Comprehension in Generous Catholicity

A Commendation to this Church in Preparation for the 76th General Convention

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with might through his Spirit in the inner man, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fulness of God.[1]

Appreciative of the core doctrines of our faith, Incarnation and Trinity, as Charles Gore so succinctly summed them a century past,[2] we are reminded that these teachings point not to themselves but refer us to and lead us into living relationship with the Persons of the Triune and Living God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We desire to commend to this Church[3] anew those signs that we do share across program and party, school and division if we would remain true to our reformed and catholic inheritance, and call ourselves Anglican. In the words of General Convention Resolution 1982.A47, these signs as expressed in the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral are “basic principles which express our own unity”[4] as much as “essential principles for organic unity with other churches.”[5]

Therefore, rather than a program for persuading the Church to a particular point-of-view on matters of justice or on matters of ecclesiology, we recognize that our unity is founded in and maintained by Jesus Christ through Whom in the Holy Spirit we are all children of a merciful Father. Our unity is founded in neither a program for or preaching of earthly renewal (important as this is), nor a scheme for or theory of churchly organization (as necessary as this be), but rather in our incorporation into this self-same Jesus by Holy Baptism. In the words of F.D. Maurice, noting conditions similar wracking the Church of his own day, “And those who are sighing over the condition of the Church, and have tried scheme after scheme for reforming it and bringing back its unity, and have found only fresh disappointments and despondency, will learn that they may go back to the one source of Reformation and Restoration; to Him who is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever.” In a time of increased tumult and mutual disdain, it seems good and joyful to remember and reaffirm those shared signs of our generous catholicity in Jesus Christ, who is the only basis for our comprehensiveness and unity. By these, we call the Church to itself in this self-same Jesus in Whom fracture becomes fellowship, fragmentation turns to friendship, and fault occasions forgiveness.

To this end, we commend anew to this Church those things that are its own as broadly outlined in the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral, being reformed and catholic signs[6] we do share as pointing us to and bearing us forth to the truth of and knowledge of and relationship with the Persons of the Living God, and in Them, turned to one another, general society, and the whole of creation:

1) The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as “containing all things necessary to salvation,” and as being the rule and ultimate standard of faith.

Reminded of our Reformation forebears' renewed appreciation for the Holy Scriptures as witnessing to the centrality of the gospel in the whole of our lives, we commend the words of General Convention Resolution 1982.A47:

The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament are the word of God as they are witness to God’s action in Jesus Christ and the continuing presence of his Holy Spirit in the Church, that they are the authoritative norm for catholic faith in Jesus Christ and for the doctrinal and moral tradition of the Gospel, and that they contain all things necessary for salvation.
In keeping with this resolution, we commend the study of, discussion of, and proclamation of the Holy Scriptures. We especially commend the proclamation of the Holy Scriptures in our liturgical life as generously and widely provided for in our Prayer Book and Lectionaries.[7] Especially in liturgical use of the Holy Scriptures, together we are brought to the knowledge and recognition of the gospel of God’s self-communication in Jesus Christ, who revealing in Himself the Trinity and Their love for us,[8] is the Center of our faith, the Hinge of our teaching, and the Pattern for our own lives.

2) The Apostles’ Creed, as the Baptismal Symbol; and the Nicene Creed, as the sufficient statement of the Christian faith.

Events of recent days have reminded us of our Nicene faith. Many of us will never again say the Creeds lightly or without recognition of this costly inheritance from our ancestors in faith maintained without fail from the earliest times in the Isles from SS Aidan of Lindisfarne and Augustine of Canterbury to SS Anselm of Canterbury and Thomas áBecket, reaffirmed by the Reformers, reinvigorated by those of Ritualist, Oxford, Cambridge, Methodist, Evangelical movements and many more of several schools and no school besides, and handed to us at our own baptism. We commend anew to this Church and do profess our faith in the Triune and Living God as sufficiently stated in the Apostles’ and Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creeds. In the words of General Convention Resolution 1982.A47:

“The Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds are the forms through which the Christian Church, early in its history under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, understood, interpreted and expressed its faith in the Triune God. The continuing doctrinal tradition is the form through which the Church seeks to understand, interpret and express its faith in continuity with these ancient creeds and in its awareness of the world to which the Word of God must be preached.”[9]
We commend the unfailing use of the Apostles’ Creed (to be found in interrogatory form) as the heart of The Baptismal Covenant in the Rite of Holy Baptism as appointed in our Prayer Book,[10] the recitation of The Apostles’ Creed at the Office on Sundays unless these Offices shall function as the Liturgy of the Word at the Eucharist with the use of the Nicene Creed as alternative,[11]and the saying or singing of the Nicene Creed at every principal Sunday Holy Communion and other Major Feasts as required by the rubrics of our Prayer Book.[12]

