Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 25 April 2020

Paul Bayes Viamedia.News We Can’t Go Back….Remember, These Are Early Days

Peter Anthony Church Times No, this is not like the Early Church
“Worship in homes is not a return to the pre-Constantinian era”
[This is a shortened version of the talk that we linked to here.]

Janet Fife Surviving Church Memories of Communion

Alice Whalley Church Times YouTube sermons will not feed the hungry
“The pandemic is driving many into poverty: they need more than online worship”
Alice’s most recent sermon is here.

Charlie Bell Anglicanism.org The Eucharistic Feast: participation, representation and sacramental integrity in the time of social distancing

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Kate
Kate
4 months ago

When writing academic papers, one critical step is to identify what are and what are not primary sources. In history, texts written by those who observed events are primary sources. One might quote the writings of those who have gone before you in studying the period, but only to comment on the validity or otherwise of the arguments they develop. If one elevates such writing to be a primary source then your own paper is a study of historiography not of history. It seems to me that theological colleges are obviously not teaching this distinction because, in elevating secondary sources… Read more »

Simon Kershaw
Admin
4 months ago
Reply to  Kate

Scholars generally derive the tradition of the Eucharist not from an annual celebration of the Passover, but from a weekly Sabbath meal, or even perhaps from more regular communal meals. That the Last Supper was a Passover meal is probable (though not a Seder in any modern sense, since that was not formalized until perhaps after the destruction of Jerusalem, and with it the Temple), but from the very earliest times it seems that the Eucharistic meal is not an annual one that became more frequent, but something that was always frequent, at least weekly. The recollection of the Last… Read more »

Kate
Kate
4 months ago
Reply to  Simon Kershaw

It is entirely possible, perhaps likely, that Jesus, the Disciples and probably some other members of his inner circle shared regular Sabbath meals and that informs our present tradition, but it is inarguable that the Last Supper and Jesus’s instructions for the future were a Passover meal. Indeed, if we separate the sacrifice of the Son of God from the Passover we lose a layer of meaning. Yes, for a Christian Community a bishop might be the natural president for the Eucharist but that is because of respect, not consecration. For example St Paul clearly fulfilled the role of itinerant… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
4 months ago
Reply to  Simon Kershaw

I am very taken by Paul Bradshaw’s argument that we should look to Roman culture, and to the symposium or banquet, for the roots of the Eucharistic pattern. Sometimes we limit ourselves by only looking at Jewish antecedents. We forget that Christianity developed in a multi-cultural society. The Symposium, made famous by Plato, was a meal where guests were expected to do a “party turn” for entertainment, which could be a song, a poem, or a talk on some topic. The host also would carry out some simple rituals such as a libation to the Gods. It is easy to… Read more »

Kate
Kate
4 months ago
Reply to  Simon Dawson

Simon, if the Gospels only contained the story of the Last Supper in the Synoptic Gospels I would be inclined to agree with you that Jesus proposed a nice new custom which under Graeco-Roman influence became a rite with mythological or symbolic significance as you suggest. For me, though, Luke 24 changes that. Here we have a story of travellers only recognising a stranger as the risen Christ once he had broken bread. If we believe that story, then within days or weeks of the death of Jesus breaking bread had spiritual significance – it genuinely offers a connection with… Read more »

peterpi -- Peter Gross
peterpi -- Peter Gross
4 months ago
Reply to  Simon Kershaw

“a Seder in any modern sense, since that was not formalized until perhaps after the destruction of Jerusalem, and with it the Temple” Although some form of Passover observance dates back at least to the writing of the Book of Exodus, my own opinion is that the seder in any modern sense came definitely after the destruction of Jerusalem in the first Judaean war of independence against Rome (there was another one roughly 60 years later with even greater civilian casualties, after which Jerusalem was remade into a Roman city and Jews were banned from Judea for roughly 300 years).… Read more »

