A LETTER TO A FRIEND
Roland F. Palmer, D.D.
EDITORIAL DEPARTMENT, G.B.R.E.
Transcribed by the Right Reverend Dr. Terry Brown
Retired Bishop of Malaita, 2016
You asked me to put in writing what I said to you in person when you told me of your feeling that you might have to submit to the Roman Church.
I told you why I myself do not go to Rome. First of all I find myself in the Anglican Communion, (the Episcopal Church). That is where God seems to have placed me. I was baptized and brought up in that Communion. To leave it would require on my part an act of private judgment. Such an act might possibly be my duty, but it is obviously one of grave responsibility. Of course if I am convinced that in the Anglican Communion I am deprived of some means of grace necessary to salvation, then I should have to make a change. Let us consider whether this seems to be the case.
Salvation means victory. To be saved means to have the victory over sin and death. Jesus is the One who has won this victory for us and we receive it as a free gift from Him. To take that gift faith is the [1/2] first requisite. Does the Anglican Communion teach the truth about God so that I can have that saving faith?
Next, if I am to live the victorious life, I must have the means of grace from God. Have I in the Anglican Communion access to these means?
Finally, I need to be in communion and fellowship with the rest of the saved. Salvation in isolation is impossible for the Christian. Have I in the Anglican Communion effective fellowship with the Saints departed and with the Church militant here in earth? Has the Anglican Communion secure and valid orders and sacraments that bind me to Christ and to His other members in a living union?
If these essentials are lacking, then I should have to seek for them elsewhere.
WHAT is the Faith accepted and taught in the Anglican Communion?
Our Communion has always taught the orthodox faith in the Holy Trinity—Father, Son and Holy Spirit, One God, which has been held by the Church from the first. She has always taught the traditional doctrine of the Incarnation of Our Lord, that He is true God and true Man who was born of the Virgin, lived and suffered and died for us on the Cross, rose again and ascended into Heaven, there to intercede [2/3] for us and to come again to judge the living and the dead. She has always taught that Jesus founded the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, wherein, through the ministry of the Word and Sacraments, the Holy Spirit applies to us the merits of Christ, for our forgiveness, sanctification and final blessedness in eternal life.
These are the great truths which were carefully defined by the ecumenical Councils of the ancient undivided Church, all of which Councils the Anglican Communion accepts.
The Anglican Communion has been very careful to make it clear that she will never accept as part of the faith necessary to salvation any teaching that cannot be read in the Holy Scriptures or proved thereby. Such doctrines may in some cases be held as pious private opinions, if they are not repugnant to the plain teaching of Scripture, but they may never be required of any Christian person as necessary to communion with the Church. The Anglican Communion accepts as Scripture all those books of the Old Testament that were accepted by the Hebrew Church as their rule or canon of faith, and also all those books of the New Testament which have been accepted as canonical by the Christian Church. She believes that the Holy Spirit has guided both the Hebrew and the Christian Church in the selection of these books. The [3/4] The Anglican Communion accepts the three ancient Creeds of Christendom as summaries of the true faith taught in Scripture. The Christian Faith comes to us by tradition from those who have gone before. This Tradition is enshrined in Holy Scripture which is the main stream of Christian Tradition.
In what way does the Roman Church differ from this as to the faith?
At the time of the Reformation, when the Church of England was reforming herself, the Church of Rome was also reforming herself in many matters. The results of this Roman reform are found in the definitions of the Council of Trent. Nothing in the Anglican Prayer Book or Articles can be held to be directly in opposition to Trent, for the definitions of Trent on all points of controversy did not appear until after the Prayer Book and Articles. Roman teaching mentioned in the Articles is therefore the common teaching of pre-Reformation Rome, and not necessarily the considered judgements of the reforming Council of Trent, which are, in many cases, scriptural and reasonable. But there is one difference created by the Council of Trent. At that time the philosophy of the ancient Greek pre-Christian thinker Aristotle had come into popular vogue with Christian scholars. By way of Arabic translations his works came into Spain with the Moors. Christians [4/5] took up the study to their great advantage. St. Thomas Aquinas worked out his wonderful Summa of all Christian teaching based on this Aristotelian philosophy. At Trent the same philosophy formed the background of much of the work of reform and restatement of Christian Doctrine. The Anglican Communion at the Reformation went back to a renewed study of the ancient Fathers of the Greek and Latin Churches. These early Christian teachers based their thinking more on the philosophy of Plato than on that of Aristotle. As a result the Anglican Divines, whose thinking was guided by the ancient Fathers, tended to put their restatements of Christian Doctrine, and to base their reformation, on a Platonic view of life. In fact they were much less self-consciously trying to restate Christian Doctrine in a logical way than were the Fathers of the Council of Trent. They left room for the light that might come from other systems of philosophy. They refrained from putting Christian teaching into any particular philosophical straight-jacket. In the middle ages there had been great liberty of thought in the Catholic Church. There were very definite foundations on which the Faith rested, and these could not be altered, but the conclusions built on those foundations were not too narrowly defined. At the Reformation Rome took fright, and tried to define everything [5/6] about religion in a clear-cut way according to the current philosophy of that day. England on the other hand tried to retain the liberty of thought on secondary matters, while keeping carefully all the fundamental teachings of the undivided Church. The result has been that Rome has emphasized authority, but Canterbury has emphasized liberty, and one has become too rigid and the other too lox. To change from the one to the other might well be to go from the frying-pan into the fire. What each needs