Submission to the Book of Alternative Services
By the Prayer Book Society of Canada
QUESTIONS PUT BY THE SUB-GROUP ON THEOLOGICAL ISSUES. November, 1991
There is but one living and true God, everlasting,
without body, parts, or passions; of infinite power,
wisdom, and goodness; the Maker, and Preserver of all
things both visible and invisible. And in unity of this
Godhead there be three Persons, of one substance, power,
and eternity; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
(Article I of the 39 Articles of Religion)
The Prayer Book Society of Canada welcomed the appointment by General Synod of Commissioners to evaluate the Book of Alternative Services, allowing, as the Society hopes, an opportunity to be heard by those who have had no entreé at the Doctrine and Worship Committee. The appointment of the sub-group of the Commissioners to look into pertinent theological question was an even more encouraging development. For it is theological questions that the Society sees as of the essence and which are, indeed, the rationale for the Society’s existence.The work of the Commission, and especially of the sub-group, represents a welcome and long overdue beginning to the hard thinking and painful self-criticism which must take place, if the Anglican Church of Canada is to emerge from this past two decades’ ‘liturgical renewal’ renewed at all. There are no simple solutions, no judicious calculation of trade-offs and ambiguities to satisfy the ever more divergent elements in the Canadian Church. At most, these might buy the institution a little time for real renewal.
The real problem, in the Prayer Book Society’s view, is the absence of any theological consensus in the Church which might be the basis of any liturgical programme. As long as the Church fears and stifles debate there will be no possibility of such a consensus emerging, because there will be no possibility for clarification of differences, exploration of presuppositions, and resolution of differences. As recently as the 1950’s there was a very considerable consensus in the Church. Despite the “wars” of Evangelical and Catholic, their understanding of what it meant to be Anglican Christians did not differ radically, as the harmonious cooperation of Armitage and Palmer in the 1959 revision of the Book of Common Prayer made clear.
At present however, the minor divisions of Anglo-Catholic and Evangelical have been replaced by a still-emergent, but ever more divergent, divide. This divide has no neatness; the various elements are not easily or obviously sorted out.
Yet one can certainly discern the impatience of radicals to press on with revolutionary theological, liturgical, and bureaucratic programmes, on the one hand, and, on the other, the growing reluctance of conservatives, even of those not by any means committed to the Book of Common Prayer, 1962, to yield any more ground because they fear too much has been lost already in the most crucial matters of the Christian Faith. There is also a large group attempting or simply hoping to find middle ground of some sort. But their pragmatic programme of compromise and tradeoff has very doubtful chances of success, for the simple reason that their position possesses no theoretical, that is to say doctrinal, coherence of its own: it is simply calculated as what is thought to be the mean between two extremes, and must change every time the radical extreme changes.
It is the position of the Prayer Book Society of Canada that doctrine does matter. To that extent the Society can appreciate and respect the position of its fiercest critics. For them too, doctrine matters. They wish to impose new doctrine but they do have a valid point of view which is worthy of debate.
Equally, the Society believes that the characteristic Anglican doctrinal positions are valid and worthy of debate. Grounded as they are in Scripture and Tradition, as distinct from mere tradition, they will eventually win the field even if not necessarily in the lifetime of those now readying to debate them.
Much has changed in the world since the drafting days of the BAS. If any believed that God was dead, or asleep, and that doctrine was of little consequence alongside the concerns of humanity and community, they must be startled by the glorious re-emergence of the Church and of the Faith in the East. All that Church could do for seventy years was to preserve doctrine through the Divine Liturgy. How the Faith has now blossomed! In the long run doctrine matters.Events in the East have also quickly dispelled the idea that it is process that is all important. The cult of praxis is as last Fall’s leaves.
And so we come to consider the turmoil in our own tiny branch of the Catholic Church. The Prayer Book Society is well aware of its reputation in many circles for obscurantism, fussy traditionalism, and opposition to the winds of change. We have been told derisively that the work of the conservative is never done: the tide comes in twice a day! But truly the Society’s work is just beginning. Some who read this submission are certain to be uncomfortable, if not downright offended, by some of what they find. It is sensible, therefore, to say something about the Society.
The Prayer Book Society of Canada does not attempt to return to a so-called “golden age”, no, not even to 1959-1962. To attempt to do so would be to appeal to a minority, would isolate us from fellow Anglicans and, more importantly, from the millions of Canadians it is our duty to convert. It is necessary to distinguish between the essentials of belief and worship and the trappings and social imperatives of any particular age or culture, whether of the third or sixteenth centuries, or of the 1960’s or the 1980’s, or even of an imaginary age.
To govern ourselves by the dictates of any age hinders the execution of the imperative to proclaim the Gospel to the mass of our fellow countrymen. And this is not because the language of liturgy is the language of evangelism – it seldom is. It is because the trappings and social imperatives then govern, and not doctrine.
The issue, so the Prayer Book Society believes, is simply this: which church is better equipped to go out to evangelise, one that is rooted in sound doctrine, revealed Truth and the supremacy of the Scriptures, or one that embraces relativism, doctrinal ambiguity, accentuates the celebration of a human group and fails to treat God’s word as normative. While the community is important it is not as important as either the Word or Our Lord’s Commission.
The discord in our Church over liturgy is to a very large degree over doctrine and it entails many serious losses not least on the part of Prayer Book supporters. There is a tendency to erect barriers to our own spiritual growth, to our ability to be channels of God’s grace for others, including modernists in the Church, and to retire into orthodoxy as into a fortress. Yet, debate over doctrinal matters is now inevitable, and necessary.
The Society, therefore, while committed to playing a vigorous part in the debate now beginning is committed also to the development of sound spiritual life for its members, so many of whom are now without meaningful parish life. Likewise it is committed to the belief that all those with whom we now enter debate are our brothers and that we are all under the same divine judgment and divine mercy.
The watchword of the Society is “faithfulness”: not the Faith only, but its fullness. Society members and all Anglicans must be full of that Faith, and Hope and above all that Charity which is Our Lord’s Will. It is in that conviction that this submission is offered to the Commissioners.
How does the BAS make use of Scripture, doctrine, liturgical tradition and experience as criteria for liturgy?
How would you judge the adequacy of the BAS in this matter?
The consideration of the doctrinal limitations of the BAS follows from its Scriptural deficiencies, the chief of these being the lack of a consistent and coherent doctrine of Revelation. This arises from the presupposed separation between Scripture and Doctrine underlying much of modern biblical criticism. The result for the Scriptures is that they have become simply “the repository of the church’s symbols of life and faith” (BAS, Intro. p.9).
The consequence for Doctrine is that the classical formularies of the Faith have become merely part of our historical baggage – a past which can either be accommodated for our present situation, if helpful, or discarded, if not, as in the case of the Athanasian Creed, the Thirty-Nine Articles and, for that matter, the Prayer Book itself. Yet even where classical doctrinal formularies remain, the force of their necessity has been greatly diminished and even denied, as the allowance for credal alternatives illustrates (e.g. BAS pp. 52, 68). Thus, it is not simply a question of whether essential doctrines can be said to be or not to be in the BAS, but also a matter of how they are there and with what kind of standing.
In the Anglican world of alternative liturgies, there is a greater or lesser degree of deference to the classical Prayer Books. The books of the Common Prayer tradition from 1549 to 1959 demonstrate a clearly defined ground of doctrinal sufficiency upon which the devotion and discipline of the church are ordered. For the Anglican Church of Canada this intentional standard is established and presented in the Solemn Declaration of 1893. This is printed in the Canadian BCP(1959) following the “Preface of 1918 altered in 1959” which makes explicit doctrinal deference to the Solemn Declaration. The Prayer Book consequently gives expression to this measure of doctrine in the order of devotion and pattern of prayer.
The BAS is subject, in principle, to this doctrinal standard, though nowhere does it explicitly admit such a subordination. Rather it presents an adverse relation to the BCP. The degree of deference of the BAS to the classical Prayer Books is not very great; in fact, it is much less than many of the current alternative liturgies. The BAS consequently presents doctrinal inconsistencies and credal confusions.
In matters of doctrine, it is crucial to observe an order of precedence; there is a hierarchy of doctrines. Some are more essential, others less so. The essential doctrines are those which are necessary to be believed for Salvation. That is to say, they are essential to the truth of ourselves in the truth of God. They belong to what is rightly believed (orthodoxy) from what has been essentially revealed.
The essential doctrines of the Trinity, the Incarnation and Redemption are revealed doctrines which embrace the doctrines of God, Man, Creation and Providence. From a reflection upon ourselves and our world, we may discover a knowledge of God; but that God is Father, Son and Holy Ghost, is revealed to us in the Holy Scriptures and derived from them. From a knowledge of God and man, we may reflect upon this relation; but that Jesus Christ is true God and true man, God Incarnate, is revealed to us in the Holy Scriptures and derived from them.
From a reflection upon human actions and human suffering, world events and natural catastrophes, we may long for things to be otherwise, but to know ourselves as sinners and ourselves and our world in need of God’s Redemption belongs to Revelation. Yet something has first to be there to be redeemed and restored. Hence, to speak of Redemption presupposes the revealed doctrines of Creation and the Fall, that is to say, a relation of ourselves and the world to the Creator and the disordering of that relation by our wills set against God’s will and purpose.
To know, moreover, that Christ is our Redeemer who makes us at one with God through his death and resurrection is revealed in the witness of the Scriptures. Our life in all its moments is lived under the mercy of God’s Providence for he cares for us even beyond his gentle care for the fowls of the air and the lilies of the field (Matt.6.26-29). It is out of his love that we must love.
The impulse towards doctrinal definition emerges from within the Scriptures themselves and not simply from the external pressures of politics and polemics. There is an inner necessity to be able to say what the Faith is which is to be believed and which is to be handed on (Tradition) – a necessity to which Scripture itself attests. The articulation of what one may call the fundamental or essential doctrines of the Faith is the achievement of the Patristic period – a point which the classical Anglican Divines of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were especially clear about and particularly insistent upon maintaining. Fidelity to the Mind of the Fathers in matters of doctrine governed their thinking about liturgy, discipline and devotion.
The history of Christian Doctrine embraces at once the emergence of the essential doctrines and the subsequent thinking upon them in a host of secondary doctrines. That they are secondary does not mean that they are unimportant or that they are all equally important in just the same way. There is an order of importance and an order of relation. Nor does it mean that every subsequent doctrine has been always consistent with the essential doctrines themselves. And sometimes the distinction itself has been unclear and confused. Yet the hierarchy of their non-essentiality properly derives from their relation to the primary and essential doctrines of the Faith.
The English Reformers were concerned to clarify just what was essential and what was not and to provide for an order of thinking upon those essentials consistent with them. The establishment of the principle of doctrinal sufficiency counters the tendency to add to what is necessary to be believed and withstands the temptation to subtract from it. The necessity for such a principle remains very much with us.
Coupled with a sense of clarity about essential doctrine was a strong sense of continuity with what had gone before. This doctrinal and historical sensibility constituted the character of the English Church and established her being as an integral part of the Catholic Church. It is most completely expressed in the Books of Common Prayer and in the principles which that tradition provides for its own revision.
What this means is that Scripture, and Doctrine – as the distillation of what the Scriptures essentially teach – are the fundamental criteria for the order and life of the church to which experience and liturgical tradition are subordinate. For the Common Prayer tradition, for instance, the images which arise from the Scriptures, from nature, from tradition, and from experience are made subject to the pattern of sacred doctrine. In short, they are brought to Christ.
The tendency in the BAS is that varieties of contemporary experience and selected moments of liturgical tradition have become the dominant criteria by which Scripture and Doctrine are judged and to which they are made subordinate. In general, there is a flight from the primacy of Scripture and the priority of Doctrine. The confusion which the BAS consequently presents arises from the inherently unstable and unsatisfactory nature of such criteria and from the lack of clarity about any coherent principle of doctrinal understanding.
It remains to see how these confusions manifest themselves in the BAS. One would like to be able to say that the BAS is, at the very least, patient of traditional orthodoxy. And in a most superficial way, it is. That is to say, one can find in the BAS both the Nicene Creed and the Apostles’ Creed. One can find in the BAS references to the essential doctrines of the Trinity, the Incarnation, Redemption, Creation and so on.
The impatience of the BAS lies primarily with the pattern and structure of Prayer Book worship. Yet that pattern and structure depend upon and draw from the essential doctrines in an order of understanding. The Prayer Book presents a way of living doctrine. We are what we believe. Because of this perhaps it is not surprising that the BAS‘ impatience with the BCP should result in a less than satisfactory relation to the essential doctrines of the Christian Faith.
It is not enough simply to find references to various doctrines when the way in which they are presented undermines the primacy of their standing and the full force of their teaching. It is not enough to say that the Creeds are there if at the same time their place and purpose in the liturgy is altered or, as in the case of the Apostles’ Creed, a non-credal alternative is actually permitted for use. In other words, it is not enough to find the presence of essential doctrines if it is also possible to discover their absence.
How the Creeds function in Anglican liturgy is of really critical importance. The most telling feature of doctrinal inadequacy appears in the BAS‘ use and understanding of the classical Creeds. The Athanasian Creed has disappeared entirely. The Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed have been reduced in status, revised in purpose and replaced in use.
In the daily offices of Morning and Evening Prayer, the integral part that the Apostles’ Creed properly plays in the complete order of these services is denied by rendering the Creed completely optional – “an affirmation of faith may follow the liturgy of the word” (BAS, p.42). The phrase “an affirmation of faith” is revealing, for as the directions in the service indicate, “The Apostles’ Creed or Hear, O Israel may be used” (BAS, pp.52,68).
The consequence is that the Apostles’ Creed not only may or may not be used, it may also be replaced, having been reduced to merely the status of “an affirmation”. To highlight the problem: an affirmation is a poor thing, even nothing, in comparison with the Confession of the Faith (BCP pp.10, 22), the Creed (BCP, p.30).
‘An affirmation of faith’ raises very pointedly the question: whose ‘faith’? The nature of the alternative presented provides no ground for supposing that there might not be any number of other alternatives, scriptural or otherwise. ‘An affirmation of faith’ offers no sense that we proclaim the objective and received statement of the Christian Faith with which we personally and corporately identify in the Body of Christ – ‘the Articles of our Belief’ (BCP, p.526). ‘An affirmation’ leaves the liturgy open to any number of ‘personal faith statements’ and closed to the confession of the Faith.
That the recitation of the Apostles’ Creed be rendered optional is serious enough; that there might be possible alternatives to that Creed even more serious; but that ‘Hear, O Israel” should be allowed as the alternative to the Apostles’ Creed discloses a most serious doctrinal deficiency. ‘Hear, O Israel’ is simply not and cannot be a creed of the Christian Church, let alone ‘the Creed’ (BCP,p.30). It nowhere appears or has ever appeared as one of the Catholic Creeds. At best, it can be said to belong to a questionable reconstruction of the basis of early credal forms – a thesis which has been severely criticized (q.v. J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Creeds, pp.25-26). How can such an alternative to the Apostles’ Creed be justified? The BAS attempts to explain. The explanation, however, shows how credal confusion can arise when there is not a proper subordination of experience and liturgical tradition to the pattern of saving doctrine contained in the Scriptures and expressed in the Creeds.
The BAS argues that allowing the ‘Hear, O Israel’ as an alternative to the Creed saves it from the ‘danger of being lost in the process of liturgical revision’ and restores it ‘to something like the central dignity it enjoyed in the synagogue tradition’ (BAS, p.42). That danger actually emerges only from the changes to the form and structure of the Eucharist in the BAS in which the place of the ‘Hear, O Israel’ disappears and its devotional purpose is denied.
Other alternative liturgies either retain its traditional use, at least as an option (e.g. Australian P.B., 1978; English ASB, 1980; New Zealand PB, 1989; Kenya Modern Holy Communion, 1989), or make provision for it elsewhere in connection with the Eucharistic liturgy (e.g. American BCP 1979; Irish APB, 1984). None of these other alternative liturgies proposes that it function as a credal alternative to the Apostles’ Creed.
The desire to retain it at least somewhere, though interestingly enough not at the Eucharist (excepting the service ‘A Form in the Language of 1962’), indicates something of the extent of its devotional hold on people. ‘Hear, O Israel” has been salvaged from the liturgical dust-bin of history by an argument about people’s sense of what belongs to their liturgical experience. But it has been ‘retained’ only at the expense of its former place and, more crucially, at the expense of the place and purpose of the Apostles’ Creed in the Church’s life of Common Prayer.
The further claim that this new use of ‘Hear, O Israel” restores it to ‘something like the central dignity it enjoyed in the synagogue tradition’ seems equally desperate and not a little incredible. Here the liturgical tradition of the Jewish synagogue is invoked as the justification for a substantial doctrinal change to the order and pattern of a Christian form of worship. Yet surely, it is not hard to see that a ‘creed’ of the Jewish synagogue tradition cannot be an alternative statement of faith for the Christian Church. What it says is certainly less than what the Apostles’ Creed proclaims. The real force of experience, moreover, is not honoured by such questionable argument about liturgical tradition.
Doctrinal confusion has devotional consequences. Having disparaged the purpose of the Apostles’ Creed in the devotional pattern of the offices, an argument is presented for the devotional use of this new ‘doctrinal’ alternative. The BAS claims that the Apostles’ Creed and the Hear, O Israel are complementary: the first stresses faith as teaching, the second emphasizes faith as action.
The argument is untenable. First, an alternative is not the same thing as a complement, especially in matters of credal confession. Second, the Creed and the ‘Hear, O Israel’ would both have to be used for their complementarity to have any meaning. But their supposed complementary relation is sheer invention.
The place of the Creeds in the liturgy is not simply to teach; they also belong to our devotion, to the active confession of the faith and to the proper ordering of our lives in faith. Moreover, the faith in action of the ‘Hear, O Israel’ is shown by our Lord not so much by its proclamation but by its illustration in his telling of the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10.25-37); what it teaches has also to be expressed in a story of active faith.
By such provisions the BAS fails to understand the devotional place of the credal expression of Christian Doctrine in the daily offices. More critically, it denies the doctrinal necessity of the creeds in the devotional life of the church. The tenor of the BAS‘ argument shows how experience and liturgical tradition have supplanted the order of doctrinal understanding by which they might more properly find their voice.
The credal clarity and doctrinal fortitude of Archbishop John Bramhall (1554-1663) earned him the epithet Athanasius Hibernicus; to his sense of ‘nothing more’ than the creed as necessary to be believed, we must also add ‘and nothing less’. The BAS shows us something less than what is to be believed.
Credal confusion is not restricted to the offices; it also appears at the Eucharist. The place and purpose of the Nicene Creed is altered: with the exception of major festivals when it “shall be said” (BAS,p.188), it has been rendered optional or at best ‘appropriate’ even on Sundays; the Apostles’ Creed is permitted as an equally ‘appropriate’ alternative. In the Prayer Book, on the other hand, the Nicene Creed is “this Creed” which “shall be sung or said” at every Sunday celebration and may only be omitted “on weekdays which are not Holy days” and then only “at the discretion of the Minister” (BCP, p.71). This represents a stronger sense of the necessity of the Nicene Creed than the BAS allows.Nonetheless, the BAS does show a more positive regard for the creed(s) at the Eucharist than at the offices. Here they are not “an affirmation of faith”, but instead, “the creed”, the confession of “our faith”, and the confession of “the faith of our baptism” (BAS, pp.188,189). This is all to the good.
Yet no matter how welcome such statements are, they do not serve to counter the doctrinal insufficiencies so much as to underscore the doctrinal inconsistencies of the BAS. Consequently, the offices – whose orderly pattern and regular form have been seriously disrupted anyway – stand increasingly in isolation from the Holy Eucharist; their integral relation is severely compromised.
There is a strong tendency in the BAS to over-emphasize the Eucharist. It becomes not so much the central act of Christian worship, to which the offices, for example, are related as the circumference is to the centre of the circle, but increasingly the only critical service of worship into which everything must be collapsed.
The denigration of the offices in the BAS arises from an inability to comprehend different expression of eucharistic piety (q.v.BAS,p.38) and from a more fundamental failure to grasp that Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer are essential to Common Prayer. Consequently, the BAS complains that “Morning Prayer became the main service of the day in large measure because over-conscientious piety eroded the rest away” and only parenthetically admits the formative nature of the offices “for many generations of Anglicans” (BAS,p.38).
What is needed is the fuller recovery of the offices in their integral relation to the Eucharist. The doctrinal inconsistencies between the offices and the Eucharist in the BAS represent the further erosion of this relation.
The provision of the Apostles’ Creed as an alternative to the Nicene Creed arises from this eucharistic emphasis. It does so at the expense of their distinctive devotional function in the offices and the Eucharist respectively and at the cost of their combined doctrinal necessity in the liturgy of Common Prayer as a whole. No doubt, it arises from the desire to use the Apostles’ Creed elsewhere than at Holy Baptism and to make a connection between the Eucharist and Baptism, hence “let us confess the faith of our baptism”(BAS,p.189).
But such a concern only emerges from having downplayed the offices and the traditional place of the Apostles’ Creed in them. Unfortunately, it also downplays the importance of the Nicene Creed at the Eucharist.
The place of the creed(s) in the BAS order of the Eucharist suggests a further doctrinal weakness and shows again the ascendancy of liturgical tradition over doctrinal order. It belongs as well to a narrow focus on the Eucharist and especially upon the prayer of consecration. The creed is ordered to be read, when allowed or required to be recited, after the sermon rather than after the Gospel and before the sermon.
The argument for this is basically twofold: liturgical theory and the substitution of the eucharistic canon for the Creed as the “primary expression” of the faith (BAS, p.176). The second emerges from the first and partakes of the same hypothetical character.