David Exham
David Exham
4 months ago
Reply to  Kate

Anyone who seeks to be dismissive of other people’s writing, as Kate is of Charlie Bell’s, and by extension of his theological teachers, had better be sure that their contrary opinions are beyond criticism. Sadly, Kate’s views clearly, even to a non-historian and non-biblical scholar like me, fail comprehensively to meet that standard. She states that the Gospels are primary sources when talking about the life of Jesus and the Epistles secondary sources for the life of Jesus though primary sources when commenting on the early church. (she doesn’t mention Acts.) However, the consensus is that the Gospels were written… Read more »

Kate
Kate
4 months ago
Reply to  David Exham

There are limits to what degree of detail one can incorporate into 3000 characters! The question as to whether the Gospels are a primary source is a fair one and the answer is complex. As histories they probably compiled some primary sources with some later additions, but that misses the point. In terms of Christian belief they are absolutely primary sources which is why we announce them as The Gospel of our Lord. As you say, there are some differences between the Synoptics and John but, if there is conflict, then scholars believe that the Synoptics are earlier than John… Read more »

John Caperon
John Caperon
4 months ago
Reply to  David Exham

It’s good to have David Exham’s measured and detailed response to Kate’s somewhat rash dismissal of Charlie Bell’s thoughtful paper. What puzzled me initially was Kate’s assertion that ‘The Gospels are our primary source and they are clear: the Last Supper was a Passover Seder’. Wrong, surely. The primary source for the Eucharist is not the (later) Gospels but the (earlier) epistles, notably 1 Corinthians. And of course David is right to say that nothing in the Gospels tells us about ‘the Mass’. What is abundantly clear from the New Testament sources is that early Christians shared a (sometimes chaotic)… Read more »

ACI
ACI
4 months ago
Reply to  John Caperon

Just out of curiosity, how can one ‘date’ a passion narrative in the Gospels? Scholars agree they are the core tradition of each of the four renderings. I’d be loathe to argue “(later) Gospels (earlier) Epistles.” It isn’t that simple. The heavy imprint of psalm citations suggests the passion narratives arose in the context of early Christian worship.

Perry Butler
Perry Butler
4 months ago
Reply to  ACI

Indeed. I remember Prof Etienne Trochme lecturing at Lincoln in 1978 and saying he believed the Passion narrative in Mark had crystallised very early…and since then most NT scholarship seems to have become more “conservative” in regard to dating and eye witness testimony.

Jonj
Jonj
4 months ago
Reply to  Kate

Kate, you wrote: ” In history, texts written by those who observed events are primary sources.” and then you wrote: “The Gospels are our primary source and they are clear…” Do you mean to suggest that the writers of the four Gospels “observed the events” about which they wrote? PERFECT identification of the actual writers of the Gospels is, of course, impossible, but every single creditable Bible scholar agrees that the writers of the Gospels were not actual eye-witness to the events they describe. The gospel books are NOT “primary sources”. They all include additions, subtractions, embroideries, theological propositions, sheer… Read more »

NJW
NJW
4 months ago
Reply to  Kate

Just a short commentary on the points that Kate raises, and some thoughts on how these relate to the Anglican tradition of reasoned reflection on scripture and tradition as being constitutive of teaching within the Church. “In history, texts written by those who observed events are primary sources.” Not quite correct. One could also consider a record, written by someone else, of an eye-witness account as a primary source. Indeed, most scholarship regards the Gospels as just such accounts – certainly in the case of Mark and Luke. The same is true of relevant material in the epistles – where… Read more »

NJW
NJW
4 months ago
Reply to  Kate

“The head of a household, not a rabbi, leads the ritual.” This is anachronistic – the rabbinical tradition did not arise until after the fall of the Temple, and developed alongside the traditions of the early Church. “Nothing in the primary sources suggests that Jesus intended that to change;” Except that those who received his teaching did commission people to leadership of church communities (as is found in the reference to the Jerusalem Church) at various points in Acts and Paul’s Epistles. Paul clearly commissions people to leadership of local communities – echoing the practice of the Jerusalem Church. “he… Read more »