is to learn from the other, and there are signs that this is being done. Both may draw together as time goes on, and the old separation be healed. I feel more content with the Anglican Communion where I am free to adopt Aristotelian Philosophy or Platonic or any other that is not contrary to Christians principles, than I should be in the Roman Communion where I should be bound to one philosophy. I cannot believer that there was something final about the thinking of Aristotle, especially as he was not himself blessed with the revelation of the true God in Jesus Christ. Had Rome been content to leave the definition of the Faith where it was at Trent, then an agreement between Rome and England might have been possible after prejudices had died down, but unfortunately in the last hundred years Rome has started issuing further definitions and putting out [6/7] further dogmas as necessary to salvation. In 1854 the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary was declared as an article of the Faith. A great Doctor of the Church. St. Bernard, had denied that teaching in years gone by, and multitudes of holy persons had died who did not hold it. Yet with the definition of it, all these became as it were posthumous heretics. The teaching that the Blessed Mother Mary was freed from all stain of sin at the moment of her conception in the womb of her Mother, that God did for her at her conception what He does for us at our Baptism, may be congruous. It may be congruous that our Lord should require not only bodily purity of His Mother, but also purity of soul. The difficulty is that while the Virgin Birth has always been taught in the Church from earliest times, and is witnessed to in the Scripture, there is not one word in Scripture to support the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady. The subject is not mentioned, and it never was mentioned for hundreds of years in the Church. It was a private opinion that grew up in the middle ages, and was popularized by the Franciscan Friars and denounced by the Dominical Friars. The Church of England has never required anyone to hold this doctrine, because it cannot be proved from Holy Scripture. In fact some would maintain that it [7/8] is repugnant to Scripture because all are included under sin, and in Adam all die. To erect such a dubious doctrine, rejected by many of the Saints of the Roman Church, into an article of faith is a real obstacle to accepting Roman claims on other points.
Another article of faith put out by Rome is a real stumbling-block to Catholics of other Communions. This is the dogma of Papal Infallibility. This was put forth in the year 1870, after heated arguments in the Roman Church. It had, like that of the immaculate Conception, been rejected by many faithful Romans ever since it hade first been suggested. The Penny Catechism, for long the chief catechism used by Irish Roman Catholics contained for years a definite denial of the doctrine. As soon as it was made an article of faith, Dr. Dollinger, one of the greatest and most saintly scholars of the Roman Church, went into lay communion, and finally with a considerable band of Catholic left the Roman Church. Others stayed, but were never happy about the new dogma. If the dogma had practical value it would have more to commend it, but so carefully has the Roman Church had to hedge it about because of its obvious weaknesses, that it ends up by proving of little use. According to this teaching, the Bishop of Rome is the successor of St. Peter. St. Peter is the Rock on which the Church is built. Therefore, [8/9] because of Christ’s special promises to St. Peter about the keys of the Kingdom, the Bishop of Rome cannot err in defining any matter of faith or morals, when he is speaking from his chair as successor of St. Peter. When you ask how often he has so spoken, you are surprised to find that most theologians of the Roman Church limit the occasions to two or three: once when he declared himself infallible, once when he defined the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, and perhaps long ago when St. Leo sent out his famous Tome on the Incarnation, though all do not agree as to this last occasion. Wars have raged, heresies arisen, and the infallible voice has been silent when the souls of men hung in the balance. Only to pronounce a teaching with little or no practical effect on the lives or souls of men, the Immaculate Conception, is the voice heard. Both these two new articles of Faith seem to be set forth more to flatter the Blessed Virgin in one case, and the Bishop of Rome in the other, than for any glory they might give to God or edification to His people. Our Lady needs no flattery. She, the humble and meek, inherits the earth without flattery. All generations call her blessed. The Bishop of Rome needs no flattery either. He sits in that ancient apostolic See of the West, and is the successor to a multitude of worthy Bishops, some of them very great Saints, [9/10] and to a very few great sinners. St. Peter himself is the best judge of what Christ’s promises to him meant. He never claims infallibility—far from it. He who was nicknamed “the Rock” by his beloved Master loves to think of that Rock, and with him, that Rock is always Christ Himself. St. Peter refers to it move that once—“Jesus of Nazareth . . . this is the stone that was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other.” (Acts iv, 11). And “Behold I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious, and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded.” (i Pet. ii, 6) St. Paul also bears witness to the Rock when he writes Ephesians, chapter two, verses nineteen to twenty-two.
“So that ye are no more strangers and sojourners, but ye are fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God, being built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the chief corner stone; in whom each several building fitly framed together, groweth into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom ye also are builded together for a habitation of God in the Spirit.”
The Church of England has kept the old faith which can never alter, “the faith once delivered to the saints”, but she leaves room for the new philosophies of life by which men come to appreciate the [10/11] many-coloured wisdom, the innumerable facets of God’s truth, which shine forth from the once-delivered faith.
Rome seems to us to have tied herself down too tightly to one very wonderful and satisfying philosophy, but after all not the only possible philosophy for Christians. The Faith is based on certain great facts, things done by God. It is like a great mountain. It does not change. Our apprehension of the Faith increases as we explore that mountain, but the Faith itself remains unaltered.
