists on the continuing reality of the Charismata and our need for them and defends the practice of spiritually gifted, unordained monks giving absolution to penitents! Many Fathers attested to miracles or treated the Pauline lists of gifts as having contemporaneous authority, e.g., St Gregory of Nazianzus. So, there is a constant stream of witnesses to the miraculous and “renewal” in the life of the Catholic Church.

It was this very persistence of witness that Catholics used to verify their legitimacy against the Protestants in earlier polemics, and it is partly for this reason that the Calvinist/Reformed tradition came to the view that the gifts had in fact ceased and that evidence to the contrary was uniformly fraudulent or the result of superstitious credulity. In other words, widespread denial of the continuation of the charismata was an innovation of a large part of the Protestant Reformation.

The abovementioned persistence of the miraculous in the Catholic Church did not exclude the Anglican portion of it. Three English examples can be given easily even from the seventeenth century. King Charles I exercised at least once a healing ministry. Bishop Montague testified to miraculous effects of the use of the Sign of the Cross. Bishop Hall approvingly recounted the story, which he had verified himself, of a cripple miraculously healed in consequence of a dream instructing him to bathe in St Madern's well, which he did. Healing ministry became more widespread and officially sanctioned in the Anglican Communion from the early Twentieth Century. For example, the famous Fr Hope of Christ Church St Laurence in Sydney was involved in the healing ministry, and in an ecumenical context. My understanding is that three of the former Metropolitans of the Anglican Catholic Church (Original Province) have had a positive experience of and appreciation for the Charismatic Movement: Archbishops Dean Stephens, John Cahoon, and Brother John Charles.

However, as much as Anglican Catholics can operate and have operated in all the gifts, they have usually been practically prevented from doing this within the liturgical context (except in sermons), unlike the situation in the early Church (see above) and in Charismatic and Pentecostal churches. There is, I believe, a relatively simple solution to this deficiency, provided implicitly by the Prayer Book itself, and in just the right place.

In the Canadian 1962 Book of Common Prayer, on pages 62 and 72, we have two rubrics with the potential to grant us the liberty required for the intra-liturgical use of extemporaneous prayer and prophetic ministry:

[Of the Bidding Prayer] “To be used before Sermons ... The Minister, in his discretion, may omit any of the clauses, or may add others, as occasion may require.”

[Before the Sermon] “the Minister shall ... publish such other communications as are enjoined by lawful authority.”

The broad permission to omit any clauses and add other clauses must be a permission for personally composed prayer (or “bidding” to prayer, more precisely, though bidding originally did include prayer itself) at ministerial “discretion”, since no alternative clauses are provided. If said immediately preceding a period set aside for (extra-homiletic) charismatic ministry of the word, “before sermons”, the Bidding Prayer could prepare for that period by praying for revelation.

Since it is undeniable that the Bible authorises prophetic “communications” in the liturgy and that the Bible is the “lawful authority” par excellence, such exercise of the gifts may be considered suitably “enjoined”. And, since the Bible teaches that all Christians are “ministers” relative to their particular gift (1 Co. 12.5), this exercise of the gifts (and the saying of the Bidding Prayer in preparation) is not necessarily limited to the Celebrant or other clergy. Even the use of the word “Minister” capitalised does not prove exclusive application to the clergy, as this is the term used throughout the orders for Morning and Evening Prayer, and has long been understood to include lay readers for this purpose.

The fact that the Sermon would follow all of this means that the Pastor of the congregation is able to supplement, confirm or correct what has been previously said, insofar as this may be necessary, and so maintain doctrinal and moral soundness.

But, some might ask, if the Gifts can operate outside the liturgy, why should we make space for them within it? Because such explicit provisions can create expectation, from which it is a short step to faith, from which is a short step to action. It is essential and Biblically mandated that we avoid quenching the Spirit or despising prophesying (1 Th. 5.19-20). If we take no steps at all to encourage Christian people to seek the gifts (1 Co. 12.31), including by providing opportunity for their regular and corporate use, do we not risk “quenching” by neglect or indifference? This may not be the only way, but is it not a biblical, patristic and reasonable way?

Appendix 1

Here is an excerpt from a sermon of mine from 2003 on how each Christian can discover the Gifts with which God wants him or her to minister to the Body.

The answer to the ... question, about how I know which are my gifts, is not so easy to come by. That’s because it is so personal. It’s about you as an individual. One way we find our gift is simply to be available to God and see what role in the Church he leads us into. Another way we find our gift is listening to others. They can often see things in us we can’t see. But we must also pay attention to our own heart.

But all of this can only happen if we believe it can happen and if we want it to happen. In other words we have come to the answer to the third question: How do I make my gifts actually work? By faith and desire is the short answer. We must believe in Jesus, and that he has given us gifts. And we must desire God; seek him, love him and worship him; and desire to use the gifts. (St Paul said in 1 Co. 14.1,12, “desire spiritual gifts, seek that you may excel in building up the Church”.) St Paul also told Timothy, his protégé, to “stir up” his gifts. We cannot do this without faith and desire. It takes spiritual effort.

And thus it takes prayer, ... Jesus said “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?

So, to play our part in the Church, we need to be filled with the Holy Spirit and his gifts to us. And that means we need to pray for this, with faith and desire. And we also need to be ready to listen to God and serve him, as he speaks to us through circumstances, fellow-Christians, and our own hearts.

Appendix 2

Here is another sermon-excerpt, this time from 2006, on the gift of tongues.

The gift of tongues (languages) has a special role in Acts. At Pentecost we have the only occasion in Scripture where those who spoke in these miraculously given languages were understood “naturally” by those standing about. Why? At least part of the reason was that this event was a great sign of the fact that the Gospel was for “every nation, tribe and tongue”, that is, all humanity. “[E]very man heard them speak in his own language … the wonderful works of God”, as it says.

In other parts of Acts this gift is specifically mentioned every time a previously unreached group first receives the Gospel or the prayer and laying on of hands of the Apostles. The Samaritans (ch. 8), the heathens (ch. 10), and finally those followers of John the Baptist who had only heard a portion of the Gospel (ch. 19). So, the Gift of Tongues symbolises the universality of the Gospel.

But what are its other purposes? How does it help Christians or the Church? Are all Christians supposed to have this gift because so many did in the earliest days? St Paul supplies us with some of the answers in his First letter to the Corinthians.

There he teaches that Christians have different roles and gifts to use in the Church. He asks rhetorically, “Do all have the gift of healing? Of miracles? Of tongues? Of the interpretation of tongues?” (12.29-30).

The last named gift is one where the listener could interpret any public utterence in an unknown, supernaturally-supplied language. And that brings us to another of the Apostle’s teachings: in the Church there must be no public praying in tongues unless someone with the gift of interpretation is present, otherwise the Church is not taught or encouraged because it does not understand what is said (ch. 14).

Finally, it should be noted that St Paul says that this gift has another role which is, apparently unlike other gifts, unrelated to edifying others and solely benefiting the spirit of the one using the gift. He says that it allows the spirit to pray independently of the mind and sees nothing wrong with this as long as this is how it is used privately, between the pray-er and God. Indeed, he thanks God that he speaks in tongues more than his readers (14.18) and says he would like all to have this gift, so we can be sure the Apostle gained benefit from it in his own life. So, while he does not say that we cannot be filled with the Spirit without this gift or that all Christians must have it, he commends it, while noting that prophecy is better for the Church (unless there is an interpreter). There can be no problem, then, with Christians seeking this gift or any other in prayer. Paul explicitly says “earnestly desire spiritual gifts, especially prophecy” (14.1). Let us not be afraid of any of his gifts.