Laurie Thomspon Responds: Common Prayer/Common Belief

In an on-line discussion group, the following ideas were presented:

1. Common prayer does not reduce to common belief; we don't have to believe everything in common theologically to pray in common and preserve communion.

2. The Anglican way has been to preserve communion and common prayer even in the clear absence of common belief (witness the 39 Articles).

3. Common ground does not require confessional uniformity -- and those opposing Bishop Robinson's consecration do not themselves share uniformity of belief. In fact, they are quite diverse.

Laurie Thompson responded:

(The Rev. Dr. H. Lawrence (Laurie) Thompson, III, is Associate Professor of Liturgy and Pastoral Theology, Dean, Doctor of Ministry Program)

Dear friends,

I want to respond to a recent posting, where a reference was made to "reducing" things to common belief.

The disciples were gathered, and they found that their unity of worship came out of their ministry of the Word, which in turn brought forth the stirring realization and memory of Christ's presence among them, as He broke the bread with them (Emmaus, etc). Many scholars (D. Peterson, J. Koenig, others) have pointed out that the experience of the disciples came out of their encounter with Christ through the Word being opened to them. The New Testament knows little of mystical religion, but time and time again shows how an encounter with Christ comes from the teaching of biblical truth. Mystical experiences and the like come FROM teaching, not the other way around.

So rather than belief being something which reduces, I would suggest that the teaching of the Word, and our believing response is that which OPENS up worship and encounter with Christ. Without common belief, can there really be Common Worship?

Now, of course, I would anticipate a response that says, "We do not need to agree on all the secondary matters, do we?" Surely not. But this is the problem for those of us who aspire to be "orthodox" - Our central tenet is that the Apostolic teaching is the very thing which draws us together in worship. When people challenge the veracity of that teaching (i.e. abandon Scripture and its authority), the basis of our unity is assaulted and our common worship becomes fractured. That our worship is derivative from Scripture is suggested by our ordination - Cranmer was intentional in saying that ONLY one instrument of ministry was to be given - the bible. The rubrics, even in the BCP 1979 are very specific about this, that the only porrectio instrumentorum to be held is is the bible (note not only the direct rubrics at the time, but also the additional rubrics at the end of the ordinal).

Today, many of our students at Trinity ESM want to have the Medieval porrectio instrumentorum given at their ordinations (annointing of the hands, chalice as one who intercedes with the living and the dead, Paten, etc) after the ordination prayer. I object strongly to this because it threatens the very point Cranmer was making, as well as violating the rubrics twice. If we allow this then we need to chuck the truths for which Cranmer fought....and if we do chuck them...well, then I think we have to return to the Sarum patterns, and acknowledge Rome as the authority in the matter of all doctrine and disciple - and thus submit to the notion of Magisterium. While some would not have a problem with this, I would.

Significantly, The BCP 79 suggests that if "other gifts are to be given, they are to be given at a later time".

So back to my original premise. We do not reduce things down to common belief. We actually open up the possibility of worship, of the Christ, through our shared belief. It is not the end point, but rather the starting point. If we share different starting points, then clearly we lose each other on diverging vectors of belief.

Return to the home page