Anabaptists, Quakers, ecology and sacrifice

Turning Towards The Lord

U. M. Lang

Ignatius Press, 160pp, pbk

0 89870 986 5, [$12.95]

The vade mecum of Anglo-Catholic liturgists is Ritual Notes – essentially an adaptation for Anglican use of the magisterial Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described by Adrian Fortescue and J. B. O’Connell, first published in 1917 and most recently revised by Dom Alcuin Reed osb in 2003.

In the Anglo-Catholic liturgical tradition of our parish, following the prescriptions of such authoritative sources, the Gospel at the Solemn Mass is proclaimed towards the north. The deacon or celebrant proclaims the Gospel of Light and Salvation towards the territory of darkness – spiritual, moral and intellectual as well as physical.

It is eloquent in its symbolism. Such clarity has been all too readily tossed aside in much that passes for modern liturgical renewal, and it may well be that the Anglo-Catholic tradition serves a truly providential purpose in its careful retention of such practices. Perhaps we should also seek to recover the baptismal practice of the early Church. In the apotaxis the catechumen faced west as he renounced Satan; and then, turning his back on the powers of darkness, he faced east for the confession of faith. St Cyril of Jerusalem comments that ‘When you have renounced Satan and broken the old pact with Hades, then the Paradise of God opens before you, the Paradise that he planted in the East.’

These thoughts are prompted by a new book, Turning Towards The Lord, by U. M. Lang – a carefully and objectively reasoned account of the arguments for the traditional orientation of liturgical prayer. The liturgical renewal after the Second Vatican Council quite clearly mandated that, wherever possible, altars should be free-standing. The place of sacrifice is not most clearly represented by a shelf, however large and adorned it may be. What is less evident is the notion that the reforms required the celebrating priest to adopt the versus populum position. This book, while it contains nothing really new, is an objective and unpolemical survey of the debate. It reexamines the arguments which have continued over the years, and it reevaluates recent historical research which has made the whole question less partisan and more open to constructive consideration.

The particular importance of the book, from the Anglican perspective, is underscored by Cardinal Ratzinger in his Foreword, ‘The book is especially valuable in showing the contribution made by the Church of England to the question and in giving, also, due consideration to the part played by the Oxford Movement in the nineteenth century.’ Such an acknowledgment is gratifying to those of us who are the residual heirs of the Tractarians and the Oxford Movement.

Ulm also draws upon the writing of the late Max Thurian who, though he became a Catholic priest in later life, was formed in the liturgical, spiritual and cultural tradition of the Community of Taizé, of which he was a monk. Thurian, writing in Notitiae, the journal of the Congregation for Divine Worship, suggested that a liturgy which was devoid of an atmosphere of contemplation ‘risks being a tiresome religious disquisition, a useless community distraction, a sort of rigmarole.’

Half a dozen pages in the book deal specifically with the witness of the Anglo-Catholic tradition in the matter. The eastward position for the celebrant was ‘a crucial element in their efforts to restore the Catholic heritage to the Church of England, because it was taken to express the sacrificial character of the Eucharist … From their earliest years, the Tractarians worked with great vigour, both in writing and in practice, for the restoration of the eastward position.’ How significant the matter was for them ‘can be perceived from the posthumous Remains of Hurrell Froude. John Keble wrote in the preface to the second volume that Froude ‘thought very seriously of the importance of those arrangements in Divine Service which tend most to remind the worshipper that God’s house is a house of prayer and spiritual sacrifice, not of mere instruction’.’

A certain type of Anglo-Catholicism has always assumed that its duty and witness lay in a precise and exact imitation of all things thought (rightly, and sometimes wrongly) to be authentically ‘Roman’. This led inevitably to the introduction into Anglican churches in the 1970s of the celebration versus populum. But it was often met with profound reservation. For example, Dr John Macquarrie saw in it that ‘excessive subjectivism’ which posed a threat for theology and worship – at the cost of the ‘objective’ dimension of the Eucharist, symbolised ‘when priest and people together are directing themselves to God who is always ahead of us and calling us to go out beyond ourselves into the venture of faith.’

This book can be seen as a significant validation and endorsement of the witness of the Anglo-Catholic approach to liturgy and to the permanent value of the tradition which it represents.