The liturgies of the early church were composed for the most part of two main divisions, which came to be called, variously, the Liturgy of the Word or the Liturgy of the Catechumens (Missa Catechumenorum) and the Liturgy of the Sacrament or the Liturgy of the Faithful (Missa Fidelium). The Creed itself, specifically the Nicene Creed, did not become part of the eucharistic liturgy in the East until the fifth century, and in the West, until the sixth century.
In the East, especially in the developed liturgies of St. John Chrysostom and St. Basil, it was placed before the Anaphora (lit. offering) or prayer of consecration. In Spain, in what became known as the Mozarabic Rite, it was placed after the Canon and before the Fraction (Breaking of the Bread) and the Lord’s Prayer. But in the West at the time of Charlemagne and Alcuin (late 8th century), it came to be placed directly after the Gospel, where it remained through subsequent Western usage.
What distinguished the two parts of the earlier liturgies was primarily whether or not one had received the Creed and had been baptized. Only those who were baptized were admitted to the Liturgy of the Faithful; the catechumens were formally excluded from the eucharistic rites themselves. Lent, of course, was the traditional time for preparation for baptism at Easter together with the additional provision of Eastertide for Baptisms at Pentecost.
The catechetical lectures of St. Cyril of Jerusalem (c.315-386) and the sermons and treatises of St. John Chrysostom (c.347-407), St. Ambrose (c.339-397) and St. Augustine (354-430), for instance, show how crucial the Creed – specifically symbolum apostolorum, the Apostles’ Creed, as it was first so named by St. Ambrose (Ep.42,5,A.D.390) and as we have come to call it – was in baptismal preparation. The sermon which followed the readings of Scripture was frequently intended, especially in the sermons of preparation for baptism, to teach the Faith in its credal expression as being the essential content of the Scriptures themselves. The Creed in its established and set form emerges from this necessity. The impulse is from within to proclaim clearly and credally what the Faith is.
Earlier fathers, like Irenaeus (c.130-c.200) and Tertullian (c.160-c.225), equally show the necessary connection between the Scriptures and the Rule of Faith or Symbol which emerges ultimately as the Apostles’ Creed, ‘this faith which the Church has received from the apostles and their disciples’ (Irenaeus, Adv.Haer., Bk.I,chap.X). The tendency to attribute the authorship of the creed to the apostles themselves – no doubt a pious fiction – does not detract from the deeper sense of the doctrinal content of the Scriptures, ‘a pattern of teaching handed on by the apostles who handed on the Scriptures. ‘What we are, they are; from the beginning we are from them’ (Tertullian, De praescr. 38). What we are by holding on to the Apostles’ Creed, that the Scriptures are, and we are from them. Imparted to the catechumens gradually, in a process sometimes of its being handed-over, explained and rendered or repeated phrase by phrase, the creed became fully theirs at their baptism by which they were incorporated into the faith they professed and with which they became identified.
The triple confession of faith at baptism itself at once presupposes the creed and proclaims its primary belief in God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. The celebrated Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus and Ambrose’s De Sacramentis also reveal the extent to which much of the Creed could appear in the questions in the rite of baptism. Whether as declaratory or interrogatory, the substance of the creed which we know as the Apostles’ Creed was critical for baptismal preparation, for baptism itself and for admission to the company of the faithful. The creed necessarily and increasingly constituted the ‘primary expression’ of the faith; participation in the Holy Eucharist was dependent upon the creed and Holy Baptism, not vice versa.
The internal impulse towards set credal forms carried with it the demand to make increasingly explicit what was already implicit in the earliest confessions of faith. The external pressures of what one might euphemistically call ‘theological politics’ complemented this process.
The explication of the full divinity of Jesus Christ ‘contained but not opened out’ in the Apostles’ Creed (Hooker, Bk. V , cxlii.2) was the achievement of the Council of Nicaea (AD 325). It was ratified and extended to include the full divinity of the Holy Spirit at the Council of Constantinople (AD 381) – hence its proper appellation, the Niceno- Constantinopolitan Creed – and exhibited as the standard of doctrine at the Council of Chalcedon (AD 451). It came to have an established place in the liturgies of the East in the fifth century, placed, as we have seen, immediately before the Anaphora. There it remains as the principal creed for the churches of Eastern Orthodoxy without substitution, without option.
In the West, too, it became the creed used at the Holy Eucharist, placed, as we have seen, after the Gospel by Charlemagne and Alcuin. The Apostles’ Creed remained the baptismal symbol but increasingly became incorporated as well into the daily offices sometime between the seventh and ninth centuries.
Yet this simply established in the order of devotion the patristic sense of the doctrinal necessity of the creeds for the cure of souls. Ambrose had advised that ‘we ought also specially to repeat the Creed as a seal upon our hearts daily’ (De Virg.3,4,A.D.377). And Augustine, at a time when the creed was not part of the daily prayers of the church, encourages its daily and repeated use in ways that anticipate, through the Western medieval liturgies, our traditional Anglican practice. ‘But when you have learnt it, that you may not forget it, say it every day when you rise; when you are preparing for sleep, rehearse your Creed, to the Lord rehearse it, remind yourselves of it, and be not weary of repeating it.’ (Sermon 58.13).
The creeds are not only critical in making Christians but also in maintaining Christians in the faith. The rise of the church into public prominence meant the public profession of what had earlier been imparted more secretly (disciplina arcani). Whatever qualifications one might make about the vagaries of history and the complexities of credal and doctrinal development, the creeds are the necessary and ‘primary expression’ of the faith. Doctrine has to be expressed in devotion.
For the BAS the creeds have become optional and no longer integral to the order of prayer. The BAS order of the Holy Eucharist is governed by a theory about the shape of the liturgy in which the creeds have no critical or necessary part. The endeavour is to go behind the various historical liturgies as they have developed to discern an ‘authentic’ shape of the liturgy.
At best, the discovery of such a liturgy would be of an arrested development; in fact, there is only an hypothetical reconstruction about the order of the liturgy, an aesthetic ideal, and one which unfortunately divorces liturgy from doctrine. Also unfortunate is the way in which this hypothetical shape of the liturgy is dogmatically imposed upon the Prayer Book communion service in the BAS. No other order of liturgy is allowed any integrity. The shape of the liturgy is the new uniformity of the BAS.
What are most unfortunate are the doctrinal limitations of this liturgical theory. Ancient prayers are recovered (in some form) in the BAS, to be sure, but at the expense of the impulse towards doctrine and its expression in devotion. The claim that the eucharistic prayer rather than the creed provides the ‘primary expression’ of the faith is an invented rationale for a shape of the liturgy which has no real place for the creed. It is a rationale, moreover, for which there is no supporting evidence. To the contrary, the creed and baptism are presupposed for the liturgy of the faithful and subsequently the creed appears in the liturgy as the primary expression of the faith.Our being gathered around the incantatory prayers of the BAS eucharist – ‘the gathered eucharistic community’ – cannot replace the creed as the necessary and sufficient statement of the faith. The creed, specifically the Nicene Creed, proclaims the faith which we participate in sacramentally through the Eucharist. The eucharistic canons do not, cannot and need not entail the recital of all the articles of the faith.
From the standpoint of the BAS‘ claim, moreover, all the eucharistic prayers present less than a full statement of faith. Rather than the canon replacing the creed it is better – doctrinally and devotionally – to see the canon as presupposing the creed and as sacramentally enacting the faith we profess through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
The place of the Creed, when used in the BAS Eucharist, also serves to downplay the importance of doctrine in the order of devotion. There is actually no liturgical precedent, properly speaking, for having the creed follow the sermon; it belongs to the hypothetical reconstruction of an aesthetic ideal of the liturgy. It marks, however, not only a departure in practice but also in principle from what classical Anglicanism had received and understood about the relation between liturgy and doctrine.
The place of the creed in the BAS means that the sermon comes between the gospel and the creed. Consequently the sermon no longer properly stands under the authority of Scripture expressed in the creed; in short, under the rule of Scripture doctrinally understood. The creeds, which come out of the Scriptures as the expression of their saving content, ought properly to inform the preaching of the Word and our hearing of it. This doctrinal understanding of Scripture ought properly to govern the liturgy and our liturgical lives.
So it does in the Prayer Book tradition but with the BAS the creed is left hanging in the liturgical breeze, either an unwelcome and disquieting appendage or a possible moment between the liturgy of the Word and the liturgy of the Sacrament; in any event, there but not there in the integrity of its purpose. In general, the matter of the Nicene Creed in the BAS shows how doctrine is subordinated to an experience of eucharistic fellowship and an abstract, aesthetic ideal about liturgical order.
To these doctrinal inadequacies in the use, place and purpose of the creed(s) in the BAS Eucharist we may note a further matter of doctrinal concern or, at the very least, a matter of doctrinal inconsistency. The BAS in the contemporary language forms of the Nicene Creed omits the critical and controversial phrase ‘and the Son’, the filioque clause so much celebrated in the divisions between East and West. The clause is retained, however, in ‘A form in the language of the Book of Common Prayer 1962.’ Perhaps that is why the language alone remains (almost) though the pattern and order of the liturgy is disturbed. In any event, the BAS presents the Nicene Creed with and without the filioque.
We are told that omission of the filioque accords with the 1978 Lambeth statement and that this omission ‘does not imply a change of doctrine or belief on the part of the Anglican Church’ (BAS,p.176). But such a view is really only possible when the creeds simply don’t matter any more except as possible issues in the stratosphere of international ecclesiastical politics and ecumenical relations. Do we say what we believe or not? How can we both say ‘and the Son’ and believe it, and not say it and believe it (or not believe it) in our own churches? Whatever accommodations in the name of genuine Christian charity, due historical regard and common purpose can be made in ecumenical circumstances and settings is one thing; this is another.
The argument advanced in the BAS is sophistical, but apart from that it belongs to the general Heideggerian flight from Western and specifically Augustinian forms of thinking about the Trinity. The proposal as it appears in the BAS means that we should at once think and unthink what belongs to our classical Western Christian heritage and the secular world which it has produced. The upshot of this, at the very least, is simply further inconsistency but one which belongs to the general disparagement of doctrine. It should further be noted that no other alternative service prayer book produced since 1978 omits the filioque from the Nicene Creed. (Only in Canada eh? Pity. Indeed, what a pity!)
There is as well the unaccounted absence of the Athanasian Creed. Explicitly named in Article VIII of the Thirty-Nine Articles and printed for use in the BCP (p.695), it is neither present nor even mentioned in the BAS. Along with the Articles of Religion, also without even honourable mention let alone printed presence, it has altogether disappeared into the past.
The fact that the credal past belongs to our doctrinal present has apparently been overlooked. The clarity about the doctrine of the Trinity and the doctrine of the two natures of Jesus Christ, divine and human presented by the Athanasian Creed remain a pressing necessity for our age.
Though the BAS gives no reason for this omission, it may be argued that the Athanasian Creed is awkward for liturgical use, that it has fallen into disuse everywhere, that it lacks patristic precedent for liturgical use, that it has no status in the Eastern Church (despite its use since the 17th century in some communions), that it has been effectively repressed by some Anglican provinces and so on. Nonetheless, its status as one of the three creeds of our church remains, its historical use in the West from the late patristic period onwards unquestioned and its stipulated use in the Prayer Books, especially since the seventeenth century, easily demonstrated.
The retention of the Athanasian Creed in the 1959 BCP under permissive rubrics for its use in the liturgy provides an illustration of how contemporary experience and liturgical tradition can be expressed without the suppression of doctrinal principle. In the absence of any clear subordination of the BAS to the doctrinal standard and principles governing the BCP, the omission of the Athanasian Creed from our church’s worship suggests its dismissal from our Christian profession. But such would surely be a case of wrongful dismissal.
Richard Hooker’s observation in his own day may well serve for our own:
“The very creed of Athanasius and that sacred
Hymn of Glory, than which nothing doth sound
more heavenly in the ears of faithful men, are
now reckoned as superfluities, which we must
in any case pare away, lest we cloy God with
too much service.”(Laws, Bk V ch.xliii.12)
It may be useful to see how the BAS compares in the provisions for credal confession with other alternative rites. The BAS follows the American Prayer Book (1979), the English ASB (1980) and the Kenyan Modern Holy Communion in insisting that the creed be placed only after the sermon.Unlike the English ASB, the American Prayer Book and the Kenyan Service, however, only the BAS allows the Apostles’ Creed as an alternative to the Nicene Creed and both as an option apart from major festivals. In the American Book the Nicene Creed is used ‘on Sundays and other Major Feasts’; in the English ASB ‘the Nicene Creed is said on Sundays and other Holy Days and may be said on other days’. In the Kenyan Service the Nicene Creed must always be said being introduced with the words of the Minister: “We stand together with Christians throughout the centuries, and throughout the world to-day, to affirm our faith in the words of the Nicene Creed” (complete with filioque).
The Australian Prayer Book (1978) orders ‘the Nicene Creed which is said or sung’ for Sundays and allows that ‘it may be omitted on weekdays’. The Irish Alternative Prayer Book (1984) as well orders the Nicene Creed to be said ‘at least on Sundays and the greater festivals’. They allow no provision for the Apostles’ Creed as an alternative to the Nicene Creed at the Eucharist. They do provide, however, for the sermon to be preached either after the gospel or after the creed. The New Zealand Prayer Book (1989) joins them in permitting the sermon to be preached after the gospel or ‘after the Affirmation of Faith”.
In most other respects the BAS and the New Zealand Prayer Book have much in common. The creed(s) is optional in the New Zealand eucharistic liturgies. Not only is its status simply that it ‘may be said or sung’ but like the BAS, the Apostles’ Creed may be used as an alternative.
The New Zealand Prayer Book, however, takes the provisions for alternatives to the creeds one step further in allowing another alternative to both the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed (beside the provisions for those creeds in Maori – Te Whakapono O Naihia and Te Whakapon a ngu Apotoro): ‘A Liturgical Affirmation’ is permitted for use at the eucharist. Like the alternative provision in the daily offices of the BAS, what is provided is not a classical creed; unlike the BAS provision it has no precedent in liturgical tradition whatsoever, nor is it Scriptural. Unlike the BASalternative, it does name Jesus Christ.
It is called ‘A Liturgical Affirmation’, of faith presumably, but one which suppresses any mention of God the Father and God the Son and avoids all mention of sin and redemption; even the economic or modal activity of God as Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier is obscured. Like the BAS alternative what it says is certainly far, far less than either the Apostles’ Creed or the Nicene Creed proclaims. The text is as follows:
You, O God, are supreme and holy.
You create our world and give us life.
Your purpose overarches everything we do.
You have always been with us.
You are God.
You, O God, are infinitely generous,
good beyond all measure.
You come to us before we came to you.
You have revealed and proved
Your love for us in Jesus Christ,
who lived and died and rose again.
You are with us now.
You are God.
You, O God, are Holy Spirit.
You empower us to be your gospel in the world.
You reconcile and heal; you overcome death.
You are our God. We worship you.
No doubt this ‘wears the idiom, the cadence, the world-view, the imagery’ (BAS, p.10) of certain forms of contemporary experience; it is also provided in Maori though not in Fijian or Tongan. But is it the Gospel? Is it the Christian Faith? Or is it not, like so much of the BAS, simply in flight from the established principles of doctrine and their classical credal expression? Like the BAS, it reveals the ascendency of aspects of contemporary experience and theories of liturgical tradition over and against Scripture and Doctrine.The clarity of the Prayer Book tradition about the place and purpose of the creeds in the Liturgy contrasts with the confusion of the BAS. The Apostles’ Creed at the daily and Sunday offices (together with the provisions for the Athanasian Creed) and the Nicene Creed of the Eucharist express a profound doctrinal sensibility about the teaching of Scripture, the life of prayer and the practice of Christian virtue.
For Dean Comber (1645-1699), to take but one example, the creed is ‘a compendium of the Gospel’, ‘the epitome of Holy Scriptures’, ‘ heavenly touchstone’, ‘the sum of those principles by which we are to make our prayers and to square our lives’. ‘By this Creed (Apostles’) we must conduct the affairs of our lives; on these Principles we must venture our souls at our death; and if need be, for these eternal truths we must pour out our blood’ (Companion to the Temple).
We are to find the truth of ourselves in the creed, the primary expression of the faith especially as we come to the sacrament. ‘Let us then devoutly say over this our Creed (Nicene) before the Sacrament especially, and as we go along entertain every article not only with an assent of the understanding, but with the consent of our will, and the compliance of our affections’; in short, our entire selves.
Such a sensibility gives ordered expression to what had been received from the fathers and handed on through the continuum of prayer. It provides, moreover, the antidote to the anxieties of our contemporary experience because the creeds set before us the faith with which we may see ourselves in Christ and in which we may live with him. The point is wonderfully made by St. Augustine.
Call your faith to mind, look into yourself,
let your creed be as it were a mirror to you.
See yourself there, whether you believe all
which you profess to believe, and so rejoice
day by day in your faith. Let it be your
wealth, let it be in a sort the daily clothing
of your soul. Do you not always dress
yourself when you arise? So by the daily
repetition of your creed dress your soul.
With the BAS, the mirror is sadly darkened; the sense of the necessity of the creeds has disappeared and we are naked.
The downplaying of the creeds is not the only form of doctrinal inadequacy and inconsistency in the BAS. In the service of Holy Baptism one looks in vain for any sense of the washing away of original sin; it is not present and so the radical sense of our need for God’s grace, ‘that which by nature we cannot have’ (BCP,p.523), is sadly diminished as is the sense of our being regenerate.Not surprisingly the confession of sin is optional in the BAS liturgies. The arguments both for and against are frequently psychological; the problem is actually doctrinal. The BAS fails to see that the confession of sin belongs to our confession of praise, to the joy of redemption. It allows us to look into ourselves honestly and clearly and not be overcome by what we find there for ‘if our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts’ (1John3.20).
The doctrine of original sin, moreover, allows us to face not simply our weaknesses but, more profoundly, our wickednesses; not just our actions and non-actions, not just our thoughts and desires, but the very tendency to deny God, and ourselves as his creatures. As Article IX puts it ‘man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil’ (BCP, p.702). As Chesterton wryly observed: ‘there are many who will smile at the saying; but it is profoundly true to say that the glad good news brought by the Gospel was the news of original sin’ (St. Francis of Assisi).
To confess our sins means to acknowledge the truth of ourselves in the truth of God and to know that we are not as we should and seek to be. But the confession is to God desiring from him that there be more than this opposition and division of ourselves from him and from one another. It seeks God’s grace out of the vision of his glory. The confession of sin is the confession of God’s praise.
A comedian once said that ‘religion is simply guilt with different holidays’. Something of the view that sin is basically about guilt-feelings prevails in the BAS. The necessary connection between the confession of sin and the praise of God’s glory is denied.
The application of saving doctrine to individuals is also greatly diminished in the collects of the BAS which, in general, are weaker doctrinally than in the BCP. For instance the great Christmas collect (BCP,p.104) which sets before us the wonderful mystery of our Lord’s Incarnation and its meaning for us has disappeared altogether, as has the additional collect for the twelve days of Christmas (BCP,p.107). By comparison the new collects provided – the BAS (pp.273-275) – are poorer doctrinally and devotionally.
The Epiphany collect in the BAS (p.280) misses the whole relation between faith and vision, between our earthly pilgrimage and God’s heavenly glory, so wonderfully and poetically expressed in the Prayer Book collect (BCP, p.117). The collect for the Baptism of our Lord (BAS,p.348), too, is less explicit about the doctrinal import of our Lord’s baptism, its connection to the purpose of the Incarnation and the weight of its application to individuals than the BCP collect (p.119).
The BAS collect for the Third Sunday of Lent presents a less than adequate view of ourselves who ‘alone have no power in ourselves to help ourselves’ (BAS,p.290). That we are soul and body needing to be kept both outwardly and inwardly, defended by God’s grace ‘from all adversities which may happen to the body; and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul’ (BCP,p.143) gives place to the rather vague sentiment about our being ‘discouraged by our weakness’.
In general, the collects of the BAS are better at describing the Angst of our age than in conveying any sense of the power of Christ’s transforming grace.
Because the words of the BCP Holy Communion Service have almost literally been retained for the “Holy Eucharist (1962)”, though the form and order of the service have not, the doctrine of the Incarnation traditionally proclaimed in the Christmas preface remains (BAS,p.253). In the contemporary form of the Eucharist, however, the Christmas preface omits the redemptive purpose of the Incarnation by leaving out the critical phrases ‘and that without spot of sin to make us clean from all sin’ (BAS,p.219, c.f. BCP,p.79).
The omission departs from the Scriptural teaching that Christ is without sin (Heb.4.15,2Cor.5.21) and consequently dismisses the doctrinal insistence upon the purity of his humanity for the accomplishment of our salvation. The contemporary preface proclaims his revelation – ‘in him we have seen a new and radiant vision of your glory’ (BAS,p.219) – but neglects our redemption. It detracts from the full and complete character of our Redeemer and from our participation in his saving grace. This signals the prevailing tendency in the BAS: the BAS is weak on grace and short on glory.
This critical flaw in the BAS follows from the character of its doctrinal inconsistencies and inadequacies and their devotional consequences. Putting matters at their best, the essential doctrines of the Christian faith, and the creeds which express them, have been pushed to the background and rendered incapable of exercising their formative and necessary influence upon the liturgy and upon our lives.
The ascendancy of particular aspects of contemporary experience and selected moments of liturgical tradition denies the primacy of Scripture and the priority of Doctrine. Ultimately, it results in a less than adequate expression of the content of contemporary experience and a limited view of the wealth and richness of our liturgical heritage.
Some argue that the BAS breaks new ground in theological understanding in some areas listed below.
(a) Do you agree that these developments are present in the BAS?
(b) Do you consider these developments to be consistent with the norms for Christian theology as they have been understood in the Anglican tradition?
