Monday, February 25, 2013

What does 'post-Anglican' mean?

I had better nail down what I mean by 'post-Anglican' before I offer a view on the emergence of a post-Anglican denomination (as promised two days ago for Monday, which is now a broken promise for Tuesday!).

An excursion backwards is called for, in order to better understand what 'Anglican' means.

Once upon a time, let's call it the Old Testament period, Israel developed ways of responding to God which involved action and reflection, sacrificial worship and exposition of texts. The story is told in such a way that suggests that the sacrificial worship (shrines,  Tabernacle then Temple) developed first and exposition of texts followed (think Ezra, post Exile). But the complicated textual reality is that all of the Old Testament which we have received from Israel is a post Exilic document, that is, a story told from the perspective of the time when the nascent theology of Israel had been shattered by national catastrophe.

Effectively the Old Testament is a reconstruction of Israel's theology in ways which both explained how the catastrophe occurred and what the consequences of the catastrophe were. If you cannot see what this has to do with 'Anglican' ... hang in there! In this reconstruction, we read of the Temple and of the Law, of the place where sacrificial action occurred and of the text which both prescribes how the sacrificial action should be governed and sets down the key to Israel's future avoidance of catastrophe, that is, it must obey the Law, in every aspect of life, in contrast to pre Exilic Israel which, despite some contrary positive examples (e.g. Josiah), was conspicuous in its disobedience.

Further, the Old Testament as we have received it has a strong strand of history and theology based around the Law and a weaker strand based around the Temple.

The Law-based history is called the Deuteronomistic History (think Deuteronomy, Joshua through to 2 Kings, as well as the prophet Jeremiah, but Genesis, I suggest, is also history told in this perspective). It tells us who was obedient and who was disobedient (now we might see one connection to modern global Anglicanism!!) in accordance with Deuteronomy's view that obedience to the Law brings blessings and disobedience brings curses. In general this version of Israel's history explains the shattering judgement of God via the exile of (northern) Israel (721 BC), the destruction of Jerusalem and Temple (597 BC) and the exile of (southern) Israel = Judah (587 BC) as a judgement on disobedience.

The Temple-based history is told in 1 and 2 Chronicles (with some influence through Nehemiah and Ezra, but they also have Law-leanings). In these books, which begin the history of Israel with Adam (1 C 1:1), attitudes to the Temple are what cut the mustard. Israel (i.e. the northern kingdom which seceded from Judah after Solomon's death) drops out of the telling. Only the kings of Judah are bothered with by the Chronicler. While their misdeeds have some commonality with their stories told in 1 and 2 Kings, generally their attitudes to the Temple come to the fore. David, to give an outstanding instance, is the great king who wishes to build a house for God. Of his adulterous, Law-breaking dalliance with Bathsheba you will not find a whisper (1 C 11-end). Just as strikingly, Mannaseh who is a wicked king according to 2 Kings 21 fullstop, with not a whisper of repentance, is presented by the Chronicler as a wicked king who repents and in his repentance 'restored the altar of the Lord' (1 C 33:1-20).

The conflict between these two theologies comes to a head with Jeremiah. He predicts the demise of Judah. His rival prophets say all will be well despite the gathering of dark Babylonian clouds on the horizon. Jeremiah has a keen eye on the Covenant with Moses, which gave both the Law and the stipulations concerning disobedience to the Law. The rival prophets mistakenly think the Covenant with David, which appears to have no such stipulations, trumps the Covenant with Moses: the house of God will be forever and thus Jerusalem will never fall. Jeremiah, as we know, was right. His rivals were wrong. Fascinatingly, each theological history offers a slightly different version of God's Covenant with David. 2 Samuel 7:14 includes words not found in 1 Chronicles 7:13: 'When he [i.e. David's descendants on David's throne] commits iniquity, I will punish him with a rod which mortals use, with blows inflicted by human beings.' Is this an editorial attempt to reconcile the Mosaic and Davidic Covenants?

