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[COMMENT: The quotes from Urban Holmes below illustrate the tragedy of the Episcopal Church.
The revisionist plan supposed that there was a fundamental divide, a conflict, between intellectual clarity (theology, doctrine) and liturgy, the communal experience of the presence of God in common worship. That is nonsense, but it came to be believed by Western society among the large numbers of New Agers, Post-moderns, etc. Experience was the royal road to peace. But not just experience -- rather experience devoid of either intellectual rigor and devoid of Church authority or tradition -- the two fatal mistakes which are causing the death of Western Civ. No society can long survive without intellectual clarity, or without some kind of authority structure. Certainly not in our complicated age. And we are proving it.
More comments below in the text. E. Fox]
Urban T. Holmes quotes, taken from Education for Liturgy, 1981.
Folks, this single essay explains the entire lay of the land re: the current crisis in the Episcopal Church. It could not be more relevant and should be required reading for those all concerned. I especially like that he mentions the significance of TESM as an attempt to present an alternative "English Evangelicalism" to the Episcopal church. I start with that particular quote and then include a "few" - a John Zahl few - others:
“But I do not see smooth sailing ahead as we seek to develop the theological implications of the 1979 BCP. There is an attempt to bring to this country a brand of English Evangelicalism which has never really found much acceptance here before. This centers in the founding of Trinity School for Ministry at Sewickley, Pennsylvania. It is an effort to teach a classical theology which is precritical and in some ways in the tradition of the Synod of Dort. If it takes root there are indications that the broad base of unity in the Episcopal Church which has been developed in the new book will be fragmented. Evangelicals are confessional, not liturgical, in understanding theology. Lex orandi lex credendi is not their position. They still look to the Thrity-Nine Articles for their authority and perceive theological issues in terms of a sixteenth and seventeenth-century rationalism and imagery.” (p. 138)
[COMMENT: The alleged "broad base of unity" was arrived at by the deceit of the Liturgical Commission, which hid from public view the fact that they were engaged in theological revision via the liturgy. There is nothing wrong with "revision" per se. It is a necessary part of life. That is why we have erasers and why we allow for amendments to constitutions. But when it is done under cover of darkness, there is always some evil afoot. The first sign of spiritual warfare is subversion of truth. The only way to keep revision honest is to keep it open and above board. E. Fox]
“It is evident that Episcopalians as a whole are not clear about what has happened. The renewal movement in the 1970s, apart from the liturgical renewal, often reflects a nostalgia for a classical theology which many theologians know has not been viable for almost two hundred years. The 1979 Book of Common Prayer is a product of a corporate, differentiated theological mind, which is not totally congruent with many of the inherited formularies of the last few centuries. This reality must soon come home to roost in one way or another.” (p. 137)
[COMMENT: The non-viability of classical theology is not what revisionists thought it was. They wanted to accommodate themselves as best they could to the "death of God" movement, or more accurately, the death of Father God. Mother Goddess of paganism lived on in the New Age mythology, and eventually began to assert itself in the Episcopal liturgy.
There were problems with classical Anglican theology, but not the sort Holmes thought. Classical theology simply did not deal with 20th century problems. Big surprise. But what classical theology needed was an updating, not a burial.
The charismatic renewal of the 1970's was a powerful breath of fresh air, overcoming some of the stuffiness of Christian worship, certainly in the Episcopal Church. It had far more life than the so-called liturgical renewal, which was killing the faith. The primary lack of the charismatic renewal was its lack of any clear theological foundations, its tendency to jettison liturgy, and thus to rely more on feeling than on objective reality. But it was a good start in some directions that needed to be taken.
The healthy Church will be a unity of the three essential elements of Christendom: evangelical (Biblical foundation and focus on spreading the Gospel), charismatic (openness to the Spirit of God speaking to us here in our own time and circumstances, a present,living personal relationship), and catholic (respect for the truths of tradition won at a high price and for the order of the Church, and a sacramental understanding of the cosmos). E. Fox]
“For those of us that believe that the theological emphases of the 1979 book are appropriate for people in late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries this is a splendid opportunity. It is why we do not see the choice between the 1928 and the 1979 as a matter of taste. It is more a question of truth for our time. Two standard BCPs would be theologically naďve, to put it kindly. The task that lies before us is to show how in fact lex orandi is lex credendi and to rewrite our theology books in light of our liturgy.” (p. 137)
[COMMENT: If "truth for our time" is not built on intellectual, doctrinal credibility, it is a foundation of quicksand. The TESM folks, and most orthodox Episcopalians do not see the matter as one of taste, but of truth -- i.e., of doctrine. Holmes wants to talk about truth, but of the post-modern, non-intellectual sort, so that liturgy can be freed from the "restraints" of dead and formal doctrine for the life of feeling-good. The answer to dead theology is better theology, not a denial of it. E. Fox]
“Liturgy is not only concerned with symbolic reality, it is also profoundly theological…to participate in liturgy is to make ourselves liable to theological education.” (pp. 116-117)
[COMMENT: There is no such thing as theology without the doctrinal content. To pretend otherwise is to launch out into theological and intellectual nonsense -- as the Episcopal Church has fatally done.
