Sunday Worship is a Celebration

It’s not very often that a sermon stays with me for an entire week. But for some reason the sermon I heard last week keeps popping back into my thoughts. For the past two weeks our pastor has been explaining the “why” behind our service. The first week he talked about the first half of our service (liturgy of the Word), order and last week he talked about the second half (liturgy of the Table). He made this observation: Everything we do on Sunday morning in the service is a celebration. It’s a party. It’s time to bring out the best linen and the best plates  because it is no ordinary day, levitra but a celebration day.

Sunday worship is a celebration. So simple, troche yet so profound.

And yet, if this is the case, why do our church services feel more like funerals? I get that there is a goal of being reverent, but too often, the attempt to be reverent misses and it becomes depressing instead.

Hymns that are played a half a beat (or even more) too slow.

Songs that have no joy.

Songs that are not singable by the congregation.

Songs that are theologically correct but have no heart, no depth, and no emotion.

There’s been a lot of bashing of evangelicalism lately on the blogosphere, with lots of talk of how evangelical churches do things wrong, even how they do worship wrong by dumbing it down.

And yet, I’m finding myself more and more appreciative of evangelical worship. Good evangelical worship has heart.

There are songs that are happy-clappy.

There are songs that you can’t help but tap your toes to, and you leave church still humming.

Yes there are fluffy songs, but there are also songs that are theologically profound.

There are songs that cause me to throw my hands up in praise and surrender at the majesty of the Risen King.

There are songs that touch my heart and cause me to cry tears of joy.

There are songs where the only proper response afterwards is a sanctuary-filling “AMEN!”

And so I find myself trying to figure out how to marry the best of both worlds. How do I embrace the liturgy and tradition of the church that I’m attending and yet still nurture that need for joyful worship that is found in the evangelical tradition? As much as I can put Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, and Paul Baloche on my playlist and plug in my earphones, it’s not the same as corporate worship.

Maybe this is just evidence that I’m not as far down the Canterbury Trail as I had assumed.


A Waste of Time

I’m late! I’m late! For a very important date. No time to say “Hello, pharmacy Goodbye”.  I’m late, I’m late, I’m late!

We live in a world that has a hurried sense of time.

It’s always a rush to get out the door.

There are always looming deadlines.

There are always too few hours in the day to get everything done.

I think that is one of the reasons I find myself attracted the use of liturgy, the Christian calendar, and of structured prayer times as found in the Anglican Prayer book (BAS), for example. For just a brief time, I am transported away from a view of time that is pressed, hurried, and haggard. I enter into a space, where I am reminded that God’s time is so infinitely different from our sense of time.

In fact, liturgy wastes time on purpose. It is repetitive and reflective and does not just “cut to the chase.” It builds, slowly and patiently, to the goal of bringing us into the throne room of grace, even if only for 20 minutes, or an hour. It allows space for meditation and reflection. It pushes away the noisy calls for “relevance” and “pragmatism” and “purposefulness”.

Paul Griffiths says it this way:

Wasting time is, in ordinary English, a bad thing: want, we think, to make the best use possible of it. But in liturgical terms, time, considered as linear time that can be scheduled, divided into minutes and hours, filled up, deployed, and measured by chronometers, is exactly what should be laid waste, and effectively is….To enter into the repetitive patterns of the liturgy is to lay waste linear time with the radiance of eternity, and in that way to provide a foretaste of heaven.

And yet, even though I am being shaped by this “otherness” of time, it’s a constant battle to ignore the drum of our culture’s sense of “hurry up.” James K.A. Smith writes of his attempt to incorporate Christian practices into his pedagogy, and tells of his experience in his 200-level philosophy class. Because the class met twice a week during the lunch hour timeslot, he decided to start each class off with “Mid-day Prayer.”

A noble endeavour. I said to myself, thinking about how that would be such a powerful practice to include in a theology class one day. And then the pragmatist (given that I’m reading this book in order to think through educational pedagogy, pragmatic thinking is obviously going to occur) in me said, “but how much time does that take away from the allotted 75 minutes of lecture time?”

There it was: the pressure of our culture’s sense of time. That time devoted to mid-day prayer would take away precious time from lecturing on the actual course content.  It didn’t matter that the students reacted positively to this practice of starting the class with the Divine Hours. My brain automatically began calculating how much time was lost; how much time was wasted by starting the class with the liturgy of prayer.

I stepped back from the book, realizing the conflict I was having over the sense of time. I opened my prayer book, and spent some time praying through the Mid-day prayer. And then, in the quiet, in the stillness, I thought about a possible bridge. What if built into Christian educational institutions class time was 10-15 minutes added specifically for prayer? That way instructional time wasn’t “lost” and at the same time the formative Christian practice was kept.

Until the new heavens and new earth, there will probably always be a battle between our culture’s sense of time and the eternity of time.

I’m late! I’m late! For a very important date. No time to say “Hello, Goodbye”.  I’m late, I’m late, I’m late!

 That’s okay, White Rabbit, this time, you can run ahead without me.