The loss of the Solomonic Temple at the hands of the Babylonians fuelled the rise of the synagogues in Israel (and in its diaspora) as places beyond the fortunes of the Temple in which faithful believers could use scrolls to preserve the sacred texts of Israel and read, study and explain them. Worship in the synagogues, based on reading, speaking and prayer would later influence the course of Christianity, feeding into its worship what we describe as services of the Word, whether as standalone services or as one half of eucharistic services.

But the loss of the Solomonic Temple also fuelled intense desire to build a new Temple, a desire fulfilled in the post Exilic period. Once again sacrifice occurred as the core action in the worship of Israelites. In the long run, for Israel, the synagogue developments proved the better bet. When the Temple was finally lost to Israel in 70 AD it was set forever on a course of text-based worship. But meanwhile Christianity appropriated sacrificial action in the Temple, guided by Jesus' own instruction and Paul and other Christian interpreters of the cross, to formulate the eucharistic acts of taking bread and wine, giving thanks, and distributing the bread and wine as symbols of the supreme fulfilment of sacrifice in the Temple, the crucifixion of the Lamb of God. Eucharistic worship for Christians is the appropriation of the great Temple stream of theology and history in the Old Testament. Like the Old Testament with its rules and regulations for pure Temple worship, so we have our rules and regulations for the proper ordering of eucharistic worship, including the paraphanalia of ordination and ordained ministry (who wears what robes, who may do what part of the eucharistic service).

Where am I going with this?

I suggest that the Anglican church, with its peculiar history of being once part of the undivided catholic church, then part of the Western church, then reformed in the English Reformation but retaining elements of catholic Christianity other reforming churches gave up on (especially concerning the ordering of worship, i.e. ordination in three orders), then later partially re-appropriating other elements of  catholic Christianity through the Anglo-Catholic movement, is a blessed beneficiary of the fullness of both strands of ancient Israel's worship. No other church (I think it can be argued) places equal weight on both ministry of the Word and ministry of the Sacrament. Other churches come close such as the modern Roman Catholic church and the Plymouth Brethren, but the former does not place as much importance on exegetical preaching as Anglicans do and the latter has a very light 'ordering' of its eucharistic worship. Nevertheless it is also true that the Anglican church is a peculiar church in this way: it does not require of itself that equal weight is given everywhere and in every service to Word and Sacrament.

Thus we find that a typical service in one Anglican parish is a Word-based service, with no breaking of bread; while in another parish a typical service is a Word and Sacrament service, but the weight of the service falls on the celebration of communion, perhaps represented by a shorter sermon than a Word-based parish would desire. Put another way, parishes emphasising the ministry of the Word through preaching often reduce the number of celebrations of communion (say, from weekly to monthly)  in order to enhance the time available for a longer sermon.

Further, it may be observed in some of those parishes which happily have a shorter sermon in order to have a weekly celebration of communion, that there are extra elements added into the service, drawn from Roman rites, which are designed to develop the theology of the Sacrament (and only that part of the service) in ways which the reformation of the Church of England had eschewed.

That is, in Old Testament terms, we can find 'synagogue' Anglicans at worship, and 'Temple' Anglicans at worship. The genius of modern Anglicanism, that is, since the beginning of the twentieth century, has been its unwillingness to resolve the tension between 'synagogue' and 'Temple', between Word and Sacrament. Consequently we have been a church which has both espoused through liturgical revision around the Communion a desired balance between Word and Sacrament while tolerating congregations within our midst that do not seek to live out that desired balance.

In order to get to where I want to get tomorrow, when I open up the possibility of the emergence of a post Anglican denomination in New Zealand, it will help to have this background in mind. In a church of Word and Sacrament, of Bible and eucharist, in which the opportunity for equal weighting of both is offered but not imposed, there is always the possibility that an emphasis on one and not the other will lead to dissonance with the mainstream of Anglican life ...