NJW
NJW
4 months ago
Reply to  Kate

“Perhaps the most relevant passage to present circumstances is Acts 27:33-38. Paul takes bread, praises the Lord, breaks it and eats. Then those around him pick up their own bread and eat.. A Eucharist? It sounds like one to me. How is that different to a livestreamed service where a presbyter takes bread, prays, breaks it and eats, then those watching pick up their own bread and eat? If it had been necessary for Paul to touch or break each loaf that would have been recorded. It wasn’t.” This seems a good justification for the practice (contrary to the tradition… Read more »

Susannah Clark
4 months ago

Charlie: “Pastoral sensitivity is never an excuse for defective theology.” True, but it may be an excuse and justification for provisional theology. The case of Lord Strathallan, who was given communion in oatmeal and whisky as he lay dying on the battle field of Culloden, was appropriately raised by Kelvin last week. In times of crisis, there may be love and grace in contingency actions that can be explored theologically and in more depth after the crisis is over. I don’t think this is the right time for the Church to rule on this, one way or the other, but… Read more »

Stanley Monkhouse
4 months ago
Reply to  Susannah Clark

It seems like angels on a pinhead stuff to me. Matthew 25:35-40.

Stanley Monkhouse
4 months ago

I’m with Thomas (not) the doubter (not Thomas the doctor). The critical thing is touch. Some time ago I suggested there be vending machines dispensing consecrated elements to busy people. It didn’t catch on. Some CoE clergy are pressured by powers that be to be seen to be doing something. Kitchen sink communions are something, anything – but nothing in terms of the vital touch.

Stanley Monkhouse
4 months ago

Me too, Rod

Kate
Kate
4 months ago
Reply to  Susannah Clark

”If a priest and congregation sincerely believe that God is able and willing to consecrate offered and dispersed bread and wine, remotely, at a distance, and everyone is given and devoted in that conviction… then I believe God will not despise or discount the love for God and the desire to please God, which in its very nature and offering (regardless of the provisional theology involved) surely pleases God.” Maybe my view is heretical but I no longer believe that it is the consecration of the bread and wine which makes them the body and blood of Jesus. For me… Read more »

Jonj
Jonj
4 months ago
Reply to  Susannah Clark

I am baffled by some of this discussion. When someone uses “oatmeal and whisky” as religious elements in a dying man’s last food, why do we insist on trying to describe that beautiful and powerfully beneficial event as a Eucharist? And the same question is raised over “distant” worship events. Why pretend they are Eucharists when that is not at all necessary in asserting their plain and apparent spiritual benefits? When I say grace over my dinner, that does not make it a Eucharist, but it does remain a very creditable and beneficial significant religious event. Let these things stand… Read more »

Susannah Clark
4 months ago
Reply to  Jonj

“I am baffled by some of this discussion. When someone uses “oatmeal and whisky” as religious elements in a dying man’s last food, why do we insist on trying to describe that beautiful and powerfully beneficial event as a Eucharist?” I am simply drawing on the historical report as an example of contingency administering of the sacrament to meet an acute pastoral need in extremis: John Maitland was “Said to have administered Holy Communion to the dying Lord Strathallan, in oatmeal and whisky”. Regardless of whether or not that was actually Holy Communion, I was using the example (as Kelvin… Read more »

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
4 months ago
Reply to  Susannah Clark

Susannah, wish I’d said all that. I’m sure you are right. Years ago, as a hospice chaplain, we had a Roman Catholic patient who wanted an immediate absolution when our RC chaplain was away. I phoned both our RC parishes, their priests were away too. Their housekeepers were unable to tell me where we could. find another priest. The patient was becoming so distressed she was creating a disturbance that was upsetting the whole hospice. I improvised. I was wearing a crucifix which had been blessed by the Pope (given to me by a Catholic neighbour when I was priested).… Read more »