The Best Reflection on the Newtown Tragedy I’ve Found So Far

I haven’t said much on the blog about what happened on Friday in Connecticut. Part of it was because I didn’t have words. Part of it was because I was waiting for the dust to settle a bit, viagra which turned out to be a good move given how much misinformation was reported by the media in the first 24-48 hours after the incident. And part of it was because I didn’t want to jump on the “must say something profound” bandwagon.

And so, I’m still not going to say much, but instead point y’all to the best reflection on the tragedy I have found so far. Tim Perry is a Canadian Christian Blogger, and an Anglican. His post, “Where Was God?” and Other Wrong Questions is theologically profound, biblically solid, and thoroughly pastoral.

…The murder of 27 people, 20 of them children under 10 is evil. Beyond that it was an event of horrific evil, I have nothing really to say about it. And in my silence, I hope I am emulating the one thing that Job’s friends did well–stayed quiet. They got in trouble when they opened their mouths.


So, with and for the victims, I will stay silent.


I do want to offer some thoughts on what I think are some of the wrong questions now being asked.


The first wrong question is the religious question: “Where was God?” Were the question left hanging, followed only by the same silence that followed our Lord’s last cry on Good Friday, it would be a fine question. But far too often, it’s not. The question is a mere preamble to the answer. Thus far, I have read only two. In short, one says, God was absent. Having scrubbed God from the public life of America, or North America, or the West (take your pick), we are now left to live with the consequences of our “cleanliness.” God has indeed left and we are left to live with godlessness. I confess to holding this answer in some regard even if it is stupidly and insensitively presented by many. It does conform to the message of many of the Old Testament prophets, not to mention Jesus and St. Paul. A message that boils down to, “the consequence of sin is more sin.” But it is the wrong question and wrong answer for this time.


A second wrong answer to this wrong question affirms just the opposite conclusion as the first: God was present through it all–weeping, perhaps consoling, hastening a departure for heaven. This answer is often given as a response to the more unkind versions of the first answer. And while it does tug at my emotions, I find it wanting, not least because of the emotional response it evokes in me. After the initial pull of sentimentality subsides, I have anger. Were I ever to be in a similar situation, and I pray I never am, I would hope that I have the same courage as the principal and other teachers who died intervening to stop the gunman and to save children. To stand by and cry while observing such a massacre is the definition of cowardice. Not divine love.


Further, it seems to me both answers are wrong because, at the end of the day, they are not actually about God and God’s need to be justified in the face of evil.  (Did God ever say he needed us to defend him in this way?) They are wrong because their principal function is to help us reconstruct, at whatever cost to the parents and grandparents of the dead, our own sense of safety. “God is off in his corner. I’m with God and you’re not.” That’s the underbelly of the first answer. “I’m with God. I’ll cry from the sidelines and do nothing, too.” That’s the underbelly of the second. Either way, the answers serve to comfort us by reminding us that we are not the ones who are suffering. That we are somehow different. That we will (hopefully) remain safe from such events happening to us…


So, is there a right question to be asking? It seems to me that there is. It is the question that drives Psalm 80–the Psalm for this Sunday’s lectionary: “How long, Lord God Almighty,will your anger smolder against the prayers of your people?” To sit with those who are grieving does indeed involve silence. But not simply silence. There are questions to be asked. But not questions about God, or guns, or mental illness. Rather, the question is to be directed to God. The Psalmist is not afraid to ask–How long O Lord? He goes on to say that his people have eaten enough bread soaked with tears. He tells God it’s time for him to turn his face again to his people and deliver them. He is not afraid to talk to God…

I’ve quoted just a couple of excerpts, so go and read the whole thing here.

What is Your Rule of Life?

We all have one. Even if we don’t call it a “rule” we all have an ethos and a pattern that shapes our day. Now of course there are formal “rules” like Benedict’s rule for his monastic order, click which had specific rules and expectations for its members, cialis and while these rules may seem legalistic and harsh (e.g., at least two references to the use and benefit of corporal punishment), they are not designed to be punitive, but are instead meant to be tools to assist the community to conform and be transformed to Christ’s image.

It’s our pattern or structure to how we live life. It is our boundaries for what we do and don’t do, and sometimes even includes measures for if we fail to do what we should. It can include practical things like, when do you read Scripture or do devotions? Do you do it in the morning or in the evening? Do you follow a specific “how to read the Bible in a year” program? Do you follow the Daily Office? When and how do you pray? Do you pray in the morning before you start your day? Do you go somewhere specific to pray or do you pray as you go about doing the dishes? What activities do you do in the life of the church? Do you attend a bible study or a small group? Do you gather with others to intercede for the people in your church? Do you regularly go to church? How do you participate in the corporate worship? How do you participate in the Great Commission of Christ? Do you engage in evangelism, support missionaries or go on mission trips? Do you regularly tithe? Do you practice fasting and how often?

