Wednesday, October 07, 2009

The Great Deception (A.K.A., BCP 1979)

I was reading in the September/October issue of "Mandate" (see page 9), a publication of the Prayer Book Society, a piece that discussed "How Episcopalians Were Deceived" by Francis W. Read who quotes extensively from Dean Urban T. Holmes of the School of Theology of the University of the South who Francis Read says boasts of how through "silence, crafty evasions, and ambiguous rhetoric" the goals of advancing liberal theology through the prayer book revisions of the 1970's were achieved.

Choice quotes:

“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 his religious consciousness."

At least he didn't say a higher stage, but that quotation sets the stage for Holmes' actions.
Failure of the SLC to obtain sanction of the bishops to a radical theological change occurred in 1970, when Prayer Book Studies XVIII was issued. Holmes says:

“Its recommendations were more than the bishops of the Episcopal Church could fathom. They had been out of the seminary too long and were too threatened; so it never came to be. Here was an educational failure."

I guess those old bishops had not attained Holmes' stage.
But how the revisers got around the objections of the bishops is subsequently told:

“The subcommittee on Christian initiation and the SLC knew that the old understanding of Confirmation was theologically, historically, and psychologically untenable."

Now that is a bold statement. I love that "pyschologically untenable" bit.
"With a passion that we could only interpret as the result of a deeply invested role image, a number of bishops defended the old understanding of Confirmation. It became clear that we did not have the means to educate the bishops on this matter; so the alternative was to make the Confirmation rite as ambiguous as possible in the hope that eventually greater theological clarity would emerge and the rite would be an appropriate expression of that new clarity and a source - not a resource - for understanding the meaning of the sacrament."

A startling admission! Note to self, go back and recheck that Confirmation rite.
What the revision really does, Holmes tells in these words:

“For those of us that believe that the theological emphases of the 1979 book are appropriate for people in the late 20th and early 21st centuries this is a splendid opportunity. It is why we do not see the choice between 1928 and 1979 as a matter of taste. It is more a question of truth for our time. Two standard Books of Common Prayer would be theologically naive, 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 the light of our liturgy."

WOW, what a stroke of diabolical genius, and to think this comes straight from the School of Theology of the University of the South!

But the fact that a theological revolution was taking place under the smoke screen of liturgical revision was carefully concealed from the Church at large. During the time most of the events described by Holmes were taking place, the present writer, as an Associate Editor of the American Church News (predecessor of the New Oxford Review), repeatedly called for a resolution similar to the one that authorized the 1928 revision, declaring that no proposal involving a change in doctrine be presented or considered. These insistent demands were simply ignored by the SLC when plain honesty demanded that the avowed intentions of theological change be known. This duplicity is admitted by Holmes to have misled the Church, for he justified the failure to respond to the challenge of the Society for the Preservation of the Book of Common Prayer (SPBCP) in these words:

“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 (Services for Trial Use. i.e., what was to become the 1979 book) 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." (emphasis added.)

That doesn't mean the theology is right!
He further admits the duplicity of the SLC:

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 200 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."

Cluck, cluck, it sure has.
The result is what he calls a "fundamental rift in the Episcopal Church."

He demonstrates beyond any possible rebuttal how the Episcopal Church was "sold a bill of goods" in getting General Convention to approve the new book as a mere updating of its liturgy, only to find that it now had a new theology. Is it any wonder that there are so many disaffected, disenchanted, and disaffiliated Episcopalians?

As the powers that be at 815 study the steady decline of the Episcopal church since the promulgation of BCP 1979 (a drop of about 2 million souls), will we hear any voices calling for a return of the old theology? I think not. Instead, look forward to more "modernization" by the next generation of conniving revisionists who, no doubt, will take up the cry that the church needs a new prayer book to keep pace with theology (a theology which they haven't fully worked out), while they silently plan to create a new theology through a new liturgy.


  1. I shudder when I realize such subversion goes out across the board in our society viz. all of our prized institutions. (See my comments to your Marriage post.) The idea being to slowly redefine things and keep the hoi pollois ignorant so that no one can challenge the changes intellectually, until the entire institution, i.e. confirmation, salvation, marriage, etc. can be scrapped.

  2. My feeling is that TEC will not have a subsequent BCP. Enriching our Worship will contine to expand and eventually each parish will have stacks of three ring binders in which to insert "the next new thing."

    I keep meaning to look it up, but I seem to remember a resolution at the 2006 General Convention which stated (and I paraphrase, if even that) Use of the BCP at the principal Sunday service is no longer required, you are allowed to use Enriching our Worship or homemade texts (ala the former bishop-elect of Northern Michigan and his baptismal/eucharistic liturgies as well as the gender neutral varieties)

  3. Robert+, maybe that was AO78.

    "Resolved, That the 75th General Convention direct the Office of Liturgy and Music to invite bishops and the larger church into dialogue about the relations between local liturgical initiatives and ordered authority; and be it further
    Resolved, That the SCLM be directed to develop frameworks for resolving the theological, pastoral, canonical and liturgical issues involved in the creation of new rites, and to provide facilitated conversations at the meetings of Provincial Synods in which bishops and the larger church enter into dialogue about the relation between liturgical initiative and ordered authority; and be it further
    Resolved, That the SCLM in consultation with the Standing Commission on Constitution and Canons examine canons and rubrics that govern the development and use of liturgical materials and propose amendments authorizing appropriate local and regional liturgical initiatives; and be it further
    Resolved, That the SCLM report its findings with recommendations to the 76th General Convention."

    I am not sure those ammendments were ever authorized at the 76th GC.

  4. The BCP revision is only one of the blows my alma mater has dealt to Episcopalian orthodoxy. There is also the small matter of EFM. If the BCP is the little red book, then EFM is the party cell, agitprop unit for the new revisionism.

    Terry Holmes had a lot to do with EFM as well.

  5. Could be - all this "stuff" comes so fast nowadays. Perhaps it was A136 in 1006

    Resolved, That the 75th General Convention encourage use of the liturgical resources in the Enriching
    Our Worship Series as appropriate for Sunday worship.

    But I thought I remembered it being stronger language specifically directed at the BCP.

  6. I was there when my rector, Rev. Chuck (now Charles) Bennison, switched all the prayer books to Services for Trial Use. I thought it was great stuff, and I was actually disappointed when BCP79 came out--it was a lot more restrictive.

    Theological change? That was invisible to us People in the Pews. I am only now becoming aware of how much we were taken in by this Trojan Horse.

    Br_er Rabbit

  7. Br_er Rabbit,

    Was that the Charles Bennison who later as bishop said, “We wrote the Bible, and we can rewrite it?"

    Thank the Lord you are still here!

  8. Anonymous11:40 PM

    Pewster, it was one and the same. This was before he bumped the parish budget up by a hundred grand so he could hire his pederastic brother as youth pastor. And we know how well that went.

    Br_er Rabbit

  9. Pewster,

    This post confirms my long-held conviction that Episcopalianism is nothing more than Unitarianism with a fetish for vestments.



  10. A still greater and more insidious deception is "An Anglican Prayer Book".

  11. 1662, could you explain your remark a bit more fully? My diocese is using the APB and I am aware of some of its faults, but how is it an "insidious deception?"

  12. 1662, Could you explain your remark a bit more fully? My diocese is using the APB and I am aware of some of its faults, but how is it an "insidious deception?"