Fr Allan Hawkins is pastor of the Anglican Use Roman Catholic Parish of St Mary the Virgin, Arlington, Texas.

Following in the Footsteps of Christ

C. Arnold Snyder

DLT, 216 pp, pbk

0 232 52476 2, £9.95

This Traditions of Christian Spirituality Series, edited by Philip Sheldrake, aims to ‘make selected spiritual traditions available to a contemporary readership, to provide accurate and balanced historical and thematic treatments of their subjects and connections with contemporary experience and values.’

The first, in nine well-referenced chapters, began as a dialogue with students. It places Anabaptist spirituality in its historical perspective, delineating an understanding of the faithful Christian life, ‘the spiritual understanding and practice that undergirded, nourished, and defined the Anabaptist witness’. Focusing on adult baptism, sixteenth century beginnings are traced in their German/Dutch origins, neither Catholic nor Protestant but fusing ‘a late Medieval structure of piety with Reformation principles’(p.27).

‘Coming to a Knowledge of the Truth’ illustrates the Anabaptist emphasis on ‘Scripture alone’, and follows a well-known spiritual path. Grounded in personal acceptance of responsibility for sin, it is christocentric, scriptural and ascetic, and built on the late medieval christocentric devotional piety.

Deifying regeneration begins in repentance, issues in a holy life and reflects the newly born Christ-nature that is not original to Anabaptists but is well established in medieval Catholicism. The Reformation language of grace and faith is restated, in terms of an earlier tradition of piety that emphasizes having Christ within one. This transforming presence of Christ goes beyond the historic work of Christ’s death on the cross and is the mystical component of Anabaptist spirituality contrasting it dramatically with Reformation spirituality.

Adult baptism is crucial, signifying a covenant with God and with living members of a community of believers. The water has no inherent power but is seen in conjunction with baptism by the Spirit. Ecclesiology stresses the Church as christocentric and incarnational, not invisible, insisting that ‘spiritual communion with Christ’s Body on earth must be incarnated, celebrated visibly with the elements Christ ordained for that purpose’ (p.92). Hymns explain the Supper’s place within the Anabaptist understanding of the Christian life, where this bread and wine are more than mere elements, but not quite what traditional theology had defined. It is a communion with the present, living Lord, in the remembrance and the unity of all in him.

The spiritual disciplines of ‘living in Christ’ are explained, and highlight Catholic and Protestant elements in an ascetic fortified by lectio divina, living the Bible, communal worship, praying without ceasing, and song. Discipleship, is marked by constant truthfulness, non-violence, and excludes no area of life from the spiritual realm, including possessions. The chapter on martyrdom is an inspiring read for ‘martyrdom epitomized and exemplified the spiritual principles the Anabaptists espoused’ (p.160). This sixteenth century phenomenon ‘marked a challenging path that retains its prophetic relevance today, calling for surrender to the Spirit of the living God in all things, putting Christ’s way into concrete practice in the ‘real world’ by following in his footsteps … and speaks with as clear a voice in the post-modern era as it has at other times.’

Canon Arthur Middleton is a tutor at St Chad’s, Durham.

Silence and Witness

Michael L. Birkel

DLT,164 pp, pbk

0 232 52448 3, £9.95

Silence and Witness, in the same series as the above, comprises six referenced chapters and bibliography. The two pillars of the Quaker tradition are silence and witness through receptive and contemplative worship. ‘Our witness grows out of God’s leading as encountered in contemplative worship. Faithfulness to leadings, in turn, enhances the experience of worship’. Conceived in seventeenth century Puritanism by its founder George Fox, historically Quakers had affinities with the social and religious radicals, seeing their Spirit-led movement as primitive Christianity revived.

The dynamics of this spirituality is interior struggle, resolution and reaching out to change the world, as they searched for the Inward Light to expose their sinfulness and cure all self-deception. Judgement and eternal life begin in this world, a realized eschatology that pledged them to a life of integrity, honesty, peace and simplicity. Some used the language of love while others preferred the imagery of the ‘Lamb’s War’ of Revelation in responding to persecutions, where suffering and moderate separation from the world became key elements in a sectarian mindset that guarded them from a surrounding culture with conflicting values.