The purpose in specifically thinking about our rule of life is to not only identify gaps but also to consider how what we do (or don’t do) shapes what our beliefs, our character and our identity as disciples of Jesus. It’s not about being legalistic, as if doing these works will save us or justify us before God. Instead, doing these patterns or rhythms are a way to respond to the saving work of Christ, to participate in the work and task He has called us to, and to testify to the power of the Holy Spirit who works in and through our lives.

Now saying all of that, I need to be honest. I wish I could say that I currently have a rule of life. But this semester is one in which I am operating in survival-mode only. My only rule at the moment is to survive until Christmas and to go to church every Sunday. But I know that this semester is only a season. In fact, up until this year I had a rule of life (even though it wasn’t called that), or a structure and rhythm to my spiritual growth. It will need to be tweaked as I enter the new year and a new season. It will not be survival-mode, because I know that I need and thrive under structure rather than chaos.

As I try to articulate my rule of life for the new year, the question that needs to be answered is, “how will I balance family, school, life, my family’s walk with God, and my own personal walk with God?”

Currently, at the dinner table, we adapt the BAS Evening Prayer to create a time of family devotion. The rhythm of that mirrors the rhythm of Sunday worship, and it has helped my three-year old to understand what happens at church. Every evening as we sing the Lord’s Prayer, the three-year old announces, “I sing that song at ‘talk to Jesus!” Come the new year, I would like to begin to incorporate the BAS morning prayer into my routine as a way to start my day. It will probably only be on days that I’m working in the library, and I hope to make it the first thing I do before I turn on my laptop and begin answering emails or working on schoolwork. One of the things that I am missing and need to find a way to better incorporate into a rule of life, is finding a way to carve out space to listen to and to sing worship music. Before moving to Saskatchewan I used to sit at the piano and play through worship songs for about half an hour every day (part of this was because I had been serving as a worship pastor). Since moving here I haven’t touched my piano except to dust it (and even that doesn’t happen as often as it should). That emotional-expressive component of my spiritual life has taken a back seat to the more cognitive, word/study based component of my spiritual life.

As for church life, I am and hope to continue to be active in the ministry role of “crucifer/server.” As well, I will continue to be on the list of “readers” who read the appointed Scripture passages as assigned. At the moment, those two activities keep me busy enough in the life of St. Aidan. One of the things that is profoundly shaping my spiritual development is the fact that we take communion weekly at St. Aidan. I still haven’t been able to find the words to articulate how exactly it is shaping me, but the rhythm of gathering with my family at the front and taking communion together has become important. So much so, that in the brief times when communion is not served (e.g., when we celebrate Morning Prayer instead of Eucharist), my soul feels hungry and even a little bit restless.

In my time at seminary, there have been three components that have been vital to my spiritual development. First, taking classes in a modular format is a great way for me to devote significant time in a focused way to learning about Jesus. There is something powerful about sitting in a classroom with others who are just as eager to learn. The bonds that develop in the intensity of a week-long class help to profoundly shape not only my “cognitive” knowledge of Christ, but also my “experiential” knowledge of Christ. Second, one of the first opportunities I had to plug into life in Caronport was joining the Karl Barth reading group. This group of students, pastors and laypeople meets Friday mornings to discuss short passages of Barth’s Church Dogmatics. It is also a time for prayer and a brief reflection on Scripture. While I have had to step away from this group this semester, my plan is to resume participation in January when my schedule becomes a little more flexible. Third, the St. Aidan cohort at Briercrest has been an amazing blessing. The mini-community of Anglicans at Briercrest is in some ways almost a small group or cell group. The ability to meet for coffee with one or more St. Aidanite, or even just to encourage one another in passing has been a source of grace.

While not directly related to spiritual growth, one of the things that I have been working on this semester, and hopefully will continue through the year is carving out specific time for my husband and I to have “us” time. This may mean going on a date, or just hanging out, but it is regular, weekly time for us to spend time together without the distractions of the kids or work or school. Thankfully, college students are able to fulfill their service learning requirements by doing free babysitting, and we have begun to take advantage of that by having regular Tuesday night dates. It is a time not only for us to rest, but also for us to edify and encourage each other in our vocational calls, and to even sometimes dream together about our future hopes and plans. (Or, to not do any of that but instead to just focus on how to slaughter the other person in a cut-throat game of Settlers of Catan!)

Another Adventure in Anglicanism — Women Bishops and the CoE

So yesterday the motion to allow female bishops in the Church of England failed. Reading through my twitter feed in the hours after you would think the world was coming to an end. I get that it was an emotional vote. But declarations that the CoE is irrelevant, online out of touch with culture, or worse, misogynistic were not helpful, nor does it reflect the reality of life in the Anglican church.

There were calls to have the vote overturned.

There were American low-church (even some no-church) evangelicals declaring that Anglicans don’t need no stinkin’ synods to tell them how to run their church.

And there was the media declaring that the CoE had voted strongly against women bishops.

There were people pushing the political agenda, over-emphasizing that women’s ordination is about “justice and equality” but forgetting that churches don’t (or at least shouldn’t) ordain a person simply because of politics of gender, but because of sacrifice, service and spiritual giftings.

