Note to readers: Liturgical entries on this blog are based on the traditional calendar of the Books of Common Prayer and the traditional one-year Eucharistic lectionary. If you follow a newer calendar or three-year lectionary, there are variations in names for some Sundays and in the readings.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Anglican Catechism- Supplement

In previous posts, I have dealt with the Catechism in the Book of Common Prayer as it existed from 1549 with additions through 1662. As in many traditional Catechisms, there is a treatment of the Creed, the Commandments, the Lord's Prayer and the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper. The phraseology is beautiful and gives an Anglican twist in presenting the core of the Faith, but it is really a general Christian explanation of basics. Over the years, some Anglicans felt that a Catechism should include a few more items, especially on the Church, Confirmation and the Ministry. Finally, in 1887 a proposed supplement was presented to and approved by the lower house of the Canterbury Convocation. Although that proposal did not obtain further approval in England, it seems to have been used by many and became the basis of catechetical modifications in the 1928 American Book of Common Prayer and in the 1962 Canadian Book of Common Prayer. The American expression is found in the Second Office of Instruction (pp. 290,291, 294), and the Canadian version is found at the end of the Catechism as "A Supplementary Instruction" (pp. 552-555).

Here is the 1928 version excerpted from the Second Office of Instruction:

Question. WHEN were you made a member of the Church?
Answer. I was made a member of the Church when I was baptized.

Question. What is the Church?
Answer. The Church is the Body of which Jesus Christ is the Head, and all baptized people are the members.

Comment: These two questions and answers point us to the basic reality of the visible Church. The Church is the Body of Christ, and He alone is its true Head. Under ordinary circumstances, individuals are united to Christ and grafted into His Body through Baptism in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost/Holy Spirit. Many of those baptized may not be faithful or edifying examples, and many other things may be necessary for the fullness of the Church and its mission, but wherever there are baptized people, the Church is already present to some degree.

Question. How is the Church described in the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds?
Answer. The Church is described in the Creeds as One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic.

Question. What do we mean by these words?
Answer. We mean that the Church is One; because it is one Body under one Head; Holy; because the Holy Spirit dwells in it, and sanctifies its members; Catholic; because it is universal, holding earnestly the Faith for all time, in all countries, and for all people; and is sent to preach the Gospel to the whole world; Apostolic; because it continues stedfastly in the Apostles' teaching and fellowship.

Comment. The historic creeds based on the early Church's consensus and summary of Scriptural teaching describe the Church by four words. There have been many debates on the marks of the Church, and different individuals and subgroups may have a variety of ideas and interpretations. Yet, for Anglicans and for others who affirm the historic creeds, there is a broad agreement. Whether Christians agree with one another or like one another, the Church of all the faithful baptized is one under the Christ, the Head of the Body. The Church is also holy, not because of us, but because it belongs to God who works to sanctify it by His Spirit. This Church is catholic because its basic message of salvation through faith in Christ remains the same for all times, places and peoples. And the Church is apostolic because the core teachings of the Apostles about Christ are affirmed and because despite the ups and downs of history, all the faithful belong in some degree to an unbroken fellowship of believers stretching back to the New Testament.

Question. What is your bounden duty as a member of the Church?
Answer. My bounden duty is to follow Christ, to worship God every Sunday in his Church; and to work and pray and give for the spread of his kingdom.

Comment. In addition to the general human duties toward God and the neighbor which are summarized in the section of the Catechism about the Commandments, all those who have been baptized have more specific "churchly" duties: follow Christ, worship on Sundays, contribute to and work for the spread of God's rule.

Question. What special means does the Church provide to help you to do all these things?
Answer. The Church provides the Laying on of Hands, or Confirmation, wherein, after renewing the promises and vows of my Baptism, and declaring my loyalty and devotion to Christ as my Master, I receive the strengthening gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Question. After you have been confirmed, what great privilege doth our Lord provide for you?
Answer. Our Lord provides the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, or Holy Communion, for the continual strengthening and refreshing of my soul.

Comment. These two questions and answers start to become more specifically Anglican. In our tradition, Confirmation has two sides. 1) Those already baptized profess their faith in Christ, and 2) through the bishop's Laying on of Hands with prayer, they are offered the strengthening grace of God the Holy Spirit. Barring exceptional circumstances, Anglicans have traditionally expected that beginning to partake of Holy Communion would come after instruction, profession of the Faith and the bishop's blessing.

Question. What orders of Ministers are there in the Church?
Answer. Bishops, Priests, and Deacons; which orders have been in the Church from the earliest times.

Question. What is the office of a Bishop?
Answer. The office of a Bishop is, to be a chief pastor in the Church; to confer Holy Orders; and to administer Confirmation.

Question. What is the office of a Priest?
Answer. The office of a Priest is, to minister to the people committed to his care; to preach the Word of God; to baptize; to celebrate the Holy Communion; and to pronounce Absolution and Blessing in God's Name.

Question. What is the office of a Deacon?
Answer. The office of a Deacon is, to assist the Priest in Divine Service, and in his other ministrations, under the direction of the Bishop.

Comment. Here is a simple traditional Anglican view of the ordained ministry. This summary does not go into the differing party views which have existed in Anglicanism, but it stresses the positive elements. Bishops, priests or presbyters and deacons are mentioned in the New Testament, and they were certainly separate ministries by the early second century. Bishops are the chief pastors; they have special functions for the good of the whole Church, and they continue to exercise those functions of pastoral leadership which they also confer upon priests. Priests are the pastors that most Anglicans see on a regular basis, and they perform a wide range of pastoral tasks under the bishop's oversight. Deacons are ordained to assist bishops and priests, both in worship and in other Christian service.

To conclude, the supplement to the traditional Catechism continues to reflect traditional Anglican views. These questions and answers cover topics important in Church life, topics that have usually been covered in confirmation/inquirers classes. While fairly general, the supplement also includes a bit more of a specifically Anglican perspective than the basic Christian matters covered in the traditional Catechism.

1 comment:

  1. This is a tremendous help to those who are seeking baptism in the Church of God.

    I have given this to a young woman in our parish who has said she wants to be baptised. I couldn't locate a preparation for baptism (based on our traditional Anglican faith) that didn't have something that was wrong with it. This commentary on the catechism is to the point and well-written. Thanks so much.