Also in the background here is an important observation about the Bible, especially in this post concerning the Old Testament, that it is a 'wide' rather than 'narrow' set of scriptures, in which a variety of theological approaches to the work of God in the world are presented. A key to understanding modern Anglicanism flows from this observation ... 

Thus, as a provisional working definition of 'post-Anglican', I offer this: the state in which Anglicans find themselves in when they can no longer live out what it means to be church within the peculiarity of modern Anglicanism's refusal to resolve the tension between Word and Sacrament.


Father Ron Smith said...

"In a church of Word and Sacrament, of Bible and e(E)ucharist, in which the opportunity for equal weighting of both is offered but not imposed, there is always the possibility that an emphasis on one and not the other will lead to dissonance with the mainstream of Anglican life ..."

- Dr. Peter Collier -

Then, in this sense, Peter, parts of the ACANZP have already become what might be called 'Post-Anglican' - in their neglect of the Dominically - inspired Eucharist, as the primary act of worship as Anglicans, celebrating Christ's redemptive sacrifice at the heart and core of Christian worship.

Those parishes that presently neglect regular Celebration of the Eucharist (which has long been the norm of weekly Anglican worship) in favour of 'Services of the Word', have already shed the semblance of what might be seen to truly represent 'Anglicanism'.

Placing the 'Word-in-the-Bible' before the 'Word-made-flesh' in the Eucharist - thus neglecting the command of Jesus to 'Do this in remembrance of Me', is surely to have joined those non-Anglican Reformers whom you have mentioned in your essay.

Celebration of the Eucharist requires the perfect balance of both Word and Sacrament - thus providing worship that is typically both Anglican and Catholic. Any departure from the celebration of both - on a regular basis - as The main source of inspiration in worship - is decidedly post-Anglican!

Father Ron Smith said...

p.s. to my first post:

There is no 'tension' between the celebration of Word and Sacrament. True worship requires both - together. This is both Catholic and Apostolic in origin - the basis on which our Church is founded.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
Spoken like a true Anglo-Catholic!

Apart from that, you are completely wrong!

'Celebration of the Eucharist' has not 'long been the norm of weekly Anglican worship'. Only in the second half of the 20th century did the 'parish communion' movement make in-roads into the 'norm' for many parishes of 'mattins' and 'evensong' as the staple fare of Anglican worship, with 8 am Holy Communion the predilection of the keen early risers!

In my own lifetime I have experienced countless non-communion services as part of the regular worship of parishes (and school chapel) which I participated in, across several dioceses.

They do not know Anglicanism who only eucharistic Anglicanism they have known!

Shawn Herles said...

There were times in English history when you would have been hard put to find an Anglican parish that celebrated weekly communion. Low church evangelicals were the norm. At times this was true in NZ, and apart from that Word-centered evangelical worship has always been one strand of Anglican tradition, and could not righty said to be a departure from that tradition.

And thre has always been a high church emphasis as well at times.

The church has tended to see saw between those poles, and neither alone can claim to solely represent the Anglican tradition.

Roman style Anglo-Catholicism is a very lete entry on the Anglican scene, and parts of it at least, such as Mariolatry and prayers to Saints, are contrary to the Reformed nature that the older low church and high church classical Anglicanism strove to embody.

carl jacobs said...


modern Anglicanism's refusal to resolve the tension between Word and Sacrament.

If you think that the problem in the modern Anglican church is about conflict over the relative priority of Word & Sacrament, then you have completely misunderstood the nature of the conflict. You might as well say that the conflict between Mormons and Christians centers around the peculiar place of the Mormon temple in Mormon worship. This conflict is better understood as a fight over the meaning of the Word and the meaning of the Sacrament. It's about internals, and not externals.


Joshua Bovis said...

