One of the arguments which raged between those who supported the Anglican Prayer Book and the Puritans was all about the use of the Bible. The Puritans objected to our church's retention of the Christian Year, with a lectionary in a great measure attached to the use of a calendar.
While the Prayer Book lectionary - particularly at the Daily Offices of Morning and Evening Prayer - mandated the reading of an enormous amount of the Bible, the way the lectionary was constructed obliged worshippers to "hear, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest" in such a manner as to offer God the story of the "chosen" in an act of corporate self-identification.
The Puritans not only thought this to be unreformed and papish, they rejected the idea that the public reading of Scripture was primarily an act of worship. To the Puritan it was the preacher who was to select the passage and from his chosen text ( I use the masculine because there were no female preachers) to offer salvation to those individuals who had been saved by God's decree. The preacher's other task was to use biblical passages to call the chosen to godly lives.
To the "Anglican" the lectionary was appointed to involve the called people of God to live into, celebrate, and offer thanks by participation in "the story of our redemption." Worship, showing God, God's worth to us enabled the whole church, " by patience and comfort of your holy Word, we ( the church ) may embrace, and ever hold fast, the hope of everlasting life, which you have given us (the Church) in our Saviour Jesus Christ."
In other words, while the Puritan preached an individualistic message and used Holy Scripture, and particularly the Old Testament to hammer home what it meant to be individually called and predestined by God, the "Anglican" position, born from the first generation who used the Prayer Book from the cradle, was to affirm the reality of the Church and the effect of baptism.
The Puritan viewed the Church as an invisible body made up of the "saints" who gathered together for evangelistic and moralistic support, withdrawn from the world. How did one prove one was of the elect? By living according to God's law. The Puritan, then and now applied OT teachings and favorite passages from St. Paul in a moralistic manner. Worship, to the Puritans took second place to the Word,and the Word meant the passages the preacher selected.
Anglicans gradually bade good day to Mr. Calvin because the Prayer Book, the Christian Year and the lectionary obliged them to live in a corporate and collective "body" into which all who were baptized were called. As everyone was baptized into the National Church, Anglicanism emerged as an inclusive church, and a church in which corporate worship was "the means of grace and the hope of glory." Preaching was thus of far less importance than the offering of the Word as worship. (I hope I've done some justice to Hooker's theme.)
The idea of "Bible Study" divorced from the weekly themes of the Christian Year, was entirely foreign to our lineal Anglican ancestors. In practice this meant that texts were not to be taken at random to anchor a doctrinal or "moral" theme to individuals. ( see the Articles about "proof texting" )
I won't go into the reasons why this pattern was in part overthrown by the Evangelical Revival and over here by residual puritanism and rugged individualism. What is important is to note that our Prayer Book continues in the earlier tradition. We use the corporate and worshipful reading of Holy Scripture to affirm our participation in the life, death, resurrection and ascension of our Lord and his gift of the Church, through which in worship we jouney in communion with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven. The Eucharistic offering is just that, a participation into God's "saving" work in Jesus, the eternal thanksgiving, whereby "between our sins and their reward, we set the passion of thy Son, our Lord."
Finally our various sins, what ever they may be are lived in the context of the "hope of our calling", for it is our participation in worship, and particularly the Eucharist that corporate forgiveness is received. We live into forgiveness as we walk in God's grace, together. While each of us has the duty to help co-journeyers, none of us, not even the corporate Church has the power to sort the sheep from the goats, the wheat from the tares. This was the only way our semi-Calvinist ancestors who were Anglicans could work out the problem that some seemed "chosen" and others did not. And that is why Anglicans have thought schism to be the greatest sin. Schism was the deliberate act of cutting oneself off from the Church, that body in which God's grace and "our" responses flow.
The present phenomenon of Anglicans seeking to form "purist" bodies, either within or outside the communion of the Church, and to aim "proof texts" at conveniently catalogued groups, women, gays, the immoral, is fundamentally (excuse the pun) unAnglican. Where one finds "holy huddles" of Anglicans seeking to call out from the wicked world those deemed to be good, be it in Bible Study groups, whole parishes or even in pan-jurisdictional associations, one discovers people who are not living into the Anglican ethos.
Sorry this was long, but I don't know how to say it in a shorter fashion. These remarks should be read as pointing to something much larger. Anglicans are "Church people". And now I have revealed just how truly conservative I am!!
The Rev. Anthony Clavier
Diocese of South Dakota
Trinity Episcopal Church, Watertown, SD
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