Susannah Clark
4 months ago
Reply to  Janet Fife

God bless you for your mercy and love, Janet. I just don’t think God gets hung up on rigid dogma when the need is calling out, and the impulse to love and care is flowing… because where does it flow from, but God? Charlie could be right or wrong. In the context of crisis and contingency and improvisation with good intentions, where I take issue a little is where he asserts “Pastoral sensitivity is never an excuse for defective theology.” I think sometimes theology – perhaps improvised and provisional theology – gets done in the act of loving. Sometimes perhaps… Read more »

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
4 months ago
Reply to  Susannah Clark

I agree. And I would say that ‘theology’ that leads to pastoral insensitivity is very poor theology, because it fails to reckon with the enormous scope of God’s love.

american piskie
american piskie
4 months ago
Reply to  Jonj

Why? Because [if it did actually happen] that was what the priest and dying man intended. See https://thurible.net/2020/04/16/grace-received-communion-on-the-battlefield/

Kate
Kate
4 months ago
Reply to  Susannah Clark

”I don’t think this is the right time for the Church to rule on this, one way or the other, but I also do not think it should prohibit such actions of mercy, exercised and received in faith.” I wanted to return to this point because I have seen it expressed fairly often by several people. Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation but… Read more »

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
4 months ago

Charlie Bell’s article is excellent and is a clear summary of traditional Anglican beliefs. For all the controversy over virtual masses, I would suggest that many members of today’s CofE don’t bother with the Eucharist during normal times. Charlie is to be ordained into a denomination (sect?) which now has “meetings” on Sundays with ” ministers” in lay clothes expounding a conservative view of “God’s Word Written”, and which has no distinctive Anglican content – and no Eucharist. All this discussion about virtual mass is mainly academic. A vast swathe of the CofE doesn’t believe the mass is necessary anyway.

FrDavidH
FrDavidH
4 months ago
Reply to  FrDavid H

Yes. He’s a CofE ordinand. We need more like him.

Perry Butler
Perry Butler
4 months ago
Reply to  FrDavidH

Your comment above Fr DavidH is a bit of a caricature but sadly it contains a (growing?)element of truth. Looking back 60+ years I thought the traditions in the C of E. Catholic /Evangelical/Broad etc were emphases( all with good and bad points) on a common core. In my lifetime the traditions have moved apart, in some ways so far that the various groups hardly understand one another or communicate much with each other…..the Polo mint church.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
4 months ago

There was a second breaking of bread by Christ, after that journey along the Emmaus Road when Cleopas and the other unnamed disciple didn’t recognise him until they had sat down to eat together: Luke 24: 29-35 “So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognised him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the… Read more »

Simon Kershaw
Admin
4 months ago

Rowland “It was Christ, not Cleopas, who broke the bread.” The text indeed says that. But let’s not get too hung up on the literal “breaking of bread”. Isn’t this very often a circumlocution for sharing a meal? So they recognize Jesus is present in a shared meal just as he had been present at so many earlier meals.

David
David
4 months ago
Reply to  Simon Kershaw

“Took, blessed, broke and gave” sounds like a Eucharist, more than just sharing a meal.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
4 months ago
Reply to  David

Thank you. I hadn’t seen your post when I wrote mine below. This is exactly what I meant by symbolism if we look more deeply. The important things are who broke the bread, and the immediate recognition that it was Christ who was present.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
4 months ago
Reply to  Simon Kershaw

I hope I’m not hung up about anything. I wrote my post independently of Mark Bennet’s below. Interesting that we both saw a relevance in the Road to Emmaus ‘experience’ although Mark does not mention at all the breaking of the bread or what I see as its particular significance in (1) Christ breaking of the bread rather than Cleopas who would have been the head of the house; (2) it was in that act that Cleopas and the other disciple recognised Christ who then ‘vanished from their sight’. The point seems to be emphasised on their return to Jerusalem,… Read more »