Ron, Peter,

I think the BCP is clear in its emphasis that while both Word and Sacrament are very important and that they go together, I believe that the sacraments have no significance apart from the Word of God and are in fact merely a visible demonstration of the Word. (which I also believe is reflected in the BCP and the ordinal). In the Ordering of Priests in the BCP, after the Bishop lays hands on the ordinand, the Bishop is to say:
"Take thou authority to preach the preach the Word of God and to minister the holy Sacraments in the Congregation, where thou shalt be lawfully appointed thereunto"
and then the Bishop gives the newly ordained priest a Bible not a chalice and paten. Also the questions that are asked of the ordinand by the Bishop are all pertaining to the Scriptures. The first question is asked:
"Will yo then give your faithful diligence always so to minister the doctrine and sacraments..." but it is framed in the context of the Centrality and primacy of the Scriptures.

I read this from an Anglican minister who is now in Heaven who said this:

"For it is the truth which is addressed to the ear through the Scriptures which interprets the sign and so makes it intelligible. To put it simply, the Word must explain the sign in order to give understanding of the promise it confirms.

Don't get me wrong I am not saying that we should rarely have the Eucharist, (personally I find the Eucharist extremely moving and edifying and I think it is very helpful to have it weekly in services".

There should be no dichotomy between Word and Sacrament, but I think that Word has primacy over the Sacrament.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Joshua and Carl,
I am generally agreeing with you (meaning counts, Word has primacy over Sacrament) but the points you make are not quite the point of my post which is to describe how our church (i.e. churches in Communion) is rather than prescribe what it ought to be.

Father Ron Smith said...

When talking about Anglicanism (reformed and catholic), we are surely talking about Anglicanism as in the present era - which reaches back - I suspect - to before many of you commenters here were born. I was well alive and kicking at the time of the English 'Parish Eucharist movement; in the 1940's, which made the weekly celebration of Holy Communion central to parish worship. And that's at least years ago!!! Is that not long enough to have secured its place the Anglican tradition?

I was not then living in New Zealand, but suspect that the N.Z. Church would have quickly followed this tradition, especially as N.Z. has often pre-empted Mother Church to bring in reforms - Women Clergy, and Lay-People in Synod!

The intervening 70 years has seen other changes that are still being resisted by conservatives in the Church, but that does not cancel out the distinct Anglican leaning towards the Eucharist as primary Sunday Worship. This catholic heritage is what links us most clearly with our Romans Catholic and Orthodox sister Churches.

Churches that do not frequently celebrate the Eucharist may be reformed, but they do not share a common catholic heritage.

And, of course, when talking about the relative merits of the Word in the Bible and the Word made flesh, we have to realise that the Bible gives 'words' about the 'Incarnate Word'. Which, then is due our worship? Words in the Bible have their special place in describing the seminal influence of The Word of God in Jesus Christ. They have no other superior function for Christians.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
You have no disagreement from me that the parish eucharist or communion movement has been influential in Anglican churches and led to great changes (and for the good, in my view, as one who appreciates a weekly celebration of the eucharist).

Nor am I in disagreement with the eucharist being a central feature of the worship of the church catholic.

And I agree that we worship the Lord Jesus, the Living Word not words in a book. But we could not know whom we are worshipping without those words, not could we know what to say in praise of what the Living Word has done for us without the words of the Bible which tell us that he died for us, a symbolic word of which is the bread and wine made body and blood for us who receive by faith.

However such a great deal of agreement does not mean that I agree with your sense of what true Anglicanism is or should be. True Anglicanism is much debated. At the Reformation a new and vibrant dimension of ministry of the Word was introduced into Anglicanism. Today those Anglican churches which emphasise the ministry of the Word above the ministry of the Sacrament seek both to maintain that great Reformed heritage and to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. I salute them!

Father Ron Smith said...

"....I read this from an Anglican minister 'who is now in Heaven' who said this:....." - Joshua Bovis -

And have you had divine assurance that he/she is actually 'in heaven'? Has he/she been officially proclaimed a Saint - with direct access into the courts of heaven? (catholic tradition).