The only level-headed reflection to the vote that I’ve seen so far has come from Michael Bird:

If I can try offer some words of exhortation to the haughty, the hurting (and perhaps the hysterical), let me say this:

1. Due process is due process. The debate has been had, the arguments put forward, voices were heard, and the votes counted. Many are disappointed as their hopes have been dashed. But the processes are there to make sure that all representatives in the COE get a fair say and no one gets to decide what that “says” is. This is an issue that needed a mandate and consensus. And it came up short.
2. If women bishops are put forward in the name of a diverse, inclusive, and broad church, you have to remember that diversity and breadth cuts both ways, it means including and empowering people to the left and to the right of you.
3. Women bishops are inevitable, clearly the majority wants it, but the timing will depend on constructively engaging and assuaging both the anglo-catholic and conservative evangelical wings of the church rather antagonizing them or demonizing them.
4. This is not the last word. Discussion and debate will go on. Time for a cup of tea, an iced-vovo, and then some further conversations about mission and the episcopacy.

I’m all for women bishops, that’s no secret. But I am appalled by the reactions of other supporters who failed to guard their tongues, who failed to speak charitably about their brothers and sisters in Christ who voted against the motion, and who failed to demonstrate the love and patience that Christians are called to demonstrate.

Was the result disappointing? Yes.

But at the same time, it also was a blessing: the majority voted for women bishops, it was just that it failed to get a super-majority. There is hope in that. This is good news. It could have been much worse. It could have failed to receive even a majority, it could have been resoundingly defeated, but it wasn’t.

And dismissing the “no” vote because their representatives are old, grey-haired and out of touch with the times is not helpful. We need to listen to the older generation and to those with whom we disagree. We need to heed their wisdom. How we treat the older generation of Christians and how we treat those who disagree with is how we will one day be treated. As I’ve written before: “Are you listening just as equally to the stories of your elders and of those who disagree with you? Are you willing to do your part in reconciliation or are you expecting the older generation to unilaterally cave to your way of thinking? What happens in 50 years, when the new younger generation of [Christians] become disenfranchised and alienated from your ideas, experiences and politics?”

2012 Luther Lecture

In September, thumb Luther College at the University of Regina hosted its annual Luther Lecture. This year’s speaker was Michael Ingham, medical Anglican Bishop from the Diocese of New Westminster in B.C. You can read about my thoughts on the lecture here. Luther College has uploaded video of the lecture. I have embedded it below, but if you’re having trouble seeing it you can go directly to the college’s website to view it.

Canadian Christianity — Bishop Michael Ingham

On Monday night, site Luther College at the University of Regina hosted its annual Luther Lecture. This year’s invited guest was Michael Ingham, recipe Bishop of the Diocese of New Westminster in the Anglican Church of Canada.

Bishop Ingham was introduced as one of the 25 most influential Anglicans in the world, and given the issues and events that have happened in the diocese of New Westminster in the last decade, this is not surprising. I have spent the last two years reading and trying to figure out the Anglican Communion, and I have read about Bishop Ingham, as well as reading some of his own writings. Attending the lecture gave me a chance to see the man himself, and I hope that it will help me to better evaluate his influence and his theology without relying on some of the opinions that are coloured by pain and anger. Saying that, Bishop Ingham presented himself as a quiet, smart, and well-composed. And while there are still theologies and actions that I still strongly disagree with, and believe that have caused damage to the Anglican Church in Canada and worldwide, Bishop Ingham is not the devil incarnate, or the “bogeyman.”

To introduce his lecture, he talked about the recent controversy about whether or not the liberal, mainline churches are dying, as discussed in mainstream media articles like Ross Douthat, Margaret Wente and Diana Butler-Bass.

This leads to a need to talk about what “success” looks like or mean in Christian discourse. Is a church successful if it’s growing? Is it successful if it doesn’t? What does success look like in light of the fact that we follow a Saviour who suffered and died?

Ingham’s lecture was on the impact of the shift from modernity to postmodernity on the Christian Church. For the most part, what he said was not really controversial, as he gave a basic overview of both modernity and postmodernity. His argument was that the labels “evangelical” “catholic” and “liberal” are fundamentally modern in orientation and are thus meaningless and obsolete in a post-modern context. These labels have become political labels that represent ideologies rather than theologies, and they belong to an older generation of Christians, and have no place in the new Christianity of the 21st century. Thus, younger Christians are trying to find a way to distinguish themselves. They are post-liberal, post-evangelical, post-conservative, etc.

Ingham then looked at the evolution that has occurred within the three traditions of Christianity: liberalism, evangelicalism, and Catholicism. So for example, out of liberal Christianity has arisen post-liberalism and radical orthodoxy. From evangelicalism has arisen the emerging church movement, and from Catholicism has arisen communities like Taize.

He argued that part of the problem today is that in spending so much time about the decline of the church, we are missing the fact that new and exciting things are happening. Indeed, he emphasized that the church is not dying; but it is changing. And while changed can feel like death because it is painful, Christianity is in the process of evolving.