We further encourage this Church to make provision for education materials with respect to our core doctrines as faithfully interpreted, expressed, and articulated in the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds, commending the exhortation and scholarship of the following toward this purpose:

Luke Timothy Johnson, The Creed: What Christians Believe and Why It Matters (New York: Doubleday, 2003);

Jaroslav Pelikan and Valerie Hotchkiss, eds., Credo: Historical and Theological Guide to Creeds and Confessions of Faith in the Christian Tradition (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2003);

Charles Gore, The Creed of the Christian (London: Wells Gardner, Darton, 1898);

Frederick Denison Maurice, “The Creed: Preached on Septuagesima Sunday, Feb. 4, 1849,” The Prayer Book (London: James Clarke & Co. Ltd., 1966), 99-106.

3) The two Sacraments ordained by Christ Himself — Baptism and the Supper of the Lord — ministered with unfailing use of Christ's Words of Institution, and of the elements ordained by Him.

From the reforms of Thomas Cranmer in council to the apologies of Richard Hooker and John Jewell, from the interpretations of Lancelot Andrewes and the Caroline Divines to the appreciation of the Oxford, Methodist, and Ritualist movements, from the Liturgical and Ecumenical movements to the reforms of 1979, we receive a sacramental tradition not always unified in thought, nor singular in practice, but unfailing in commendation to and the celebration and use of the Dominical Sacraments as found in those forms authorized in General Convention: Holy Baptism as “the sacrament by which God adopts us as his children and makes us members of Christ’s Body, the Church, and inheritors of the kingdom of God” [13] and Holy Communion as “the sacrament commanded by Christ for the continual remembrance of his life, death, and resurrection, until his coming again.”[14] In the words of General Convention Resolution 1982.A47:

The Church is the sacrament of God's presence in the world and the sign of the Kingdom for which we hope. That presence and hope are made active and real in the Church and in the individual lives of Christian men and women through the preaching of the Word of God, through the Gospel sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist, as well as other sacramental rites, and through our apostolate to the world in order that it may become the Kingdom of our God and of his Christ.[15]
4) The Historic Episcopate, locally adapted in the methods of its administration to the varying needs of the nations and peoples called of God into the Unity of His Church.

As heirs to the apostles and “guardians of the Church’s faith”[16] once delivered, we affirm the desire of our bishops to uphold the “doctrine, discipline, and worship”[17] of this Church. In the words of General Convention Resolution 1982.A47:

Apostolicity is evidenced in continuity with the teaching, the ministry, and the mission of the apostles. Apostolic teaching must, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, be founded upon the Holy Scriptures and the ancient fathers and creeds, making its proclamation of Jesus Christ and his Gospel for each new age consistent with those sources, not merely reproducing them in a transmission of verbal identity. Apostolic ministry exists to promote, safeguard and serve apostolic teaching. All Christians are called to this ministry by their Baptism. In order to serve, lead and enable this ministry, some are set apart and ordained in the historic orders of Bishop, Presbyter, and Deacon. We understand the historic episcopate as central to this apostolic ministry and essential to the reunion of the Church, even as we acknowledge “the spiritual reality of the ministries of those Communions which do not possess the Episcopate” (Lambeth Appeal 1920, Section 7). Apostolic mission is itself a succession of apostolic teaching and ministry inherited from the past and carried into the present and future. Bishops in apostolic succession are, therefore, the focus and personal symbols of this inheritance and mission as they preach and teach the Gospel and summon the people of God to their mission of worship and service.
5) The Book of Common Prayer as authorized in this Church in General Convention as the normative standard of worship in this Church.[18]

As the rule of our belief set in prayers inherited and shaped by a comprehensiveness borne of the historical struggles, theological thought, and vibrant faith of our ancestors, we commend the use of our authorized Prayer Book throughout this Church as being a sign of our catholicity. We give particular encouragement to maintaining consistent use of those words and forms as provided for in our central rites: Holy Baptism and Holy Eucharist.

Affirming our baptismal ecclesiology as expressed in our Prayer Book and articulated in its use in worship, we affirm with its attached Explanation, General Convention Resolution D084 pertaining to communicating the unbaptized, and we look forward to the provision for a “pastoral and theological understanding of the relationship between Holy Baptism and eucharistic practice”:

Resolved, That the 75th General Convention recognize the position of the Constitution and Canons (I.17.7), that only those who have been baptized in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit shall be eligible to receive Holy Communion; and be it further

Resolved, That the Theology Committee of the House of Bishops, in deliberate consultation with the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, and others they may deem appropriate, provide to the 76th General Convention a pastoral and theological understanding of the relationship between Holy Baptism and eucharistic practice.