Whatever happened to the idea of 'the Dead in Christ', whom Paul tells us will be raised 'at the last day'? (see 1 Cor.15:52) - also catholic tradition.

Anonymous said...

I go back in the C of E ( consciously) to the late 1950's. here I think the Parish Communion was introduced too quickly and without sufficient teaching.It alienated those who have been described as "believing but unsacramental people" as well as those who were not confirmed for one reason or another who attended mattins and esp Evensong.The loss of Evensong here ( at which a fairly substantial sermon was preached) is in my opinion a great loss. It has largely gone and so has the quiet celebration at 8 o'clock in many places...thus certain constituencies have been unchurched with numerical decline as a result.How you regain a balance I dont know but I was impressed in the US by adult sunday school that seemed often to accompany the sunday eucharist ( before or after) Does that happen in NZ?of course peoples attention span is not what it was..but I wonder how far clergy are really trained to pack something meaty into 10-15 can be done without ( as Michael marshall once put it,"Sermonettes make Christianettes")but it requires more,not less effort.
Perry Butler Canterbury UK.

Kurt said...

Quite frankly, Fr. Carrell, I don’t know of any Episcopal Churches—even “snake belly low” parishes—that don’t have at least one Sunday celebration of the Holy Eucharist. This has been generally true here in America since the late nineteenth century, except in the most rural districts.

In the 1950s when I was growing up, my parish had a weekly celebration on Sundays at 8 am and on the first and third Sundays at 11 am as well. All the Saint’s Days had celebrations at 8 am in the Chapel. (We weren’t considered particularly “High Church” except by the local Methodists, Presbyterians, Baptists, etc., who sere scandalized by the priest’s chasuble, the bowings & genuflections, etc!)

Prior to the 1850s, weekly celebrations of the Holy Eucharist in America were not common, but they were not unheard of, either. Most American High Church parishes in the eighteenth century had monthly First Sunday celebrations. Rural parishes (particularly in the South) celebrated 4 times a year (Christmas, Easter, Whitsunday and Michaelmas.)

I know that weekly celebrations of the Holy Mysteries in this country go back to at least 1736 at Christ Church, Savannah. Our first bishop, the Rt. Rev. Dr. Samuel Seabury, wanted daily celebrations, but given the times (1780s), had to settle for a weekly Eucharist.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Shawn Herles said...

The claim by Ron that churches that do not "frequently" celebrate communion do not share a catholic heritage is completely wrong.

Frequency of communion has nothing to do with being catholic.

Catholic means our common creedal heritage, and on that front many evangelical churches that may place less emphasis on the Eucharist are more genuinely catholic than liberal churches that celebrate frequently.

The Bible is not mere words about the Word, that is certainly not the view of any catholic heritage, but IS the Word speaking of itself.

Bryden Black said...

Of course, the nature of Anglicanism is debated - as is “the essence” of Christianity itself. No greater Anglican luminary than Stephen Sykes in The Identity of Christianity: Theologians and the Essence of Christianity from Schleiermacher to Barth (SPCK, 1984) makes a good case for the inevitably contested nature of Christianity’s identity. This said, it is wise to recall not only one’s own memory, but that corporate memory of one’s tradition itself, and so not just that of the 19th and 20th Cs.

To that effect: the BCP’s 1552 Preface should be digested by all readers of ADU. I’m tempted to copy the entire thing, it’s so splendid! But desist, referring to: Enjoy!