It was interesting to observe his confidence that he is right in his decisions and actions in his role of Bishop. His lecture demonstrated that he believes that the issue of SSM has been settled in the Anglican church, that he has won, and that it is just a matter of time before the rest of the Anglican church capitulates to his position. This was evidenced in his emphasis that the new generation of Christians doesn’t want to fight about issues or doctrine. The way he set it up, it was clear that the older generation just needs to get on board with the younger generation; that the reason the young generation doesn’t want or need to fight is because it is right on the issues.

If I had had the chance, (or the courage), I would have asked the Bishop one of  two questions:

First, what will this age of redundant and obsolete labels mean for the selection and task of the new Archbishop of Canterbury?

Second, his very concluding observation was that we shouldn’t focus on the people who are leaving the church but rather on the people who are coming, made me want to ask him if he is working at all to reconcile with the conservative congregations that left his diocese for the Anglican Network.

This was my first Luther Lecture, and I think I would go again. In the 40 years of the Luther Lecture, Luther College has hosted a diverse company of scholars and thinkers, including Stanley Hauerwas, Hans Kung, Margaret Somerville, James Cone, and Rosemary Radford Ruether. Next year, the Luther Lecture will feature Martin Marty.

Thinking Through the Benefits and Necessity of Liturgy

“Liturgy is boring.”

“Liturgy is repetitive.”

“Liturgy stifles the Holy Spirit.”

“Yuck, illness liturgy.”

These are some of the reactions I’ve had when people hear that I’m currently attending an Anglican church. And yet, advice even before I began attending an Anglican church I knew that liturgy was an important and necessary part of my Christian faith. Even in more low-church, sovaldi non-liturgical settings, the routine and familiarity of the order of service, of the rhythm of taking communion once a month, the routine of 3 praise songs, the offering, the sermon, the altar call and time of prayer, and the dismissal shaped and discipled my Christian walk.

Today, I want to just explore some reasons why liturgy, especially formal liturgy, can be beneficial:

It creates space to hear the Holy Spirit. There is something about saying the same words over and over again, where they seep into your very core, and you reach the place where you no longer have to follow along with the bulletin or the liturgical text. You’re no longer thinking, “okay, what comes next? What do I have to do?” In that comfortable space, the words that are so familiar become new as you can focus on hearing the meaning behind the words instead of trying to play catch up and follow along. The comfortable words (to use a phrase from the Book of Common Prayer) become enhanced with new meaning as the Holy Spirit draws your attention to some new detail that you hadn’t previously considered, or as the Holy Spirit uses the words to heal your soul and give you rest.

It guards against accidental heresy.
We’ve all seen it happen. An elder, or a worship leader gets up and prays. And in the “moment” of spontaneous prayer ends up saying something Arian, or something Docetic, or something gnostic. Words matter, and the fact that the authors of liturgical texts have prayed and thought through the precise use of each word and what they are conveying, demonstrates that the words we say as a Church are deep, rich, meaningful and purposeful.

It connects us with 2,000 years of Christian worship. As I read the Patristic Fathers, in particular, I am struck by those aspects of early Christian worship that are still affirmed today. Take an early worship manual like Hippolytus’: Here is a liturgy that was written in the 3rd century that continues to be used even if just in snippets nearly 2,000 years later. Through liturgy, be it word or practice, we enter into something bigger than ourselves, bigger than our generation. Sure we may find ways to make it contemporary or “relevant”, but we don’t need to reinvent the wheel each and every time we do church.

Liturgy happens even when it’s not explicitly called liturgy.
Let’s face it, even the most charismatic, free-flowing churches have some kind of liturgy. It may not be written down, but it’s done pretty much the same way every week. Heck, even “extemporaneous” prayers are often repetitive and follow a liturgical pattern each time: You pray for the needs of those who are sick; you pray for the missions fields; you pray for outreach; you pray for the Holy Spirit to guide the church board as they make decisions regarding the church; you pray for the Holy Spirit to bless the congregation and to make his presence known. Rinse and repeat every week, even if the details are a little bit different each time.

Liturgy is not just a religious thing.
Liturgy happens all around us. How we orient our lives, our years, our weeks, happens in a fairly standard pattern. Since it is now September, take the academic school year. September is the “start of the year”. There is anticipation in August for it as school supplies and new clothes are bought. And then, the day after Labour Day, the parents walk the kids to their first day of school. It’s a rite of passage. And each year for the next 13 (or more) yearsthe students participate in the liturgy of the first day of school. They meet their teachers. They find their desks. They make new friends. They reconnect with old friends. Their days become structured around the school schedule 9-3. Fridays become an important day that anticipates the weekend. We don’t say that this liturgy is boring because we’ve done it every year. Instead, each new year it is approached with both the comfort of the structure, and the newness that the student is another year older and the liturgy of the school year will not so much be the same old, same old, as it will be a deeper experience of a ritual that takes on new meaning and new life each time it happens. And even if there are those of us who dislike school and shed the liturgy of the school year as soon as we can, we still come back to it and put our children in it, so that it can shape and mold them as it shaped and molded us.