Mark Bennet
Mark Bennet
4 months ago

One question I suggest is relevant to the Eucharistic discussion is: “Is Christ present?” Christ’s presence (and God’s action) is not determined or circumscribed by particular authorised human actions. There might be assurance (even for some a certainty??) in a sacramental presence, but the operation of God’s grace is not confined to the sacraments. Another relevant question is “how might Christ be absent?” and another (suggested by the companions on the Emmaus Road) “how do we recognise Christ’s presence?” (Christ was present without being recognised). It is our theology and understanding of grace, more fundamental than any developed sacramental system,… Read more »

Kate
Kate
4 months ago
Reply to  Mark Bennet

Very good, Mark

John Wallace
John Wallace
4 months ago
Reply to  Mark Bennet

How sensible is Mark’s comment about ‘our theology and understanding of grace’! It brings us from introspection to evangelism. I miss the Eucharist greatly and find on-line celebrations quite empty, although by no means decrying what so many clergy like my own vicar – are faithfully doing. For those who are arguing – with some ferocity about the validity / existence of distanced consecration, I leave the words of Queen Elizabeth I: Christ was the word that spake it. He took the bread and break it; And what his words did make it That I believe and take it. The… Read more »

Kate
Kate
4 months ago
Reply to  Mark Bennet

I am also very much aware that in the liturgies I know the minister does NOT consecrate the bread and wine. The wording to me makes clear that the bread and wine are inherently special because they are the body and blood, not made that way by a priest. I think the problem is that many, perhaps most, believe that a priest has a role in the Eucharist which is neither in the Gospels nor in the authorised liturgies.

Adrian
Adrian
4 months ago
Reply to  Kate

God is the one who consecrates, the people celebrate, and the president presides at the celebration. He says most of the prayer which is regarded as the one in which the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ, the people say the rest of it, and no doubt God does something which makes his presence felt within the bread and wine. I think that the role of the priest is central, and that the absence of the priest takes something away from the celebration. In the didache there is no distinctive eucharistic prayer as we know it,… Read more »

Perry Butler
Perry Butler
4 months ago
Reply to  Adrian

I agree Adrian though I would express it thus: the ascended Christ at the prayer of the assembled gathering articulated by the president ( who by virtue of being apostolically commissioned confers on this local gathering universality) “takes”the bread and wine and used them as the vehicles of his gracious presence so that those fed by the sacrament and united with him enter into the movement of his self-offering to the Father. I hope that links eucharistic presence and sacrifice and is sufficiently Anglican!

Kate
Kate
4 months ago
Reply to  Perry Butler

Once one accepts that the consecration comes from God the there is no theological reason to need a priest. One might want a minister in orders so they are familiar with authorised liturgies but that is a matter of maintaining consistency across a national church not theology.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
4 months ago
Reply to  Kate

Kate: How do you distinguish a priest from “a minister in orders” – or perhaps that question ought to be the other way round? See my comment below about what the BCP says on this subject.

Adrian
Adrian
4 months ago
Reply to  Perry Butler

I was thinking of a minimum level of understanding that would be held in common, rather than my own belief, but I guess I failed there, which is itself interesting. Not that I necessarily agree with myself.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
4 months ago
Reply to  Adrian

As in the rubrics for the Offices of Morning and Evening Prayer, the 1662 Book of Common Prayer similarly freely interposes the terms “Curate”, “Minister” and “Priest” in the Order for Holy Communion, but for the Prayer of Consecration and for the Administration the word “Priest” is used. That can only mean an ordained priest in Apostolic succession which the Church of England asserts for itself. In pointing out this fact, I in no way criticise the alternative forms of worship being followed during the present pandemic, indeed I have nothing but praise for the ‘streamed’ services from a local… Read more »

Richard
Richard
4 months ago
Reply to  Adrian

I believe that the Consecration is not complete until the people say AMEN.