In 1950 yet another dogma was added to the Roman Faith, the bodily Assumption of the Blessed Virgin into heaven. Here is another alleged “fact” added to the mighty acts of God on which saving Faith depends. Yet none ever heard of this supposed “fact” until 500 years after Christ and then it appeared as a legend in the writings of doubtful orthodoxy. This constant effort to exalt the Blessed Virgin is not based on any need due to a denial of her sanctity by Christian people. In fact Teachings and practices not strictly in accord with the Council of Trent are not only tolerated but encouraged by the authorities of the Roman Church. The simple expression of a wish for a share in the prayers of Blessed Mary and other saints expressed by “Ora pro nobis” which implied no belief in their omnipresence, [11/12] but is parallel to “O ye spirits and souls of the righteous, bless ye the Lord” has been expanded into lengthy prayers addressed to the Holy Trinity. Devotions are paid to statues of saints which seem to treat the saints as lesser divinities. We are told that a distinction is made between “latria” that is “adoration” given only to God and “hyperdulia” and “dulia” worship given to the Blessed Virgin and Saints. Perhaps clever theologians can keep these fine distinctions clear to themselves as they pray, but it seems doubtful whether the simple can do so. Our Lady is recommended as a suitable advocate because she is a woman, with woman’s gentle virtues and understanding. The implication is that our Lord being a man cannot understand in the same way. But our Lord is not only a man. He is Man. He has taken the whole of humanity upon him, the humanity of every man, woman and child of every race and age. He understands the old man or woman as well as the child. He has compassion on the multitude. By his perfect love and sympathy he embraces us all. We do not need special advocates for this or that department of life after the manner of those who worship gods many and lords many. The feudal idea of our Lord as a despotic rule, led to the idea [12/13] of coming to him through his relatives and courtiers. But he is himself our only Advocate and Mediator. We rejoice in the communion of saints. We love and reverence the Blessed Virgin and all the saints. We believe that as they prayed for the Church and Kingdom of God here, they do so where they now are. We believe their effectual fervent prayers avail much, but that is a very different thing to exalting them to be as it were demigods or to thinking that we need someone more understanding than our Lord to present our petitions or grant us help or protection. We are always free to come to the Father through our Lord Jesus, God and man, at any time. Jesus only is both God and Man so there can be no other mediator between us and the Father.
HOW doe life in grace differ in the Communions of Rome and Canterbury?
In both the same ideals of sanctity are held up. Both hold up our Lord Jesus as the perfect example of obedience to the Father. Both make the will the seat of true religion. Both pray for and try to cultivate the four cardinal and the three theological virtues which are perfectly shown forth in the life of our Lord, and each in his own measure, in the lives of the Saints. Both provide [13/14] calendars with Saints’ Days. In both the same persons and types of persons are remembered and held forth as examples—Apostles and Martyrs, Confessors, Virgins, Abbots, Matrons and so forth. Both provide the same means of grace, the Word and the Sacraments, and the discipline of Christ’s Church to build up souls to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. Both teach the same ways of prayer, fasting and almsdeeds. Rome teaches more carefully and leaves less to the individual to learn by personal experience. She uses exhortation and persuasion less, and the Sacraments with greater system and regularity. She wields a stricter rod of discipline. The Anglican Communion uses teaching less methodically, and the Sacraments less regularly. She tries to use discipline lightly, hoping to develop the will and lead to real self-oblation. Both have changed their emphases in these matters before, and are even now changing them. There is really no essential difference here, but only an accidental one. Rome orders church attendance every Sunday, confession and communion once a year at least. She gives very definite rules for fasting which differ from nation to nation. Her marriage laws are strict. Her tendency is to be legal, and that leads to the setting of a minimum known to all, and beyond which the majority do not progress. Her yoke in some matters [14/15] sounds like a heavy one, but actually she lightens it by the use of dispensations.
The Anglican Communion urges frequent church attendance, even so frequent as twice every day. She calls for communion at least three times a year and urges it more frequently. She leaves confession optional, but strongly urges it in certain cases. Her marriage laws are as strict as those of Rome. She holds up a high ideal of fasting, but doe not enforce it. Her tendency for several centuries has been to set the high ideal, to set forth maxims rather than rules. She has let her machinery for enforcing discipline fall largely into disuse. She has almost no provision for dispensations. She sets forth maxims rather than laws, providing a maximum to aim at rather than a minimum to be enforced.
Both systems have advantages and disadvantages. Each can learn from the other. To change from one to the other would be of little help, if that were the only reason for change.
BOTH Communions set up Baptism and Holy Communion as the chief Sacraments, and use the same essential form—“I baptize thee in the Name” etc., “This is my Body” etc. Both require the same dispositions for effectual reception, that is [15/16] to say repentance and faith. Rome has defined the Sacraments in terms of Aristotelian philosophy, “accidents” and “substance”. She has also withdrawn the Cup from the laity out of what seems to us an excessive idea of reverence. Canterbury has defined the Sacraments in more popular terms such as all can understand—“outward part,” “inward part,” “benefits received”. She has restored the Cup to the laity believing that reverence for the institution of Christ himself must come before reverence to the consecrated species. Obedience to “drink ye all” is better than morbid fear that people will not be careful in receiving from the Cup.
Both teach that in Baptism the person is born again into God’s Family, washed from sin, and set in the way of salvation. Both teach that the use of repentance and faith is necessary if a person is to benefit from the gifts of Baptism.
Both treat Holy Communion as the chief service of the Church, and put the Holy Table in the centre of their buildings as the focus of worship. Both teach that in the Holy Communion the faithful receive the Body and Blood of Christ really and truly—“verily and indeed.” Both teach that the Body of Christ is given in a heavenly and spiritual manner so that there is an objective gift to be received from outside the communicant. Both teach that faith is [16/17] the necessary means by which a person receives and eats the same to the benefit of his soul.