This earlier charismatic intensity grew into the more subdued Quaker culture of the eighteenth century as the Lamb’s War metaphor disappeared, the dynamics of interior struggle, resolution and social change continued, combined with the cycle of purification from selfishness and greed into a rebirth in God’s love. Some nineteenth century Quakers found their sectarianism too restrictive of cooperation with other Christians on social issues such as anti-slavery and began discussion and cooperation in philanthropic works.

The evangelical influence offered Quakers the full recovery of the humanity of Jesus but the quietists objected because emphasis on the authority of Scripture and the blood atonement seemed to diminish the inward-dwelling Christ. For evangelicals the Scriptures made available the humanity of Christ and the atonement as an act of inestimable love not a mechanical, external transaction. Faction and division followed while liberalism and rationalism made other inroads, but Quakerism continued to be regarded as mystical in orientation. Excerpts from prominent Quakers trace the historical development of Quaker thinking.

‘Meeting for worship is the heart of Quaker spirituality. Everything else in the spiritual life flows into meeting for worship, and all of Quaker spirituality flows out of it’ (p.39). Corporateness in stillness is its essence and is more than prayer in solitude. Words are spoken by anyone but only if it originates from the level of consciousness in the presence of a Word, but not before a discernment and discipline has been learned. Other practices nurture the inward life such as interior prayer, epistles, meditative reading of Scripture, travelling ministry, spiritual nurture by elders, and advices and queries are explained in chapter four. Worship is an experience of communion and community, the Light of Christ leading them in the same direction and toward the same goals within a continuous revelation, and because the Spirit is consistent, certain principles prevail. These principles are called ‘testimonies’ because they witness to the world God’s power to transform individuals and human society (ch.5).

Quakerism’s contemporary relevance is the gift of community in the face of today’s individualism, the avoidance of spiritual narcissism, the integration of contemplation and social action, an interior watchfulness and a commitment to non-violence.

So the ‘common core’ here surfaces in such terms as ‘practicing the presence of God’, ‘dark night’, ‘wilderness and desert’, ‘ascetical discipline’, ‘lectio divina’, ‘praying without ceasing’, ‘mystical’, ‘discernment’, and so on, indicating the influence of the Christian mystical tradition. Some pages can be tedious reading but on the whole, in today’s ecumenism, this series can show us what we share.

Arthur Middleton

the life of st edmund

John Lydgate

British Library, 260pp, hbk

0 7123 4871 9, [£50]

This is a superb facsimile reproduction of one of the most important English manuscript books of the fifteenth century. It is a huge visual pleasure, as well as a fascinating insight into the religious culture that was to be swept away a hundred years later.

From Christmas Eve 1433 to after Easter the next year, the young King Henry VI and his entire royal household stayed at the Benedictine abbey at Bury St Edmunds, at the end of which the king was admitted to the abbey’s confraternity. As a response to this royal patronage, the abbot commissioned John Lydgate, the leading English poet of his generation and one of the monk, to write an account of the life and martyrdom of their spiritual patron, to be offered to the king.

The result is this poem of nearly 4,000 lines, in the same metre as Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, into which are worked some 120 miniature illustrations. At about one per page, they are expertly worked in with the text. In terms of book production, it is a ground-breaking achievement, of considerable artistic sophistication. Samples and selections of manuscript illustration are easy to get find, but to be able to hold and read what is a complete book is an altogether more interesting experience.

Hagiography from this late medieval period, when written out in a modern book, usually makes for heavy reading. One begins to get a feel of what it was about, when encountering it directly in its original form, in the bastard gothic script and accompanying illustrations. The wolf, for example, who rescued the martyred king’s head, and guarded it against depredations from other wild animals (see p.2), is seen again leading the monks to its discovery, and later still in the picture illustrating the building of the shrine.

It is a fine testimony to a world of violent struggle and godly order, an expression of national confidence and the reworking of the former Anglo-Saxon identity for a more sophisticated, international age, of what it meant to be an English Christian. Fascinating.


