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By Robin G. Jordan

I find very little difference between the views of Anglicanism and the Anglican Church, which hold sway in the Anglican Church in North America today, and those that were prevalent in the Episcopal Church in the 1980s and 1990s. The biggest difference is that the “three streams-one river” view of the Anglican Church was in an early stage in the late 1990s. It did not begin to grip imaginations until the beginning of the new millennium. It, however, has not quite displaced the myth of Anglicanism as a via media between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism, which is still perpetuated in the Anglican Studies Programs of a number of seminaries to which the ACNA sends its candidates for ordination for training even though it has been repeatedly debunked since the nineteenth century. The influence of the nineteenth century Anglo-Catholic movement looms fairly large in the ACNA as it did (and still does) in the Episcopal Church.

If any form of Protestantism is influencing thinking in the Anglican Church in North America, it is Arminianism and to a lesser extent Lutheranism, chiefly in the areas of “the sacrament of the Altar” and “Holy Absolution.” The Arminian influence can be traced to a number of sources—clergy who came from evangelical, non-denominational, or charismatic/Pentecostal churches, which are Arminian in their theological outlook; seminaries like Ashbury Theological Seminary, which the ACNA uses to train candidates for ordained ministry and which are also Arminian in their theological outlook; and the writings of the Caroline High Churchmen and the sermons of John Wesley. What is in short supply is the Reformed Protestantism of the historic Anglican formularies and the central Anglican theological tradition.

Theologically the Anglican Church in North America may be described as a hodge-podge—a confused mixture of doctrinal views that share one thing in common: They all diverge to varying degrees from historical Anglicanism. Within such confusion any hope a renewal of historic Anglicanism in North America is extremely slim. It is not an environment that is particularly favorable to the growth and development of confessional Anglicanism.

For this reason I believe that an Anglican entity, an entity that is fully committed to Biblical Christianity and historic Anglicanism, is needed in North America. Pastors who are faithful to the teaching of the Holy Scriptures and to the principles of the historic Anglican formularies and the central Anglican theological tradition should not have to work in an ecclesiastical environment in which other pastors are working at cross-purposes to them. They face enough obstacles in their ministry. Without such an entity there is very little likelihood of a renewal of historic Anglicanism occurring in North America.

CANA Missionary Bishop Felix Orji’s new diocese initiative aims to create such an entity, an ecclesiastical environment in which confessional Anglicans and confessional Anglicans can flourish and which will upbuild and strengthen the confessional Anglican presence and witness in North America. It will meet a longstanding need. I therefore urge Anglicans Ablaze readers to support this initiative with their prayers, their generous donations, and in other ways. For more information about the initiative and how they can support it, readers can contact the Rev. Richard LePage at pastor@ReformationAnglicanChurch.org or (207) 894-0177 or the Rev Jonathan Smith at jonathan.smith@redeemerorl.org or (321) 356-9472.
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By Robin G. Jordan

Because two prayer books share language and texts does not mean that they share doctrine. This is a fallacious argument into which I keep running in discussions of the connection between The Book of Common Prayer 2019 and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. As I noted in yesterday’s article, Ben Jefferies uses this argument in his description of the ACNA’s Prayer Book 2019.

A number of historical prayer books share language and texts but their doctrine is quite different. Three examples come to mind.

The first example is Archbishop Thomas Cranmer’s two Prayer Books, the 1549 and 1552 Prayer Books. Among the factors that contributed to Cranmer’s revision of the 1549 Prayer Book was Bishop Stephen Gardiner’s critique of Cranmer’s magnum opus, A Defence of the True and Catholic Doctrine of the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ. In An Explication and Assertion of the true catholic Faith touching the most blessed Sacrament of the Altar Gardiner argued that the 1549 Communion Service, in particular the 1549 Canon, taught the medieval Catholic doctrines of transubstantiation and the sacrifice of the Mass.

Cranmer would conclude that the 1549 Prayer Book was insufficiently reformed and drafted the 1552 Prayer Book. It is the 1552 Prayer Book that represents Cranmer’s mature thinking as a Reformed theologian.