The Church of Rome commonly surrounds the Sacrament with greater splendor and more dramatic acts of adoration. The Church of England has gone back to the stark simplicity of the old Roman services of earlier times. There is a classic beauty about her rites. For a long time Rome divorced the communion of the people from the offering of the Sacrifice. Communion was commonly given, and in many places is still given, before or after Mass, from the reserved sacrament. Now there is a movement back to communion at its proper place in the Mass as the climax of the Mass itself. In the same way communion among Anglicans tended for years to be separated from the regular worship of the Church. The bulk of the congregation—even now in many churches—left after the sermon and offertory, and a devout minority stayed for the Communion which became a separate service. There is now a movement back again by which Worship and Communion are kept together, and the service is not broken up by the exodus of a large part of the congregation after the Prayer for the Church. Rome for many years has let low Mass become the normal worship of her people. Even where High Mass was celebrated on a Sunday, it was not always [17/18] as well attended because of its length. The reform of the Mass of the Church has shortened High Mass, and now there is a movement to make the solemn offering of the Sacrifice of Praise the chief act of worship on Sundays and Holy Days. The Anglican Communion has also for many years used Morning Prayer as the chief service of worship. The Eucharist has in many places been confined to an early service for the devout, or as an occasional service in addition to Morning Prayer. Anglicans are new being led back to the Lord’s own service, and in many places a Parish or Family Communion at 9:30 is becoming the chief service of the day. Both Communions are working back to the true position. To change from one to the other for no better reason than a dissatisfaction with the emphasis on communion or the other parts of sacramental practice would be unreasonable.
Both communions speak of the Eucharist as a Sacrifice. A quotation from the Answer of the Archbishops of England to the Bull of Pope Leo XIII on Anglican orders will make this clear.
“We make provision with the greatest reverence for the consecration of the holy Eucharist and commit it only to properly ordained ministers of the Church. Further we truly teach the doctrine of Eucharistic sacrifice and do not believe it to be ‘a [18/19] nude commemoration of the Sacrifice of the Cross,’ on opinion which seems to be attributed to us by the quotation made form that Council. But we think it sufficient in the Liturgy which we use in celebrating the holy Eucharist,--while lifting up our hearts to the Lord, and when now consecrating the gifts already offered that they may become to us the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ,--to signify the sacrifice which is offered at that point of the service in such terms as these. We continue a perpetual memory of the precious death of Christ, who is our Advocate with the Father and the propitiation for our sins, according to his precept, until His coming again. For first we offer the sacrifice of praise ands thanksgiving; then next we plead and represent before the Father the sacrifice of the cross, and by it we confidently entreat remission of sins and all other benefits of the Lord’s Passion for all the whole Church; and lastly we offer the sacrifice of ourselves to the Creator of all things which we have already signified by the oblations of His creatures. This whole action, in which the people has necessarily to take its part with the Priest, we are accustomed to call the Eucharistic sacrifice.
Further, since the Pope reminds us somewhat severely of the ‘necessary connection between faith and worship, between the law of believing and the [19/20] law of praying,’ it seems fair to call closer attention, both on your part and ours, to the Roman Liturgy. And when we look carefully into the ‘Canon of the Mass’, what do we see clearly exhibited there as to the idea of sacrifice? It agrees sufficiently with our Eucharistic formularies, but scarcely or not at all with the determinations of the Council of Trent. Or rather it should be said that two methods of explaining the sacrifice are put forth at the same time by that Council, one which agrees with liturgical science and Christian wisdom, the other which is under the influence of dangerous popular theology on the subject of Eucharistic propitiation. Now in the Canon of the Mass the sacrifice which is offered is described in four ways. Firstly it is a ‘sacrifice of praise’, which idea runs through the whole action and so to say supports it and makes it all of a piece. Secondly it is the offering made by God’s servants and His whole family, about which offering request is made that it may ‘become to us the Body and Blood’ of His Son our Lord. Thirdly it is an offering to His Majesty of His ‘own gifts and boons’ (that is, as Innocent IIIrd rightly explains it, of the fruit of the fields and trees, although the words of the Lord have already been said over them by the Priest), which are called the holy Bread of eternal life and [20/21] the Chalice of everlasting salvation. Fourthly and lastly (in the prayer Supra quae propitio) the sacrifice already offered in three ways, and according to Roman opinion now fully consecrated, is compared with the sacrifices of the patriarchs Abel and Abraham, and with that offered by Melchisedec. This last, being called ‘holy sacrificed, unblemished victim’, shows that the comparison is not only in respect to the offerer, but also to the things offered. Then the Church prays that they may be carried up by the hands of the holy angel to the altar of God on high. Lastly, after the second series of names of Saints, there occurs the piece of a prayer (per quem haec omnia) which appears rather suitable to a benediction of fruits of the earth, than to the Eucharistic sacrifice.”
There are the considered words not of some party in the Anglican Communion but of the two Archbishops of England who were moderate churchmen. They published their Answer on March 29th, 1897.
From this quotation it is clear that the Anglican Communion holds the Eucharist to be the Christian Sacrifice, as indeed she has always implied when she prayed. “We entirely desire thy fatherly goodness mercifully to accept this our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, most humbly beseeching thee to grant that by the merits and death of they dear Son [21/22] Jesus Christ, and through faith in his blood we and all thy whole Church may obtain remission of our sins and all other benefits of his passion.”
Here we offer not “praise,” but “this our sacrifice of praise”. “This” is a pointing word, and it points to the whole action on which we are engaged, that is the taking of bread and wine, the blessing of them with thanksgiving, the breaking of the Bread and the receiving of the holy gifts as the Body and Blood of Christ. This whole action or series of actions is “this our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving”. Thereby we plead the merits (that is the holy life) and the precious death of our Lord and ask that on that account and through faith in his Blood, not only we who are present, but “all thy whole Church” may receive “remission of sins and all other benefits of his passion.” “All thy whole Church” is a very comprehensive term and reminds us that the greater part of the church has departed this life.