The Cosmic Circle

Edward P. Echlin

Columba, 160pp, pbk

1 85607451 X, [£5.99]

In response to the current eco-crisis – and the belief that Christian theology is implicated in that crisis – some theologians and church leaders have offered a ‘new theology’ which reinterprets or rejects Scripture’s stewardship model for humanity. Others – supremely Robin Attfield in his Ethics of Environmental Concern – have cogently argued that what is needed is not so much a new ethic or new theology, but a re-learning of the one already given in the Judaeo-Christian tradition.

Echlin’s book is unusual in that it remains pretty much within the tradition, although it does reject the stewardship model, because he believes it leads to a ‘detached, manipulative view of creation’ and because it ‘has not moved hearts’. Despite this shaky start the book provides a rich source of material to reflect on the Christian basis for ecological awareness and sensitivity, taking insights from the Easter Exultet, Cistercians, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew (although strangely not his hugely important regular symposia under the banner of Religion, Science and the Environment), Pope John Paul, John Henry Newman, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and the blessing of deacons by Bishop John Hind, to name a few!

Echlin’s vision develops through a sustained meditation on the life of Jesus of Nazareth, a life which was lived ‘within our earth community’, giving us insights in to what he calls ‘salvation ecology’. The Cosmic Circle then challenges our own lifestyles and helps us to see whether or not they are remotely sustainable. Who could not be disturbed that, according to Echlin, Devon has lost 95% of its orchards, that London imports 95% of its vegetables, that our apples have been sprayed 25 times before reaching us or that each of us, on average, in the West, consumes 135 litres of water a day (compared to 30 litres in the developing world). There are plenty of facts and interpretations throughout the book. The only question I would want to raise is its assumption of the rightness of organic food production over any other model. Of course it is the method usually with the best impact on the environment, but there is much scientific evidence that in many places (not least in the developing world) a system which integrates natural solutions with appropriate pesticide use is best and has little negative affect on local habitats.

The Curé d’Ars once said that his parish was the world. Not surprisingly the environmental crisis we are facing is calling us back to this vision. Echlin summarizes similarly that Christians should ‘live sustainably locally’ His book is, I believe, a valuable contribution to the work of discerning what a gospel life might look like in terms of sustainability and balance. However, I think it would have been good to have gone over some of the basic texts – not least Genesis 1.26 – and some of the principles of Christian ethics. This could have led in to a chapter on some of the questions we ask now, in the midst of ecological crisis: for example, what are our obligations to future generations compared to this one? What part do indigenous peoples have to play? (The churches’ Rio letter of 1992 was not mentioned). Do the poor have the same obligations to the environment as us? What relative value should we place on poor people versus rare organisms or ecological systems? And what should be the Church’s response to genetically modified crops especially if they save lives now?

In rightly rejecting anthroposolist (mankind-only) theologies, books like Echlin’s can help us to recover a rightful balance, drawing, as he does, on the image in Colossians of Christ, ‘the first born of all creation’. Perhaps in trying to correct an imbalance he has tilted us too far in another direction. Theologians reading this book would surely want to remind Echlin that the Gospel is, in the best sense, anthropocentric, without giving us permission to abuse ecological systems. The stewardship model surely is central because mankind is the crown – not simply a part – of God’s creation with particular responsibility and authority.

As with many an ecological text, whether written by theologians or scientists, there is at times the inability to hit the nail on the head at the heart of our problems and say the word ‘sin’. The Cosmic Circle might have been improved with a dose of St Francis (or St Benedict) who said ‘we use nature everyday and we cannot live without it and yet it is through nature that we offend our Creator again and again’. You might be thinking that with a greater place for sin in this book it would be more depressing. Not at all, as there would also have been more place for grace. And there would, I believe, have been more space for redeemed, reconciled and glorified Christian men and women to have been encouraged to live eucharistic lives joyfully every day. Joy and thanksgiving must continue to be the note sounded by Christians despite injustice, ecological abuse and pollution. This joy (which could have been in greater evidence in The Cosmic Circle) is not simply an antidote to the most depressing of ecological situations but is our calling and fulfilment.

Fr Simon Ellis is Vicar of St Laurence, Long Eaton.


