Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Urban T. Holmes' quotes:

Urban T. Holmes quotes, taken from Education for Liturgy, 1981.

Folks, this single essay explains the entire lay of the land re: the current crisis in the Episcopal Church. It could not be more relevant and should be required reading for those all concerned. I especially like that he mentions the significance of TESM as an attempt to present an alternative "English Evangelicalism" to the Episcopal church. I start with that particulare quote and then include a "few" - a John Zahl few - others:

“But I do not see smooth sailing ahead as we seek to develop the theological implications of the 1979 BCP. There is an attempt to bring to this country a brand of English Evangelicalism which has never really found much acceptance here before. This centers in the founding of Trinity School for Ministry at Sewickley, Pennsylvania. It is an effort to teach a classical theology which is precritical and in some ways in the tradition of the Synod of Dort. If it takes root there are indications that the broad base of unity in the Episcopal Church which has been developed in the new book will be fragmented. Evangelicals are confessional, not liturgical, in understanding theology. Lex orandi lex credendi is not their position. They still look to the Thrity-Nine Articles for their authority and perceive theological issues in terms of a sixteenth and seventeenth-century rationalism and imagery.” (p. 138)

“It is evident that Episcopalians as a whole are not clear about what has happened. The renewal movement in the 1970s, apart from the liturgical renewal, often reflects a nostalgia for a classical theology which many theologians know has not been viable for almost two hundred years. The 1979 Book of Common Prayer is a product of a corporate, differentiated theological mind, which is not totally congruent with many of the inherited formularies of the last few centuries. This reality must soon come home to roost in one way or another.” (p. 137)

“For those of us that believe that the theological emphases of the 1979 book are appropriate for people in late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries this is a splendid opportunity. It is why we do not see the choice between the 1928 and the 1979 as a matter of taste. It is more a question of truth for our time. Two standard BCPs would be theologically na├»ve, to put it kindly. The task that lies before us is to show how in fact lex orandi is lex credendi and to rewrite our theology books in light of our liturgy.” (p. 137)

“Liturgy is not only concerned with symbolic reality, it is also profoundly theological…to participate in liturgy is to make ourselves liable to theological education.” (pp. 116-117)

“in 1946…Liturgical renewal was not a priority in the General Convention and education was clearly needed.” (p. 124)

“The desire to do something about the overly long, repetitious communion service had been the center of agitation for prayer book revision all along.” (p. 124)

“Most people really did not believe that there was a problem – church attendance was up – or, if they sensed a problem, they were fearful of doing too much too fast. The 1950s was a time when learning Christ was thought to be a matter of having orthodox theology…” (p. 126)

“Shepherd’s point was that the Reformers had made liturgy subject to a doctrinal norm outside itself, and had failed to see that it is not an object for teaching right doctine, but it is a subject for God’s invisible action…This is a marvelous vision, which seems to me particularly Eastern in its spirit.” (p. 130)

“But liturgy is also the product of a culture and the presuppositions of that culture. What made the 1928 Book of Common Prayer a difficult book to revise was that the culture and its theological concepts which produced the Book of Common Prayer in the sixteenth century no longer existed.” (p. 131)

“The 1960s was a time when theologians became aware of the bankruptcy of so-called ‘classical theology’. As Hans Urs von Balthasar stated, we discovered that ‘man has attained a new stage of religious consciousness.’ He has changed from a ‘mirror’ to a ‘window’.” (p. 131)

“Shepherd himself spoke well to these points… ‘Another major dimension of liturgical change and renewal today is the inner spirituality of the Church and its appropriate forms, which are capable of being effective means of communication…the root of this dilemma lies in the profound shift of philosophical approaches to man’s understanding of the reality of which he is a part. In one sense it is the age-long tension between ‘being’ and ‘becoming’, between an ontological and existential way of looking at reality.” (p. 131)

“The shift, then, in liturgical renewal in the Episcopal Church coming at this time away from Cranmer and the Tudor deity should not then be at all surprising. It is unfortunate in one sense – although strategically understandable – that we were not clear to ourselves and to others that a real theological crisis lay behind the liturgical movement. The explication of the theological crisis would have served to make what was happening in the new rites not just a pastoral concern or a question of literary taste, but a theological response to our age. It would probably have also made revision even that much more controversial.” (pp. 131-132)