The 1662 Book of Common Prayer is essentially the 1552 Prayer Book with a number of minor alterations and additions. Nineteenth century Tractarian writers would claim that these changes brought about a change in the eucharistic doctrine of the Prayer Book. This claim, as Neil and Willoughby point out in The Tutorial Prayer Book for the Teacher, the Student, and the General Reader, like so many Tractarian claims, is fallacious.

A second example is the 1928 Proposed English Prayer Book and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. These two books not only share language and texts but they also share services. An alternative Order of Administration of Holy Communion, an alternative Order for the Ministration of Publick Baptism of Infants, an alternative Order of Confirmation, an alternative Order for the Communion of the Sick, and other alterations and additions to the proposed book, however, completed changed the doctrine of the English Prayer Book.

For example, the Prayer of Consecration of the alternative Order of Administration of Holy Communion was modeled on that of the 1549 Communion Service and incorporated an invocation of the Holy Spirit in the consecration. Archbishop Cranmer did not include such an invocation in the 1552 Prayer of Consecration on the grounds that it was contrary to the teaching of the Holy Scriptures as well as suggested that the bread and wine underwent a change in substance upon their consecration. The Holy Scriptures teach that the Holy Spirit indwells people and sanctifies them. The Holy Spirit does not sanctify inanimate objects. The alternative Order for the Communion of the Sick permitted the administration of communion to the sick from the reserved sacrament.

A third example is the 1962 Canadian Prayer Book and the 1662 Prayer Book. The two books share language and texts but their doctrine is not the same. This is evident from a comparison of the Prayer of Consecration in the Order for the Administration of the Lord’s Supper, or Holy Communion, the Prayer over the Water in the Font in the Ministration of Holy Baptism, and the Ministry to the Sick in the two books. The 1962 Canadian Prayer of Consecration is open to interpretation as teaching that, when the priest consecrates the bread and wine, he represents or re-offers Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. The 1962 Canadian Prayer over the Water in the Font emphasizes the role of the priest in the sanctification of water for the purpose of baptism.

In the 1662 Order of the Ministration of Baptism the petition for the sanctification of the water is redundant since the Ark Prayer teaches that God has already sanctified all water for “the mystical washing away of sin” through the baptism of his Son in the river Jordan. The 1962 Canadian Order for the Ministration of Baptism omits the Ark Prayer. The 1962 Canadian Prayer Book adds forms for the laying on of hands on the sick and their anointing with oil to the Ministry to the Sick.

When one does a rite by rite, service by service comparison of The Book of Common Prayer 2019 and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, it is quite evident that not only is the doctrine of the two books different from each other but so are their practices, which are an embodiment of a prayer book’s doctrine even when they are optional. The two books represent two different theological traditions. The ACNA’s Prayer Book 2019 represents the Catholic Revivalist tradition, which is essentially a rejection of historic Anglicanism, and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer represents the Protestant, Reformed tradition in which historic Anglicanism stands. The Restoration bishops, while they made a number of minor alterations and additions to the 1604 Book of Common Prayer,  retained the essential Protestant, Reformed prayer book of Archbishop Cranmer.

Further Reading:
ʻFor the More Explanationʼ and ʻFor the More Perfectionʼ: Cranmerʼs Second Prayer Book
The Reformed Worship of 1552
Cranmer and the Lord’s Supper
Small Steps, Big Leaps
1552 and All That
Cranmer—Psychologist as well as Theologian
Thomas Cranmer’s ‘True and Catholick Doctrine of the Sacrament’
Pulling up the Roots of Error: The Importance of the Eucharist in the Theology of Thomas Cranmer
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Recently I came across another concerning post on Anglican Pastor entitled “4 Reasons Why I Now Celebrate Communion Facing the Altar, Not the People.”

In this piece the author, Rev’d Ben Jefferies give four reasons why he has adopted the practice. However after reading his piece I remain unconvinced by his article for numerous reasons and found his article concerning on several fronts. No doubt there are others who can articulate those concerns better than I can, but here are two reasons that stood out to me. Read More
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Fake Plastic Food

By Robin G. Jordan

In an era of fake news and false narratives it is not surprising to run into inaccurate descriptions of The Book of Common Prayer 2019 by members of the ACNA’s Prayer Book and Liturgy Task Force promoting the book. Ben Jefferies’ open letter to Drew Keane is an example.