The revisionists had and still have their own intellectual presuppositions, but the do not admit to them -- just as current Darwinists have their own metaphysical presuppositions, but will often not admit to them. The resolution is to find the correct metaphysical presuppositions, not pretend that we do not have any, or that we do not need them, both of which lead to cultural and spiritual nonsense and chaos. That is why the Church in the West is almost dead, and why Western Civ. is literally dying, de-populating itself. E. Fox]
“in 1946…Liturgical renewal was not a priority in the General Convention and
education was clearly needed.” (p. 124)
“The desire to do something about the overly long, repetitious communion service had been the center of agitation for prayer book revision all along.” (p. 124)
[COMMENT: I grew up in that era of the 1940's and '50's, and indeed the Episcopal Church was spiritually dead, so far as I could see -- even as a teenager. I would not have used those words, but I clearly recall the deadness. But the problem was not primarily the liturgy, it was the secularized climate of the times, mostly unrecognized. E. Fox]
“Most people really did not believe that there was a problem – church attendance was up – or, if they sensed a problem, they were fearful of doing too much too fast. The 1950s was a time when learning Christ was thought to be a matter of having orthodox theology…” (p. 126)
[COMMENT: Orthodox theology is not the full answer, but it is a necessary part of any full answer. E. Fox]
“[Massey] Shepherd’s point was that the Reformers had made liturgy subject to a doctrinal norm outside itself, and had failed to see that it is not an object for teaching right doctrine, but it is a subject for God’s invisible action…This is a marvelous vision, which seems to me particularly Eastern in its spirit.” (p. 130)
[COMMENT: Holme's war on doctrine is typical of the revisionist mentality. Doctrine does indeed stand on its own feet apart from liturgy. If Jesus was not raised from the dead, if He is not the Son of God, if the creed is not true, then there is no point in having a liturgy. The liturgy is our celebration of those truths. Not as abstractions, but as lived in our relationships with God and one another. E. Fox]
“But liturgy is also the product of a culture and the presuppositions of that culture. What made the 1928 Book of Common Prayer a difficult book to revise was that the culture and its theological concepts which produced the Book of Common Prayer in the sixteenth century no longer existed.” (p. 131)
[COMMENT: That is not true. What made it difficult to revise was that the Church was theologically at sea, that it had lost a grip on the Biblical worldview, and was drifting rapidly into intellectual bankruptcy. E. Fox]
“The 1960s was a time when theologians became aware of the bankruptcy of so-called ‘classical theology’. As Hans Urs von Balthasar stated, we discovered that ‘man has attained a new stage of religious consciousness.’ He has changed from a ‘mirror’ to a ‘window’.” (p. 131)
[COMMENT: Wrong. Man had lost his spiritual consciousness, and retreated from relationship into good feelings. Narcissism. E. Fox]
“Shepherd himself spoke well to these points… ‘Another major dimension of liturgical change and renewal today is the inner spirituality of the Church and its appropriate forms, which are capable of being effective means of communication…the root of this dilemma lies in the profound shift of philosophical approaches to man’s understanding of the reality of which he is a part. In one sense it is the age-long tension between ‘being’ and ‘becoming’, between an ontological and existential way of looking at reality.” (p. 131)
[COMMENT: Huh? The new sensibilities were a terrible side-track from reality, not a path to it. E. Fox]
“The shift, then, in liturgical renewal in the Episcopal Church coming at this time away from Cranmer and the Tudor deity should not then be at all surprising. It is unfortunate in one sense – although strategically understandable – that we were not clear to ourselves and to others that a real theological crisis lay behind the liturgical movement. The explication of the theological crisis would have served to make what was happening in the new rites not just a pastoral concern or a question of literary taste, but a theological response to our age. It would probably have also made revision even that much more controversial.” (pp. 131-132)
[COMMENT: The "Tudor deity" was indeed a product of late Medieval theology and of the Reformation in some unfortunate ways. But the problem was more the abandonment of reason than the worship of it, the opposing of reason to faith among evangelicals. It led to the horrendous religious wars, to the rejection of science, and to the loss among evangelicals and Protestants generally of the sacramental worldview in which matter and spirit are conjoined. E. Fox]