I have no reason then to leave the Anglican Communion for the Roman simply on the ground that one teaches the Eucharistic Sacrifice and the other does not, for both plainly teach it.
If I went to Rome I should miss very much the unspeakable blessing of receiving in both kinds. The separate consecration of the Bread and Cup to [22/23] be the Body and Blood of the Lord is a symbol of the separation of his soul and body in death. The reception in both kinds is a symbol of his resurrection. As the sacrament is united in the communicant who receive in both kinds, so Christ’s soul and body were re-united in the glorious resurrection. To me every communion is a wonderful pledge of the resurrection of the body. The form of words used in the delivery of the Sacrament in the Anglican Communion is “The Body of our Lord . . . preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life.” This reference to the resurrection is absent from the Roman form.
Perhaps more than anything else the blessing of receiving in both kinds would hold me to the Anglican Communion if I were ever tempted to go to Rome.
THE other Sacraments are held in both Communions to accomplish the same results. Rome calls them Sacraments. Canterbury hesitates about the term because she has adopted a very strict, exclusive definition of the word. She tends to confine the use of the word “Sacrament” to the two great Sacraments which have form and matter clearly ordained by Christ in the Gospel, and which are held necessary to salvation for everyone where [23/24] they may be had. She speaks of the other five as “commonly called sacraments”. Matrimony is plainly called a “mystery”, which is the Greek equivalent of “Sacrament”. But after all it is not a matter of names but of facts. Both hold Confirmation to effect the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Canterbury adheres to the Apostolic form of laying on of hands with prayer. Rome uses stretching out of hands over the candidates in general and unction. Both consider Matrimony an indissoluble union of one man and one woman. Both consider the man and the woman to be the ministers of the rite, but Rome tends to add a new requirement, the presence of the priest. Both administer penance with the same form of words, “I absolve thee in the Name” etc. The Anglican Communion has given up unction in the visitation of the sick, but it is being gradually resorted. Rome as made this into the rite for the dying. There is need of practical reform in both Rome and Canterbury.
Ordination presents a graver problem. The two chief divisions between us and Rome are the denial of the validity of our Orders by Rome and the insistence by Rome on the infallibility of the Pope as an article of faith necessary to salvation. At the Reformation the Churches of England and Ireland made it perfectly clear that they intended to continue [24/25] the old orders of ministers, Bishops, Priests and Deacons. This is what they said and what has appeared ever since as a preface to the Ordinal:
“It is evident unto all men diligently reading holy Scripture and ancient Authors, that from the Apostles’ time there have been these Orders of Ministers in Christ’s Church: Bishops, Priests and Deacons.”
In England and Ireland care was taken to make sure that the Bishops after the breach with Rome were always consecrated by at least three Bishops of the old line. In Ireland no question was ever made of this. Archbishop Curwen of Dublin, with the assistance of other Bishops, consecrated the new Bishops as the Sees fell vacant. He himself had been consecrated in Queen Mary’s reign by the old pontifical. In England on the accession of Elizabeth half the Sees were vacant by death. The See of Canterbury was vacant. Matthew Parker was elected Archbishop and was consecrated in Lambeth Chapel on December 17th, 1559 by four Bishops, Barlow of Bath and Wells and Hodgkins of Bedford (both of whom had been consecrated by the old pontifical in Henry VIII’s time); and Scory of Chichester and Coverdale of Exeter consecrated in Edward VI’s time by the Prayer Book Ordinal at the hands of Bishops of the old line. A story was hatched up by Roman [25/26] controversialists eighty years afterwards to the effect that Parker was never consecrated, but only consecrated in fun in the Nag’s Head Tavern. This story was refuted by carefully kept record at Lambeth and by a number of references to the consecration in private letters and diaries of the period. Roman controversialists now accept the historical fact of this consecration. Later on Rome shifted her objection to Anglican orders to the form used. She complained that at the Reformation when our formularies were translated from Latin to English, such changes were made in the Ordinal as rendered it no longer capable of conveying valid Orders. It is true that, in the form for ordaining priest, considerable changes were made in the direction of simplification. This was inevitable in translating the old rite. If anyone will take the trouble to examine the Roman Pontifical*, [*NOTE: In 1951 Rome revised the pontifical and simplified “the Ordination of Presbyters” along the same lines as the Anglican Ordinal.] he will see how difficult and complicated is the service for ordaining a priest. In the process of time, the Roman rite has taken over the forms from the Gallican rites which it superseded, so that it now contains, telescoped together, two or three forms for making a priest, any one of which would be quite sufficient. In fact, [26/27] it is impossible to say at what moment in the service a man ceases to be a deacon and becomes a priest. Very early in the service there is a laying on of hands in silence accompanied by no prayer or any other form. This is the old Roman rite. Yet this does not seem to make a man a priest, for later on he is treated still as though not yet ordained to that office. Then there is an anointing which also seems to make him a priest, but does not do so for at a still later point he has delivered to him the holy vessels with authority to offer sacrifice. Besides this he has been vested with the priestly robes. By this time he seems to be a priest for he says the rest of the Mass with the Bishop as a sort of concelebrant. In spite of this it is not until after communion that he is completely vested as a priest, and receives another laying on of hands with the familiar words “Receive the Holy Ghost, Whose sins thou dost forgive” etc.