- The nature of God
- The Eucharist
- The Church as Community
- Ministry and The Mediating Function of the Church and its symbolism
- The nature and authority of the Bible
THE NATURE OF GOD
There can be no doubt that the BAS does “break new ground in theological understanding” in most or all of the areas listed. This is not a “charge” which need to be argued by anyone, for the authors of the BAS acknowledge this fact. Citing the principle of lex orandi: lex credendi, it is obvious to them that theological understanding will change as liturgy adopts “the idiom, the cadence, the world view, the imagery of the people who engage in that process in every generation”. Other comments contained in the various introductions throughout the BAS make clear what specific areas of Christian theology have been furnished with new understandings.
In regard to the nature of God, the “new ground” is less clearly presented. There is no passage in the introductions or the text that explicitly proclaims any change in our understanding of the nature of God. That is not to say, however, that such new understandings are not there.
There are a number of areas, including the use of inclusive language, the changes in the Nicene Creed, and the ordination vows which have been used as illustrations of the change in the understanding of God’s nature as it is represented in the BAS. Indeed, it might be said that the entire BAS represents a shift in our understanding of God’s nature.
The ancient world understood God to be the end or telos of all human aspiration. Indeed, God was the end towards which all creation was drawn. He was the “author and governor” of all things. In relation to man, God’s place was clear as sovereign and Lord. The Christian Church accepted this understanding of God. Throughout the Patristic and Medieval periods, this conception of God remained constant.
Despite many changes and developments during the Reformation, the understanding of God as our end remained in place. God was unchanging, “everlasting, without body, parts, or passions”, as Article I puts it. For the Westminster Confession, which in this aspect certainly also reflected Anglican thinking, the chief end of man was to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.
In light of this traditional view of God as the “end” of man, the BAS certainly reflects “new ground in theological understanding”. In his book, Rites for a New Age, Michael Ingham put it this way:
…the older rites focused exclusively on the vertical
relationship between the worshipper and God. We are not
accustomed to the new emphasis on the horizontal
relationship with out fellow worshippers…1
This “new emphasis on the horizontal”, is manifested throughout the BAS. The form of the offertory, the Peace, the Eucharistic prayers, the intercessions, the Marriage rite, and the Ordinal all reflect this shift. It is not perhaps accidental that “liturgy”, with its suggestion of “the work of the people” is spoken of more than “worship”, with its distinctly “vertical” overtones. Paul Gibson goes so far as to say, “It is not enough to worship God…”2. The BAS presents a position where one might argue that the community and not God is at the centre of the Christian life.
It is certainly true to say that the older rites, including the Book of Common Prayer tradition, focused (although certainly not exclusively) on the vertical relation between the worshipper and God. Inasmuch as worship was both preparation for and foretaste of the Kingdom of Heaven, this emphasis should not be surprising. There was no doubt that God was at the centre of the liturgy and of human life. The highest activity for us in this life was the worship of God, because this was the image of the life of Heaven, where divine worship would be our end.
In another place, Paul Gibson, speaks of a “theology of the Community”.3 It is this “theology of the community”, which dominates the BAS. For the older tradition, as represented by the Prayer Book, this would have been abhorrent. Theology could only have God as its focus and end. The nature of God, as the end of creation, has been altered in the BAS. This much is evident from the stated intentions of its authors and defenders as well as the form and content of its services.
The new ground broken by the BAS on the nature of God appears also in its language for God. What seems to be simply a broadening of the language by which we address God conceals within itself a fundamental shift in our understanding of God, from the God whose authoritative, self-interpreting revelation of himself is set forth in the Holy Scriptures (to which revelation the tradition of the universal Church is a reliable witness), to a God who is revealed, insofar as he is revealed at all, not by his own word, but by the constructs, imaginings, visions, and insights of men.
The psalm prayers (which in practice tend to replace the Gloria Patri) exhibit most clearly the great expansion in language for invoking God. Of the 152 prayers, 9 invoke God as ‘Father’; 17 as ‘Lord’; 7 as ‘God’; 4 are addressed to Jesus Christ. Fully 50 invoke God by some variant of the formula, ‘God of x: e.g. ‘God of pilgrims’, ‘God of our salvation’, ‘God of power’, God of justice and mercy’ etc. A further 11 address him as ‘Gracious God’; the remaining 48 address him in terms of his functions or attributes: eg. ‘Creator of the universe’; ‘God our creator and redeemer’; ‘Defender of the needy, rescuer of the poor’; ‘Source of all life’; ‘Giver of courage’ etc.
The same sort of tendency is also present in the Prayers over the gifts and the Prayers after communion. Finally, the same tendency is strikingly evident in Eucharistic Prayer 4, which exhibits a studied refusal to address the first person of the Trinity as ‘Father’. Instead it substitutes ‘O Lord, our God, sustainer of the universe’; ‘Lord our God’; ‘Gracious God’; ‘Creator of all’.
No doubt, compared with some contemporary experiments, the innovations of the BAS with regard to the language of God are cautious, moderate, even conservative. It is doubtful, for instance, that Eucharistic Prayer 4 is very satisfactory to those of feminist sympathies, although they might consider it a step in the right direction. Nonetheless, the BAS‘ innovations do represent a radical break in principle with ‘the norms of Christian theology as they have been understood in the Anglican tradition’.
Traditionally, theology and liturgy have recognized that the Biblical language for God, although rich and various, did not all possess the same importance. Some of this language possessed a clear primacy over the rest, eg. ‘Lord’, ‘Father’, ‘Son’, ‘Holy Spirit’.
The patristic Trinitarian controversies assume such language’s primacy, and the outcome of those controversies represents the Church’s determination to keep the mystery of Godhead disclosed by that language squarely before herself. If the Fathers had not discovered in Scripture a clear hierarchy of importance in language about God, it is doubtful that the doctrine of the Trinity would have emerged at all: ‘Father’, ‘Son’, ‘Spirit’, ‘Lord’ and so on would have been dissolved into a rich flux of imagery and metaphors for God.
The BAS represents the opposite tendency. As the general introduction to the book says, it considers the Scriptures to be “the repository of the Church’s symbols of life and faith” (p.9), a resource, so to speak, to aid the Church’s reflections on its own religious experience. The Scriptures thus cease to be God’s authoritative self-revelation whose self-interpretative activity is reliably mediated by the universal tradition of the Catholic Church. The Church no longer discovers in them and submits to God’s knowing of all things in himself; rather the Church standing over Scripture picks and chooses by some criteria of her own such language and ideas as she may find helpful or useful.
Thus, although it may be claimed that the expanded language for invoking God found in the BAS represent a ‘richer’ use of biblical material than is found in traditional liturgies, with their narrow concentration on ‘Lord’, ‘God’, and ‘Father’, in fact such expansion demonstrates a refusal to hear and receive Scripture as it presents itself. Scripture is made one of the means by which man tries to reach God; it does not stand as a means provided by God in which we are embraced by God.
Thus the formula ‘God of x‘, heavily represented in the BAS, has achieved a certain popularity in contemporary euchology. It avoids the problems of devising a Trinitarian language, and it exhibits immediate relevance. It clearly represents a tendency to project certain perceived human needs, concerns, and experiences into the symbolic realm of the divine, where they are absolutized. A principle of prayer more completely opposed to the norms of Christian theology cannot easily be imagined. We no longer discover ourselves truly in God’s self-revelation; rather, God is made the empty, symbolic form into which the Church projects the content of her own self-understanding.
1. Michael Ingham, Rites for a New Age, Toronto: The Anglican Book Centre, 1986. p.61.
2. Paul Gibson, Resources for Liturgy, No. 8.
3. Paul Gibson, Resources for Liturgy, No. 21.
The BAS affirms many times that God is the Creator and in so doing it reflects the basic Christian belief – “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”. However, when it comes to giving content or more particularly qualification to this statement there is room for improvement. The two particular areas that require clarification are creation ex nihilo and (what has traditionally been called) the “fallenness” of God’s original creation.
Eucharistic Prayer 4 addresses God saying “From the primal elements you brought forth the human race”. Granted one can guess at the Scriptural reference, nonetheless, this is an unfortunate and potentially very misleading choice of words. Although surely unintentioned, in an age when many are familiar with various non-Christian creation myths, these words bring to mind the possible presence of pre-existent material that God used in Creation. Any pre-existent or co-existent material at creation is clearly new theological ground and a significant break with the Anglican theological tradition. Another choice of words which in no way permits an interpretation denying creation ex nihilo would certainly be more welcome.
Regarding the “fallen” state of God’s original creation the general position found in the BAS is much more disturbing and in error. It seems that in an effort to affirm the goodness of creation, all thought of Fall, all reference to nature’s darker side and all need to qualify the present “goodness” of creation was forgotten. Eucharistic Prayer 6 praises the Father as “Fountain of Life and source of all goodness, you made all things and fill them with your blessing; you created them to rejoice in the splendour of your radiance”.
This statement and many others like it (eg., Eucharistic Prayer 3 and the one-sided praise of water found in the Easter Vigil p.330) were true in an unqualified sense of the original creation but it is not true of the world we live in. We do not experience all nature or all other creatures as filled with God’s blessings. The child with a bee sting, the farmer in midst of a drought, the gardener beset with plant destroying insects, the homeowner with sticks instead of a house due to a tornado or hurricane and the widow of a fisherman drowned in a storm – all of these would find this unqualified assertion naive, ridiculous and infuriatingly out of touch with reality.
If we are going to have contextual liturgies then they must be aware of our true human context and condition. Above all, they must be true to Scripture. Traditional Anglican theology, based on Holy Scripture, has always realized and borne witness to the disorder, disharmony and violence of nature as we see it and experience it. Whether we call it “Fallen” may be a matter of contemporary theological taste but we certainly experience the world of Nature as much other than Paradise. In our praise of creation, and desire to be relevant, we must be true to, and realistic about, the disorder, disease and violence of our world.
SALVATION: THE SAVING WORK OF JESUS CHRIST
With respect to the saving work of Jesus Christ, The Book of Alternative Services (“BAS“) has adopted a theological position different from that of the Anglican tradition, and one which is Biblically one-sided, historically inaccurate, and out of step with recent scholarship. The BAS states:
The Person and Work of Christ in the Eucharistic Prayers
– The biblical imagery employed in the eucharistic
prayers to express the meaning of Christ’s life, death,
and resurrection for our salvation is rich and varied.
Three images in particular stand out in the biblical material:
1 the interpretation of Jesus’ death as an act of
vicarious suffering on behalf of the people on the
analogy of the figure of the suffering servant of Isaiah 53,
2 the interpretation of Jesus’ death as a sin-offering on
the analogy of the expiatory sacrifices offered in the Temple, and
3 the interpretation of the death and resurrection of
Christ as an act of divine deliverance
from the power of sin and death.
These images are fluid and entered in this fluid form
into the liturgies and writings of the early Church.
In the Middle Ages and the Reformation period these
images were given more precise definition with the use of
“satisfaction” and “substitutionary” language. Jesus’
death was interpreted as a satisfaction for sin, or as an
act of legal substitution. According to the later idea,
Jesus, although innocent, stood in the divine courtroom
in the place of guilty sinners and suffered the sentence
and punishment of death for our sins. As a result,
Christians are acquitted of their sins and accounted
righteous. In Cranmer’s eucharistic prayer the language
of sin-offering and satisfaction are linked in the
phrase, “full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation
and satisfaction.” In the revised Canadian eucharist
prayers, on the other hand, the images of vicarious
suffering, sacrifice, and divine deliverance have been
employed without binding them to the later
medieval and Reformation themes of atonement.1
1. THE UNDERLYING PROBLEM: AULEN’S THEORY OF THE ATONEMENT
The theory of the atonement adopted by the BAS derives from Gustaf Aulén’s book Christus Victor2 as will be illustrated below. Aulén purports to outline three historical views of the atonement:
(a) Classic Idea of Divine Victory and Deliverance:
- Christ brought about man’s redemption by a dramatic conflict between God and the powers of evil resulting in a Divine victory and deliverance of man from evil. The work of the atonement is understood entirely as the work of God.
(b) Latin, Legalistic or Forensic Idea:
- Christ, as man, made an offering or payment to satisfy God’s justice. In Anselm this idea reaches its fullest expression.
(c) Moralistic Idea:
- Christ’s work is his simple teaching and moral example.
For Aulén the classic idea provides the most genuine account of the atonement. However, Aulén has been widely criticized for misrepresenting these various ideas about the atonement. Robert Crouse says:
The altogether essential point of the “classic” and
authentically patristic view, as Aulén sees it, is that
the atonement is entirely, from first to last,
the work of God, and not of man.3
Crouse criticizes Aulén because his theory means:
that there can be no salvific God-ward offering or
aspiration, even in the context of the Incarnation;
atonement must be the work of God alone, in such sense
that the humanity of Christ, qua man,
can have no essential role.4
Crouse argues that the classic idea was never the exclusive or primary view of the atonement in the Bible or the early church:
What some modern scholarship, as with Aulén, has
tended to divide as alternate views or theories of the
atonement is all there in the Fathers from the beginning, as in
the Scriptures; but in the Fathers, as also in the Scriptures
what are now seen as opposing views are present as
necessary facets, or dimensions, of one doctrine of
salvation, focusing in the one oblation of Christ. That is
not to say, of course, that there is no history of development
in patristic thought about the atonement: there is a history.
But it is not a history to be understood properly in terms of
alternative theories. If we think of Augustine in particular, it is
clear that he presents a more complete statement of the
idea of Christ’s sacrifice as satisfaction of divine justice
than do any of his predecessors, [Greek or Latin, and that
the sources upon which he draws are fundamentally biblical,
and especially Pauline. But at the same time, it is also abundantly
demonstrable that Augustine goes far beyond all his predecessors,]
Eastern and Western, in developing the “subjective” implications
of the doctrine: what it means for faith, what it meansin the conversion
of the human soul, and what it means in a social dimension. Surely,
no author in the whole history of Christian thought has been so
emphatic as Augustine on the saving power of Christ’s exemplary
humility; yet he never loses sight of the objective context of that
subjective renewal of though and will – its objective context
in the work of divine love in the sacrifice of Christ, both God and man,
reconciling man to the eternal justice which is God’s eternal will.The patristic doctrine of redemption is not “classic” or
propitiatory, or exemplary; it is all of
those at once, as is the doctrine of the Scriptures. To
exclude one dimension or another is to diminish its truth
and its power. It is not “objective” or “subjective”; it
is both at once. It is not the work of Christ as Son of
God or of Christ as Son of Man; it is the work of Christ
who is both God and man in distinction of natures and
unity of person. Indeed, the full development of the
patristic understanding of the atonement depends upon the
working out of the Chalcedonian understanding of the
integrity of the divine and human natures in Christ. To
deny that the humanity of Christ has an essential role in
the work of redemption implies a distortion of Christological
doctrine in a docetist or a monophysite direction.
As Fr. Hebert remarks in his preface to Aulén’s book,
“Dr. Aulén’s sketch of the contrast between the patristic
and medieval views of the Atonement invites us to trace the same
contrast in the sphere of liturgy; for the eucharistic rite is the
liturgical representation of the Atonement.” Certainly, the
wholeness of our understanding of Christ’s work for our salvation will
determine the wholeness of our worship, and any dilution of that
understanding will mean a dilution of our worship. For instance,
if we reduce the doctrine of the atonement to what Aulén
calls the “classic” view, our worship will be celebratory witness
to the drama of Christ’s triumph; if we hold to what he calls the “Latin”
doctrine, [we will be the penitential witnesses of Christ’s death
and passion; if we hold an exemplarist doctrine,] we shall come
for edification and moral uplift.
But Christ’s work is all of those at once; he is
Christus Victor, triumphing over death and every ill,
because he is divine and human priest and victim,
offering the one oblation of himself in sacrifice for sin; and
therein he is manifest as the exemplar and inspiration
of human good. He is all of those at once, and so must our worship be.
It must be at once objective and subjective: something done for us,
and something done in us. It must be a meeting of
the divine and the human love in caritas, that charity
which covers all our sins and endures to life eternal. For the Fathers,
those are not opposed, but complementary motifs.5
John Stott has criticized Aulén’s account of Anselm. Stott denies, that for Anselm, Christ’s death is an offering made to God by Christ from below as only a human work.6 Stott says:
Anselm emphasized clearly that, although man ought to
make satisfaction for sin, he cannot, for they are his
sins for which satisfaction has to be made. Indeed, only
God himself can, and therefore does through
Christ…Anselm’s teaching is that through the work of
the unique God-man Christ Jesus, it is not only man who
made satisfaction; it is God himself who was both the
satisfier and the satisfied.7
Crouse and McGrath both agree that Anselm’s argument cannot be explained in terms of legal justice or forensic acquittal, and must be understood in terms of the primal rectitude of the created order.8 McGrath says:
For Anselm, the moral rectitude of the created order was
violated by man’s fall. It is therefore necessary that
the moral rectitude of the created order be restored, as
its present state is unjust. Because whatever is unjust
contradicts God’s nature, it is impossible for God to
permit this state of affairs to continue. Therefore
God’s justice necessitates the redemption of mankind.
God, as summa justitia is bound by his own nature to
restore the moral rectitude of the created order, and
therefore to redeem mankind.9
Fairweather, McIntyre, and Pelikan also have important criticisms of Aulén’s view of Anselm.10Therefore, the weight of current scholarly opinion is against Aulén’s account of the atonement. And current scholarly opinion is also in favour of patristic and medieval theories on which the Anglican tradition is founded. Stott makes it clear that the traditional Anglican position is rooted in Scripture when he says:
There is, in fact, a biblical revelation of satisfaction
through substitution which is uniquely honouring of God,
and which should therefore lie at the very heart of the
church’s worship and witness. That is why Cranmer
included a clear statement of it at the beginning of his
Prayer of Consecration (1549). In consequence, for 400
years Anglican have described Jesus Christ as having made
on the cross, by his one oblation of himself once
offered, ‘a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice,
oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world’.11
It is submitted that Aulén’s theory of the atonement is Biblically one-sided, historically inaccurate, and out of step with recent scholarship. Therefore, in so far as the BAS has adopted Aulén’s theory, its presentation of the atonement is Biblically one-sided, historically inaccurate, and out of step with recent scholarship.2.
AULEN’S THEORY IN THE BAS
Through A.G. Hebert and others Aulén’s theory of the atonement has been the one which has had the most influence on modern liturgists. This influence is evident throughout the BAS. Some unhappy consequences of this influence are:
- (a) Generally, the BAS restricts the full proclamation of the Biblical account of the atonement.
- (b) Specifically, the BAS restricts the Biblical account of the atonement with respect to the objective completeness of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.
- (c) Specifically, the BAS restricts the Biblical account of the atonement with respect to our subjective appropriation of the benefits of Christ’s sacrifice.
(a) Restriction of the Biblical Account of the Atonement
While the BAS purports to present a rich variety of fluid images of three basic types as noted above, in fact there is only one dominant one: the image of divine victory and deliverance, which belongs to Aulén’s classic idea of the atonement. This predominates in all eucharistic and baptismal rites. As a result, the Biblical teaching about Christ’s sacrifice is restricted. The language of sacrifice, which is scarce, is restricted in meaning and subordinated to the language of divine deliverance. For example, Eucharistic Prayer 1 says:
“Gracious God, his perfect sacrifice
destroys the power of sin and death…”12
Sacrifice is not explained through the Biblical idea of expiation for sin. And the Biblical teaching about Christ’s vicarious suffering is also subordinated to the idea of divine deliverance. For example, Eucharistic Prayer 2 says:
“He chose to bear our griefs and sorrows…
that he might shatter the chains of evil
and death, and banish the darkness of sin
Therefore, because the images of expiatory sacrifice and vicarious suffering are subordinated to the image of divine deliverance, the full proclamation of the Biblical account of the atonement is also restricted and unbalanced in the BAS.
(b) Objective Completeness of Christ’s Sacrifice is Inadequate in BAS
Phrases such as “once offered”, and “full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world” are omitted in the BAS eucharistic prayers. While this omission allows the ‘drama of deliverance’ theme to be emphasized and spread over events in the whole of Christ’s life, themes of sacrifice and vicarious suffering are not emphasized so that our attention is not focused adequately on the cross as the centre and end of Christ’s work.
However, unless Christ’s passion and death are made the central acts in the drama of deliverance, the deliverance is merely declared to us, but not explained. The New Testament’s teaching about the centrality and finality of the cross must be explained through Biblical ideas of expiation for sin. In the drama our attention must be drawn to Christ’s sacrificial death, and we must be told that it saves us because it is a unique, perfect, and complete expiation for our sin. Because this is not explained the centrality and finality of the cross are not evident.
The BAS has adopted Aulén’s prejudice against explaining Christ’s sacrifice as ‘satisfaction’ for sin, wrongly understood as forensic or legalistic, but it has not provided any alternative way of explaining this sacrifice. The consequent omission of Biblical teaching is unfortunate, especially in light of recent scholarly reassessments about the language of ‘satisfaction’ as an intelligent way of articulating Biblical ideas about expiation.
(c) Subjective Relation to Christ’s Sacrifice is Inadequate in BAS.
Crouse notes that Aulén saw the atonement only as a movement from God to man so that in his theory it is hard to find any essential role for the humanity of Christ. In the BAS this omission takes the form of our participation in the drama of deliverance as something which happens to us from without. The divine drama is experienced and declared primarily through outward symbols such as the kiss of peace, the fraction, and the offering of the gifts. This experience does not really involve our most essential humanity, our minds and our wills. There is no essential role for the inward working of Christ in the believer.
Therefore, the believer’s inward conversion, his inward incorporation into Christ’s sinless humanity through faith and repentance, is not given expression. A personal responsibility for sin, and a personal faith prior to all communal expression of this are not articulated. Christ’s free, voluntary, and perfect sacrifice involved his human heart and mind into which, according to the New Testament, we can be incorporated by grace. By emphasizing the drama of our communal participation in God’s victory, and by failing to teach about our personal and subjective relation to the heart and mind of Christ, the BAS fails to proclaim the full Biblical teaching about how we can find ourselves in Christ and Christ in us, and fails to teach us how we can appropriate the benefits of Christ’s sacrifice.