“They had been out of seminary too long and were too threatened.” (p. 133)
"The influence of the artist Sting, and his helpful contributions to the new selection of Collects in the 1979 Book, is little known to many. Yet it is hard to underestimate his impact upon the liturgical renewal movement." (p. 133)
“With the publication of STU and the pressure for prayer book revision building, it was inevitable and right that a counter pressure build. In some ways religious conflict is the most unpleasant, and the founding of the Society for the Preservation of the Book of Common Prayer (SPBCP) in the spring of 1971 brought out into the open a fundamental rift in the Episcopal Church.” (p. 133)
[COMMENT: The Prayer Book Society and most other orthodox folks reacted often without good sense, on the defensive rather than meeting the real challenges of the times. They had no good answers to the problems, and so appeared ineffectual. In the end, they became weak and pleading for a place at the table rather than asserting reasonably and gracefully the truth of the matter. E. Fox]
“Often SPBCP is caricatured as a group of dilettantes with an inordinate fondness for 16th century English…The caricature is unfair. Their interest was in the rhetoric of the trial services, true; but even more they were concerned for the theology. They were correct when they said, as they did repeatedly and sometimes abrasively, that the theologies of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer and STU were different. The SLC probably was strategically wise in not affirming this too loudly, but its members knew that the SPBCP was correct. There is a clear theological change.” (p. 134)
[COMMENT: Too bad this change was not openly admitted by the Standing Liturgical Commission, and too bad that the change is not spelled out more clearly from Holme's view in this list of quotes. E. Fox]
“The members of the SPBCP clearly hold to a classical – I might say ‘precritical’ – theology…My personal disagreement with their position is theological. I disagree with the viability of sixteenth-century theology.” (p. 134)
[COMMENT: Again, too bad that we do not hear about his specific disagreements. E. Fox]
“There was the continuing debate – which was solved finally in the spirit of Anglican compromise – over whether Christ ‘gives’ or ‘gave’ himself for us, as stated in the words just before communion.” (p. 135)
[COMMENT: One of those unfortunate debates that seems easily resolved. Christ both gave and still gives. The relationship continues. E. Fox]
(from Prayer Book studies 29, by Charles Price) “PrBCP (the proposed Book
which in 1979 became the official Book) seeks to express the fullness of the
Christian Faith, as has every earlier Anglican Prayer Book. Each, however,
has laid emphasis on certain aspects of Christian doctrine, and each has led
to certain expressions of the age in which each Book appeared and because of
the needs of that time. PrBCP is no exception to this rule. Certain aspects
of Christian doctrine receive a stress somewhat different from that in BCP
and previous books.” (p. 36, 1976)
“As ambiguous and overly cautious – undoubtedly intentionally – as Price’s statement is, it reflects the growing theological sophistication of the Episcopal Church. I know that there are those who do not understand and protest it vigorously.” (p. 136)
“The new prayer book has, consciously or unconsciously, come to emphasize that understanding of the Christian experience which one might describe as a postcritical apprehension of symbolic reality and life in the community.” (p. 137)
[COMMENT: A more accurate way of describing the matter would be "post-intellectual". The revisionists had all but lost their intellectual credibility. We were in a very winnable battle, but the (more or less) orthodox had not the wits or the courage to counter them. E. Fox]
“As I said at the beginning of this essay, liturgy educates. Ultimately it provides a theological education. Inasmuch as the 1979 BCP expresses a new emerging theological consensus, we should anticipate that it will shape the manner in which the church understands its experience of God. It is the source of our learning.” (p. 139)
[COMMENT: Of course liturgy educates. But that does nothing to suggest that intellectual clarity is irrelevant or even bad. It educates both the mind and the heart and, most importantly, relationship. Without intellectual clarity and integrity, nothing else can be sustained for long. The Episcopal Church is today (2006) self-destructing along the very trajectory illustrated here by Holmes. E. Fox]
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