Liturgy, be it Christian or secular, profoundly shapes us. It demonstrates a telos or goal of the good life that we aim to achieve. Because we are embodied creatures, what we do affects what we believe. It shapes how we think, how we feel, how we look at the world. James Smith, in his book Desiring the Kingdom, argues that liturgy is important because humans are primarily desiring creatures, over against thinking creatures (Rene Descartes “I think therefore I am”) or believing creatures (the Reformed worldview emphasis). Liturgies, he writes, “are ritual practices that function as pedagogies of ultimate desire.” (87). Liturgy, and particularly liturgy as found in the practice of Christian worship, is “embodied and material.” (152)

And so, even those who chafe at the thought of liturgy in Church, who balk at the use of liturgical texts on a weekly basis, are being profoundly shaped by the liturgy of being anti-liturgy. Smith asks a brilliant question that every Christian congregation, liturgical or not, should ask itself: What does worship say about Christian faith? (134) If you were to sit in on a service at another Christian denomination what would their service say about what they believe? If a stranger were to come into your church and sit in on a worship service, what would he take away from the service about what your church believes and what it means to be Christian?

(While I am deeply indebted to James Smith’s book, stay tuned for an upcoming post where I strongly disagree with some of the assertions he makes).

The Future of The Anglican Communion

I’ve decided to round up links regarding the recent US Episcopal General Convention, viagra sale and what its decisions mean for the future of the worldwide Anglican Communion. I’ve blogged before about how I’m reading and listening and trying to understand about the tensions that exist in the worldwide communion and whether it is inevitable that the fragile Communion will fracture.

A quick recap of what happened at the Convention: The Episcopal Church voted to endorse the local option for parishes and priests to celebrate and perform same-sex blessings. While they did not change the definition of marriage, ask as it would have been a complicated endeavour to change the language of the Book of Common Prayer, these new rites are parallel and share many common features of the marriage rite.

The Diocese of South Carolina walked out of the Convention floor in protest of the resolutions passed:

“These resolutions in my opinion,” said Lawrence, “are disconcerting changes to the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Episcopal Church–to which every bishop, priest and deacon is asked to conform. More importantly they mark a departure from the doctrine, discipline and worship of Christ as this Church has received them, therein making it necessary for me to strongly differentiate myself from such actions.”

As well, a group presented the Convention with the Indianapolis Statement, a document that officially dissented from the decision of the Convention’s decision:

“The liturgy entitled ‘The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant’ is for all practical purposes same-sex marriage. It includes all of the essential elements found in a marriage rite: vows, an exchange of rings, a pronouncement, and a blessing. We believe that the rite subverts the teaching of the Book of Common Prayer, places The Episcopal Church outside the mainstream of Christian faith and practice, and creates further distance between this Church and the Anglican Communion along with other Christian churches.
“Our dissent from this action of the 77th General Convention is thus rooted in the teachings of our own Church; in the historic biblical and theological witness upon which those teachings rest; and in the wider context of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church and our conviction that no part of the Church is free on its own to alter basic Christian teaching…”

(The full text of the statement can be found here).

Daniel Martins notes that there is a small silver lining in the vote to approve the rite:

“It could have been worse. In the Committee 13 debate this morning, we were able to greatly strengthen the language that not only gives bishops the authority to prohibit use of the rite in their diocese, but offers both clergy and laity concrete safeguards to protect them from retribution or canonical impairment because of this position on same-sex marriage–in the case of clergy, refusal to preside at this rite. I have been abundantly clear in the Diocese of Springfield that this form, or anything like it, will not be authorized for use.”

Other mainstream coverage:
Christianity Today

The full-text of the liturgy that was approved can be found here, at the bottom of the article.

So the question is, what does this action mean for the larger Anglican Communion? Other members of the Communion have called for the Episocopal (and Canadian) churches to pause and not continue on this push for the sake of Christian unity. On the other hand, the Episcopal churches have basically said that Christian Unity means that the rest of the Communion should let them do this and to not interfere in this “local option.” Churches and an entire diocese have left to join a new Anglican network under the authority of the Southern Cone, and have been called ‘schismatics’ for failing to uphold Christian unity. But one has to wonder if the Episcopal Church is the true schismatic for wielding Christian unity as a weapon of manipulation and defiance.

The Anglican Curmudgeon says that this Convention has opened the door to Liturgical Anarchy:

“Do whatever your own Bishop may choose to approve in his or her own Diocese. It can be this liturgy, for example; or it can be something someone else has written for this liturgically undefinable occasion, as long as the Bishop says, ‘That’s fine.’ Or it can be no such rites or liturgies whatsoever, if the Bishop says that. Whatever — just go with it, pewsters.”