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
4 months ago
Reply to  Mark Bennet

Well said.

Martin Henwood
Martin Henwood
4 months ago

I have never even read such a neurotic thread in all my life. I used to respect this website and occasionally return. I wonder what on earth you are believing is relevant, if I visit again!

Stanley Monkhouse
4 months ago
Reply to  Martin Henwood

Quite so, Martin. I’ve noticed that discussion about stuff that doesn’t really matter is always more extensive and heated than that about stuff that does. Sayre’s law quoted by Charles Philip Issawi: “In any dispute the intensity of feeling is inversely proportional to the value of the issues at stake.”

Marise Hargreaves
Marise Hargreaves
4 months ago

Alice Whalley – God bless you. You are right – feeding the hungry, healing the sick and meeting real embodied people where they are right now is what matters, not virtual this and virtual that and getting worked up over closures of buildings and what this means. It does reveal a class divide. The people whose homes are not safe, who are now jobless and potentially homeless, whose money is running out or run out and whose debt is rising don’t care about on line anything except the endless queue to speak to the Universal credit line or whoever might… Read more »

Allan Sheath
Allan Sheath
4 months ago

In these times, rather than fixating on ‘making my Communion’ can’t we be content that every Eucharist is offered not only for those physically present but, as 1662 has it, for “all thy whole Church”? If folk with internet access join in, that’s fine (count your blessings). If some wish to join in with their own bread and cup, go ahead – your bishop won’t call the police. But this doesn’t make the bishops wrong. The one bread stands for our common destiny: the gathering of the Church into the kingdom. Bread that, before it is shared, is broken to… Read more »

Allan Sheath
Allan Sheath
4 months ago
Reply to  Allan Sheath

Trying to be too clever. Should read: “Without these eschatological and sacrificial aspects, we risk our horizons becoming lowered and the act of Communion reduced to making us feel better about ourselves without cost.”

Allan Sheath
Allan Sheath
4 months ago

For a fine take on how our neglect of Eucharist as sacrifice in favour of ‘making my Communion’ is in danger of turning us in on ourselves, read Doug Chaplin’s fine piece, “When catching a virus changes the Church.”

https://liturgica.today/2020/04/22/when-catching-a-virus-changes-the-church/

Ed. Would it be possible to post Doug Chaplin’s article on TA?

David Emmott
David Emmott
4 months ago

Isn’t it sad that we have to scroll down to here before we get a comment on what is probably the most important and heartfelt article of those linked to? And then the comments on this below go back to the safe area of theology. Like most of us (especially those of us who are both clergy and retired) I feel simultaneously guilty and helpless wondering how to react in this crisis. But it is scandalous that there has been virtually no recognition by the hierarchy or church opinion formers of the unbelievable hardships that are being faced by what… Read more »

David Emmott
David Emmott
4 months ago
Reply to  David Emmott

I didn’t want to come across as ‘holier than thou’, or ‘more earthed than thou.’ Not only do I share in the general helplessness of most of us at this time, I have always felt more or less helpless or inept even when I was an active parish priest in ‘normal’ times. There is enough Anglican guilt around without adding to it. It’s just that Alice Whalley’s article is an important corrective to the tendency to middle-class complacency that has always been an unwelcome aspect of English Anglicanism. Even those of us less at home in middle class culture find… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
4 months ago

‘YouTube sermons don’t feed the hungry’. Hmm. Neither do sermons given at regular services. Neither do Eucharists, or daily offices. That’s not their function. In Acts 6 the apostles delegated the function of caring for the widows and orphans to people better placed and equipped for it. Each has their call. I like to think the sermons I’ve preached over the years have helped motivate many people in my parishes to get involved in caring for those in need. If I’d abandoned that role, I can think of a good many who would not have gotten involved.

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