Monday, March 30, 2009

When a bishop has to leave the Church of England to stand up for Christians, what hope is left for Britain?

By Melanie Phillips, writing in the Daily Mail

The resignation of Michael Nazir-Ali as Bishop of Rochester is a terrible blow, not just for the Church of England but for Britain.
The bishop says he is resigning so that he can work for endangered or beleaguered Christian minorities both abroad and in the UK.
What a shocking rebuke to the church, that he has to leave his post of influence and authority as a bishop in order to carry out the church's core duty to defend its own against attack.
Shocking - but hardly surprising. Across the world, in countries such as Nigeria and Sudan, millions of Christians are being persecuted at the hands of militant Islam, with forced conversions, the burning of churches and widespread violence.
Yet in the face of this global onslaught, the Church of England makes scarcely a peep of protest.
Worse still, when Dr Nazir-Ali warned last year that Islamic extremists had created 'no-go areas' across Britain where non-Muslims faced intimidation, he was disowned by his fellow churchmen who all but declared that he was a liar - even though he was telling the truth.
For this act of moral courage, he and his family had to be put under police protection, while his own church left him to swing in the wind of bigotry and intimidation.
Dr Nazir-Ali is one of the very few inside the church to make explicit the link between Christian and British values, and to warn publicly that they are being destroyed through the prevailing doctrine of multiculturalism.
That strong voice of protest has never been needed more than it is now. For Christianity in Britain is under attack from all sides.
Last month, the bishop protested that the arrival in Britain of so many from other faiths had led to the closure of chapels, the retrenchment of Christian chaplaincy and the advent of a 'doctrinaire multi-faithism' - not through pressure from the incoming minorities, but from British secularists who wanted to destroy Christianity.

Full story here:

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Wooden Liturgies

As I've commented in the past, I have nothing against "contemporary" language liturgies--if they are done well. However, the problem is that most are definitely not done well. The 1979 Prayer Book of the Episcopal Church has some beautiful parts (aesthetically speaking), but these qualities mask a great many problems--not the least of which is that the book departs wildly from the pattern of Common Prayer set down in the classic liturgies following the Cranmerian-Laudian path. In short, it is not Common Prayer in the great tradition of the 1549 The Book of the Common Prayer.

Given that I have no problem in principle with the use of the modern language in divine liturgy, I have been open minded to those that have attempted faithful (re)productions or renderings of those classic Anglican liturgies for those who have not come from a traditional language background. The Reformed Episcopal Church produced a (little known) modern language 1662 Communion rite which I think is excellent, in that all it really does is replace the "thees" and "thous" with "you." It is good because it changes so little from that which is excellent.

For the 1928 American Communion rite, we have the work presented in the Rev'd. Dr. Peter Toon's Worshipping the Lord in the Anglican Way. Some have suggested that this be used as a modern language rite in worship. I would hesitate in making such a move. While the Toon text is better than the 1979 Prayer Book, in many places it lacks the poetry and cadence of the original 1928 service. Indeed, in some places it is simply unnecessary to "update" the language--but it is updated nonetheless. For instance, in the Litany, why would we need to change "Mercifully forgive the sins to thy people" to "In mercy, forgive the sins of your people." Why not simply update only that which needs updating? This would have rendered the portion mentioned as "Mercifully forgive the sins of your people." Perhaps I'm being overly critical, but needless revision is. . .well. . .needless. Another instance comes in the Eucharistic prayer, where the priest in the 1928 service prays "All glory be to thee, Almighty God. . ." whereas Toon renders this "We give all glory to you, Almighty God. . ." I know it isn't "common English" to say that we give someone "all the glory" but couldn't we simply say "All glory be to you, Almighty God"? I think most would understand it.

I think Toon's contemporary service is good as a bit of an "explanation" for those worshipping in a 1928 Prayer Book parish who may desire a better understanding of the traditional language. Due to some of the turns of phrase that will cause many familiar with the 1928 service to stumble, I would advise a more conservative "revision" where the "thees" and "thous" are replaced and only those parts of the English language that have passed from usage are updated.

Another updating of the classical Anglican tradition comes in An Anglican Prayer Book, wherein the Eucharistic services of the English 1662, the American 1928, and the Canadian 1962 are rendered in contemporary language. It is purported that this is largely the work of Toon, but given that it is a production for the Anglican Mission in America I can only assume that the leaders of the that body had a strong hand in the composition as well. In some places this book is better than Toon's Worshipping the Lord in the Anglican Way, in some places it is worse. When one begins to read the service for Holy Communion one is struck by this "Our Lord Jesus said: Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these."

Why are we now using Mark instead of Matthew? Why has this, one of the most memorable parts of the Anglican liturgy, been changed so noticeably? In that we are now using Mark (itself jarring given that most classical Anglicans are familiar with the use of Matthew in the 1928 service) why is the Markian verse provided in such an inelegant manner. We read "the second is this" in reference to loving your neighbor as yourself, but having a second implies a first. The opening sentence of the verse is amputated, making the rest read almost as though it were a misprint. In the very least we should have had "The most important [commandment] is. . ." When the rendering of one of the most memorable parts of the American Anglican service is done in such a way, I can only hope that they revise the book very soon.

In short, the original services have yet to be matched in either their beauty and or their theology. Again, although I am open to contemporary language services I have yet to see a complete service published for wide use that doesn't clunk and sputter in too many places to make it liturgically viable. As a result I'm increasing in my fondness for the straight 1928.