This final laying on of hands is the most solemn one, and that accompanied by the most suitable form of words, (even the words used by Christ in ordaining his Apostles.) In some mediaeval rites this final laying on of hands is missing. It seems to have been a later importation. The place for ordaining priests is traditionally after the Gospel, not after the communion. The Eastern Churches [27/28] have entirely different rites. The only thing all rites have in common is prayer by the Bishop over the ordinand, and the laying on of hands with those of the presbyters. The prayer or form used in laying on of hands is such as to indicate the office given. Was it any wonder that in translating the rite at the Reformation our Fathers should have tried to make it simple and direct and to return to the apostolic method of prayer and laying on of hands at the appropriate part of the service? Deacons are made before the Gospel which one of them reads, because the reading of the Gospel is their characteristic function. Priests are ordained after the Gospel and before the Offertory, because their characteristic function is to preach and to offer up the prayers and offerings of the people and consecrate the Eucharist. These functions follow the Gospel. Accordingly the reformers concentrated the prayers for the candidates at this point, and brought together the two layings on of hands into one. They kept the scriptural form “Receive the Holy Ghost . . . Whose sins” etc. All through the office it is clear that it is for the office and work of a priest in the Church of God that the man is ordained. It is mentioned again and again in title, rubrics and prayers, If laying on of hands and that form of words makes priests in the Roman [28/29] Church it is difficult to see why it does not do so in the Church of England if the line of Bishop is unbroken. In translating the form for consecrating a Bishop fewer changes had to be made, for that service is much clearer and more direct in the Pontifical. Here again it is made clear in title, prayers and rubrics that the candidate is being consecrated to the episcopate. The form of words in the Roman rite at the laying on of hands is very brief. “Receive the Holy Ghost,” Only the rubrics and prayers indicate the office conferred. Our reformers retained the same form. Three Bishops lay on the hands with the Archbishop saying the form “Take the Holy Ghost.” To it we have added a scriptural passage from the pastoral epistles. All these quotations are from the earliest form of our Ordinal before the defining words “for the office” etc. were added to the form for the laying on of hands. The simpler form is obviously sufficient, since it was the only form used by Rome for hundreds of years, and is still the form used. The additions we have made are for edification, not because we thought the simpler form insufficient.
For many years Rome taught that the priesthood was conferred by the delivery of the chalice and paten with the words “Take authority” etc. Scholars discovered that this form was a very late one and [29/30] and that for over a thousand years no such form was used in the Church but only prayer and the laying on of hands. As a result Rome has shifted her ground and no longer claims this as the form, nor our failure to use it as the reason for rejecting out Orders.
Rome’s new position in respect to us is that while our rite might be possibly be valid if used by a Church in communion with herself, it is invalid because we do not, and never did intend to make priests or Bishops in the Catholic sense. Our answer to that is that we have always said it in our Ordinal, in words as plain as it is possible to make them, that we did so intend. We use the very word “intent”—“to the intent that these orders be continued” etc.
To that Rome replied that we treat the Eucharist as a nude commemoration of the Cross, and not as the Christian Sacrifice, so that our priests do not perform the characteristic function of the priesthood when they celebrate the Holy Eucharist. Our reply to this has been given in the words of the English Archbishops. If I went to Rome therefore I should have to deny my Orders. I should have to say that I was not a priest, and had never performed any priestly function. You as a layperson would have to say that you were not confirmed. You would have to deny the gift of the Holy Ghost. You would [30/31] have to say that you had never received sacramental communion: that the Bread and Cup you received were not the sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, but only plain bread and wine, untouched by the hand of Christ, incapable of conveying to you any blessing or help. To deny these things would seem to come close to blasphemy. Have you ever read the words with which you would have to abjure your former faith? Here they are.
“I, N.N., having before my eyes the holy Gospels, which I touch with my hand, and knowing that no one can be saved without the faith which the Holy Catholic, Apostolic, Roman Church holds, believes, and teaches; against which I grieved that I have greatly erred, inasmuch as, having been born outside the Church, I have held and believed doctrines opposed to her teaching; I now, enlightened by the grace of God, profess that I believe the Holy, Catholic, Apostolic, Roman Church to be the one true Church established on earth by Jesus Christ, to which I submit myself with my whole heart. I firmly believe all the article which she proposes for my belief; I reject and condemn all that she rejects and condemns, and I am ready to observe all that she commands me . . . With a sincere heart, therefore, and with unfeigned faith, I detest and abjure every error, heresy, and sect opposed [31/32] to the said Catholic, Apostolic, and Roman Church. So help me God, and these His holy Gospels, which I touch with my hand.”
It might be possible to go to Rome if their attitude to us was like ours to them. We recognise Roman Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders. If a Roman wishes to come into our Communion he simply comes in communion. For the sake of discipline some Bishops require a form of admission but that is not the old way. For hundreds of years Roman recusants in England could always come into our communion by giving notice like other communicants, and then presenting themselves at the rail. But you cannot go to Rome like that. You cannot just quietly stop going to the Anglican Church and begin to go to a Roman one and then one day go to confession and tell the priest you wish to make your communion, and so go to the Altar rail at the next Mass. No, you will be treated as a heretic and schismatic, and all rites you have received, and all the spiritual experiences you have enjoyed will be treated with grave doubt and in some cases as utterly void and meaningless.
Distant fields often look green, but when you get there they may be a shade too green. After this alarming form of abjuration you will be welcomed into the Roman Communion with a good [32/33] deal of fanfare. Rome makes the most of her converts. Romans join our Communion in considerable numbers. In a ministry of nine years in the States I received over a hundred. They were people who came without being sought or urged in any way. We make no fanfare over our conversions.