The practice of Communion of the unbaptized and of publishing policies inviting non-Christians to receive Communion is increasingly common, in defiance of the aforementioned canon. It is therefore important for the Church to re-affirm its commitment to the ancient teaching of the church that Holy Communion should not knowingly be administered to those who have not been baptized.

In keeping with the Constitution and Canons of this Church and with the Resolutions by General Convention regarding the use of translations of the Holy Scriptures as well as the use and development of supplementary liturgical materials, we commend that appropriate processes be followed in granting permission for such use and development in particular congregations.[19] Further, we commend that their use be limited to those occasions expressly stated in Resolutions adopted by General Convention. [20] Finally, we encourage the provision of an “appropriate educational component” where such permission is granted.[21]

In developing liturgies for pastoral use in the setting of a diocese[22] (including but not limited to the blessing of same sex relationships), we gratefully acknowledge the provision in the Prayer Book for the bishop to “set forth such forms as are fitting to the occasion” in the case of “special occasions for which no service or prayer has been provided in this Book.”[23] We expect that all Christians will make judicious use of their freedom in the gospel to meet an evident need. At the same time, we are convinced that liberty does not constitute license. At its heart, Christian worship is a fundamentally public and communal act that implies catholic commitment, and historical and theological integrity. We, therefore, urge broad consultation with theologians and liturgical scholars, as well as the ecumenical community, in developing any such liturgies. We commend to the clergy and others, who may be called upon to officiate at such liturgies, the possibilities already present in The Book of Common Prayer and The Book of Occasional Services, until such time as this Church in General Convention authorizes particular rites for these pastoral needs and occasions.[24]

The Prayer Book is a gift of centuries of common prayer, diligent scholarship, differing insights, and careful revisions, providing a means for finding our commonality in Christ across divisions theological, liturgical, moral, and social. In making revisions to and providing for a future edition of The Book of Common Prayer for this Church, we encourage processes (such as those set forth in preparing the current Prayer Book and the Enriching Our Worship series) of careful historical scholarship toward, deliberate theological inquiry into, broad local testing of, and wide-ranging ecumenical review of all materials. We further encourage this Church to seek input from a broad spectrum of points-of-view from within before legislating any revisions or providing for a future edition of the Prayer Book. Finally, in a time marked by sore divisions, we encourage due care and lack of haste in making revisions to or providing for a future Prayer Book, and when such revision or provision is made, that an “appropriate educational component” be provided for throughout this Church before implementation.[25]

Finally, in a Church hungry for spiritual blessings and richness of prayer life, we commend the rites of Morning and Evening Prayer as generously set out and well appointed in the Prayer Book. And further, encourage their daily public praying in every parish of every diocese throughout this Church as a primary means of formation in prayer, Scripture, and fellowship as Anglican Christians.

6) Service of the needs of our neighbors and the world in the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ.[26]

The apostolic and primitive Church made the concerns of the world their own. This emphasis, though changed, has never been lost by the Church catholic, for it is the concern of Jesus Christ, who calls us into being and sustains us as His Body, being the visible sign of that Divine Society the Blessed Trinity who creates, redeems, and sustains general society and the whole of creation. In a time of ecological concern and economic difficulty, we commend this Church to its ministry of diakonia.

In a world hungry for signs of God’s love, this Church, rooted in common profession of faith, marked by shared signs reformed and catholic, engaged in central rites, and turned in service to the world’s needs in proclamation of the gospel, must be set free from ecclesial preoccupations to rejoice in the ministries to which Christ has called us.

[With a hope for increasing conversation and mutual respect, in the spirit of collegiality, a response to the above Commendation titled, "A Qualifying Memorandum on “Comprehension in Generous Catholicity," has been offered by members of Covenant-Communion.]