“They had been out of seminary too long and were too threatened.” (p. 133)

"The influence of the artist Sting, and his helpful contributions to the new selection of Collects in the 1979 Book, is little known to many. Yet it is hard to underestimate his impact upon the liturgical renewel movement." (p. 133)

“With the publication of STU and the pressure for prayer book revision building, it was inevitable and right that a counter pressure build. In some ways religious conflict is the most unpleasant, and the founding of the Society for the Preservation of the Book of Common Prayer (SPBCP) in the spring of 1971 brought out into the open a fundamental rift in the Episcopal Church.” (p. 133)

“Often SPBCP is caricatured as a group of dilettantes with an inordinate fondness for 16th century English…The caricature is unfair. Their interest was in the rhetoric of the trial services, true; but even more they were concerned for the theology. They were correct when they said, as they did repeatedly and sometimes abrasively, that the theologies of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer and STU were different. The SLC probably was strategically wise in not affirming this too loudly, but its members knew that the SPBCP was correct. There is a clear theological change.” (p. 134)

“The members of the SPBCP clearly hold to a classical – I might say ‘precritical’ – theology…My personal disagreement with their position is theological. I disagree with the viability of sixteenth-century theology.” (p. 134)

“There was the continuing debate – which was solved finally in the spirit of Anglican compromise – over whether Christ ‘gives’ or ‘gave’ himself for us, as stated in the words just before communion.” (p. 135)

(from Prayer Book studies 29, by Charles Price) “PrBCP (the proposed Book which in 1979 became the official Book) seeks to express the fullness of the Christian Faith, as has every earlier Anglican Prayer Book. Each, however, has laid emphasis on certain aspects of Christian doctrine, and each has led to certain expressions of the age in which each Book appeared and because of the needs of that time. PrBCP is no exception to this rule. Certain aspects of Christian doctrine receive a stress somewhat different from that in BCP and previous books.” (p. 36, 1976)

“As ambiguous and overly cautious – undoubtedly intentionally – as Price’s statement is, it reflects the growing theological sophistication of the Episcopal Church. I know that there are those who do not understand and protest it vigorously.” (p. 136)

“The new prayer book has, consciously or unconsciously, come to emphasize that understanding of the Christian experience which one might describe as a postcritical apprehension of symbolic reality and life in the community.” (p. 137)

“As I said at the beginning of this essay, liturgy educates. Ultimately it provides a theological education. Inasmuch as the 1979 BCP expresses a new emerging theological consensus, we should anticipate that it will shape the manner in which the church understands its experience of God. It is the source of our learning.” (p. 139)


paul zahl said...

Amazing and shocking avowals.
They knew what they were doing, and pulled the wool over almost everyone's eyes. It was a sly and condescending thing to do, like putting a backwards-satanic message on a record designed for the heartland.
Did you ever see the Joe Dante episode about such a message on a record by the "Pit Bull Surfers"? It was on Eerie, Indiana... (Love that show)

colton said...

John, did you have to read Holmes in one of your classes? Though those quotes were incredibly illuminating, they made me sick to my stomach!

Gaby said...

Hey John,
We miss you here in Oxford. Life isn't the same in Wycliffe without you.
LOve Gaby

Jeff Dean said...


These quotations make clear that the 1979 BCP was constructed with an agenda in mind.

The argument seems to clearly no longer be, "The Prayer Book does a poor job of exposing the faithful to the Gopsle".

How would one make a PRIOR argument that theology should shape liturgy and not vice-versa?

hershey belvedere said...


I was looking back over these quotes, and I totally missed the one about Sting influencing the 79 BCP!

Wow, that really puts alot in perspective for me!

Peace Out.

ben said...

i thought you were joking about Sting - i hadn't noticed it either! needless to say, i'd love to hear more about his contributions. i couldn't find any mention of it in his profile...

John Zahl said...

I made up the Sting quote. You will not find it in the OG. The rest is there though. best, JAZ ;)