 Jefferies has been very busy lately creating his own false narrative about the ACNA’s Prayer Book 2019, arguing that it embodies the theology of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. I analyzed Jefferies’ letter and drew two conclusions from the analysis. What Jefferies is attempting to do is use the ACNA’s Prayer Book and Liturgy Task Force’s cannibalization of texts from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and his own reinterpretation of the theology of the 1662 Prayer Book to justify his assertion that The Book of Common Prayer 2019 embodies the theology of the 1662 Prayer Book. In doing so he resorts to old-fashioned sophistry.

For readers who may be unfamiliar with the term, Merriam Webster offers this explanation of sophistry.
Sophistry is reasoning that seems plausible on a superficial level but is actually unsound, or reasoning that is used to deceive.
Jefferies may believe what he claims. But whether or not he does, he is misleading his readers and listeners with his assertion. If one does a straightforward analysis of the doctrine and practices of the two books, it is clear that they embody quite different theologies. Any similarity between the two books is superficial.

For readers who may be interested in learning more about the theology of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, I recommend  The Tutorial Prayer Book for the Teacher, the Student, and the General Reader, edited by Charles Neil and J. M. Willoughby, Harrison Trust, 1913. In their section on The Interpretative Principles of the Tractarian Movement (pp. 269-280) Neil and Willoughby address Jefferies’ claim that the 1662 Book of Common Prayer teaches a form of eucharistic sacrifice. In their section on Prayers for the Dead (pp. 481-483), they address his claim that the 1662 Prayer Book contains prayers for the dead.
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Anglicans Ablaze by Unknown - 1w ago
By Robin G. Jordan

In his reply to my comments in response to his article, “ 4 Reasons Why I Now Celebrate Communion Facing The Altar, Not the People,” Ben Jefferies contends that the views of Anglican history and norms which I presented in my comments are “hotly contested.” But Ben Jefferies does not identify by whom they are contested. Anglo-Catholic and liberal writers have taken issue with these views, defending their own false narratives, but to my knowledge no representatives of the central Anglican theological tradition.

Every liturgical gesture, posture, and action accumulates layer after layer of doctrinal associations. The eastward position that Ben Jefferies is advocating is heavily caked with these associations. The practice cannot be separated from them.

When a practice acquires as much theological freight as the eastward position, it is best to avoid the practice for the sake of the weaker consciences of the brethren, as the apostle Paul wrote:
Be careful, however, that your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. For if someone with a weak conscience sees you who are well informed eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged to eat food sacrificed to idols? So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge…. (1 Corinthians 8:9-11)
In his reply to someone else’s comment Ben Jefferies acknowledges that the primary source of the writings on the eastward position, which has influenced his thinking comes from the Roman Catholic Church. He identifies Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s The Spirit of the Liturgy as one of these writings as well as a number of articles on the eastward position on the New Liturgical Movement website. Among these writings he also identifies Uwe Michael Lang’s Turning toward the Lord. While Ben adamantly denies that he has embraced Roman Catholic theology, it must noted that the views expressed in these writings are strongly influenced by a conservative form of Roman Catholic theology. Cardinal Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI introduced a series of so-called reforms of the Roman Rite, which represent a retrograde movement in the Roman Catholic Church—a retreat from the reforms of Vatican II. Ratzinger, the writers on the New Liturgical Movement website, and Lang are a part of a movement in the Roman Catholic Church, which seeks to undo the reforms of Vatican II and to revive the Latin Mass and other pre-Vatican II practices. It blames the reforms of Vatican II for the decline in attendance at Mass in the West. Like the nineteenth century Anglo-Catholic movement in the Anglican Church it presents itself as a movement for the renewal of the church.