When the fanfare is over you would find yourself one of the converts, always marked out as such by traditional Roman Catholics. You would then begin to see the seamier side of the Roman Communion, the scale of payments for Masses for the Departed, the system of indulgences, the exaggerated devotions to our Lady and the Saints. You would find that just as there are special Anglican sins, so there are special Roman ones just as unpleasant. You might have felt that the Thirty Nine Articles were rather hard on the Saints, and on the attractive extra-liturgical devotions to our Lord in the Sacrament Reserved. You might have thought the Anglican Communion was a bit cool towards the faithful departed. You would find many Roman devotions altogether too sweet, and too hot, for habitual use, and you might then wish yourself back in the airier atmosphere of the Anglican Communion and long for the solemn words of the Prayer book in English.
 No formulary of our Church has been so misjudged as those same Thirty Nine Articles. They are meant for the clergy, and not for the laity, and they are most carefully worded. For their time, they are a wonderfully moderate statement of reformed Catholicism. The partisans of Rome and Geneva were trying to pull the Church of England this way or that. How carefully these article lay down the true Catholic Faith of the Trinity and the Incarnation, of the sufficiency of Scripture as a safeguard against additions to the Faith, of the way of salvation. How carefully they reject the errors of Calvin on predestination and the total depravity of man. How carefully the Articles teach us of the objective gift in the Blessed Sacrament—“the Body is given”—while making it clear that it is in no materialistic way. How carefully Romish doctrine is condemned, but not Catholic doctrine or even official Roman doctrine. It is against popular errors that we protest. For the time, the Articles were a triumph of good churchmanship and brevity. Compare the length of the decrees of Trent or the Westminster Confession. If we were drawing up a set of articles today, we should use different words and treat some different subjects. At the time they were written, the traffic in masses for the dead and indulgences was very close, and had been experienced [34/35] by all older people. The riotous pilgrimages, and the feigned miracles and relics were a real menace to them. An ignorant population most of whom could not read, were a fair prey for superstition. Nowadays it is not too much reverence or superstitious use that we have to contend with but irreverence and neglect.
THINK well before you submit to Rome. If you think you would be more contented so, remember we are not here to be contented. The Church is not a cosy corner for the Saints. It is an army of campaign. Ask yourself too if there is not some other subtle reason for wanting to make the change, a reason with little if any connection with religion. So often people have gone to Rome supposedly because of doubts about the Anglican positon, but really as a means of getting out of some difficult positon or of dodging some unpleasant duty, and doing so for supposed higher motives.
The Anglican Communion is far from perfect. The Roman has another kind of imperfection. The Eastern Orthodox has another kind. The Evangelical bodies have their own imperfections. The Church is not perfectly holy, Catholic, Apostolic or even one in any of its separated parts. Perhaps [35/36] when we are all more holy the Church will be One. Perhaps when we are all one, then we shall see a Church free from the imperfections which we cannot ignore in any of its parts. To move from one part to another will be no help. It is like a fly feeling safer after he has crossed a crack in the plaster that seems to divide the wall, but is really only surface deep.
In communion with Canterbury, you are in the Great Church. Roman Catholics recognize only their own Communion. A Roman Catholic tips his hat to his own Church, but not to the Anglican Church on the corner nor to the Orthodox Church in the next block. An Anglican recognizes all three and is also good friends with a large part of the Evangelical bodies. We do not unchurch others. We recognize as a brother every person who is baptized in the Name of the Trinity and who accepts our Lord as God and Saviour, and tries to follow Him. We belong to the old concern, the one true Church of which Rome is a part. We belong to the Great Church of the ages. Our Faith is exactly that of St. Paul, St. Augustine and all the Saints and Doctors of the old undivided Church, none of whom ewer heard of the Immaculate Conception or Papal [36/37] Infallibility. Don’t leave the Great Church for a part that pretends to be the whole.
Here is a statement of the catholic principles on which the Anglican Communion bases her claim to your allegiance and loyalty.
SOLEMN DECLARATION PREFIXED TO THE CANONS OF THE GENERAL SYNOD OF THE CANADIAN CHURCH.
“We the Bishops, together with the Delegates from the Clergy and Laity of the Church of England in the Dominion of Canada, now assembled in the first General Synod, hereby make the following Solemn Declaration:--
We declare this Church to be, and desire that it shall continue, in full communion with the Church of England throughout the world, as an integral portion of the one Body of Christ composed of Churches which, united under the One Divine Head and in the fellowship of the one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, hold the one Faith revealed in Holy Writ, and defined in the Creeds as maintained by the undivided primitive Church in the undisputed Ecumenical Councils; receive the same Canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as containing all things necessary to salvation; teach the same Word of God; partake of the same Divinely ordained [37/38] Sacraments, through the ministry of the same Apostolic Orders, and worship one God and Father through the same Lord Jesus Christ, by the same Holy and Divine Spirit Who is given to them that believe to guide them into all truth.
And we are determined by the help of God to hold and maintain the Doctrine, Sacraments, and Discipline of Christ as the Lord hath commanded in His Holy Word, and as the Church of England hath received and set forth the same in “The Book of Common Prayer and Administration on the Sacraments and other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church, according to the use of the Church of England; together with the Psalter or Psalms of David pointed as they are to be sung or said in Churches; and the Form and Manner of Making, Ordaining, and Consecrating of Bishops, Priests and Deacons, and in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion; and to transmit the same unimpaired to our posterity.”