Beliefnet News asks “Why is the Episcopal Church Near Collapse?” and traces the decline of membership in the Episcopal Church in the last 40 years. The article suggests that the resolutions passed at this Convention are not surprising given the free-fall that the Church has been in:

But few observers were surprised by the transgender and same-sex resolutions. A few years ago, the annual national Episcopal convention overwhelmingly refused even to consider a resolution affirming that Jesus Christ is Lord. Upon returning home from that meeting, Bishop Peter H. Beckwith, leader of the Springfield, Illinois, diocese, wrote in a pastoral letter that the Episcopal church was “in meltdown.”

Conservative Anglicans are also asking, how should GAFCON respond to the latest developments:

The Communion lies becalmed and rudderless like a ship after a storm. The Archbishop of Canterbury can no longer gather the Communion and the Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council has announced that it has no set time frame for the adoption of the Covenant. What was once held to be ‘the only show in town’ is dead even though it officially lives.
How does the GAFCON movement respond now? During the storm it provided a lifeboat for those orthodox Anglicans who were tossed over the side, but now there is an opportunity to get the ship under way again by being a catalyst for the renewal and godly unity of the whole Communion. The preparatory documents for the 2008 GAFCON Conference referred to a fork in the road, but how do we understand that road?

The Christian Science Monitor is also asking what this will mean for the future of the worldwide Communion:

“It means the Episcopal Church is now separating itself that much more from the Anglican Communion,” says Hood College historian David Hein, co-author of “The Episcopalians,” a standard history of the church. “The American Episcopal Church is trying to set itself up as a separate denomination, although they would claim that they’re not.”

Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori announced at a press conference that the Episcopal Church is well-positioned for the future:

At this convention, “you have seen the Episcopal Church not only of the future, but of today, in the presence of young adults, a more significant number than we’ve seen in a long time, people of many nations and tribes and language traditions,” said Jefferts Schori, noting that more than 40 international guests attended convention. “The Episcopal Church is healthy, it’s becoming healthier, and it’s poised for an even more significant impact on the world around us. There’s no stopping us. Watch out world. We’re coming.”

I haven’t seen anyone write on this yet, but I’m wondering how the results of the US Convention will impact the decision of who is chosen as the next Archbishop of Canterbury.

p.s. check out this post In Praise of Episcopalians:

I’m proud of The Episcopal Church for the conclusion at which they arrived as well. As far as I’m concerned in all matters theological, when in doubt err on the side of generosity. When in certainty, do the same. Generosity, humility, full inclusion of all God’s Creation…If there’s a “come to Jesus” moment one day I’d rather be told I was too generous than too stingy with the love of God

Some Thoughts on Anglican-Catholic Relations

In January 2011, viagra sale the Anglican diocese of Qu’Appelle and the Catholic archdiocese of Regina signed a statement of covenant. This covenant upheld the common faith between the two dioceses and outlined specific ways the two dioceses would work together for the sake of Christian unity. These ways included an annual service of reconciliation between the two dioceses, praying for each other’s churches and their mission, working together on First Nations issues, and continuing to commit to communication and consultation with each other.

This local covenant between two dioceses in Saskatchewan continues the ongoing Anglican-Catholic dialogue that has happened at a global level. Since 1968, in light of Vatican II, and with the publication of the Malta Report, the Anglican Communion and the Catholic Church have met regularly to discuss issues of theology and doctrine. While there have been some points of agreement, there are still areas where the two churches have very different doctrines (e.g., the role of the Virgin Mary in the life of the Church). There have also been concessions to Catholic doctrine on the part of the Anglican Communion. For example, the Unity, Faith and Dialogue report of 1981 includes a statement that “we nevertheless agree that a universal primacy will be needed in a reunited Church and should appropriately be the primacy of the bishop of Rome…”

Despite four decades of dialogue, there are also signs of strain in the relationship between Catholics and Anglicans given the current trend of the liberalizing of the faith within the Episcopal Church (USA) and the Anglican Church of Canada. In response to the liberal and politically-motivated decisions of several dioceses (e.g., The Diocese of New Westminister in British Columbia and the Diocese of Niagara in Ontario), the Vatican has issued an invitation for Anglican parishes to “cross the Tiber” and join the Roman Catholic Church through a special dispensation called an Ordinariate. This arrangement allows for Anglican parishes to keep their own liturgy and prayer books, as well as keep their own priests, even those who are married. These parishes come under the authority of a Catholic bishop and are received as members into the Holy Catholic faith. This invitation, while it has been accepted by a handful of Canadian parishes, does not necessarily solve the problems that are currently occurring in the Anglican Communion.

Historically, the Anglican Church has had a colourful relationship the Catholic Church. It has been suggested that the birth of the Anglican Church was “an accident” caused by a clash of politics and religion in an attempt to secure the lineage of the Tudor family.