Thereafter, of course the written word has preeminence over the sacrament: that way sheer superstitious mystification is avoided as intelligibility is offered; yet arid intellectualism is avoided also by the due mystery of the Presence of Jesus by means of the sacrament. Fascinatingly this order and balance is achieved itself in the singular written Gospel by John. Both word and sacrament function as do “the Scriptures” in John 5:39-40 by referring directly to Jesus himself (he is the Living Word while they are written words), and similarly as do the “signs” (selected miraculous deeds in the Fourth Gospel), which, though real in themselves (bread is eaten by the hungry, a blind man is given sight), are premonitions of Jesus’ own Glory (I am the Bread of Life, the true Bread from heaven, I am the Light of the World); they testify to/signify this Glory being manifested and effected through the cross and resurrection. Chs 1-12 precede chs 13-20, just as most of the long discourses (words NB) follow the signs, which need due explanation. That is, the meaning of the climax of Jesus’ mission from the Father in cross and resurrection may only be truly accessed via ‘word-&-sacrament’/‘Scripture-&-sign’, for he himself is Lamb of God and Great High Priest (Jn 1:29, ch.17; Heb 3:1, 2:3b-4) on our behalf - if only we might perceive it to be so, with the eyes of faith and the inspiration and realization of the Spirit from above (Jn 3:1-15, 6:63).

Joshua Bovis said...


Not sure if you are serious, or trying to be provocative. If the former, happy to answer. I await your response.

MichaelA said...

"I suggest that the Anglican church, with its peculiar history ... is a blessed beneficiary of the fullness of both strands of ancient Israel's worship."

So, I always knew those Freemasons were having us on about their links to the ancient temple worship. When do I get my Anglican regalia?

MichaelA said...

1. "This catholic heritage is what links us most clearly with our Romans Catholic and Orthodox sister Churches."

A peculiar definition of "catholic" but you are entitled to use it if you want. "Catholic" means according to the whole, and to me that means the whole of God's church, not just the RC and Eastern Orthodox churches.

2. "I was well alive and kicking at the time of the English 'Parish Eucharist movement; in the 1940's, which made the weekly celebration of Holy Communion central to parish worship. And that's at least years ago!!!"

Giood point. However, Thomas Cranmer taught that congregations should celebrate Holy Communion together each week. So did John Calvin. And that's at least centuries ago!!!

3. Several other people have contrasted Holy Communion and preaching - why? The BCP lays down that the service of Holy Communion must include a Sermon. Furthermore, the service of Holy Communion itself is replete with scriptural references - it is itself a sermon.

Father Ron Smith said...

MichaelA, I could not more agree with you in your last 2 sentences:

"The BCP lays down that the service of Holy Communion must include a Sermon. Furthermore, the service of Holy Communion itself is replete with scriptural references - it is itself a sermon."

As has already been stated, the essential elements of worship are already at work in the Eucharist!

Since the BCP was written, there has been an even greater emphasis on the Eucharist as weekly worship in the Church of England.

Some of us, who derive our mental, spiritual health and strength from the Eucharist - and its attendant scripture readings - are constantly invigorated by reception of the Body and blood of Christ on an even more frequent basis. We are mindful of Jesus saying "Do remember Me!" (not just read about it). I just wonder why some people are not energised by the grace that is freely available, 'en Christo'.

Father Ron Smith said...

I was quite serious in my challenge to you, Joshua, when I asked how you knew that your priest mentor was now 'in heaven' - especially in the light of Saint Paul's writing on the subject of the after-life, where he speaks of the faithful departed still awaiting the second coming of Christ before their ultimate resurrection.

Joshua Bovis said...

I believe he is in heaven because I believe the promises of the Lord Jesus Christ and of the Scriptures that promise that if we trust in Christ as our Lord and Saviour that we will have eternal life with him. He trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and so is with Christ, which is better by far.

p.s The man was not my mentor, but was a former principal of Moore College, (before my time and also I did not train at Moore but have two of his books - Broughton Knox was his name).
p.p.s As for this Christians waiting for Christ's return, my take is that when Christians die they are with Christ, but have not received the resurrection body yet, and will do when Christ returns. Though in light of the original post, I believe that this subject (fascinating as it is) is off topic. Would you not agree?

Shawn Herles said...

All believers go to the Lord in heaven at death by reason of God's electing decree and sovereign grace. In heaven they await the final ressurection at which they will be re-embodied to live in the new heaven and earth.