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Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Collect of the Day

The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany.
The Collect.

O LORD, we beseech thee to keep thy Church and household continually in thy true religion; that they who do lean only upon the hope of thy heavenly grace may evermore be defended by thy mighty power; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Daily Bible Verse

Friday, January 30, 2009

Cranmer's Immortal Bequest: A Further Comment

Archbishop Thomas Cranmer's Immortal Bequest


In 1990 Eerdman's published a book by Samuel Leuenberger, a conservative Swiss Reformed minister. Leuenberger was investigating the subject of evangelical themes in liturgical worship because he saw that many in the evangelical tradition had a low regard for liturgical worship. For those who do not know what liturgy is the word describes the formal rituals used for public worship. Our liturgy is an order dating back to the original development of Christian worship in the time of Christ and the apostles and also to the second to the fourth centuries in the writings of church fathers like Tertullian and Augustine of Hippo.


To Leuenberger's surprise he found that Archbishop Cranmer's services for worship as represented in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, the first fully Protestant prayer book published during the English Reformation, were overtly evangelical and revivalistic. In other words, Leuenberger discovered what low church Anglicans since the 19th century have widely known. Cranmer, in editing the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, had taken the forms of worship which date to the earliest times of the universal Christian church and applied them to his newfound understanding of the Holy Scriptures. In an article on the Church Society website Leuenberber says:


The liturgies in this prayer book had a special attraction for me because of a certain discovery: I noticed that legitimate elements from the Early Church have been integrated with their aesthetic qualities intact without neglecting the most important factor: the liturgies, particularly Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Holy Communion (the chief services) are permeated through and through with a genuine reformed theology having revivalistic elements. It was because I came to a living faith through the witness of evangelical circles in the Anglo-Saxon world, that the importance of a revivalistically-oriented liturgy was so relevant to me. It is often the case that liturgy and ceremony are rejected by evangelically minded churches. This fact became for me a challenge to show through the Book of Common Prayer that liturgy and revivalistic theology can go along together without contradicting one another. It became a concern to me to present the Book of Common Prayer authorized in 1662 as one of the most precious gems among Christian liturgies.


[From: "Archbishop Cranmer’s Immortal Bequest: The Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England: An Evangelistic Liturgy." Churchman 106/1 1992 by Samuel Leuenberger.


We as Reformed Anglicans should pay particular attention to the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. This is especially true since the 1979 BCP was formulated by theologically liberal Episcopalians who do not and did not believe that Holy Scripture is the final authority in doctrinal matters. Leuenberger argues that subsequent versions of the Book of Common Prayer downplay the moral law of God, which convicts us of sin. For example, the original communion service always included a reading of the Ten Commandments where each law concluded with the prayer,Lord, have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep this law.” Many references to the wrath of God and our status as “miserable sinners” in the general confession of our sins are removed from later versions of the Book of Common Prayer. For this reason, later versions are much more pelagian. The 1979 BCP has a terrible catechism because it practically never mentions original sin or the doctrine of total depravity as it is taught in Scripture.


If there is to be a true renewal in the Anglican Communion, then we must recover the original liturgy of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. Perhaps that means updating some of the language to modern English. However, deletions and reduction of the liturgy only waters down the biblical content of the services as they were formulated by Cranmer and other English Reformers who are our spiritual forefathers. If we are to have true growth and renewal in the Anglican churches, then we must recover the original Protestant understanding of the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion and teach them to our people. Liturgy is repeated weekly. Thus, if we are faithful to the 1662 Book of Common Prayer we will be literally instructing the people in the biblical understanding of the law and Gospel. As Cranmer argued, the truly “catholic” faith is the Protestant understanding of the Gospel and not Roman Catholic and Anglo-Catholic innovations introduced centuries later. The Protestant Reformers read the Bible and saw that the catholic faith is most purely presented in Holy Scripture alone and not in the traditions of men which developed over time. When Anglicans realize this and recover this lost emphasis on Holy Scripture, the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, and the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion then we will see true revival and renewal within the Anglican Communion. Let it begin with Christ Episcopal Church, Longwood!


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