CONCLUSION ON ‘SALVATION IN THE BAS‘
- With respect to the saving work of Christ, the BAS has adopted the theory of Aulén. This theory departs from the Anglican tradition, and is Biblically one-sided, historically inaccurate, and out of step with recent scholarship.
- As a result, essential Biblical teaching about Christ’s saving work is restricted in the BAS:
- (a) Biblical teaching about expiatory sacrifice and vicarious suffering is restricted by the emphasis on divine deliverance.
- (b) The centrality and finality of the cross is not adequately expressed. Thus, the New Testament’s teaching about the uniqueness, perfection, and completeness of Christ’s sacrifice is neglected.
- (c) The inward working of Christ in the believer is not adequately expressed. Thus, Biblical and Reformation teaching about our subjective appropriation of the benefits of Christ’s sacrifice is neglected.
3. Therefore, the BAS does not adequately proclaim essential Biblical teaching about the saving work of Christ.
1. The Book of Alternative Services of the Anglican Church of Canada (“BAS”) Toronto: ABC, 1985, p.178-179.
2. Gustaf Aulén, Christus Victor, London: SPCK, 1931
3. Robert D. Crouse, “Atonement and Sacrifice: Doctrine and Worship, St. Augustine and the Fathers” in Atonement and Sacrifice: Doctrine and Worship, St. Peter Publications, 1990, p.24-31, at p.26.
4. Ibid. p.27
5. Ibid. p.28-29. NOTE: the text in square brackets is taken directly from the manuscript and corrects errata in the printed version.
6. John Stott, The Cross of Christ, Downers Grove: IVP, 1986, p.22, 50, 104.
7. Ibid. p.229
8. Robert D. Crouse, “The Augustinian Background of St. Anselm’s Concept of Justitia“, Canadian Journal of Theology, 4 (1958), p. 111-119, at 114-115
9. Alister E. McGrath, “Rectitude: The Moral Foundations of Anselm of Canterbury’s Soteriology“, Downside Review, 99 (1981), 206-7
10. McGrath, op cit, p.210
E.R. Fairweather, “Incarnation and Atonement: An Anselmian Response to Aulén’s Christus Victor”, Canadian Journal of Theology, 7 (1961) 167-175
E.R. Fairweather, “Justitia Dei as the Ratio of the Incarnation”, Spicilegium Beccense, Paris: Bec & Vrin, I, p.329-330
J. McIntyre, St. Anselm and his Critics, Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1954, p. 199
J. Pelikan, The Growth of Medieval Theology (600-1300) in The Christian Tradition, A History of the Development of Doctrine, Vol 3, Chicago: Univ of Chicago Press, 1978, p. 137-139, 141, 156-7
A. McGrath, Justitia Dei, Cambridge Univ. Press, 1986, Vol 1, p. 54-56, 60
11. Stott, op cit, p. 112
12. BAS p. 194
13. BAS p. 196
One can hardly doubt that the BAS makes a determined effort to make the Eucharist the centre of Christian faith and practice. Indeed, so determined is the effort that one might ask what there is left for the Eucharist to be the centre of.
What can only be described as the attempted destruction of the Daily Office as it has developed in the Anglican tradition, and its replacement by a Breviary-style office of bewildering complexity, seems certainly motivated by a desire to make the Eucharist the normative and normal Sunday worship of Anglicans. Similarly, almost all the pastoral offices have been absorbed into the synaxis (at least) of the Eucharist.
The publication of Robert Taft’s The Liturgy of the Hours in East and West (1986) demonstrates how misconceived and destructive this effort was from a liturgiological point of view. He argues persuasively that the Office was always as central to Christian faith and practice, on both Sundays and weekdays, with both laity and clergy, as was the Eucharist. The prejudice against the Daily Office by the compilers of the BAS cuts off our worship from its roots in the Anglican tradition, and from its more remote roots in Patristic liturgy and devotion, when the Daily and Sunday office flourished.
It also needs to be said, in this connection, that although the BAS revives many Patristic features of eucharistic liturgy and devotion, it does not even try to revive the moral, ascetical, and dogmatic discipline which was their pastoral context.
The Reformers knew of that patristic discipline (see the introduction to the Commination service, where it is said that the restoration of this discipline “is much to be wished”). They also knew that changed historical circumstances rendered such a restoration problematic, and, while continuing to rely on the greater and lesser excommunications as external forms of discipline, also integrated penitential devotion into the liturgy, as a means, one might say, of interiorising what had been external in the earlier church. External discipline, of course, died with the coming of the Whig Supremacy, and lingers on only in the most ghostly forms: so it is doubly important that the Reformers had integrated penance with the liturgy, by making it penitential; and dogma with the liturgy, by making it doctrinally didactic.
The BAS makes a patently sophistic argument against “the place of the penitential element in the eucharistic liturgy” (pp.181-182), pointing out that it “needs some historical perspective”. The historical perspective the authors go on to provide is outrageously one-sided and selective.
One might gain the impression from them that the ancient church was as morally relaxed, ascetically undemanding, and doctrinally vague as is the contemporary Anglican Church in North America! Given the BAS‘ neglect of discipline, our unity in the Body of Christ celebrated in Eucharistic rites of the BAS is clearly a rather vague, notional, insubstantial thing – a Sunday hug-in made meaningful by Monday’s anger, Tuesday’s avarice, Wednesday’s gluttony, Thursday’s sloth, Friday’s lust, and Saturday’s envy. The unity of the Body is assumed and asserted and celebrated, but how this unity should come to be the BAS does not know.
Because the BAS neither revives patristic pastoral disciplines, nor continues their integration with the liturgy (as in the BCP), it weakens the power of the Eucharist to effect what it signifies. The Eucharist may be ‘central’, but it is hard to see its having any positive implications for ‘Christian faith and practice’.
The Eucharist “is not a special part of our religion” writes Austin Farrer in one of his sermons, “it is just our religion, sacramentally enacted”. For this reason, any treatment of the Eucharistic rites in the BAS, especially one such as this which the constraints of time and space make too brief, will tend to touch on, assume, or lead to, many matters treated of at greater length and detail elsewhere (e.g. the role of the Spirit, penitence etc.); and will inevitably lead to appraisals of the overall character of the BAS. This is unavoidable. The following therefore, is presented more as an abstract or summary than as a complete argument.
The character and deficiencies of the BAS Eucharistic rites (by which is chiefly meant the contemporary-language rites) can be traced to the Anglo-Catholic origins of the Liturgical Movement in England in the 1930’s; and subsequently in the United States, Canada, and elsewhere as well. Through A.G. Hebert the BAS derives from G. Aulén an understanding of the Atonement according to the ‘Christus Victor’ model. From Dom Gregory Dix it derives the understanding of the Eucharist as ‘action’ (as well as his teaching concerning the primacy of Hippolytus, the four-fold shape, and the meaning of anamnesis).
As these ideas were adopted and worked out by the Liturgical Movement’s increasingly liberal Anglo-Catholicism, so the understanding which shapes the BAS‘ eucharistic rites was developed. In its developed form, as represented by the BAS, God’s saving work is understood to be so completely external to us as to be largely inaccessible and irrelevant.
The Eucharist, therefore, can no longer be understood as the sacramental means by which Christ works in the souls of believers, to nourish and sustain them in the life of his Body. The Eucharist is left empty, ‘a house swept and garnished’, a celebration of a victory whose benefits it does not effect in the church, for the church is assumed already to partake in these completely. The Eucharist is thus left open and available, ready to become the vehicle for the Church’s idolatrous and apostate self-assertion.
Anselm’s theology of the Atonement is the result of thinking through Christ’s saving victory in terms of the logic of the Incarnation worked out in the patristic period and defined at Chalcedon.1 In falsely setting Anselm’s ‘Latin’ model against the ‘Christus Victor’ model, therefore, Aulén virtually deprived Christ’s humanity of any but an ornamental role in the Atonement.2 The virtual marginalization of Christ’s mediating humanity from the work of Salvation means the victory of Christ and our subjective appropriation of its benefits are alike unintelligible. It may be ‘proclaimed’ or assumed, but on that basis it cannot be known how mankind participates in its benefits.
The direct or indirect influence of Aulén on the compilation of the BAS can be traced in a number of different ways. Most obviously and notably it is seen in two ways: first, in the declared retreat from the Atonement theology of Anselm in favour of ‘fluid images’ (BAS, pp.178-9). The profound drawing together, thinking through, and crystallization of these Biblical images of God’s saving work and the Incarnation of the Word, found in Anselm’s theology, is rejected in favour of a much more superficial, shallow, and partial account represented by these ‘fluid images’. Secondly, the influence of Aulén is seen in the corollary of the first, that sacrificial language is used very sparingly to describe Christ’s death, and satisfactory language not at all.
Indeed, Calvary is absorbed into the sequence of salvation history rehearsed in these prayers, its centrality lost to view. For the mind of the BAS, there can be no meaning to the man Jesus’ Godward sacrifice in obedience to love. Aulén’s virtually docetist or monophysite theology of the Atonement leaves no role for Christ’s humanity, and therefore Christ’s victory cannot be understood, because it cannot be understood as accomplished by “his one oblation of himself once offered”, the “full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world”.
There are two chief consequences. First of all, Christ’s victory can only be asserted and assumed, not understood. Secondly, the absence of his mediatorial humanity means that it cannot be understood how the human race participates in and receives the benefits of his victory. The saving work is so entirely the work of God that it is never seen how it works in mankind in Christ. Humanity is never caught up in the movement of salvation. There is no motion in man answering to the motion in God, no subjective appropriation of the benefits of salvation, because their mediation in the Word made flesh is absent.
This utter externality of salvation in the BAS appears in many different ways, most notably in its incomprehension and resistance to the penitential devotion developed in the Middle Ages and at the Reformation, and in the curtailment of its account of the mission and work of the Spirit, who in the BAS illumines the mind, regenerates the will, and incorporates us in Christ only in Baptism, and never afterwards.
In the Eucharist, what results is that it is no longer understood as the sacramental means by which Christ works in the souls of believers, to transform them from sin to righteousness, to nourish, nurture, and sustain us in his own body’s life which is charity. God’s saving work is external to us, so our ‘participation’ in the Eucharist must be external as well. Here Dix’s understanding of the Eucharist as ‘action’, as an event in the life of the people of God, comes into play or is pressed into service, so that the Eucharist is thought of as an event, largely, even entirely, external, to be experienced in a merely external way. (Thus it is said of the Peace that it “dramatizes the eucharist as a foretaste of the banquet in the kingdom”, in which ” the peace and unity experienced provide a glimpse of the kingdom which is to come”, BAS, p.177).
The ‘outward and visible’ aspects of the sacrament no longer function as ‘effectual signs’, signifying the pointing to the ‘inward and spiritual grace’ which they effect in the faithful: rather the inward and spiritual grace is collapsed into the sensible and external reality and becomes so confused with it as to be indistinguishable and indeed insubstantial. Too easily these external ‘events’ become self-conscious exercises in contriving community, of asserting and exalting the values, interests and agendas of the community (or its worship committee), when instead they ought to be sensible signs so reconciled and conformed to spiritual reality that they may be the means of our deeper incorporation into the spiritual reality created by Christ’s death and resurrection.
To note the differences of approach in the historical use of the Prayer Book is one thing; it is another to be able to say what it is that has undergone such changes and whether they are substantial or accidental historical developments. In its own attempted rationale, the BAS gives a very unsatisfactory account of the principles and practice of the Prayer Book tradition. It is content to say that ‘the Book of Common Prayer has hardly been used exactly as its original authors intended’ (BAS, p.9). This begs several question not only about ‘ the intent of the authors’, but also about the character of the books themselves.
The BAS nowhere shows much of a grasp of either; instead, it is content to argue for changes to ‘the form and structure of the text’ (BAS, p.10) on the basis of historical controversies about church furniture and clerical clothing. Thus, controversies about minor matters, howsoever hotly argued, have become the basis for major changes to ‘the form and structure of the text’. This is especially true for the order of the Eucharist.
The BAS‘ approach to ‘the shape of the liturgy’ is rigid, not to say fundamentalist. This is most noticeable in the old-language rites, where the logic and coherence of the older rites is ignored, that it may be set in the BAS characteristic, highly stereotyped ‘shape’, which is an essentially episodic structure of discrete elements lying statically side by side without any particular relation to one other, much less movement.
Needless to say, the reasonable flexibility of the older order in its history and use is also ignored. In thus exalting liturgical-experiential shape over doctrinal-theological content, the rite is emphasized as an ‘event’ externally experienced, not as the means of the inward working of Christ in our souls by faith. The sequence of discrete moments is more important than the content of these moments.
The profoundly inward Trinitarian character of the Prayer Book Eucharist with its strong insistence upon our participation in the eternal life of God through the ordained means of the sacrament gives place to an external and static presentation of the work of the Trinity. The emphasis on the incantatory and forensic form of the service is at the expense of our real and actual participation in the purpose for which the sacraments were ordained. The shape of the rite has become everything; the structure of the prayer of consecration self-complete and independent of all else. The logic of our participation is at best secondary and external.
Equally, within this rigidity of the shape of the liturgy and the form of the canon appears a dogmatic insistence upon a consecratory epiclesis in all of the contemporary eucharistic rites in the BAS. Even in Hippolytus’ Apostolic Tradition, the epiclesis is not consecratory but rather a prayer for the fruits of communion.
This insistence in the BAS makes what is, in fact, a minor and secondary consideration a major and primary principle of eucharistic theology. While other alternative liturgies throughout the Anglican world basically share in this fundamentalist shape of the liturgy, none is so intolerantly insistent about this secondary matter.
To make matters worse, the form of supplementary consecration in the BAS consists of the invocation of the Holy Spirit without the re-iteration of the words of institution. Besides being a flight from western tradition, the effect is to separate the work of the Spirit from the Father’s Son and Word. To the contrary, that Word tells us that the Holy Spirit is he “whom the Father will send in my name who shall teach you all things and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14,26).
It has to be said that the epiclesis upon the elements is a grave stumbling block for many in our Church. It is not a matter necessary to be believed for salvation and should not be enforced upon clergy and people upon whom the Holy Spirit may properly be called. The evidence from alternative liturgies around the Anglican Communion shows that there is no theological consensus requiring the carnal presence of the Holy spirit in the elements. Why should it be treated as a fundamental matter in the Canadian Church?
Under the influence of Aulén, Christ’s victory can only be asserted and assumed in the BAS, not understood. Instead, it is taken to be already accomplished in us. The result is that the Body of Christ is left with no means of distinguishing herself from her Head, and without any sense that the wisdom, will, and power of Christ do not immediately belong to the Church as well. This incapacity adequately to distinguish herself from Christ is most clear in the appearance of Confession and Absolution as options (which of course changes their meaning entirely, from essential moment in the overall logic of the service to frill, trimming, or grudging concession to conservative piety)3.
The Church no longer puts herself under the judgment of Christ’s charity, that she may know the joy of his mercy and forgiveness. The Church therefore deprives herself of an important means of restraining herself from the Church’s recurrent temptation to apostate self-exaltation and self-idolatry. She is left defenceless against the temptation so to collapse Christ into the Church that our understanding and will appear to us to possess divine authority. Christus Victor justifies Ecclesia Triumphans in saeculo, confidently inflicting her programme on the world.
Various factors contrive to obscure the actual character of the BAS‘ eucharistic rites, so that many interpret them in a manner divergent from, even contrary to, their actual content. One thinks of contemporary Canadian Anglicanism’s deference to authority; its willingness to accept reassurances; its enthusiasm for practical activity and dislike of intellectual theory; the persistence of older piety, in whose terms the BAS is then interpreted; romantic antiquarian ritualism, which delight in the limited revival of Patristic liturgical forms; the vagueness and ambiguity of the texts themselves; the reluctance, even refusal, of the compilers of the BAS to engage in debate about the book; wishful thinking which hopes to avoid what it fears by ignoring it, and so on.
All these may play their part in making Canadian Anglicans innocent collaborators in the theological and liturgical programme represented by the BAS. Such innocence may of course also have the effect of impeding that programme. Nevertheless, the ultimate character and effect of this programme, which is to bring into being a ‘new church’ (so David Holeton), can be discerned by attention to the fundamental logic of the BAS, and to the manner in which this logic reflects the tendencies of the bureaucratic elites of the Anglican Church of Canada.
1 & 2. These points are laid out in greater detail in the paper submitted on the Atonement.3. This incapacity to distinguish Church from Christ is also very evident in the subordination of Scripture to the Church as “the repository of the Church’s symbols of life and faith”. BAS, p.9). The Word and Will of the Head of the Church are no longer heard and obeyed. Rather, in the word the faith community projects its own will and understanding, to be clothed in scriptural language.
CHRISTIAN INITIATION: BAPTISM
In a sense it is nearly impossible to compare the rites of Baptism in the Book of Alternative Services (1985) and the Book of Common Prayer (1962) since they are so greatly different. The rite as found in the BAS is a virtual copy of the rite found in the American Book of Common Prayer (1979) with some significant differences which will be noted later. The rite as found in the BCP is itself a virtual copy of the rite found in Anglican Prayer Books since 1552. In spite of the very serious differences between these two rites it should be possible to make some general comparisons and assessments.
The purpose of Baptism is very clearly and concisely explained in the Exhortation which begins the rite in the BCP. Baptism is undertaken:
– to save us “from the fault and corruption of the nature which [we] inherit” (that is from the destruction which follows our inherited tendency to sin and disobedience), as well as “from the actual sins which we commit”;
– to obey our Lord’s teaching that none can enter the Kingdom of Heaven without new birth by water and the Spirit; and
– to give to us “that which by nature we cannot have” – reception and membership in Christ’s holy church.
In these words the Exhortation echoes the teaching of the Catechism with respect to the inward and spiritual grace of Baptism: “A death unto sin and a new birth unto righteousness; for being by nature born into man’s sinful state we are hereby made the children of grace by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (p.551)
In the rite itself, the teaching of the Exhortation is immediately backed up by the two prayers which follow it. The first speaks of Christ’s sanctification of water to the mystical washing away of sin and prays that the candidate might be so washed and received into Christ’s holy Church. It is further prayed that the candidate will, by faith, hope, and charity, pass through this world to enjoy the promise of eternal life.
The second prayer repeats the same teaching. It prays that the candidate might “receive remission of sin by spiritual regeneration”; that receiving the everlasting benediction of this “heavenly washing” the candidate might “come to the eternal kingdom” promised by Christ.
This purpose of Baptism (that is, the spiritual washing and cleansing away of sin with its corresponding promise of eternal life) is again reinforced by the initial address to the sponsors on page 525. There the sponsors are reminded that they have already prayed that Christ will “receive, cleanse, and sanctify” the candidate and grant “the blessing of eternal life”.
Finally, this idea is once again expressed in the prayer over the water on page 528: “Sanctify this Water to the mystical washing away of sin”, that the person to be baptized may always remain in the number of God’s faithful children.
The point being made here is that the Prayer Book rite is very clear about what role the Sacrament of Holy Baptism has to play in our spiritual life. Membership in the Body of Christ, in His Holy Church, and in His Heavenly Kingdom are dependent upon the free gift of God in Jesus Christ. But with that gift comes the responsibility of our faith in Him (and our faith in action which is our triumph over sin). That triumph is not possible without spiritual regeneration in the mystical washing away of sin by the Holy Spirit in Holy Baptism. Consistent with this insistence upon the necessity of Divine grace is the Prayer Book’s obvious assumption that Original Sin truly exists within each person (cf.p.532) and must be cleansed by the gift of God’s Holy Spirit.
This purpose for Baptism is not so clearly expressed in the BAS. In fact it might honestly be argued that it is almost completely ignored. For the authors of this book the purpose of Baptism, as expressed in the preface on page 146, is incorporation into the Christian community without the necessary emphasis on the washing away of sin. In fact the preface quotes the BEM document to lessen the washing imagery to just one of many scriptural images which we might choose or not choose.
The obvious attempt is to hide from twentieth century eyes, which do not take kindly to being told that they are less than perfect or perfectable, the fact that, as the BCP teaches, we are incapable of saving ourselves and need to be spiritually cleansed from sin by God. To diminish the primary washing and cleansing role of Baptism by ranking it as just one amongst many images is intentionally to lose the necessary priority of preparation to reception. It largely changes Baptism from something that God does for us to something that we do for ourselves. It also ignores the obvious fact that Baptism, which of necessity involves washing by water, has as its primary purpose the spiritual washing of the Holy Spirit. Washing, by its very definition, entails first and foremost the sense of cleansing before it entails membership. By eliminating all references and inferences to original sin and our fallen condition the BAS attempts to emphasize the latter while diminishing the former.
In the BAS rite the concept of being ‘cleansed from sin’ occurs essentially just once: during the “Thanksgiving over the Water”. (pp. 157 or 158). The concept of membership in the Christian Community occurs: 1) at the presentation of infant candidates (p.153); 2) during the “Thanksgiving over the Water (pp. 157 or 158); and 3) at the “Giving of the Light” (p.161). It is, moreover, the primary image used in the Preface. It is fundamentally impossible to argue that this shift represents anything other than an intentional desire by the authors of the BAS to change the role and function of Holy Baptism in the spiritual life of the Anglican Church of Canada.
THE BAS RITE AND THE RITE IN THE AMERICAN BCP (1979)
As said earlier, the BAS rite is a virtual copy of the American 1979 rite, with just a few changes. Because of at least one of these changes it is very easy to see the bias behind the Canadian rite. Since most of the BAS rite is a ‘word for word’ copy of the American original any changes must represent an intentional desire on the part of the authors to say and teach something different.The most telling difference is on page 153. There the parents and sponsors are asked: “Will you be responsible for seeing that the child you present is nurtured in the faith and life of the Christian community”. The American rite instead asks if the sponsors and parents will see that the child is “brought up in the Christian faith and life”.