In the Love of Christ Which Surpasses All Knowledge,

(To add you name to this commendation, send your title, name, parish, city, state, and diocese to

The Rev. Fr. Robert E. Allen
The Director Ministry Education
The Diocese of Arkansas

Mr. Alexander E. Baltovski
The Episcopal Church of St. Andrew
Staten Island, New York (Diocese of New York)

Mr. John David Bassett
Saint James Church
Los Angeles, California (Diocese of Los Angeles)

The Rev. Robin Biffle, Rector
St. Mark's Episcopal Church
Moscow, Idaho (Diocese of Spokane)

Mrs. June B. Butler
St. John's Episcopal Church
Thibodaux, Louisiana (Diocese of Louisiana)

The Rev. Matthew Calkins
St. Timothy's Episcopal Church
Fairfield, Connecticut (Diocese of Connecticut)

The Rev. Dr. R. William Carroll, TSSF
The Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd
Athens, Ohio (Diocese of Southern Ohio)

Mr. Patrick Coleman
Episcopal Church of St. Andrew and St. Charles
Granada Hills, California (Diocese of Los Angeles)

Dr. Louie Crew
Grace Church
Newark, New Jersey (Diocese of Newark)

Mr. W. Christopher Evans
The Episcopal Church of Saint John the Evangelist
San Francisco, California (Diocese of California)

The Reverend Sean Ferrell, Rector
Saint Luke's Episcopal Church
Jackson, Tennessee (Diocese of West Tennessee)

The Rev. Tobias Stanislas Haller, BSG
Saint James Episcopal Church Fordham
The Bronx, New York, New York (Diocese of New York)

Mr. John Michael Haines
The Episcopal Church of Saint John the Evangelist
San Francisco, California (Diocese of California)

The Rev. Canon Mark Harris
St. Peters, Lewes (Diocese of Delaware)

The Rev. Richard E. Helmer
The Episcopal Church of Our Saviour
Mill Valley, California (Diocese of California)

The Rev. Michael W. Hopkins
The Episcopal Church of St. Luke & St. Simon Cyrene
Rochester, New York (Diocese of Rochester)

Mr. Gerard Hough
Trinity Memorial Episcopal Church
Binghamton, New York (Diocese of Central New York)

The Rev. S. Gregory Jones
St. Michael's Episcopal Church
Raleigh, North Carolina (Diocese of North Carolina)

The Rev. Gerald W. Keucher
Church of the Intercession
New York, New York (Diocese of New York)

The Rev'd William Locke
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Pawtucket, Rhode Island (Diocese of Rhode Island)

Mr. Derek Olsen
St. John's Episcopal Church
Glyndon, Maryland (Diocese of Maryland)

The Rev'd Jesse L. A. Parker
Saint John's in the Village Episcopal Church
Baltimore, Maryland (Diocese of Maryland)

Deacon Ormonde Plater
Trinity Episcopal Church
New Orleans, Louisiana (Diocese of Louisiana)

Dr. Joseph M Rawls
Trinity Episcopal Church
Santa Barbara, California (Diocese of Los Angeles)

Mr. John R. Robison
Church of the Advent
Baltimore, Maryland (Diocese of Maryland)

Lic. David Austin Allen Secor, ThM
Monterrey, Nuevo León, México
La Parroquia de la Sagrada Familia
Diócesis del Norte
Iglesia Anglicana de México

Father John-Julian OJN
Order of Julian of Norwich
Waukesha, Wisconsin (Diocese of Milwaukee)

Mr. Michael H Wood
Christ Episcopal Church
Poughkeepsie, New York (Diocese of New York)

Br. Karekin M Yarian, BSG
The Episcopal Church of Saint John the Evangelist
San Francisco, California (Diocese of California)