David Janzen

de Gruyter, 310pp, hbk

3 11 018158 4, [H 84]

Basing his work on several pieces of anthropological research, Janzen sets out the range of social meanings, that is to say the diffusion of moral values and social ordering, through the shared rituals of sacrifice in the Old Testament. He comes up with many interesting parallels and a clear exposition of the range of social meanings that emerge from the different practices and interpretations.

In P, the Priestly text, we find the centrality of precise social order, emphasized by considerable repetition. The nation is the sole social unit; the stress is on holiness and separation. In the Deuteronomic History, the king is guarantor of right sacrifice and therefore the right relationship between people and God, Josiah being the model set before us for any future son of David. Janzen is particularly convincing here – the role of sacrifice and the king’s role within that ritual has not generally been so strongly emphasized in commentaries of the History.

In Ezra–Nehemiah he shows how sacrifice is almost immediately superseded by law as the social ritual of relationship (an altogether weaker section). In Chronicles, he again sees the political constraint imposed by Persian rule, the sole source of authority, and notes the rise of a form of quietism, as well as the substitution of the priest for the king as the guarantor of right sacrifice.

His central theme is to show that universals theories, explanations or descriptions of sacrifice are misconceived, that it is a social ritual of great variety, with different meanings in different societies, changing with the political changes even within one society. His study of the details is useful, but his thesis is unconvincing.

Yes, we do have an agenda (and so did the writers of the Old Testament). For us, it is not nonsense to say that Christ is at the centre of our understanding of sacrifice. Yes, there is one ‘form’ and we see it on the cross; all the copies, before and after, relate to that central revelation of God. Christian scholars must nevertheless read from the texts, not into them; such a book as this is therefore a useful corrective to an over-devout imagination.

It fails, however, to convince, because he fails to ask the simple question, ‘Did they sacrifice?’ Did they really sacrifice animals, at least after the Exile, in the Second Temple, when we have enough material to find an answer? His anthropological literalism inadvertently ends up being patronizing: he sees primitive peoples chopping up animals, with blood all over the place, where the theologian sees meaning.

Can you remember the pictures from the foot and mouth crisis? Do you suppose such palls of choking smoke hung over the ancient city of Jerusalem, day after day? Have you tried to imagine what the slaughter and burning of just one bull involves? Let alone the 22,000 offered by Solomon at the dedication of the First Temple.

Study the four texts that Janzen analyses, remember that they were all written or at least edited after the Exile. Consider the use of incense as a sacrificial offering (sweet smelling smoke without all the blood and guts). Reflect upon the communion meal aspect of Josiah’s Passover, so that the ‘sacrifice’ becomes ritual slaughter. And my favourite example, the two turtle doves offered for Jesus at his presentation. I have never believed they were slaughtered. They were bought by Joseph, brought into the temple with the infant and offered to God as a ransom, and flew back to be sold to the next young father; and at no point was the theology of sacrifice compromised.

And the Mass? To understand how and why it is a sacrifice, we need also to be sophisticated enough to grasp how and why it is not – for the sole sacrifice is Christ’s upon the cross. We are privileged truly to share in that sacrifice, but not by any literalist butchering of lambs upon our altars. It is a real sacrifice, because it is not ours but Christ’s.

Sacrifice cannot properly be described nor understood except by theology, and (as we believe) by Christian theology. Other people may not want to listen, but it is not a notion that can properly be separated from revelation; it cannot in the end be reduced to mere social meanings.

Nicholas Turner is a former Lecturer in Old Testament Theology

Hope the archbishop

Rob Marshall

Continuum, 160pp, hbk

0 8264 5420 8, [£16.99]

If you are wondering which books to purchase with all those book tokens you were given for Christmas, here surely is one that will not go amiss. Rob Marshall writes simply and straightforwardly about the Archbishop of York and presents us the reader with a very human face within the hierarchy of the Church of England. A solid and blunt Yorkshire man who says it as it is, but from whom humour is never far away.

Those who know David Hope, or who have encountered him at various stages of their lives, will surely say that Rob has done a good job, though whether anyone could actually do full justice to such a saintly priest and pastor remains to be seen. David Hope is a man firmly grounded in prayer and humility and by God’s grace he has gone from strength to strength throughout his earthly ministry, always aware that he is first and foremost a priest, and as such a shepherd to the people whom he seeks to serve.