The difference is obvious, intentional, and serious. Whereas the American rite rightly insists upon acceptance and obedience to an objective standard which is beyond the fickle whim of any particular Church or community the BAS asks only that the child be brought up in the faith and life of the Christian community regardless of whether the ‘faith and life’ of that particular Christian community is consistent with and obedient to the Christian (that is, Catholic) faith.
The second difference between the two rites is of a purely practical nature. In the American rite the order which follows the presentation of the candidates is:
- The Baptismal Covenant
- Prayers for the Candidate
- The Thanksgiving over the Water
In the B.A.S. the order is as follows:
- Prayers for the Candidates
- Thanksgiving over the Water
- The Baptismal Covenant
The benefit of the structure in the American rite is that all questions for the sponsors and parents are together(that is, the questions at the presentation with those regarding the Baptismal Covenant). When the BAS separates these two sets of questions by placing the Prayers over the Candidates and the Thanksgiving between them it creates unnecessary confusion. Regardless of whatever unknown rationale there may have been for this change it would be better to put all the questions together and thereby restore the balance of the three-fold structure of the Baptismal questions.
THE RELATION OF BAPTISM TO CONFIRMATION
At least on the surface the BAS has no official position on the relation of Baptism to Confirmation. The issue is not addressed in the Preface. However, what the BAS thinks about Confirmation is obvious both from what it does not say in the Preface and from what it does say in the chief prayer prior to the act of Confirmation. But first it might be helpful to see what the BCP has to say about Confirmation.
In the Preface at Confirmation in the BCP the Bishop explains the role and purpose of Confirmation. The explanation is three-fold:
- Confirmation is based on the Scriptural evidence of the rite of the laying on of hands after baptism; on the practice of the Church from Apostolic times; and is called in the Epistle to the Hebrews one of the first principles of Christ.
- Confirmation is an appropriate way to reaffirm the vows made at Baptism; and
- Confirmation is a means whereby the individual is strengthened by the Holy Spirit to continue in the vocation begun at Baptism.
In the BCP the sponsors and parents of a newly baptized child are instructed to ensure that the child, after preparation, is “brought to the Bishop to be confirmed by him; so that he may be strengthened by the Holy Spirit, and may come to receive the holy Communion of the Body and Blood of Christ”. (p.530). As well, in the rubrics following Confirmation (p. 561) the following rule is ordered: “And there shall none be admitted to the holy Communion until such time as he be confirmed, or be ready and desirous to be confirmed”.While the Articles of Religion do not teach that Confirmation is one of the two Dominical Sacraments which are generally necessary for salvation, the Prayer Book makes it obvious, from the two readings taken from the Acts of the Apostles and from the prohibition against reception of Holy Communion without Confirmation, that this separate rite is the best means of reconciling infant Baptism with the faith and repentance necessary for reception of Holy Communion.
In other words, since faith and repentance are necessary for full and complete participation in the Dominically ordered and generally necessary sacramental life of the church, and since such ‘faith and repentance’ are impossible on the part of infants at their baptism, it is both necessary and appropriate to delay reception of the Sacrament of Holy Communion until such time as one’s faith and repentance can be openly reaffirmed at Confirmation, at which time the individual receives once again the gift of the Holy spirit, this time in its seven-fold manifestation. (p. 560).
By teaching this the Prayer Book affirms the historical development of Baptism and Confirmation as seen in Western Christianity from the Patristic period onward. It does not attempt to ‘jump out of’ the Church’s contextual heritage by adopting practices of another time and place whose context is not reconcilable to our own. At the same time, the Prayer Book remains faithful to the Scriptural heritage regarding Confirmation, which is, of course, the timeless, eternal, and authoritative Word of God. And regardless of what other denominations or modern theologians may be telling us, this is our Anglican heritage of which we ought not to be ashamed.
All of these points are missing in the BAS. The role of Confirmation is ignored in the Preface to Baptism. There is also lacking any clear explanation at the beginning of the separate rite of Confirmation on page 623. The readings suggested for Confirmation (p. 630) avoid any of the passages in Acts and Hebrews which give scriptural justification for the rite of the Laying on of Hands. The authors of the BAS were unwilling, whether from embarrassment or conviction, to allow to Confirmation any authority of its own.
This point is even more obvious when the prayers by the Bishop before Confirmation are compared. In the BCP the Bishop prays that those who have been made regenerate at Baptism (“by Water and the Holy Spirit”) might be confirmed and strengthened with the Holy Spirit, and that God might “daily increase in them [His] manifold gifts of grace; the spirit of wisdom and understanding; the spirit of counsel and might; the spirit of knowledge and true godliness; and fill them…with the spirit of [His] holy fear”.
The BAS, on the other hand, prays simply that the candidates might be renewed in the covenant “made with them at their baptism” and sent forth “to perform the service set before them”. The diminished language clearly attempts to reduce any independent validity Confirmation might have.
In summary, the BAS reduces Confirmation to an optional rite which might, if desired, be repeated. It attempts to ignore the evidence in Holy Scripture regarding the necessity of Confirmation as well as the heritage and teaching of the church regarding the relation of Baptism to Confirmation. Furthermore, it also attempts to adopt the practice of the Church in another time and place without adopting the social and theological context or the ecclesiastical discipline in which that practice was appropriate.
While it can be argued that the rites for Baptism and Confirmation in the BAS are Christian, in so far as they comply with certain basic requirements regarding the actual words of Baptism and Confirmation and are consistent with recent trends in theological and liturgical developments in other Christian denominations, it is difficult to argue that they are Anglican or consistent with our Anglican heritage as taught in our Prayer Book tradition.Moreover, the clear deficiencies in the baptismal rite with regard to the nature of sin and the existence of Original Sin are serious in so far as they weaken the Church’s teaching respecting our inability to save ourselves and the necessity of God’s Divine action in the gift of His Son in His Incarnation, Atonement, and Resurrection.
Christian theology, properly understood, is not piece-meal, but rather, a tightly knit whole which easily unravels when one part is lost or no longer taught. As the Introduction to the BAS reminds us (p.10) what we do, or do not do, liturgically directly affects what we believe, or do not believe. The rites in the BAS, therefore, will never satisfy the consciences of those who feel it necessary to “drive out all erroneous and strange doctrine contrary to God’s Word” until such time as they are truly and properly corrected and made compatible with our Anglican theological heritage.
A FURTHER NOTE
The Society adopts the positions advanced by the Rev’d Professor Robert Crouse in his paper of 2 May 1987: Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Communion: The Prayer Book Tradition in Theological Perspective.
The Marriage rites found in the BAS, “The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage”, although superficially maintaining some continuity with older Anglican marriage rites, nonetheless can be said to ‘break new ground in theological understanding’. In the BAS, there is a sharp diminution of the understanding of marriage as a Christian institution, whose beginning is in Paradise and whose end is in Heaven, which is constituted by the mutual, willing, permanent self-surrender and self-sacrifice of a man and woman to each other.
Although great emphasis is laid on the act of consent which causes the marriage – the rite is most sharply emphatic that the couple are the ministers of the rite – the crucial role of their will is quite overlaid and obscured by another understanding. Briefly, the rite knows what it would like marriage to be, but is not quite sure what it is, and out of the resultant confusion the over-riding tendency of the rite is uncritically to affirm and “celebrate” an essentially private, subjective, natural sexual relationship which needs no perfection by grace.
Because the rite in the BAS lacks a theological and liturgical preface, the evidence for the criticism just made must be found solely in the text itself. Apparently it attempts to correct the faults thought to be present in the older marriage rites, viz. the liturgical privatization of Marriage (the “Occasional Office syndrome”) their pessimistic attitude to sexuality, their subdued rather than joyful tone, and the excessive profusion of benedictory prayers.
Rather idealistically, the BAS rite is set in the context of the worshipping assembly of the faithful: Cranmer’s foremass rite has, as it were, been interpolated in a synaxis of conventional BASstructure [Gathering of the Community, Proclamation of the Word, The Wedding, the Prayers of the People (followed by the Lord’s Prayer if there is no Eucharist), the Blessing of the Marriage, and the Peace]. An Eucharist may follow.
Thus an opportunity for reading scripture is provided, and, it is hoped, the marriage will be seen as an act integrated in the life of the worshipping community. The Anglo-Norman profusion of blessings and ‘strong collects’ inherited by the BCP is here tidied up, sorted out into intercessions or blessing proper, and collected into ‘the prayers of the people’ or ‘the blessing of the marriage’. There are various references and expressions of joy, and a positive, optimistic view of sexuality is expressed.
To a certain extent, this rite respects the Anglican principle of liturgical revision which Richard Hooker described as respect for “ancient continuance”: there is a number of texts with real continuity with their predecessors in the BCP, and for this charitable respect for Anglican devotional and liturgical tradition we may be grateful. Perhaps we should be grateful that we do not know much about pre-medieval marriage rites; perhaps we should also be grateful that the essence of marriage as the voluntary consent of the man and the woman, first articulated by the scholastic doctors of the Middle Ages, retains a certain legal and popular hold on the contemporary mind.
Nevertheless, the rite is not without regrettable, and unnecessary, defects and faults, which, taken together, point to the shift in theological understanding mentioned above.
I. Lack of Scriptural Basis in the Liturgical Texts:
One of the criticisms of the older rites was their lack of provision for the reading of scripture. The BAS rite makes provision for two or three readings from Scripture in the Proclamation of the Word (albeit the rubric on p. 527 is worded rather loosely: it appears to authorize the reading of texts other than those found in Holy Scripture so long as they are “approved by ecclesiastical authority”). What relation this portion of the rite bears to the rest of it is in question, however, since the rest of the rite omits almost any reference to scriptural material about marriage.
This silence is particularly puzzling, since other rites in the BAS (Baptism and Eucharist especially) rather rejoice in the richness of Biblical imagery they employ, over against the rationalized, theological syntheses of older liturgies.
Here however, the institution of matrimony in Eden, the Patriarchs and their wives, the rich Old Testament nuptial imagery of God and his people, the Wedding at Cana, the Pauline commendation of marriage, the imagery of eschatological marriage in Revelation – none of these find any place or echo in the liturgical texts. The institution of marriage in Eden is perhaps, rather barely, alluded to in the opening exhortation (“Marriage is a gift of God…”). The Ephesians analogy of marriage to the union of Christ and his Church is alluded to (twice), but this cannot echo anything that has been read, since, presumably owing to acceptance of the egalitarian critique of Paul, the passage from Ephesians concerning marriage from which this analogy is drawn (together with the parallel passage in Colossians) is omitted from the list of readings, even as an option. The BCP‘s adaptation of Matthew 19.6 as part of the ratification of marriage is also included. These isolated instances highlight the absence of scriptural material on marriage elsewhere in the rite.
II. Theological barreness of the texts:
The absence of scriptural bases in the liturgical texts is echoed by the vagueness and thinness of their theological content. Granted, prayers are not simply propositions in another form: still, one reasonably expects liturgical texts to reflect important theological emphases, and to address the intellect as well as the will of the worshipper.
Scripturally, there is no reference to the institution of marriage in Eden. Likewise, theologically, there is little sense that marriage belongs to the created order in its goodness, survived the Fall, and becomes a redemptive structure, in which the sin-corrupted appetites of man may be corrected, educated, and perfected by grace. Instead, in the description of the second good of marriage, there is what sounds like a frank and uncritical endorsement of mutual, self-indulgent and sentimental sensuality: “The union of man and woman in heart, body and mind is intended for their mutual comfort and help, that they may know each other with delight and tenderness in acts of love”. There is no sense here that marriage corrects, redeems, and perfects human sexuality.
Similarly the third good of marriage is described in terms more suggestive of self-fulfilment than of self-giving: “and that they may be blessed in the procreation, care, and upbringing of children”. There is missing here a sense that God’s purpose in instituting marriage within the good order of creation included the propagation of the human race, or that in Christian marriage, children are procreated “to be brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord, and to the praise of his holy Name”; or, as Richard Hooker so magnificently put it, that “the replenishing of earth with blessed inhabitants, and then of saints everlastingly praising God did depend upon the conjunction of man and woman” (Laws, V.lxxiii.1; Keble, v.2, p.427). This does make a belated appearance in the intercessions, but it should be in the explicitly didactic portion of the rite, the opening exhortation, as well.
The theological barreness of the text also appears in its silence about chaste singleness. Although marriage is twice called a gift of God, there is no hint that singleness is also a vocation and gift of God complementary to the gift of marriage (as is, for instance, made in the 1662 account of the second good of marriage).
The petition in the Prayers of the People that “those who have witnessed these vows (may) find their lives strengthened and their loyalties confirmed” is vague and loose, covering both those living in marriage, those living in illicit unions, and those living in chaste singleness (which ought to be a considerable number: bachelors and spinsters; widows and widowers; those who are divorced, separated, or deserted; those who are psycho-sexually unsuited for marriage; as well as those who may voluntarily choose celibacy). Moreover, the petition hardly articulates that the gift of chaste singleness is a state of life “angelical and divine” (Hooker). Our own culture is apt to be hard on the single, but it is not just their feelings we ought to be concerned with: the point is, that the marriage service suggests by its indiscrimate affirmation of the male-female sexual union that this is the only approved expression of human life. As such, it helps to mislead those who cannot find sexual fulfilment within marriage (for reasons beyond their control) to try to find it in substitute relationships or expressions of sexuality. They need to be taught that the vocation to chaste singleness points beyond the order of creation to its eschatological transformation in heaven, where the fidelity of love symbolized in marriage will be extended beyond the limits of marriage (for marriage will have its end), in the mystical union of Christ and his Church.
References to marriage as mutual self-giving, ‘the bond of covenant love’, the giving of consent and the making of vows, all appear in the liturgical texts. The rite is insistent that the couple alone are the ministers of the rite: the assembled congregation’s role is to “witness” the vows, “rejoice” with the couple, and “support and uphold this marriage” (whereas in the BCP the Church works through the couple to “join together this man and this woman”). This leads to the inconsistency apparent in the celebrant’s ratification. First he announces that “N and N have joined themselves to each other by solemn vows”, then declares “those whom God has joined together let no one put asunder”. In the BCP, the order is consent; vow; optional prayer over the ring; the giving of the ring; prayer for blessing on the couple that the vow and covenant may be kept; sentence from Matthew 19.6; and ratification of the marriage by the minister.
In other words, in marriage the couple make their vows, the Church prays for blessing on the covenant, and then the scriptural formula is pronounced, with a declaration of what has been done. The marriage is constituted by divine blessing of the couple’s vow and covenant: the minister declares and ratifies, and only then blesses. In the BAS, the order is: consent; vow; prayer over the ring; the giving of the ring; the minister’s declaration of them to be husband and wife; and then the scriptural formula; after which follows the Prayers of the People and the Blessing. The BASomits any kind of prayer for God’s blessing on the covenant and vow before declaring the couple married.
If the BCP order teaches that marriage is a work of divine grace and human resolve, the BAS appears to make it only a work of human resolve, and it is unintelligible that “God has joined together”. God does not act through the couple; the couple act autonomously. That it is then said that God “has joined them together”, that he makes them “to be one flesh in holy marriage”, that he has “made N and N one in the sacrament of marriage” is hard to understand, unless we take it that their vows are indistinguishable from the act of God. If this exegesis of the text is correct, then once more there is manifested the simple collapse of grace into nature: whatever is in (fallen) nature, is, as it were, already perfected by grace.
Perhaps a minor detail, but one that is not without significance, is this: the language of the vows and of the ring-giving does not well express the idea of unconditional mutual self-surrender. A comparison with the older forms makes this clear.
In the older vows, we read, “and thereto I give thee my troth”, but in the new ones “This is my solemn vow”; in the old ring-giving the man says “With this ring I thee wed, with my body I thee honour, and all my worldly goods with thee I share”, but in the new ring-giving, each says “N, I give you this ring as a symbol of my vow. With all that I am and all that I have, I honour you in the name of God”; in the declaration, the older form says they “have given and pledged their troth either to other”, while the newer form says that they are joined “by solemn vows”.
The older forms, with their use of the first and second person (reflected in the declaration’s “either to other”), express vividly a dynamic self-giving, a movement of each soul towards the other. The newer forms are more static, they express no movement towards the other. “This is my solemn vow” could be a soliloquy, rather than part of a dialogue. “I give you this ring as a symbol of my vow” is prosaic, dull, a datum of information; “with this ring I thee wed” is dynamic, the ring really functions as a symbol of the self-giving because it vividly expresses what it symbolizes. The BAS wording just tells the couple that the ring is a symbol, and thus distracts them from grasping what it is a symbol of.
III. Pastoral Inadequacy:
Theological barreness and vagueness find their practical expression in the curious lack of pastoral realism and seriousness displayed in the Prayers of the People and the first Prayer in the Blessing of the Marriage.
The Prayers of the People do exhibit some real pastoral concern. There is an attempt made to pray for the needs of the newly-married couple. They begin by asking God to “look graciously” on the world made by him and saved by Christ, and “especially on all whom you make to be one flesh in holy marriage”. They then go on to make five petitions, the first three for the fulfilment of the three goods of marriage, sacramentum, fides, proles; the fourth for the home and community; the fifth for those who have witnessed the vows. The extraordinarily unctuous tone of the first, second, fourth, and fifth petitions does not help to make them prayable.
Moreover, the tone contributes to the unreality of what amounts to assuming the goods of marriage to be already realized, so that the weight of the petitions falls on the social responsibilities of the couple. Having, on the one hand, sharply privatized the rite, by making the church merely witnesses of the couple’s covenant, there is now an attempt to “balance” the rite by burdening the couple with enormous responsibilities to the community. But there is no balance there – merely incoherence.
The couple is to be super-couple: “their lives together (to) be a sacrament of (God’s) love to this broken world, so that unity may overcome estrangement, forgiveness heal guilt, and joy overcome despair”; they are to “so live together that the strength of their love may enrich our common life and become a sign of your faithfulness”; their lives are to be “an example of concern for others”. What these petitions ought to be, is exhibited in the third petition, which seeks fulfilment of the third good (proles) “and the grace to bring them up to know and love” God.
One looks for more pastorally-realistic and theologically substantial petitions of this sort: prayers seeking grace to receive the good of marriage, grace to fulfil their vows by sacrificial love and death to self; the marital virtues; God’s help in time of trouble; the theological virtues, and so on.
The Prayers of the People, however, are models of euchology compared with the first prayer provided for the Blessing. If this composition has a literary or theological coherence, it is very difficult to discern. The opening thanksgiving (for the Incarnation and the way of the cross) does not appear to be related to anything that follows – the transition to the next element, a thanksgiving for consecrating marriage, significantly requires the word ‘also’.
The climax of this composition is a flowery, purple patch of sentiment worthy of a Hallmark greeting card: “Let their love for each other be a seal upon their hearts, a mantle about their shoulders, and a crown upon their foreheads”. The image may delight the esoteric, antiquarian tastes of liturgists, with its reference to Byzantine marriage ceremony, but its true home is in the literature of the wedding industry.
The introduction to the BAS compares its literary style to that of contemporary poetry, “spare, oblique, incisive, relying more on sharpness of image than the flow of cadence” (p.12). Flow of cadence there is not in this composition, and neither is there any noticeable ‘sharpness’ in the imagery. Fortunately the alternate blessing (yet another version of the Nuptial Blessing from the Gregorian Sacramentary) and the final blessing (virtually identical to the blessing after the ratification of marriage by the minister in the BCP) are acceptable compositions.
This analysis of the rite suggests that in it there is a strong tendency to distinguish inadequately the realms of nature and grace, so that it in fact collapses grace into nature, and thus uncritically affirms natural, sexual relationships in a highly individualist, subjectivist form, as if they were already thoroughly Christian in and of themselves. For all its concern about liturgical privatization, the rite expresses an essentially privatized theological understanding of marriage, which is not successfully balanced or mitigated by subsequently ascribing to it community-oriented aspects.
The rite is said to be popular. It is to be feared that such popularity is all for the wrong reasons, that is, that (especially in its vague, sentimental, and flowery patches) it caters to the shallow sentimental, narcissistic cult of nuptial romance promoted by soap operas and the wedding merchandise industry. It is difficult to see how such a failure to meet the pastoral challenges of the age can be judged to be “consistent with the norms for Christian theology as they have been understood in the Anglican tradition”.
THE BAS AND COMMUNITY
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
– W.B. Yeats, The Second Coming , st.1
The spirit of reformation…is rooted in the conviction
that in times of great insecurity and change the centre
cannot be held by a blind preservation of the forms in
which tradition had been received…
– BAS p. 8.
One of the most attractive features of the Book of Alternative Services is its concern for the continuance of the Christian community in an age of uncertainty. When it was first introduced, much of the appeal of the BAS was its claim to be the solution to the crisis of confidence in Canadian Anglicanism over the last twenty-five years, and its promise of a liturgy attractive and credible to modern society.It has taken up the main issue in modern theology, where knowledge of God is to be found, and has offered an answer different form that of the BCP, an answer which, it is hoped, modern Christians can believe: saving truth is found, not in the faithful hearing of the Scriptures but in the Christian community responding in heart and mind to a eucharistic liturgy of authentic shape. “This principle [lex orandi: lex credendi]… means that theology as the statement of the Church’s belief is drawn from the liturgy…” (BAS p. 10). The BAS understands the community to be those who gather for the liturgy.
The Scripture serves the liturgy as only one element among many. “Liturgy is the means by which the Church is constantly invested in that gospel, in [a] the reading of the scripture, [b] in proclamation, [c] in praise, [d] in prayer of deep concern, and [e] in those sign-acts which wordlessly incorporate the believer in the Word.” (BAS p. 10).
The BAS‘ understanding of community is thus radically different from that of the BCP which regards the local church as a group of people who gather primarily to hear the Scriptures read and preached and to receive God’s Word in the sacraments. “The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in the which the pure Word of God is preached, and the Sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ’s ordinance in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same.” (Article XIX, BCP p.706).