Henry VIII, though Catholic, needed to reform some of the laws of the Catholic church in order to have his marriage to Catherine of Aragon annulled, as she had been unable to give birth to a male heir. His political needs did not mean that his theology was anti-Catholic. In fact, his 1521 book, defending the sacraments of the Catholic Church and criticizing the theology of Martin Luther, was so thoroughly a defense of Catholicism that Pope Leo X honoured him with the title “Defender of the Faith.” But Henry chose Protestant-minded allies to push his reform, including Thomas Cromwell and Thomas Cranmer (who would become Archbishop of Canterbury in 1533), and some of Henry’s decrees seemed to support the Protestant cause, including changes to the church calendar, and the edict that every church was to have an English Bible. It would appear that the break with Rome was complete by 1534, and yet, in 1539, with the publication of the Six Articles, Henry affirmed a Catholic theology of transubstantiation, confession, and the requirement that clergy be celibate. In 1543, he passed the Act for the Advancement of True Religion that severely restricted the Protestant doctrine of the priesthood of all believers, by declaring that only certain classes of people were allowed to interpret the Scriptures.

The pendulum would swing back towards a more Reformed, Protestant theology within the Anglican Church during the reign of Edward VI with the repeal of the Six Articles, the drafting of the Forty-Two Articles and the publication of The Book of Common Prayer. But this shift was short-lived and many of the Protestant doctrines were repealed under the reign of Mary I, a Catholic.

But what is most interesting is that, under Elizabeth I, the pendulum did not swing fully back to Protestant theology, and instead the via media (middle way) was born. Elizabeth would not allow ardent Protestants like John Knox to exert too much influence over her reign, and she continued to advocate for the middle way. The Forty-Two Articles were replaced with the more moderate Thirty-Nine Articles which, though Protestant in theology, allowed for some Catholic elements like the use of clerical robes. On the other hand, under Elizabeth, the via media gave believers the freedom “to interpret doctrinal statements and patterns of worship in the manner they saw fit.” Richard Hooker, for example, advocated for via media between Catholics and Puritans in his book The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity. And yet, at the same time, the Church of England made it clear that, in being a “middle way,” it was still distinct from the Roman Catholic Church (This can be seen, for example, in John Jewel’s Apologia Ecclesiae Anglicanae: Or, The Apology of the Church of England) and in 1559, the Act of Supremacy was passed, which declared that the Pope’s authority was no longer recognized in England.

Today, the Anglican Church continues to be a “middle way,” neither Catholic nor Protestant; it is instead a tradition of its own, influenced by both. It has developed three general streams within it: evangelical, Catholic and liberal. The question is whether or not the Communion can continue to hold these three in unity. And while Anglicans and Catholics have continued since Vatican II to build bridges of communion and dialogue, the acceptance of the Vatican’s offer to conservative Anglo-Catholic congregations to leave the Anglican Communion and join the Roman Catholic Church demonstrates that there are cracks in the “middle way.” (Not to mention that conservative evangelical parishes are choosing to withdraw and realign under the authority of African and South American dioceses rather than stay under the authority of their North American bishops.) Mark Noll argues that the Anglican-Catholic dialogues, while successful in creating unity on theological issues, ultimately failed to produce ecclesial unity because they “could not agree on populist practices in the day-to-day lives of their churches, in particular, divorce, birth control, and the ordination of women.”

I wrote this little post because I am wrestling with the question, “What is the future of the Anglican Church?” Given the actions of dioceses like New Westminster and Niagara, conservative Anglican parishes have three options: to join the Anglican Network in Canada, which is under the authority of the Province of the Southern Cone, to join the Ordinariate established by the Roman Catholic Church, or to stay the course within the denomination. The diocese of Qu’Appelle is one of the evangelical, orthodox and conservative dioceses left in the Anglican Church of Canada, and with the retirement of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Anglican Communion is about to undergo a shift. Without trying to sound too fatalistic, some sort of schism could happen, and the question is going to become, “What does it mean to be Anglican?” And so, while it is really good that the diocese of Qu’Appelle has entered into covenant with the Catholic diocese, and has actively sought to coordinate their efforts in proclaiming the Gospel throughout southern Saskatchewan, at a larger level, the Anglican via media is cracking, and I cannot help but wonder if it the covenant is going to be for naught, seeing as how the Anglican Communion, and the Anglican Church of Canada in particular, are probably about to be redefined.


Healey, Robert. “Waiting for Deborah: John Knox and Four Ruling Queens.” Sixteenth Century Journal XXV, no. 2 (1994): 371–386.

Holder, R. Ward. Crisis and Renewal: The Era of the Reformations (Westminster History of Christian Thought). Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2009.

Hooker, Richard. The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity. Glasgow: George Routledge and Souns, 1888.

Jewel, John. Apologia Ecclesiae Anglicanae: Or, The Apology of the Church of England … London: J. Bowyer, 1720.

Latourette, Kenneth Scott. A History of Christianiy: Reformation to the Present. Vol. 2. 2 vols. Peabody: Prince Press, 2000.

LeMarquand, Grant, Alister McGrath, James Packer, and John Paul Westin. “Anglicanism Today: The Path to Renewal.” In Anglican Essentials: Reclaiming Faith Within the Anglican Church of Canada, edited by George Egerton, 53–63. Toronto: Anglican Book Centre, 1995.

Noll, Mark. Is the Reformation Over? An Evangelical Assessment of Contemporary Roman Catholicism. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005.