THE WORDS CATHOLIC AND PROTESTANT
The small mind loves an antithesis. Controversy is always full of false antitheses. Catholic or Protestant is one of them. It is easier to accept one side of truth than to stretch the [38/39] mind to take in the other side. Moreover all parts of truth carry with them moral obligations and natural man avoids further obligations. Truth is often found to consist not in “either, or” but in “both”, two sides of the same coin.
Words are not always used with precision. They take on a false meaning. “Catholic” does not equal “Roman”, neither does “Protestant” mean “anti-Catholic”. The two words rightly understood are mutually inclusive. If it were not so, the American Episcopal Church would be guilty of an absurd contradiction, for on the title page of her Prayer Book she calls herself the Protestant Episcopal Church, and in the services of that Book teaches her children to say “I believe in the Holy Catholic Church”.
Catholic comes from the Greek. Kata means down, downright, thoroughly, hol stand for whole or all, and ikos means like (the sign of an adjective). The Catholic Church means the altogether whole-like Church, that is the universal Church which our Lord commissioned to teach the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth to the whole of mankind. “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the [39/40] Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and, lo, I am with you alway even unto the end of the world. (S. Matt xxviii, 19, 20). This Catholic religion is found recorded in Holy Scripture, and is summarized in the Creeds of the Church (Apostles’, Nicene, Athanasian). It is based on God’s revelation of Himself as One God, which He made to the Hebrews, and which is recorded in the Old Testament: And on His revelation in Christ of the three Persons, within the unity of the Godhead, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who have forever enjoyed fellowship together in perfect love. The Son, the Word of God, took human nature and was born of the Virgin Mary. He is altogether God, and altogether Man, like us in all things except sin, and making a bridge and way for us to come to the Father. In His life and death He offered Himself as a sacrifice for us, so that we might be saved from our sins. He rose again from the dead, that we who are made one with him may receive from Him the gift of eternal life and rise again. He imparts to us His own grace, the beauty of his own holiness, that we may become holy as he is holy, and acceptable to the Father. He left to His flock, the Church, an apostolic ministry with sacraments and means of [40/41] grace, so that there is continuity between Him, His first disciples and apostles, and all who have since become His through faith in his Word and Sacraments.
By Baptism we are washed from sin, born into His family and have made available to us, if in faith we will use them, all the treasures of His grace. We are thereby admitted into the fellowship of His saints living and departed. Confirmation crowns our baptism with the unction of His Spirit through the laying on of hands with prayer. Holy Communion is the perpetual memory of His death and sacrifice, which He himself started in the night in which He was betrayed, and which we with Him continue and keep up until His coming again. It is His Church’s chief act of worship, the thankoffering and service of His whole family, and the heavenly banquet in which He feeds his children with Himself, His Body and Blood, to be their heavenly food. His ministers have received power and commandment to declare and pronounce to his people being penitent the absolution of sins. In the sacraments God gives us gifts from outside of ourselves.
This Catholic Religion, enshrined in the Word and Sacraments, has been committed by our Lord [41/42] to the care of His Apostolic Ministry which has existed in the orders of Bishop, Priests and Deacons from the Apostles’ time, and is to continue to the end.
Protestant does not mean testifying against this Catholic religion. It means testifying on behalf of our Lord Jesus. Pro- is the opposite of anti- or contra-. Pro means for not against. At the Anglican Reformation in the sixteenth century certain ancient truths of the Catholic faith found in Scripture, and taught in the primitive Church, but forgotten or ignored in the middle ages and since, were once more actively asserted. They are as follows,
1) The unique position of our Lord Jesus as our great High Priest, our only Advocate and Mediator, because by His incarnation He and He alone, is both God and Man. 2) The sufficiency of His redemptive work which has its climax on the Cross, so that He, and no one else (least of all ourselves) is our Saviour. 3) The necessity of Faith as the hand we put out to grasp this free gift of grace from Him. 4) The right of every soul to immediate access to God through our Lord Jesus. 5) The priestly nature of the whole Church because it is the Body of Christ the great High Priest, so that while there must be a ministerial [42/43] priesthood for certain functions of the Body, yet every member shares in offering up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by his worship and daily life and work. To this end worship should be in a known tongue, nor should the whole Sacrament in both kinds be denied to the laity, nor holy matrimony to the priesthood. 6) The scriptures contain all things necessary to salvation, for our Lord Jesus made a perfect and complete revelation of God to Man, nothing remained unrevealed which it was necessary for Man to know, and of this revelation we have a clear and sufficient record in the Holy Scriptures.
The words Catholic and Protestant have been abused by being used as narrow party terms. Rightly understood, these words are inclusive and not exclusive. It is necessary in using them to be sure that those to whom we speak understand the sense in which we use them. The Church in taking up any word as a technical term never loses sight of its original meaning. Catholic means altogether-whole-like; Protestant means testifying-on-behalf-of.
The Anglican Communion is an integral portion of the one original Catholic Church. It is within the historic framework of the ancient Church which has come down to us with unbroken [43/44] continuity of teaching, worship, and orders. By the mercy of God the Reformation in England was never a revolution. It was a process taking over a hundred years before the final settlement in 1662. The whole of the old Catholic religion was carefully retained. The reformers were great students of the Fathers of the early Church, and in a wonderful way they restored the classic simplicity and balance of the primitive Catholic religion. By the goodness of God we have in the Prayer Book a true Catholicism, Apostolic and Reformed.
The sad thing is that we do not make full use of our glorious heritage nor strive to understand it.
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