According to the BCP, the community is defined as those who gather to receive the Word; the Scriptures are primary, and the liturgy serves Scripture. According to the BAS, community is defined in such a way that the liturgy is primary, and Scripture serves liturgy.
Not surprisingly, in light of the BAS‘ opinion that knowing God is a function of the community liturgy, there is a greater emphasis on community self-consciousness in the BAS than in the BCP. Since the worshipping congregation is the locus for knowing God, it is important that the worshipper consciously distinguish between this community and, as it were ‘The People Not of God,’ just as in BCP worship the listener must distinguish the divine character of holy writ against the character of non-Biblical literature.
As a result the BAS continually emphasises the primacy of the community. The Dixian divisions in the eucharist of “The Gathering of the Community” and “The Prayers of the People,” the rubrical suggestion that the participants in the eucharist exchange the peace, the alteration of the Nicene Creed to begin “We believe” (BAS p.188 but not p.234), and myriad references to “new people” (e.g.BAS pp.195,196,209), “your people” (e.g. BAS p.269), “one another” (BAS p.306), “sons and daughters” (BAS p.538,621) all these are, despite their didacticism, a fresh feature of the new rites.
Quite apart from whether one agrees with the theological premises which animate this emphasis on the community, there can be little question that in a secular and individualist culture, it is good for Christians to be reminded that they belong to a particular church community and have rights and responsibilities within it. One instance in which the BAS actually weakens an understanding of the community’s responsibility, is in its failure in the baptismal rubrics to require that the child be named by the sponsors alone (BAS p.160; contrast BCP p. 528).
The BAS rubrics encourage laypeople to lead in parts of the service in the readings, prayers of the people, and litanies, though it gives them less to say during the rites themselves than the BCP. The BCP is less plain in its rubrics about having laypeople conduct parts of the service, though throughout it distinguishes between “Priest” and “Minister”, a distinction which has been used in rural Canada to encourage lay leadership in services for over one hundred and fifty years. While the BAS and its advocates tend to overstate the lack of explicit references to the communal responsibilities of Christians in the BCP, often with ludicrous polemic1, on the whole the BAS’ emphasis on the mutual responsibility of Christians is commendable.
The BAS is vague about how it understands estates within the Christian community. It is likely that the absence of a service for young people suggests a shift in attitude from that of the 1962 BCP, reflecting the radically democratic assumptions of our times.
In this the BAS is true to its principles, reflecting the “world-view…of the people who are engaged in [Liturgy] in every generation”. (BAS p.10). Less true to its principles perhaps in its view of Bishops whose “heritage is the faith of patriarchs…” (BAS p.636; surely an obnoxious phrase to the Church’s new feminist orthodoxies), and whose office, as in the BCP, still has no specified term.
Thus far, we have argued that the emphasis on the community in the BAS is consistent with, and even an improvement on, that of the BCP, but that the reason that the BAS stresses the community (because it is the place where, in its performance of the eucharistic liturgy, knowledge of God is found) is antithetical to the principles of the BCP. Moreover we have attempted to show that the purpose and character of community in the BAS and the BCP are very different.
The question of community in the BAS cannot, however, be treated purely as a matter of theology. The differences in the understanding of community we have discussed are academic questions which most Anglicans find incomprehensible.
Why is it, then, that the introduction of the BAS in 1985 has had such a devastating effect on so many church communities? Why has the BAS had an effect in so many places opposite to what it intended? Why is there a Prayer Book Society in 1991 when there was not one in 1959 or 1918, and why does opposition to the BAS grow with time?
To understand why so many Anglicans feel alienated from their Church when the BAS is used we need look no farther than the difference between the two books’ understanding of community. “Community” suggests something held in common over time, that is “tradition”.
The BAS is not less traditionalist than the BCP, but where it differs from the BCP is in what it hands down. In contrast to the BCP 1962, which hands down principles, prayers, and (to some extent) customs by which Anglicans and their known forebears have defined their religious identity, the BAS is partly an academic revival of dead texts and ostensibly forgotten principles.
While the BAS tries hard to establish itself within the Anglican tradition of reform, it protests too much: “While there is a strong correspondence between the dynamics of the Reformation era and the present day, there is considerable difference in detail…” (BAS p.9). The BAS even implies that its controlling principle, a twentieth-century reading of “lex orandi: lex credendi”, is a pillar of the Anglican tradition: “This principle, particularly treasured by Anglicans…” (BAS p.10) In fact the principle was virtually unused in Anglicanism before the twentieth century.2
Most telling is its studious silence on the principles underlying the considerable reforms since the sixteenth century embodied in the BCP 1962. The BAS suggests that the entire history of Anglicanism since the sixteenth century has been one of liturgical stagnation: “The wonder is not that so many twentieth century Christians are open to change but that the experiments of the Reformation era appeared to be treated as definitive for nearly four centuries”. (BAS p.9).
The failure of the BAS to win the hearts of the bulk of Anglicans lies with its allegiance to abstract principles and prayers rather than known ones. Its approach does bear some comparison to the approach of the Reformation, but the comparison is not entirely favourable. Martin Luther referred contemptuously to Menschensatzungen, “human traditions”, which he contrasted with the pure and original message of the word of God, unencumbered by the human additions of the intervening centuries.3
Similarly the BAS, through the spectacles of Dom Gregory Dix, has found liberation from received and familiar forms in the recovery of the authenticating principle of the liturgy’s patristic and medieval shape. (cf.BAS p.174). If “tradition is the living faith of the dead,” and “traditionalism is the dead faith of the living”4, then the BAS confuses tradition with traditionalism. In no place does it concede the extremely sparse understanding of the context and practices of the early liturgies it revives. One thinks of Milton: “we do injuriously in thinking to taste better the pure evangelistic manna by seasoning our mouths with the tainted scraps and fragments of an unknown table…”5
Jaroslav Pelikan makes the point this way:
Tradition derives some of its vindication from the
sheer fact of its existence, “just because it’s
there”… Maturity in our relation to our parents
consists in going beyond both a belief in their
omniscience and a disdain for their weakness, to an
understanding and a gratitude for their decisive part
in that ongoing process in which now we, too, must take
our place, as heirs and yet free. So it must be in our
relation to our real parents. An abstract concept of
parenthood is no substitute for our real parents, an
abstract cosmopolitanism no substitute for our real
It is its appeal to an abstract tradition that undermines the ability of the BAS to foster a sense of community both with present Christians and those of the past. For evangelistic purposes this is not a problem: non-Anglicans coming new to the Church would not realize that the BAS‘ tradition is an imagined one. But the Anglican Church is not beginning de novo, and its existing members must be nurtured not alienated.The question of language is also relevant in considering the BAS‘ understanding of community, for in its concern to make the liturgy “wear the idiom, the cadence, the world-view, the imagery of the people who are engaged in that process [liturgy] in every generation,” it fails to recognize that partly what defines a community is a community language distinct from that of the world in which it exists.
It should give the revisers pause to consider that the most enduring and universal of religious communities has had for countless generations a language for worship separate from those which they have used in their everyday lives. Jesus himself spoke Aramaic but worshipped corporately in Hebrew. That Anglicans should have in the BCP a community language which is easily understood by any child disposed to do so is ideal. The assumption in the BAS that the language of liturgy must be the vernacular in the colloquial form of some part of society should not go unchallenged. In the history of Christianity until the second Vatican Council, it never was. Cranmer’s prose was formal and heightened English.
The language of the BAS is not really vernacular at all, and one could well argue that it too is a kind of community language, a sort of ecumenical esperanto. But even so, it is subject to the criticism that it is a strange and abstract international English, rootless and cold.
None of this is to say that the BCP is above reform: it never has been. But if the haemorrhage in the Anglican community is to be healed, what must be reformed are not its fundamental principles or the language by which the community defines itself in a pluralist society. Ecumenism by denominational suicide will only reduce the Universal Church in numbers, theological understanding, variety, and beauty of expression.
To say, with the advocates of the BAS, that liturgy must “respond to the obvious need among many alienated people to find secure, caring relationships that will provide the stability and support necessary for purposeful living”7, is to say that liturgy must be rooted in a real, living tradition rather than an abstract tradition invented by committees, however refined. Perhaps the supreme expression of pastoral moderation in the revision of liturgy is found in the Preface to the Revision of 1662, in which we read this:
Yet so, as the main Body and Essentials of it (as well
in the chiefest materials, as in the frame and order
thereof) have still continued the same unto this day,
and do yet stand firm and unshaken, notwithstanding all
the vain attempts and impetuous assaults made against
it, by such men as are given to change, and have always
discovered a greater regard to their own private
fancies and interest, than to that duty they owe to the
public…Our general aim therefore in this undertaking
was, not to gratify this or that party in any of their
unreasonable demands; but to do that, which to our best
understanding we conceived might most tend to the
preservation of Peace and Unity in the Church; the
procuring of Reverence, and exciting of Piety and
Devotion in the Public Worship of God; and the cutting
off occasion from them that seek occasion of cavil or
quarrel against the Liturgy of the Church.” (BCP p.719-720).
The BAS is entirely right in its conviction that the “spirit of reformation… is rooted in the conviction that in times of great insecurity and change the centre cannot be held by a blind preservation of the forms in which tradition had been received…” (BAS p.8). But neither will the centre be held by a new fundamentalism of liturgical shape and theurgy. For the Anglican community once again to thrive, it must not retreat, as the BAS does, into an imagined classicism of liturgical shape and intention. Rather it must rediscover the meaning and content of its real, Prayer Book, traditions.
- “Christians have discovered a new responsibility for the world, that loving their neighbours as themselves demands more than compliance with the civil law.” (BAS p.10); “the older rites focused exclusively on the vertical relationship between the worshipper and God.” (Michael Ingham, Rites for a New Age, p.61).
- Alan L. Hayes, Praying in two Tongues: Conflicting Principles of Worship in the Anglican Church of Canada, TJT. 4/12, 1988, pp.236-250.
- Jaroslav Pelikan, The Vindication of Tradition, Yale University Press, 1984, p.44.
- Pelikan, p.65.
- John Milton, Of Prelatical Episcopacy, 1641, (Works, vol. iii, p. 72).
- Pelikan, pp. 53-54.
- Ingham, p.57.
MINISTRY AND THE MEDIATING FUNCTION OF THE CHURCH
The sub-group of the BAS Evaluation Commission has asked for a critique of the book’s theology in the area of “ministry-specifically, the nature and function of the three-fold order and its relation to the ministry of the whole people of God”, and has requested an evaluation of the book’s theology in relation to the Anglican tradition and asked whether or not there is a “development” discernable. The sub-group has posed similar questions in relation to the supposed “mediating function of the church”, which phrase is taken to mean the earthly church institutional or visible.
What is the Anglican tradition in relation to ministry?
In retaining the threefold order of deacons, priest and bishops, the leaders of the English Reformation were not only being moderate in their reform as compared with many of their continental brethren, they were also convinced that they had biblical authority for this order of ministry.
One has only to examine the lessons that are appointed in the traditional ordinal to discern this. Those appointed for the making of deacons (1 Timothy 3.8 or Acts 6.2) help to root the order in Scripture. The Gospel (St. Luke 12.35) emphasises the fact that a deacon is to be a servant. The lessons appointed for the ordering of priests and the consecration of bishops have the same didactic purpose – they give each order a scriptural justification and a scriptural explanation of its duties.
By tying the orders to Scripture, each has an integrity of its own, and a connection to Jesus Christ mediated only through the Word written. This is a mark of a Reformed ministry, just as Reformed Christians in general depend less on the mediation of the Church and those who hold authority in the Church. Mediation between God and man is more direct, since, to paraphrase Luther, each man knows himself to be ‘prophet, priest and king.’
This is not to say that the founders of the Anglican tradition did not value the place of earthly authority, for as the twenty-third Article of Religion makes clear, only those called by due authority should be ordained. And yet, the immediate relation of the believer, lay or ordained, to God is of primary importance, and an essential part of our Church’s understanding of the work of grace.
The order in which the ordination services are found in the Book of Common Prayer is of significance – “The Form and Manner of Making of Deacons” is first, illustrating that servanthood is the basis of all Christian ministry; just as Christ’s servanthood, his obedience to the Father, was the basis of his earthly ministry. And it is only when this foundation has been laid and tried that one may move on to assume the other orders of priesthood and episcopacy.
The Book of Alternative Services departs from the traditional Anglican ordinal in suggesting that “the prayers, readings, and preface are normally those of the day” (BAS page 633). Thus the orders lose their direct reference to Scripture, and to a degree, their individual integrity. This integrity is further weakened by the fact that each service is entitled an “ordination”, whereas the traditional titles are the “making” of a deacon, the “ordination” of a priest and the “consecration” of a bishop.
This loss of integrity might be lamented as unfortunate in itself, but it also contributes to what is more unfortunate – an over-emphasis on the order of bishops and their authority within the Church. An illustration of this increased emphasis is the order in which the services are placed in the BAS. The ordination of a bishop is first, followed by the service for the ordination of a priest, with the service for the ordination of a deacon coming last. Gone is the implication that servanthood is the basis of Christian ministry, patterned on the life of Christ and his relation to his Father, and showing that the deacon’s personal commitment to Christ as a servant is the basis of all Christian ministry. It has been replaced by an emphasis on the earthly authority of the bishop.
This emphasis on the authority of bishops is reinforced by the rewriting of the examination of candidates for ordination. In the service for the making of a deacon as found in the Book of Common Prayer, for example, the examination, beginning on page 640, asks first if the candidate feels moved by the Holy Ghost to seek this office. Next, he is asked if he thinks he is truly called “according to the will of our Lord Jesus Christ and the due order of this Church” to this ministry. Then comes a question about the sufficiency of Holy Scripture “for eternal salvation through faith in Jesus Christ”. Finally, the candidate must promise to read the Scriptures in the church where he is appointed.
Only after he has promised to live the life of a servant and to live his life in accordance with the “doctrine of Christ” does he promise to “reverently obey” his “Ordinary” and “other chief Ministers of the Church” (BCP page 642). The authority of Scripture, direct obedience to Christ and a following of his example come before the vow of obedience to any earthly authority within the visible Church.
In the BAS service, however, the first promise the deacon is asked to make includes a promise to be obedient to his bishop: “Will you be loyal to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of Christ as this Church has received them? And will you, in accordance with the canons of this Church, obey your bishop and other ministers who have authority over you and your work?” (BAS page 654).
Thus the deacon’s call and mission is not as closely tied to Christ and the Scriptures, but is mediated through the visible Church and its organization. The deacon has to make another vow of obedience to his bishop during what is entitled “The Examination” (BAS page 655). The same change in emphasis can be seen in the BAS service for the ordination of a priest.
The ordination services in the BAS depart from Anglican tradition in changing the ordained minister’s primary focus from obedience to Christ to obedience to the bishop and the visible Church. This naturally has implications for all Christians, especially those who stand in the Reformed tradition, who feel they have a more immediate relationship with God than the sort of relationship reflected in the Book of Alternative Services. And so it has an implication as to how we view Scripture and its relation to our Christian vocations, how we view the work of the Holy Spirit in individual lives and in the Church, and where our primary obedience lies-to the visible Church and its authorities or to Christ.
THE NATURE AND AUTHORITY OF THE BIBLE
Perhaps the single most important feature of the tradition embodied in the historic Prayer Books of the Anglican Communion is the manner in which that tradition embraces and proclaims an understanding of Holy Scripture entirely in keeping with interpretive principles and self-understanding revealed in the Hebrew Scriptures and canon of New Testament writings. That Holy Scripture does indeed reveal a self-understanding, and that one may find within Scripture certain interpretive principles, are points on which both older and contemporary scholarship agree.
SCRIPTURE AS THE WORD OF GOD
In his essay on Inspiration and Inerrancy in the Jerome Biblical Commentary, Richard Smith provides a useful summary of the various examples within New Testament literature in which the Scriptures are treated as the authoritative, irrefragable, word of God. Smith provides example upon example of this self-understanding which need not be repeated here. Suffice it so say that regardless of what possible definitions one might wish to make of inspiration, and whatever scholarly techniques one might wish to employ in the work of hermeneutics, one cannot deny the fundamental and underlying assumption of all Scripture – that it is “God’s Word Written”.
SCRIPTURE AS THEOLOGICAL WRITING
2 Timothy 3:14-17 is simply one in a series of Biblical passages which describe Scripture as theological writing given in order to make us “wise unto salvation”. This is not for a moment to suggest that theology is only Bible Study, or that the Nicene Creed is essentially a collection of Biblical texts. It is to suggest however, that Scripture is not merely a “repository of symbols” from which theology is derived, a mere collection of images from which theology may be distilled. Scripture understands itself as having a positive and definite theological content. The Christocentric reading of the Hebrew Scriptures, the Johannine witness of the Incarnation, and the various Pauline references both to the atonement and to the divinity of the Christ, all point to Scripture’s positive theological content.
SCRIPTURE AS AUTHORITATIVE
It is clear that the New Testament writers understood their own authority to teach and proclaim the Gospel as derivative. Even the saving work of Christ is understood as being “in accordance with the Scriptures”. Our Lord himself, the Incarnate Word, refers to Scripture as having an authority that is primary. The church of the New Testament clearly understood its place with regard to Holy Scripture. She was faithfully to “hand on” the sacred teachings without any alterations or deletions.
SCRIPTURE AND THE 39 ARTICLES
Articles 6,7,8, & 20 teach us much about how the Prayer Book tradition regards the nature and authority of Scripture. These articles proclaim Scripture is “God’s Word Written”. The articles clearly treat Scripture as having an authority that is fundamental and primary. Article 20 forbids teaching that is contrary to Scripture which it describes as “God’s Word Written”. The articles repeatedly assert that the Scriptures “contain all things necessary for salvation”. Thus the articles clearly state that the Scriptures are God’s Word, of primary authority within the church, and are theological writings containing all things necessary for salvation.
The articles also instruct us regarding how Scripture is to be interpreted and taught. Scripture may not be taught in such a way as to suggest that “one place of scripture” is repugnant to another (Article 20). Scripture must be taught as a whole in which its unity is found in Jesus Christ whose saving work as the mediator who is both God and man is taught in both the Old and New Testaments (see Article 7).
SCRIPTURE AND THE BAS
Much has been said and written concerning the treatment of Scripture in the Book of Alternative Services. Most comments have centred around matters of translation and interpretation. It is obvious that the BAS has a high regard for Scripture and employs Scriptural images and language throughout. The question which must be answered is whether the BAS presents the same understanding of the place and authority of Scripture as the Prayer Book.
Exactly what the phrase “repository of the church’s symbols of life and faith”, used in the BAS preface to describe Scripture, means is hard to say (p.9). Evidence concerning what the BAS actually thinks of scripture is not explicit and must be viewed collectively.
The introduction to the Lectionary (pp.262-264) indicates that it is a primary concern of its devisers to seek a thematic connection between the readings. Reading Scripture thematically is useful, but is not the same as reading Scripture theologically or in a Christocentric manner. The notorious introduction to the funeral liturgy in which we are told that “we simply do not know the condition of the dead” (p.567) again employs a thematic treatment of Scriptural texts.
The glaring difference between the Prayer Book and BAS is that the latter does not seem to indicate that there is a positive content in the theological writings of Scripture which unites the varying images and themes. That the images, faith-stories, grace-events, metaphors, and themes of scripture are of primary importance would be cheerfully affirmed by the BAS.
That the Bible contains positive theological teaching which unites the work as a whole, and that the saving work of Christ who is both God and man is at the very centre of this teaching, and that this teaching has an authority over the church whose great commission it is to pass on this teaching in an unimpaired fashion, constitute a position impossible for the BAS to hold. Such a position is impossible because of the understanding of theology in the BAS.
The BAS understands theology as a developing process discovered in the world by means of the reflective activity of liturgy (see p. 10 of the Introduction, BAS). The notion of theology as revealed and written in a permanent manner to be handed on unimpaired is completely contrary to the sense of theology as a continuous developing process.
It is just this difference which brings to light a curious fact about the BAS. Although the BAS is a book filled with essays, and is in that sense one of the most openly didactic prayer books ever written, there is scarcely any mention of the place and authority of Holy Scripture. One clearly gets a sense in the BAS that Scripture is important. However, one never finds out why Scripture is important, or for that matter what Scripture is. All one learns is that Scripture is a repository of symbols which are apparently repugnant one to the other (see Introduction to the funeral liturgy).
The Book of Common Prayer is informed by a sense of Scripture as God’s Word Written revealing in both Old and New Testaments the salvation which is offered by the Christ who is both God and man. It is just this sense of Scripture which determines its use in the liturgies of the Prayer Book. The BAS is informed by a sense of theology which makes such a view of Scripture impossible.
Thus, there is between the Book Of Common Prayer and the BAS a great gulf fixed. The gulf will only widen if proponents on both sides insist on having their religion irrationally; the one by insisting on a sort of Prayer Book Biblical fundamentalism, and the other by continuing to resort to an intractable ecclesiastical fiat which simply demands that the alternatives be used. Much division and strife will ensue and the gulf will widen. The gulf will only be bridged when both sides think clearly through their positions and attempt to come to a common mind as to the nature of theology.
THE BAS LECTIONARY
The Prayer Book Society of Canada adopts the criticisms of and doubts about the BAS Lectionary expressed by the Rev’d David Curry in his work, Hear His Most Holy Word: The BAS Lectionary; The Closing of the Bible? annexed hereto.
SUBMISSION OF THE REV’D. R.N. HEBB
The Prayer Book Society of Canada commends to the attention of the sub-group the submission of the Rev’d. R.N. Hebb entitled The BAS and the Bible.
Some argue that significant theological themes are given insufficient emphasis in the BAS.
Please comment on:
(a) Whether you feel these themes are under-played;
(b) Why you feel they are or are not important.