Rob paints portraits of him as a child singing in Wakefield Cathedral choir through his ordination and title parish, to Fr Hope, Principal of St Stephen’s House, Vicar of All Saints’ Margaret Street, to Bishop of Wakefield, London and Archbishop of York, on the world stage and donning wellington boots to be with his people during the floods and foot and mouth disasters.

As an Anglo-Catholic his years as both Bishop of London and as Archbishop of York have not been easy, but he has sought to hold the church in unity as it struggled with the issue of women priests, the gay issue, to name but two. This he has achieved with dignity and decorum and both sides of all issues have found in him a person who respects the human soul regardless of individual standpoints.

David Hope is essentially a very private person and a humble man; he has achieved a great deal in his lifetime, much of which has gone almost unnoticed and he has tackled some challenging tasks with great success, tasks beyond the scope of most priests – he was sent to St Stephen’s House when it was in danger of closing due to a lack of discipline, and he turned it round so much that students were clamouring to train there, he courted controversy in admitting women to the House and eased the passage of the women training there (I know I would not have been so readily accepted there if it had not been for his ground work). Before going to St Stephen’s he had been chaplain in Romania, during the despotic regime of Nicolae Ceausescu, and he still supports orphanages there. Margaret Street was another challenge and he revived both its liturgy and music and modernised some outmoded practises in a blunt Yorkshire manner.

All this was seemingly achieved in a quiet unassuming way and therefore it was no surprise to me that his knighthood was given in the same quiet way with the absolute minimum of fuss or fanfare. Her Majesty the Queen simply knighted him, much to his surprise, when he went to kiss her hand having accepted the post of Archbishop of York. How many of us knew? I could tell more, but that would spoil the book, so read and enjoy.

Rob Marshall has been his press officer for almost twenty years and for some time before that was involved both with the press and the media whilst working as a priest in the Bradford Diocese, so it comes as no surprise that the book refers heavily on the Archbishop’s dealings with the press and their love and respect for him. I cannot remember ever reading a biography where the press got such a large coverage. I feel sure that he will continue to receive such positive reports as he returns to the job he was ordained to do as parish priest of St Margaret’s, Ilkley. PT


David Thomson

Authentic Lifestyle, 128pp, pbk

1 85078 597 X, [£4.99]

Note first the lack of careful marketing; this is the year of Matthew in the Common Lectionary, and here is a Lent book on Luke. Oops. Do not worry, this has the merit and quirkiness of a local production: both writer and publisher are based in Carlisle. It also uses paintings by way of elaboration and reflection, and then reproduces them rather small and in black and white.

This is a series of Bible studies, with passages from Luke’s gospel, from birth to resurrection, for all the days from Shrove Tuesday to the end of Easter Week. The biblical text is offered in full, from the reliable NIV, and then commentary, reflection and a prayer. The format is standard, but what appeals in this book is its ordinariness. It lacks the polish of the properly marketed liberal versions from the big publishers, and is all the more attractive for it; just as the writer’s style (he is an archdeacon) is not always easy nor his illustrations immediately obvious, but there seems to be real conviction, and at times the power to move the heart. It is not expensive, not difficult, and if you want a disciplined but not too demanding Bible course, buy it in time for the beginning of February. NA


J. D. Crichton

Columba, 110pp,

1 85607 194 4, [£7.99]

‘Books of devotion about the Blessed Virgin Mary are probably countless,’ the author begins, ‘This is not one them.’ Instead, it is an excellent resource and strongly to be commended to any Anglican priest and parish that feels (as most should) the call to keep more of the minor as well as the major feasts of Our Lady.

It offers a well-balanced and straightforward description of how and why each of the Marian feasts developed, and the particular prayers and intentions that attached to each. Throughout he is grounded in the Scriptures, and gives a commentary upon the propers. Though he does not say, I am sure the author is a Roman Catholic (he certainly writes with quiet authority), but he is entirely ecumenical in his judgements. There is nothing to offend a crypto-protestant, but a great deal of helpful historical background and explanation. Don’t scrabble around in a church dictionary for the bare minimum, read this book, and keep the feasts. AS