I was involved in a church plant that had lapsed Roman Catholics as one of ministry target groups. Our work with this ministry target group did not support the contentions of this movement. Among the reasons that the lapsed Roman Catholics with whom we worked gave for having stopped attending Mass was that they had undergone a divorce. They had been physically abused by the Roman Catholic nuns in parochial school as a child. They were concerned about the growing reports of sexual abuse of children by Roman Catholic priests, the failure of the Roman Catholic hierarchy to protect these children, and the safety of their own children. The Roman Catholic Church had not met their pastoral and spiritual needs. They had been baptized, catechized, and confirmed, but had never heard the gospel or had been invited to accept Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. How the Mass was celebrated was a non-issue.

 It is also noteworthy that in the region of the United States in which I lived at that time traditional Roman Catholic parishes were the ones that were declining while the charismatic parishes were holding their own or enjoying growth. Homosexuality was a widespread presence among the clergy and in the seminaries. It was an open secret.

The Roman Catholic Church is not attracting new converts with Pope Benedict’s so-called reforms of the Roman Rite. The number of converts to the Roman Catholic Church from evangelicalism, while it is highly publicized, is a trickle in comparison to the number of Roman Catholics who are leaving the Roman Catholic Church for evangelical churches here in the United States.

In his defense of the eastward position, Ben Jefferies relies heavily the arguments not only of conservative Roman Catholic writers but also of the nineteenth century Anglo-Catholic movement. For, example, he cites John Bacchus Dykes’  A Letter to the Right Reverend The Lord Bishop of Durham. Dykes was a nineteenth century Anglo-Catholic controversialist who became embroiled in a dispute with his bishop over the eastward position and other practices that Anglo-Catholic ritualists were introducing into the worship of their parishes often in contravention of canons of the Church of England and the laws of the land.

Ben Jefferies' reliance upon these arguments and his willingness to question the veracity of those who challenged the Anglo-Catholic false narrative in the nineteenth century speaks volumes. The eastward position is not a theologically-neutral position. It carries a lot of theological baggage. Those who are influencing his thinking are not theologically-neutral. They have a theological agenda. While he claims to reject such doctrines as transubstantiation and the sacrifice of the Mass, he is being strongly influenced by individuals who subscribe to these doctrines.

Among the arguments that Ben Jefferies makes for a priest assuming the eastward position when consecrating the eucharistic elements is that the priest is facing in the same direction as the people. This is a very weak argument. It is based upon the assumption that the focus of the building in which the congregation is worshiping is an altar on which is an altar cross, which has a cross on the reredos behind the altar, or which has a cross suspended from the ceiling above the altar.

The buildings in which Anglicans worship have changed over the past 470 years since the Elizabethan phase of the English Reformation. So have church ornaments. The English Reformers dismantled the high altars that they had inherited from the medieval Catholic church. They also tore down the rood screens and removed crucifixes, reliquaries, and holy water stoops. They replaced altars with portable wooden tables which were placed in the body of the church or at the entrance of the chancel. The people gathered around the table for communion as they gathered around the pulpit for the sermon. If a parishioner wished to sit for reasons of infirmity or age, the parishioner brought a stool from home.

While the Caroline High Churchmen placed the table against the east wall of the church, called the table an altar, and fenced it with communion rails, these changes were not introduced into all English parish churches. They were introduced only in those churches in which the Caroline High Churchmen were able to impose their so-called reforms. They were not popular, were associated in the public mind with papalism, and met with strong resistance. Archbishop William Laud’s heavy handiness toward those who resisted these changes was not forgotten and eventually cost him his head.

The pulpit and the reading desk were the focus of the eighteenth century auditory church. Its interior was the most suited to Prayer Book worship. Box pews were introduced in the auditory church and faced toward the pulpit and the reading desk from two or more directions. Auditory churches also had galleries that were faced toward the pulpit and the reading desk.

The nineteenth century Catholic Revival and the accompanying Neo-Gothic Revival would make the altar the focus of church buildings as in the medieval Catholic Church. The interior of the Neo-Gothic Revival church with choir stalls separating the chancel from the nave is the least suited for Prayer Book worship. The worship renewal movement of the twentieth century shifted the focus away from the altar onto all three principal liturgical centers—table, pulpit-lectern, and font. Congregational seating would be arranged in a semi-circle around these liturgical centers or on two or three sides of them. Like the interior of the eighteenth century auditory church, this particular arrangement is also well suited for Prayer Book worship.