[1] Ephesians 3:14-19.
[2] Cf. Charles Gore, Dissertations on Subjects Connected with the Incarnation (London: John Murray, 1895).
[3] All references to “this Church” are to The Episcopal Church.
[4] General Convention Resolution 1982.A47.
[5] General Convention Resolution 1982.A47.
[6] Cf. F.D. Maurice, The Kingdom of Christ (London: J. Clarke, 1959); William Reed Huntington, The Church-Idea (New York: E. P. Dutton and Company, 1870); the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral.
[7] All references to and taken from “the Prayer Book” or The Book of Common Prayer are from The Book of Common Prayer (1979) unless otherwise specified. The plural “lectionaries” denotes both that appointed for Holy Eucharist and that appointed for Morning and Evening Prayer.
[8] F.D. Maurice, “Theological Essays,” in To Build Christ’s Kingdom: F.D. Maurice and His Writings, ed. Jeremy Morris (Norwich: Canterbury Press, 2007), 70-71.
[9] General Convention Resolution 1982.A47.
[10] Holy Baptism, The Book of Common Prayer, 304.
[11] “Additional Directions,” The Book of Common Prayer, 142.
[12] The Prayer Book notes that “On Sundays and other Major Feasts there follows, all standing The Nicene Creed.” “Holy Eucharist I,” The Book of Common Prayer, 326; “Holy Eucharist II,” The Book of Common Prayer, 359. It should be noted that the rubrics of The Book of Common Prayer carry the equivalence of constitutional status. This is so for two reasons: First, the standard for amendments to The Book of Common Prayer (Article X) are the same as those for the Constitution itself (Article XII), namely, two consecutive sessions of General Convention are required, with interim notice to the conventions of all dioceses, and including a vote by orders in the House of Deputies at the second session. (An exception exists for the Lectionary and rubrics related to the Psalter, which require only approval by a single session.) Second, though rarely enforced, violation of the rubrics of The Book of Common Prayer is listed fourth in the table of Offenses for which clergy may be presented and tried; this placement is immediately before violation of the Constitution or Canons. (IV.1.d-e). This equivalence suggests not mere juridical concern, but rather due care toward that which “constitutes” or is constitutive of The Episcopal Church itself, namely those Persons to Whom the Creeds refer, point, and bear us.
[13] “Holy Baptism: Catechism,” The Book of Common Prayer, 858.
[14] “The Holy Eucharist: Catechism,” The Book of Common Prayer, 859.
[15] General Convention Resolution 1982.A47.
[16] “Ordination: Bishop,” The Book of Common Prayer, 519.
[17] “Ordination: Priest,” The Book of Common Prayer, 526.
[18] This last is the contribution of Maurice. He names six signs, namely baptism, eucharist, creeds, Scripture, an ordered ministry, and a fixed liturgy. This builds well on the closing words of General Convention Resolution 1982.A47 in explicating the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral statement on the Historic Episcopate.
[19] That is under the direction of the diocesan bishop, in accord with Canon II.3.6.
[20] Including but not limited to the 1928 edition of The Book of Common Prayer (1928 BCP) and Enriching Our Worship (EOW) materials. Cf. Constitution and Canons: I.X.b; Resolutions, including, but not limited to 1979-A121, 1991-A121, 1994-A068, 1994-D056, 1997-A074, 1997-A075, 1997-A077, 1997-C0121, 1997-D086, 2000-A066, 2000-A069, 2000-B017, 2000-B042, 2003-A091, 2003-A092, 2003-C025, 2003-D047, 2006-A071, 2006-A072, 2006-A074, 2006-A067, 2006-A069, 2006-A070, 2006-A074, 2006-A075, 2006-A076, 2006-A136. Reiterating Canon II.3.6, as resolved, use of the 1928 BCP and/or EOW is by permission granted under the direction of the diocesan bishop. In addition to required direction from the diocesan bishop, Rite III materials should be used and developed in accord with the rubrics of the Prayer Book: “It is not intended for use at the principal Sunday or weekly celebration of the Holy Eucharist.” “An Order for Celebrating the Holy Eucharist,” The Book of Common Prayer, 400.[21] As was wisely resolved in 1994-D056 to “Omit Filioque Clause in Supplemental Liturgical Materials.”
[22] Cf. “Article X,” Constitutions and Canons; “Concerning the Service of the Church,” The Book of Common Prayer, 13.
[23] “Concerning the Service of the Church,” The Book of Common Prayer, 13.
[24] For example, this relates to Resolution 2003-C051, which states, “That we recognize that local faith communities are operating within the bounds of our common life as they explore and experience liturgies celebrating and blessing same-sex unions.” The use of authorized rites is encouraged for this pastoral purpose. For example, the “Blessing in Homes” found in The Book of Occasional Services is one means to love, support, pray for, and make accountable persons in committed same-sex relationships as their discipleship and vocation in the formation and maintenance of a Christian household in accordance with Resolution 2000-D039 and reaffirmed in Resolution 2003-C051: “That we expect such relationships will be characterized by fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God.” In using authorized rites or composing experimental liturgies of celebration and blessing, the form of words used ought not to be the same as those of the “Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage,” “The Blessing of a Civil Marriage,” or “An Order for Marriage.” This avoids saying more than this Church is yet able to do in General Convention, that is, authorize a particular rite with its interrelated recognition of development in the “doctrine, discipline, and worship” of this Church. Further, whatever experimental liturgy is to be used should be developed in careful consultation with scholars and the ecumenical community. These experimental liturgies of various worth should be studied more broadly within the ongoing communal theological conversation surrounding the sacramental rite of Holy Matrimony and related rites, such as religious profession. This encouragement seeks to renew a sense of conversation in comprehensiveness as the ground for development at all as well as reaffirm the decisions of General Convention on such important matters.
[25] Again, as was wisely resolved in 1994-D056 to “Omit Filioque Clause in Supplemental Liturgical Materials.”
[26] A further contribution building on the closing words of General Convention Resolution 1982.A47 as explicating the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral statement on the Historic Episcopate.