- Mission and outreach
- The Canadian context of our theology
- Eschatology and life after death
- Feminist theology and spirituality
- The inclusivity of the Gospel
- The charismtic nature of the Church
- Native spiritual traditions
- Justice, peace and the integrity of creation
PENANCE AND PENITENCE
Throughout the BAS it is suggested that Christianity has been too penitential in its character, and that our Anglican tradition suffers from a morbid preoccupation with that theme, especially evident in our liturgy, as yet imperfectly emerged from gothic gloom. We are advised that we ought to overcome that grim and negative fixation, and emphasize, instead, the more positive celebration of the freedom and dignity of Christian men. Penitential grovelling, cringing on our knees, is thought an inappropriate posture for the redeemed community.
But the moral problems and dilemmas of contemporary Christianity have no easy answers. Certainly, they will not be eased – even psychologically – by a reduction of penitential emphasis. Rather, we must grow Into our penitential emphasis, and understand afresh what it means.
The Bible teaches that sin is the betrayal of a trust, freely given and received, the betrayal of the charity of God, who by virtue of the Cross of Christ accounts us as friends. An authentic Christian sense of sin arises only in proportion to our consciousness of the holiness and benevolence of God towards us, and recognition of our betrayals of his charity.
We grow in penitence only as we grow in adoration. That is a fundamental principle of spiritual life, and that principle should govern the liturgical and pastoral practice of the Church.
Therefore, before we jettison the sackcloth to don the cheerful plumage of more affirmative religion, we ought perhaps to think just a bit about the meaning of our traditional practice. The most striking aspect of the Anglican reforms in this regard was a thorough integration of penitence into the structure and pattern of common prayer.
For several centuries prior to the Reformation, penitential practice had been almost exclusively a matter of private confession and absolution, outside the context of the public liturgy. Not only did the Reformers provide a penitential introduction to the offices of Morning and Evening Prayer (for which there was, indeed, some monastic precedent), but they also made confession and absolution essential elements within the structure of the eucharistic liturgy.
This was a reform of immense importance, because It involved the explicit recognition, liturgically, of the character of sin as the betrayal of that divine charity which we celebrate in the memorial of our Saviour’s sacrifice, and emphasized the point that the benevolence of that sacrifice is the ground of absolution. Those were not new thoughts, of course – they are as old as Christianity, and certainly not forgotten by medieval theologians – -but there was a new and salutary emphasis in the practice.
The logic of it is exactly the logic of Christian prayer, of which the Lord’s Prayer is the paradigm: that Is to say, the recognition of the paternal charity of God, and of our faithful attachment to his will and kingdom, must be the context in which our penitence makes sense. If that context becomes unclear, the sense of it becomes muddled, and we fall readily Into legalism and moralism. Thus, for Anglicans, the ministry of reconciliation finds its focus in the Church’s public worship, and the practice of private confession and absolution, or the sacrament of penance, becomes supplementary, rather than the general rule.
Certainly there is material concerning sin and penitence in the BAS, some of it in itself creditable. But such material cannot be evaluated simply on the basis of whether it exists somewhere between the covers of the BAS. Such material must be evaluated on its relation to other elements in the liturgy, and what place such material has in the Church’s worship as a whole. On this basis, the BAS is defective.
The Baptismal rites recognize that baptism is concerned with the forgiveness of sin and regeneration by the Holy Spirit. The disappearance of all reference to the doctrine of original sin, however, is serious and has been noted in the response to the question on “initiation”.
With the exception of the special provision made for Ash Wednesday, penitence is optional even at Holy Communion. The rubric concerning Confession and Absolution instructs:
The following prayers may be used here if the Penitential Rite
was not used before the Gathering of the Community, or if
penitential intercessions were not used in the Prayers of the
People (BAS, p.191).
Notice that the rubric says “may11, not “shall”; thus, penitence may be omitted altogether. Indeed, the Eucharists set out in the BAS for special occasions (Baptism, Confirmation, Marriage, Funerals, Ordinations, and the Great Vigil of Easter) exclude all penitence for the communicants. Only the Funeral Eucharist has a single optional penitential petition (BAS, p.579).
It is erroneous to equate, as the BAS does, the use of penitential intercessions, or even an introductory Penitential Rite, with Confession in the midst of the Holy Communion service. Confession is an act of the people before God wherein they acknowledge their sinfulness and their need of God’s action to redeem them. God’s act of redemption is then proclaimed to them in the Absolution by his minister, the priest. The emphasis of Confession and Absolution is therefore on God’s act.
The emphasis in the inclusion of a merely penitential petition in the Prayers of the People is just the opposite; it is on the people and not on God. In the midst of telling God all the other things we want Him to do for us, we also ask Him to forgive us. But we do not bother to wait to hear his word of forgiveness. Moreover, the position of the penitential petition amongst the various Intercessions indicates that forgiveness is just one thing among many that we wish God to give us. In short, the forgiveness of sins as it manifests our redemption is no longer the central need of Christians before God, but rather one need amongst a great variety including food, clothing, peace, and justice.
The use of the Penitential Office as a preparation for the Eucharist at first sight appears better, since it includes a distinct Confession and Absolution. But, In fact, it teaches people that penitence ought to be done before the Eucharist so that they can get on with the business of celebrating in the Eucharist itself. In short, people get the idea that penitence has no place at the heart of Christian life.
In truth penitence is not something to be gotten over as quickly as possible so that we can get on with the good stuff. Continual repentance enables God’s people to discover the joy of dependence on his grace.
Indeed, even when the option is taken to say the Confession and Absolution after the Prayers of the People and before the Peace, it has to be asked what relation this bears to the rest of the rite, what meaning it has. That the Confession and Absolution Is optional changes its meaning. It is not longer an essential moment in the overall movement and meaning of the rite, for the worshippers can exchange the Peace (and everything that follows) whether or not they move by way of Penitence or not. The penitential rite is thus relegated to Insignificance.
The editorial material concerning the Penitential rite found in the Prefaces to the Daily Office and the Holy Eucharist make explicit the BAS’ prejudice against penitential devotion. In the preface to the Daily Office it Is said that the penitential element in Anglican worship “needs to be put in historical perspective” (p.40).
Anciently, we are told, penitence was expressed “in the poetry of psalms rather than in rationalized statements of sinfulness, forgiveness, and absolution”. Apparently (by no means self-evidently) the former is to be preferred to the latter, and so one might expect that penitential psalms would be required – but Instead we are told that both psalms and “rationalized statements” are both optional. How this conclusion should follow from the “historical perspective’ supplied is by no means clear.
Likewise we are told in the preface to the Eucharist that “the place of the penitential element.. needs some historical perspective11 (p.181). It is an historical equivocation, however, to supply the “perspective” In these terms: “In the ancient Church there was no verbal confession and absolution In the eucharistic liturgy. This element was Introduced into the first Prayer Book as an element of medieval piety”. This statement abstracts liturgy, -and the history of liturgy, from its pastoral, ascetical context.
The Preface goes on to state that the “ancient Church understood the eucharist as a whole to be the means by which the People of God are renewed in their baptismal covenant and reconciled to God”. It is precisely this holistic integration of penitence with the Eucharist that the first and second Prayer Books strove to preserve in the changed circumstances of the early modern era. It is in the BAS that there appears a clear disintegration of penitence and Eucharist, as the two are separated out and neutralized.
The BAS does not adequately teach the Biblical understanding of sin as the betrayal of God’s charity, nor does it emphasize Christ’s sacrifice as the ground of our absolution. As a result, penitence and penance are not given proper emphasis and balance in it. While the BAS mentions penitence and provides penitential rites, it has failed to integrate penitence into the structure and pattern of public prayer so that it is a central and essential element .
This response was in part adapted from a paper by the Rev’d. Dr. Robert D. Crouse entitled “The Ministry of Reconciliation: Anglican Approaches” (1986) in Holy Living: Christian Morality Today, St. Peter Publications, p.50-58.
MISSION AND OUTREACH
These comments are prefaced by a quotation from St. Mark’s Gospel, Chapter 16, verse 15:
“Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature.”
The theology of the mission of the Church of God is not to be found as a vibrant and significant expression of our life in Christ in the Book of Alternative Services. There is no specific reference to the Church’s call to missions in any of the Table of Contents items, or in any references contained in the Calendar and its accompanying narrative. There is only one prayer for Missions in the Occasional Prayers (p.676).
When the Mission of the church finds a place in the BAS content, the reference is a kind of low-key appeal:
“Give to all nations an awareness of the unity of the human family” p.112
“for all who proclaim the word of Truth…” p. 116
The most vivid and encouraging theme of mission is found in the Good Friday liturgical order, particularly in the biddings (p.312).
In the order of worship for the Thanksgiving/Dedication of a Parish there is no mention of specific mission content. There is no provision for a very special emphasis on the Mission of the Church in the Epiphany Season or in the Ember Days.
On the subject of the Church and her theology of Outreach the BAS has content that is extensive and generally very good. There are more that fifteen prayers with an outreach theme in the Occasional Prayers. And there are many specific and particular biddings for a Christian’s prayer life directed towards issues in and around the world. These are com endable provided they do not become a substitute for a Christian theology and are not used to promote a cheap philanthropic gospel. However sensitively used they may be “outreach” prayers can not substitute for Our Lord’s Commission.
The Christian religion in its Anglican setting, that is from a point-of-view that is both Catholic and Reformed, finds some of its most significant sense of an authentic Christology through themes of the missionary Church, the very Body of Christ in God’s world that acts out and gives testimony to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, in the hope that people will turn to Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. There should be a much greater effort in the content of prayers and special services to keep Canadian Anglicans alert and watchful with respect to the ongoing missionary endeavours of the Church of God.
It appears that the authors of the BAS have tried to offer a collective sensitivity to many social and environmental issues, which we rightly ought to keep before us in prayer and intercession. However, none of this content offers or puts before the present day Christian the imperative Mission of the Church. Christianity does claim absolute authority as the true way of life. This claim must be vindicated in our liturgies and in our lives, and carried to all people in our land. This evangelical imperative stands above, even if not always separate from, the duty of Christians to reach out, to all in need, in mind, body or estate. The BAS fails to make clear the individual’s responsibility to love, as it fails to bring before God in public prayer the Mission of Holy Church.
THE CANADIAN CONTEXT OF OUR THEOLOGY
This question is difficult to answer in that it is quite unclear what it means or calls for. In the context in which the question has been put it seems unlikely that respondents are really being asked for an analysis of the presence in the BAS of a Canadian context of the study of the Christian religion. This would be an appropriate question for a survey of theological college curricula and teaching.The question may relate to the Canadian context, as revealed in the BAS, of the system of Christian religion, presumably as it is to be maintained and practised in the Anglican Church of Canada. What Right, therefore, be called for is an evaluation of the presence in the worship and doctrine of the BAS of a Canadian context, and of the importance or unimportance of such a context. These will be the issues briefly addressed. It has to be admitted, however, that any assessment of something as vague as “Canadian context” must be subjective, probably to a fairly high degree.
There is sufficient material, and there are sufficient references, in the BAS to make it clear that the compilers sought to make the worship services relevant to their day, to their social background, and to their aspirations for Canadian Anglicans as a comunity set over and against Canadian society as a whole. Such material and references have been noted elsewhere in this submission, notably in the sections on the Eucharist, Missions and Outreach, Justice~ Peace, and Integrity, and Creation.
The Book was produced by an elite of concerned and well meaning people determined to do good to their fellow, but less well educated and less progressive, churchmen. This approach reflects a very Canadian phenomenon and in this respect the BAS fits right into the Canadian context. Whatever its virtues or flaws, it is most definitely not of the people.
It is not easy to see anything else particularly Canadian about the material or the prayers of the BAS even those in which secular or topical subjects are raised. Rather they reflect a transnational, urban, North American, progressive intellectual attitude to the problems of the early 1980’s. They reflect also the educational and social background of the compilers and the ethical values of the period in which they were formed a generation or two ago.
There is, as is admitted on all sides, a dose of international ecumenical resolve included in the intellectual mix, along with a desire to produce a more catholic set of liturgies. Given the provenance of the BAS and the career paths and attachments of its compilers, none of this should occasion any surprise.
Nor should it really cause remark that renewed liturgies drafted for Canada in the 1980’s should bear the mark of the dominant culture, that of the United States of America, and in our Church’s context, the mark of the prevailing tendencies in PECUSA. No one could realistically have expected the expression in the BAS of a worship context other than that of the values of the white, progressive, urban, “concerned”, middle classes who have attended institutions of tertiary education.
Similarly, the doctrinal context of the book could not have been expected to have anything to do with Canada but with the trends in theology in North American and international progressive circles in the several decades before the book was compiled. Any Canadian contribution would be limited to smoothing away the demands of doctrine or the clarity of doctrinal changes in accordance with the Canadian distaste for genuine debate, usually termed “confrontation”, “abrasiveness”, “divisiveness” etc.
The wonder is that the BAS sticks as closely as it does to the Prayer Book models in so many areas eg. the Occasional Prayers and litanies. The odd confusion about the constitutional arrangements of Canada do peep through (eg. BAS pp. 678, 679) but this probably reflects nothing more than the general academic ignorance and impatience of the machinery of government we could still enjoy.
Many folk criticise the BCP for reflecting an English and a rural society. They may be overlooking the more likely determinant: English rural society came to be formed and to reflect the BCP (and the Authorised Version).
Yet, even if the Canadian BCP does reflect an English strand in Canadian life, and a non-urban one, these are aspects of the Anglican Church of Canada that are legitimate because true. And it has to be said that this same BCP has been warmly embraced by our native peoples who still hold firmly to it. How does the BAS speak to the life of the farmer, the fisherman, the trapper, the small tradesman, to rural dwellers, to West Indian imigrants and to residents of reserves, and of small towns? It ignores them by offering the context and idiom of a progressive, urban, academic elite where the only experience of nature might well be the well groomed tennis court and other manifestations of a benign environment.
The compilers seem to have been studious to turn their backs on those very national strands, English and native, which do contribute something to Canadian life to distinguish it from that of the dominant culture.
Now it is not necessarily a bad thing to devise liturgies which are not distinctively national in character. The lust for relevance can only “date” liturgy rapidly. The staying power of the BCP rests very much on its avoidance of temporal imperatives and the fact that it was not designed to reflect national consciousness but rather Scriptural truth and sound doctrine. That national consciousness came to be linked with the BCP is a tribute to its compilers and not a cause for criticism.
Difficulty is caused when relevance is sought, and particularly if it is of a kind that appeals to only a small segment of national life and society. Then there can only be an alienation of all other potential worshippers in other areas and classes. If timelessness is to be eschewed there must at least be a search for a context that reflects the people most likely to take part in the corporate worship of the Church. In the multi-racial and multi-cultural society ours has become, where many Christian denominations are clearly identified with particular national origins, there is no shame in designing the liturgy for thosewho traditionally make up our Church, the derided Anglos, the despised West Indians, and the condescended-to Indians and Inuit, and those who live outside Toronto.
There is a sense in which the BAS tries to be the liturgy of the Church Universal. In one sense this is all to the good. But in another sense the attitude displays an appalling arrogance. Ours is a tiny church, – strongest proportionately in those places where the BAS has had a difficult reception – set in a nation in which the Christian Church is highly fissured. Our Church is not the Church of Canada, the Catholic Church in Canada, from which others have broken away and might conceivably return.
Rather she is a small group of homogeneous, if discrete, backgrounds facing a gigantic missionary task but needing liturgies suitable to her flocks. The language of worship is rarely the language of evangelism and we make a grave mistake if we believe that by changing the liturgies we shall be forging new evangelistic tools. In any event the whole ethos of the BAS and of the gathered comunity seems to be against active evangelism. And so we are left with the groups who historically have been or may be attracted to our Church.
To illustrate the point consider Penticton, B.C., a city of but 24,000 inhabitants. It supports thirty churches, only one of which is Anglican. It is evident that in such a setting the Anglican Church will appeal primarily, if not almost wholly, to people of backgrounds that are in Canada traditionally “Anglican”. It is this sort of context that would be Canadian and is missing from the BAS. It can only be regarded as “defeatist” if it is assumed, first, that the Church will not evangelise and, secondly, that there are not other paths to salvation beyond the Anglican Church of Canada.
It must always be borne in mind that it is very difficult in Canada to define a Canadian context. There is so little homogeneity in the land, even within different social classes, that the compilers of the BAS were probably wise to avoid trying to contextualise the liturgy, if that was their decision. They can scarcely be blamed for inevitably reflecting their own backgrounds.
The encouraging thing about the whole Evaluation process is that other backgrounds will now be brought to bear upon the compiler’s work.
To go beyond the context of worship and to try to Canadianise the doctrinal context of the church’s public liturgies would be a dangerous business. Doctrine must be universal – to abandon this principle, to abandon catholicity, is to open the door to many evils already apparent, from syncretism to monism, to ugly nationalism. Other responses in this submission have demonstrated that there is a weakening of Christian doctrine in the BAS.
One might well suspect that this tendency, even resolve, is culturally driven in some degree by the Canadian desire to mollify, to find consensus, to be undemanding and to eschew debate in the name of preventing discord. The doctrinal context of the BAS may, then, have been Canadianised, but this is by no means clear.
In summary, a Canadian context of worship and possibly of doctrine is reflected but uncertainly in the BAS. This of itself is unimportant, and as far as doctrine is concerned, as it should be. What is important, however, and unfortunate, is the discernible tendency to impose on the Canadian Church a particular, narrow vision of “Canadian context” and the ethical values of a particular class, of a certain time, place and sociological and educational formation, remote from the Canadian mainstream.
ESCHATOLOGY AND LIFE AFTER DEATH
It is essential that the content of our worship be faithful to the truth of the Gospel as revealed in Holy Scripture and sustained by Holy Tradition. Liturgies which seek to add new biblical insight or to revise rites in line with what is thought to be more pastoral practice must not take away from the essentials of the Gospel as we have received them.
Thus it is that the Book of Alternative Services must be corrected with respect to its treatment of eschatology.
The compilers of BAS assert that “we do not know the condition of the dead…everything we say about them remains…at the level of symbol.” (BAS p.566-567). This contradicts the witness of the Apostles and of the Lord’s Church.
The classic statement in the New Testament of the Church’s doctrine on the Resurrection and the condition of those who died in the Faith of Christ is found in the fifteenth chapter of St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. Christ, the Apostle says, is the “first fruits” of those raised from the dead; their resurrection will conform to the manner and pattern of His.
The BAS compilers dismiss this passage as “his belief” written in “poetic” and “symbolic” language. In so doing, they empty this passage, If not all Scripture, of its authority, thereby throwing into question the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Spirit upon the authors. Additionally, they reject the ability of language, in which poetry and symbol are among its tools, to convey truth.
For the compilers faith alone is able to “consign their (the dead’s) well-being to the creative and redemptive remembrance of God” (BAS p.567). Faith, for them, therefore, is not based on fact. It is subjective and unstable or unreliable: “Faith is not only belief: faith embraces even its own shadow, which is doubt” (BAS p.566). Isaiah, on the other hand, exhorts us to “have faith or you will not stand firm” (7.9). And St. James warns that “he who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways, will receive anything from the Lord.” (1:6-8).
Double-mindedness is unhappily characteristic of the BAS, and not least with respect to eschatology, whereas the witness of the one, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church has been consistently that Jesus rose from the dead and ascended to the Father to prepare a place for those who believe in Him, so that in the fellowship of -the saints they may go from glory to glory in the holy and joyful service of God.
FEMINIST THEOLOGY AND SPIRITUALITY
From the standpoint of feminism, the BAS offers very meagre fare. In the language of Mary Daly (Beyond God the Father; Gyn/ecology) and, for that matter, Germaine Greer (The Change), it does little more than throw bones – in their own words – to the ‘crones’, both new and old.
As such, it ultimately fails to address the profounder impulses within feminism itself. To be sure, the older terms of intended inclusivity, such as ‘dearly beloved brethren’, ‘man’, ‘mankind’, and ‘he’ in the contexts which clearly distinguished their use have been altogether overtaken by the prevailing dominance of the view that they are irremediably sexist and exclusive; in short, that they belong to the patriarchal domination of women as structures of sin.
Gone too, is ‘the giving of this women to be married to this man’ from the marriage service, while the Churching of Women BAS been sanitized into ‘A Thanksgiving for the Birth of a Child’. Small beer, indeed, for the feminists, but it marks something of the measure of the social conservatism of the BAS and of its compilers.
More significant from the feminist standpoint is the provision for psalm-prayers which effectively replace the Gloria Patri and allow, at least in principle, a host of modifying metaphors to supplant the Trinitarian identity of God. This is more encouraging for feminists because it opens the possibility for prescriptive changes to the liturgy. It allows for the promotion of the programmatic ‘balancing the metaphors’ central to the Inclusive Language Liturgy enterprise of PECUSA, the serious doctrinal limitations and aberrations of which have been clearly exposed in literature that will be well known to members of the sub-group.
Very little of this actually appears explicitly in the BAS. The few changes seem for the most part minor and innocuous in themselves. The BAS presents a rather cautious accomodation to the cultural pressures of the day. The changes may annoy and frustrate some traditionalists; they can hardly appease far less satisfy the active feminists in our Church and her House of Bishops.
It would be tempting to leave the matter at this point. Two things suggest otherwise. First, the fact that the BAS may already have conceded in principle the logic of feminist theology and spirituality; second, the force of the feminist agenda itself which cannot be satisfied with the minor changes already accomplished. The drive for feminist egalitarianism, not only in honour and dignity but in identity and vocation also, is very much alive in our Church even if but barely reflected in the BAS.