The argument itself is very revealing into the thinking of the person who is making it. It suggests a regression to the altar-focused thinking of the nineteenth century Anglo-Catholic movement rather than the more balanced view of the twentieth century worship renewal movement. But it also points the influence of pre-Vatican II Roman Catholicism which was also a strong influence upon nineteenth century Anglo-Catholic movement and is influencing the regressive movement in the Roman Catholic Church, which is represented by the New Liturgical Movement.

The orientation of graves, churches, church interiors, and clergy to the east falls more into the realm of superstition than it does that of Scriptural truth or principle. It elevates the traditions of men above the Word of God and gives more weight to the rule of antiquity than to rule of Scripture.

What the Holy Scriptures teach is most important is that our hearts are oriented to God. Whether we stand, sit, genuflect, kneel, or prostrate ourselves is far less important than the posture of our heart. In John 4: 23 our Lord describes the kind of worshipers that God is seeking:
Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.
The kind of worship that honors God is the worship of the heart.

It is the considered opinion of this writer that Ben Jefferies is encouraging his fellow pastors in the Anglican Church in North America to take a direction in worship, which is not a good one. The practice that he is championing is not only a vehicle for theology that it is incompatible with the teaching of the Holy Scriptures and the doctrinal and worship principles embodied in the historic Anglican formularies and the central Anglican theological tradition but it also has not proven to be a gospel asset on the twentieth and twenty-first century North American mission field. The state of the Continuing Anglican Churches in which the eastward position is a common practice is strong testimony against the use of the practice. The Continuum is not known for its thriving churches or its evangelistic zeal. While this cannot be attributed to a single ritualistic practice, it can be attributed to the thinking behind the use of such practices. If any lesson can be learned from the decline of the Continuing Anglican Churches, it is not to put ecclesial praxis before missional engagement. Reaching and engaging the unchurched population of North America should be our number one priority, not a particular style of worship or a particular set of liturgical practices.

I have spent a good part of my life pioneering new churches on the North American mission field. One thing that I have learned is the importance of exegeting the community—its culture, its subcultures, its tastes and preferences in music and worship, and other factors that will impact a new church. One of the reasons that a number of Continuing Anglican startups have failed is that they did not do this critical preparatory work. They adopted a prayer book and a style of worship that proved to be a gospel liability in their community, and not an asset. The prayer book and style of worship did not resonate with the churchgoers looking for a new church home, much less with the unchurched population of the community. In fact, the prayer book and the style of worship, which they adopted raised significant barriers between the community’s unchurched population and the gospel.

On the other hand, new churches that did exegete the community and tailor their worship to the community flourished. This included a number of Episcopal churches. What would harm these churches was not how they worshiped but their respective communities’ reaction to developments in the national church and the negative impact these developments would have upon the public image of the Episcopal Church. They were not able to overcome the negative public image.

The ceremonialism and sacramentalism and the underlying sacerdotalism, which dominates thinking in the Anglican Church in North America as evidenced by its proposed catechism, The Book of Common Prayer 2019, and the content of the articles posted on a number of blogs with close ties to the ACNA are strong indicators that the ACNA is putting ecclesial praxis first as did the Continuing Anglican Churches. This is not a healthy development. One of the reasons that the GAFCON primates called for the formation of a new province in North America was that the existing provinces, having drifting away from the teaching of the Holy Scriptures, were neglecting the Great Commission. This prioritization of ecclesial praxis will have the same effect upon the ACNA.

The good news is that CANA West and the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), recognizing the need to bring together into a missionary diocese North American Anglicans who are faithful to Biblical Christianity and confessional Anglicanism and who wish to focus upon Great Commission free from the distractions of such an ecclesiastical environment have launched a new diocese-in-formation for these North American Anglicans. This diocese-in-formation will not only seek to maintain the Protestant, Reformed, and Evangelical character of the Anglican Church, which is based upon the Holy Scriptures and expressed in the historic Anglican formularies, but also will have as its number one priority reaching and engaging the North America’s growing unchurched population.

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