For feminists language is a tool, an instrument of power in the hands of those who wield power. The Rev’d Alice Medcof heralds the feminist agenda for the Canadian Church in the decade of the ’90’s:
Language limits the horizon of possibilities. What and who God is to us is reflected in how we order our lives with respect to others, society and the environment. During the last four decades, much analysis was done on this issue which rooted societal ills in the patriarchal, hierarchical nature of the Church. Calling God ‘Father’ exclusively, was shown to be a defect in our Christian ethos. Assuming God to be male made it natural for men to take leadership in the Church while denying this privilege to women.(The Anglican Journal, January 1990)
Such statements as this represent some of the basic assumptions of the feminist theological programme. In this view, language limits in the sense of being a restriction to the unbounded, unfettered will which nonetheless strives to determine its own reality. Language, consequently, no longer expresses reality but becomes the tool of those who wish to shape reality.Accordingly, God is not and cannot be revealed, objectively speaking. He is what he is only ‘to us’ – hence a smorgasbord of indiscriminate metaphors or a collage of selective images from women’s experience demand liturgical expression. The feminists claim that we project or create God on the basis of experience of our lives with ‘others’, society, and the environment.
Commenting on Alice Walker’s The Colour Purple, Daphne Hampson observes “that in a white, patriarchal, society ‘God’ has been shaped in the image of those who have created Him” (Theology and Feminism, 1990, p.165). Total primacy is given to the contextual experience.
The BAS shares in this tendency. This means that language serves as the instrument by which the ruling elements in any given inter-personal, cultural-political milieu create their own reality, including the identity of the ultimate reality – God. “The image of God is the product of the people who have conceived him” (ibid). God becomes simply the God of this issue and that concern, the collective noun of our aspirations and interests, but without the measure of his Word and Spirit by which they find their fulfilment in his will and purpose.
Originally descriptive terms about the order and organization of societies, like ‘patriarchy and hierarchy’, have become proscriptive terms. The power structure of the institutional church determines the nature of God, or at least the form of address to God, by means of its own self-image; as that changes, so must God. God exists for the sake of the institution and according to its determinations. He is made subject to the body which properly exists to be subject to him as Lord.
This constitutes a fundamental rejection of Revelation. There is a complete inversion of ‘the infinite content in the finite context’ (Hans Urs von Balthasar). The context has become everything, the content nothing. Freed from doctrinal rule and restraint, the institution must be endlessly revolutionary, the liturgy the vehicle of its ceaseless changes.
The BAS, we are told, represents but a moment in the process (p.10). Change becomes the only constant; the context, the sole content; the process, the one principle. Feminism can be seen to make explicit the dangers of the doctrinal inadequacies of the BAS.
The ideology – critique of feminism denies the doctrinal content of Scripture, on the one hand, while feminist ideology uses Scripture for its own agenda, on the other hand. Scripture becomes just a grab-bag of images which may be used indiscriminately or at the political convenience of those who are empowered – in power – in the institutional church. This is identical with the BAS’ view of ‘the holy scriptures as the repository of the Church’s symbols of life and faith'(p.9).
The Rev’d. Alice Medcof exhibits the further consequences of the indiscriminate use of images by confusing metaphor and name. She claims that there are other names for God such as ‘God our Guide, Friend, Source of Wisdom, Holy One and Mother’. These are not all names but, at best, metaphors and attributes of divinity which modify the sacred and revealed names of God. But in the absence of any coherent principle of doctrinal discrimination, such confusions must force their way upon the liturgy.
Consequently, the small changes of the BAS can only accentuate the need for much more radical changes, either to Elisabeth Schijssler-Fiorenza’s ‘women-church’ of 1self-identified women and women-identified men’ (Bread Not Stone: The Challenge of Feminist Biblical Interpretation, 1984) or by the more complete abandonment of the Christian religion in favour of post-Christian feminist spirituality in the manner of Mary Daly and now even more persuasively in the post-Christian feminist ‘theism’ of Daphne Hampson (Theology and Feminism).
“Feminism represents a revolution” and presents if a different view of the world”, Daphne Hampson argues.
“The challenge of feminism is not simply that women wish to gain an equal place with men in what is essentially a religion which is biased against them. The challenge of feminism is that women may want to express their understanding of God within a different thought structure”.
The ‘may want’ is surely rhetorical; from her position women must want a radically different thought structure.
“Women need to find images with which and persons with whom, they can in their religion form some association, or perceive a reflection of themselves”.
But this need to perceive a reflection of themselves comes to mean the rejection of Christ.Ms. Hampson exposes the inadequacies of Christian -feminist positions with great force and clarity, notwithstanding the philosophical naivete of her scientific positivism. For all of the feminists’ re-structuring of institutions, all of their ‘balancing the metaphors’ of Scripture, all of their hermenentical gymnastics, they cannot get around the Rock; the stumbling-block is Jesus Christ because he is ‘the infinite content in the finite context’.
Daphne Haupson’s depiction of a feminist ‘eucharist’ highlights the problem which feminism confronts in Christianity:
Only women were present and the service was orientated towards women. In place of a sermon there was a time of quiet in which women present spoke to the theme of ‘creation’, some from the perspective of giving birth. How Jarring it seemed then that, at the consecration, reference had necessarily to be made to the man Jesus of Nazareth: he had to take centre stage. Not simply was he mentioned, as men may well have been in the prayers of intercession, but he was actively made present as lord of the situation. In such a liturgy, it becomes apparent, in a way in which in a traditional liturgy with a man celebrating it does not, because there is not the same incongruity, that women are, at the very core of their religion, dependent on the male world. (p.62)
For feminists, that God became man means that God is male. The centrality and the uniqueness of Christ becomes the stumbling-block. The sex of his humanity, a part of his finite context, the reality of which demands that it be one or the other, has become the basis of exclusion rather than the inclusion the Incarnation itself implies. But why is Christ such a problem? Because of the primacy given to the present context of contemporary experience, in this instance, women’s experience. The problem is that God is at centre stage rather than the individual’s experience of herself/himself. When the context is everything, that becomes intolerable.It also means that as divorced from the infinite content, the context is nothing. The sense of this impels the rhetoric of rage which distinguishes feminism and identifies it philosophically as a derivative form of Nietzschean subjectivity. The post-modern attempts to find limited solutions to the inevitable conflicts of human experience between this person and that, this interest group and every other, must equally fail to satisfy and must only increase the sense of endless division. This is the false infinity of the finite context of contemporary experience.
It is the point where feminism and the BASintersect. For where Scripture and Doctrine are simply placed alongside experience and tradition, their purpose becomes ambiguous because this primacy is denied. Feminism, too, rejects the older intellectuality most fully expressed in Christian Doctrine. What needs to be seen are the consequences of doctrinal ambiguity and denial for contemporary experience. God, after all, is capable of looking after himself well enough; the consequences, however, remain for us.
Again, feminism may serve to highlight the consequences most conveniently. The primacy of women’s experience carries with it the rejection of the common rationality of our humanity. It means that everywhere there is only division. For example, Adam’s naming of the creatures is taken to be exclusive of women – an expression of male thought – from which women would now be free to name reality themselves. Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus listening to his teaching is equally offensive; the only thing acceptable to feminism would be a role reversal (Hampson, Theology and Feminism, p.104).
This reveals much about the dilemma. If human experience remains the principal criterion for our thinking and understanding of God, then we are endlessly caught in our unhappy divisions. Even if Christ, for example, had been incarnate as a woman, the same problem logically would remain, as it must wherever the primary definition of ourselves concerns whether we are male or female. But in this view there is no prior definition of our humanity which would comprehend and express our sexual differences and so we are left simply with the division. Feminism comes to mean not so much the denial of Jesus Christ as the rejection of the possibility of the Incarnation itself because of its particularity.
It is forgotten that the necessity of Revelation and the need for grace arise out of the limitations of human experience and as the means of its true realization. This must be actively remembered and proclaimed with thoughtful clarity, not as the counter to feminism but as the actual fulfilment of its yearnings for independence, wholeness and relationships which are to be found ultimately and only in Christ. The Incarnation is the context and the condition for the participation of every individual in the infinite content; it marks the true expression of contemporary experience.
Doctrine again must be brought to the foreground for a renewed sense of our salvation in the perfect divinity and perfect humanity of Jesus Christ. He is, indeed, Lord of the situation. As Bishop Pearson (17th cent.) so wonderfully put it in his classical treatise ‘An Exposition of the Creed’:
Thus our Redeemer, the man Christ Jesus was born of a woman, that he might redeem both men and women; that both sexes might rely upon him, who was of the one, and from the other.
Only a liturgy subordinate to Scripture and Doctrine can give proper expression to the contemporary experience of both men and women. It presents more than a reflection of ourselves; it offers redemption.
THE INCLUSIVITY OF THE GOSPEL
At one level answering the questions posed about this “theme” is a little like answering the proverbial question: “Have you stopped beating your wife yet”?
If inclusivity of the Gospel means Galatians 3:28 on a straight forward interpretation relating to Salvation then no service book devised by man could ever overplay the theme, and yes, it is critically important and, again, yes, the BAS does underplay this foundation principle of the Faith for reasons given elsewhere in this Submission, especially in responses to questions on Salvation, the Eucharist, the Church as Community, and the Nature and Authority of the Bible.
If, however, “inclusivity of the Gospel” is taken as a code phrase triggering other messages such as liberation theology, feminist issues, the embracing of sexual relationships outside heterosexual marriage, the conservation and respect for nature agenda, bias to the poor/handicapped/third world/East European Christians/debtors etc. etc. then the questions asked become much more difficult, the answers become less clear cut and we enter very deep waters indeed.
If, in short, “inclusivity of the Gospel” means taking Galatians 3:28, shorn of its preceding context, as “The Magna Carta of the New Humanity” then we enter into doctrinal issues which are simply beyond the scope of a response to be prepared in but a few short months. All that can be done is to hazard some comments with the urgent plea that if the BAS Evaluation Commissioners should decide to consider recommending revision of the BAS to make it more “inclusive” along these lines, a fresh opportunity for submission should be afforded. Otherwise some of the most substantial doctrinal issues of our day will be ill considered, at enormous cost as the unhappy experience of PECUSA well shows.
It is clear that the BAS approaches what one might term the new inclusivity very cautiously, which is commendable. Doubtless, care has been taken to employ language emphasising both sexes and to avoid those words which are grammatically and historically inclusive of both sexes but which have come to be regarded by many as masculine only. Regrettably most of these words are of Saxon origin and their loss strips away even more of the Anglo-Saxon content of our liturgies and replaces it with words of Latin or Romance origins. This contributes to the turgid and lugubrious quality of the BAS prose and robs our liturgy of that sharpness and pointedness of the BCP language, so filled with words of Saxon origin.
The new approach to the naming of God has been noted in the response to the questions on the ‘Nature of God’ and ‘Feminist Theology and Spirituality’. Care has been taken in Eucharistic Prayer 1 to remind God that he created (hu)mankind in both male and female forms, thus highlighting a current “relevance”, as well as creating a quite unnecessary distinction. Similarly there are nods in the direction of native peoples, the poor, the unemployed, the outcast, the hungry, the rejected, prisoners, the mentally ill and the addicted, those who suffer cruelty and so on.
But what is characteristic of all the prayers containing these “outreach” references or petitions with respect to these folk is that God is to look lively and do something about the problem. While it is true the Spirit must initiate Christian action, there is no sense in the BAS that actually doing anything about the sea of troubles and the ocean of troubled souls around us is the responsibility of the individual Christian. The phrase “works of mercy” may stink in the nostrils of moderns but it seems the meaning of the phrase has also been lost, and with it any sense of a religious as distinct from a social work dimension to the Church’s work in the world.
There is, unhappily, no sense in the BAS that the poor, neglected, unemployed, broken, persecuted, afflicted etc., will actually be part of the gathered community. Rather they are the people outside whom we remember before God in trust that He will do something for them. That the Church should even try to save their souls seems out of the question. Their temporal needs are clearly the concern of someone else, probably “the Government”. The gathered community seems to be a white, middle-class, well educated, reasonably well-off and healthy reserve where people are homogeneous, even in their views on matters secular. It is in this respect that the BAS fails dismally to be an “inclusive” book.
Having said all that it must be conceded that the vagueness and generality of much of the BAS prayer material means that people can find in it pretty much what they want. A liberationist wanting to get up a workers’ mass, or a believer in the acculturation of the Gospel or the liturgy, and even a militant feminist might find useful material by selective choice. Equally such folk would be frustrated by the material in the book. This is not so much a commendation as a reflection of the fact that doctrinal choices have not clearly been made and answered. Odd concessions to “relevance” have been included, in order, so it would seem, to allow scope for comfortable fudges.
Yet, the world has changed since the late 1970’s. Even liberation theology, once so powerful a force, has been overtaken by events not only in Eastern Europe and Soviet Russia, but in South Africa herself. The undoubtedly important ecological problems of the world now vie for the Church’s attention along with egalitarian feminism and ‘gay liberation’.
It is far from certain that comfortable fudges will be possible in any of these areas. Certainly the claims of native Canadians will test the capacity of the Church to which so many of them belong to maintain the truth of the Gospel while supporting their legitimate aspirations. To such matters as these the BAS seems barely, if at all, relevant in anythematic way.
As Christians we must believe that Scripture and doctrine are relevant. And it is these to which any service book must give voice, not to inevitably transient themes, however pressing they may be in the cultural or secular sense whether over long periods or short. To the extent the BAS dilutes doctrine, or concedes doctrinal changes, it does not only dishonour to God, but a disservice to the Church which can only grapple with thematic issues on “the best and surest foundation”.
The problems inherent in catering to the new inclusivity in relation to feminism have been noticed in the response to the question on “Feminist Theology and Spiritualism’ . There is a wide literature in this field, and there will be more. If it should be the case that the sub-group on theological question is to consider inclusive language under the heading ‘the inclusivity of the Gospel’ the Prayer Book Society commends to the attention of the Comissioners three articles which may not generally be known –
(i) Divisive Language by Caroline Moore in the Salisbury Review, December, 1990. (A critique of the inclusive language proposals of the English LiturgicalCommission);
(ii) Inclusive Language Liturgies: The Renunciation of Revelation, by the Rev’d. David Curry in the Churchman, Vol. 105 No. 1 (1991); and
(iii) The response by the Faculty of Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry in the Liturgical Texts for Evaluation of PECUSA.
If it would be helpful to the sub-group or to the Commissioners generally the Prayer Book Society of Canada will supply a full presentation of views on the question of inclusive language. The Society and its branches are fully alive to the pressing nature of the claims for “inclusive language” liturgies and are actively educating their members in their implications.
Finally, a brief comment on another possible aspect of “inclusivity of the Gospel”: the Church’s relations with and outreach to those who can not or will not accept the Church’s traditional teaching on sexual relations. This “theme” is not found in the BAS. Possible inclusion is an important matter not because of cultural pressures but because of the doctrinal implications. It has great potential for divisiveness as experience in PECUSA has shown. The House of Bishops, in a press item in the Globe and Mail of 12 Nov. 1991, appears to be counselling caution and study. So does the Prayer Book Society of Canada.
THE CHARISMATIC NATURE OF THE CHURCH
Although taught by all orthodox and biblical expressions of the Christian faith, the principal contribution of the charismatic movement has been to remind us of the charismatic nature of the Church.
The Church is Christ’s; it is not autonomous or equal with God; it is not ‘called out’ by its own word or power. The Church and its members are completely dependent upon the Holy Spirit for their life and health and this is to be refracted in all of our life. There must be a frank admission of the Holy Spirits’s sovereign role in: the conviction of sin, true repentance, conversion of life, knowledge of God through Christ, service in Christ’s name.
All genuine renewal is not a matter of mere words in a book – either changed or maintained – but a matter of the heart and mind of man turning to Jesus as Saviour and Lord and allowing the Holy Spirit to fill us. In light of this, we acknowledge the incapacity of any mere book of worship to renew us.
Precisely because of the fundamental nature of the person and work of the Holy Spirit in the life and thought of the Christian, it is hard fully to evaluate any book’s witness to his reality. It is not a matter of counting references to the Holy spirit. It is not a matter of a single collect or litany.
The BAS has numerous references to the Holy Spirit. However, the very tenor of the BAS is unfaithful to the truth of the Church as charismatic. This is a tough statement, but one justified for the following reasons.
First, the introduction to the BAS contains no reference to the Holy Spirit. The sense of our dependence is lessened by having ‘gospel’ and ‘scripture’ in lower case letters. The description of worship and change in worship is talked about as if it is merely our worship, our repository of symbols – rather than our response to God in Christ by the power of the Spirit.
Granted there must be change in the idiom of worship and in specific motions. However, truth in liturgy is not found in the symbols being authentically ours, but in the words and actions being authentic to God as revealed in Scripture and enlivened by the Spirit.
Secondly, the Introduction portrays renewal as being a change of words in books. True renewal consists in turning to Christ as Saviour and Lord and openness to the person and work of the Holy Spirit in our worship and enjoyment of God.
Thirdly, while there is no doubt that the Holy Spirit is invoked in the BAS, the tenor of the invocation is consistently one of an equal calling on an equal to assist in a manageable task. There is rarely, if ever, a sense of urgency – an acknowledgment of our need and complete dependence of God’s Holy Spirit.
Absent from the BAS is a consistent pattern of words and actions illustrating that without the Holy Spirit there can be: no Godly conviction of sin; no knowledge and enjoyment of God through Christ; no conversion; no true renewal; no true worship in power and authority; no true exercise of spiritual gifts; no conversion of ‘natural’ talents to the service of Christ.
This theme is absent from the BAS. It is potentially a very serious matter. The absence of anything pertinent to large and distinctive bodies of Canadian Anglicans is a possible source of discord. Yet, the embracing of beliefs contrary to the Faith is not an option for part of the Church and God.
The Prayer Book Society is not in a position to make any further comment at this stage. It believes a great deal of learning and study is required, on its part and on the part of the Commissioners.
Prompted in part by the sub-group’s question and in part by the awareness that many native Canadian congregations hold tenaciously to Prayer Book worship, the Prayer Book Society of Canada is launching as a priority its own research into native customs, practices and spirituality and their possible place in the worship life of the Anglican Church of Canada. The first step must surely be to consult with native Christians themselves, rather than with other groups and interests in the Church.
JUSTICE, PEACE AND THE INTEGRITY OF CREATION
In Rites for a New Age, Michael Ingham stresses that the A empBASizes three points in our relationship to creation; “our responsibility for the preservation of the earthts bounty”, p. 46 affirmation of “the dignity and value of all created life” p.47 and “God’s judgement on the sinful use of earth’s resources” p.49. Whether or not we acknowledge Mr. Ingham as the unofficial Apologist for the BAS is immaterial for he identifies clearly the BAS’ view toward nature. He is also correct when he asserts that much, though not all, of this is new ground. (see Rites p.49)
Ingham1s first point is not new for Anglicanism for such teaching is clearly found in Scripture. Only if one agrees with a misreading of traditional Scriptural exegesis can this responsibility to preserve creation be claimed as anything new.
As Tarsicius van Bavel states in the latest edition of Augustinian Studies vol. 20, 1990, p.18 “why should belief in a transcendent God-Creator alienate us from creation, or prevent us from taking responsibility for creation?” Van Bavel sees no need whatsoever to revert to a pagan notion of the holiness of nature as some advocate. A Christian view of the integrity of nature and our proper use of that nature does not require such a backsliding to pagan concepts.
As for Ingham’s second point, despite his claim, the BAS clearly does not “make a good effort to affirm the dignity and value of all created life” p.47. The BAS is sadly, though not surprisingly, silent on the dignity and value of unborn human life. Many vague and general statements (Ingham cites several) are made about life and its goodness and value though when it comes to this most relevant, pressing and topical subject the BAS is silent. This is surely regrettable but also reflective of a deeper flaw in the BAS – a flaw which will be discussed in more detail below.
Ingham’s third point is that the BAS breaks new ground and recognizes the sinfulness of mankind’s destruction of the environment. This is true. However, the confession he cites from the Ash Wednesday service (BAS p.285) highlights another problem -the confession is comunal and would thus appear to assume communal guilt. This is clearly not the case. All Anglicans or all members of a particular congregation are not guilty of this sin. This sort of communal guilt apparently assumed by the BAS is incorrect and should be dropped.
The notion of communal guilt, though presently in vogue in certain circles, is another example of a deeper flaw in the BAS. The BAS, in its effort to be contextual, relevant and up to date has strayed into being faddish and very bound to a particular historical period.
Its concern about pollution makes it a strictly -late twentieth century work, its rejection of Reformation theology and liturgies in favour of a particular slice of Patristic theology and liturgy (namely Hippolytus) dates it as a second generation product of Dix’s liturgical movement and its concern only for particular forms of life and certain oppressed groups (neglecting -the unborn human) reveals it as the work of special interest groups. Many other examples could be cited but the overall result is a service book which, while new, is also very narrow in its appeal and in the interests it addresses. In short, because of this the BAS is a seriously dated work.
The BAS has also begun to address issues of Justice and peace. In Canada, justice for native peoples and concern for world peace, especially with respect to nuclear weapons, are very topical and newsworthy. This trend in liturgy needs to be carefully watched. There must be a difference between liturgy, liturgical prayer and the newscast on T.V. or radio. Simply to repeat the world’s troubles during worship is most disconcerting and discouraging to people. It was recently stated by an Anglican after worship that if he had wanted to hear the newscast again he could have stayed home to hear it.
There is a further problem with these concerns, however legitimate, encroaching upon liturgy. It used to be said about the Anglican Church that it was the Tory Party at prayer; it is now commonly said that we are the N.D.P. or the Greens at prayer. Neither label is desirable. Average Anglicans clearly see and state a tendency of our present church to align itself with the positions, policy and statements of certain secular political interests.
The church should present the true Gospel, and its liturgy must reflect that same Gospel. Yet the Anglican Church and the BAS are both seen as reflecting contemporary, political, secular concerns and positions. We must ask ourselves, “how true to the eternal Gospel are we being when our liturgy is perceived in the pews as reflecting a particular secular political agenda?”