Anglicanism

Why We Don’t Pray For The Dead

Recently I came across an article written on Anglican Pastor by a fellow Anglican Priest entitled Why We Pray for the Dead.

What surprised me was not only his endorsement of the practice, but the implication behind the title that it is normal Anglican practice to do pray either for the dead or to the dead. Also there is no evidence that it was practiced by the early church, not until the middle of the second century.

Here are 10 reasons why we are not to pray for the dead:

1. There is no Scriptural support for praying to anyone other than God. None.
2.There is no Scripture support when it comes to praying to Christians who have died. None!
3. To pray to dead Christians, (asking them to intercede for us) is to give them attributes that only God has. (If every Christian prayed to dead Saints, then those dead saints must have the ability to hear all the prayers of Christians at once – this is a quality only our Triune God has).
4. Praying to dead Christians may be an ancient practice, but this does not authenticate the practice. An old error whilst old, is still an error.
5. The practice is inconsistent with the Anglican formularies.The practice was bound up with particular medieval Catholic doctrines and practices which the Reformers strongly rejected and Cranmer, having kept such prayers in the 1549 Prayer Book, removed them totally from the 1552 revision.The 1662 Book of Common Prayer is, of course, largely the text of 1552, but in one definite difference is in this prayer. Thus today, unlike in 1552, we pray:

“And we also bless thy holy Name for all thy servants departed this life in thy faith and fear; beseeching thee to give us grace so to follow their good examples, that with them we may be partakers of they heavenly kingdom”.

The phrase ‘that with them’ is seized upon and taken by some to mean that we are praying for both us and the ‘departed’. But this is to distort the plain meaning of the English language and the prayer.
6. Whilst I agree that those who have died in Christ are not in Heaven,(Heaven being the place where soul and body is reunited again) but are in Hades (the place of interval), there is no need to pray for them.Those who are in paradise are walking with the King – enjoying the Lord Jesus, in his paradise with the wonderful joyous indescribable expectation of at a future point in time (when the Lord Jesus returns) of being inside the Father’s house, the place that has been reserved and prepared for them personally by the Lord Jesus Christ.
Those who have died outside of Christ will be in the King’s prison segregated and separated from the Lord Jesus Christ and from his people and will suffer remorse and regret of knowing that the life that had on earth is over, and that there is no altering of their choice in life to reject the Lord Jesus Christ, and with that the horrifying, agonisingly indescribable expectation of a future point in time (when the Lord Jesus returns ) of being cast into the Father’s garbage tip, the place that has been reserved and prepared for the Devil and his angels.
Thus praying for those whom have died does nothing to alter their destination. It is fixed at death. This is why Scripture is clear that we are to pray to God for the living.
7. Whilst all Anglicans state their belief in the Communion of Saints, what we are saying is that we believe that the catholic (World-wide, universal) church is made up of a spiritual communion or fellowship of Christians, including those who are alive (sometimes referred to as “the church militant,” cf. 1 Cor. 12:1ff) and those who have died (sometimes referred to as “the church triumphant,” cf. Heb. 12:1).
Those who have died in Christ are now with Christ ,whereas those who are alive in Christ on earth worship Christ by faith. What unites us is that both are in Christ and are part of His Church. This does not give us warrant to pray for them.
8. How can such prayers be faithful to justification by grace through faith in Christ alone and the reality that “Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him” (Hebrews 9.27-28)?
9. The practice of praying to the dead and/or for the dead is inconsistent with not only the Scriptures, the BCP but also with the 39 Articles. (see Article XXII)

Article XXII
Of Purgatory
The Romish Doctrine concerning Purgatory, Pardons, Worshipping, and Adoration as well of Images as of Reliques, and also invocation of Saints, is a fond thing vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God.

10. The Homily on Prayer also roundly condemns the practice of prayer for the dead

So in essence, praying to the dead and/or for the dead, may be an ancient practice, but it has no Scriptural support, it is inconsistent with the Scriptures, the theology of the BCP, and the 39 Articles. In fact Scripture, the theology of the BCP and the 39 Articles make it abundantly clear that we are to not pray for the dead.

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Email From The Global Anglican Integrity Commission

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Today I received an email today from some group calling itself GAIC, which apparently stands for the Global Anglican Integrity Commission.

To: bishops@anglican.org

Cc: priests@anglican.org

Bcc: deacons@anglican.org

Subject: 2016 encouragement

Dear Anglican clergy,

Here is the 2016 encouragement to all Anglican clergy. Sorry it has taken so long to send out this year’s email. We have been so snowed under here of late.

Blessings

GAIC (Global Anglican Integrity Commission)

Beloved Bishops,  

Well another year! Another year given to us by Our Great God! Another year of opportunity for you to be faithful in prayer, diligent in the study of the Holy Scriptures so that you may be equipped to teach and encourage, and another year to proclaim to the gospel to all. Sadly it is also another year where you will have correct and set aside teaching that is contrary to the mind of Christ, both privately and publicly, urging all to live according to God’s Word.

Another year…where each day you will put aside all ungodly and worldly behaviour, and live modestly, in justice and godliness, so that by your life and example you may commend Christ’s truth. We want you to be encouraged! You have God’s Word. You know that you are not unequipped for this task. Remember at your ordination Bishops, you said you are convinced:

that the Holy Scriptures contain all doctrine necessary for eternal salvation through faith in Jesus Christ and that with God’s help you will instruct from them the people committed to your care, teaching nothing as essential to salvation which cannot be demonstrated from the Scriptures.

Here at GAIC, we know full well the gravity of this responsibility that is placed in your care, but be encouraged! Remember God has revealed his truth to you, which you firmly and sincerely believe. Remember you said:

I firmly and sincerely believe the Catholic Faith and I give my assent to the doctrine of the Anglican Church (insert province) as expressed in the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, The Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordering of Bishops, Priests and Deacons: I believe that doctrine to be agreeable to the Word of God;

Another year…

Beloved Priests,

Well another year…to live and work as a priest, pastor and teacher for God’s glory and the strengthening of God’s people, of taking up your calling with dedication and joy, of proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ, seeking the lost, announcing God’s justice.

Sadly as you know, Scripture tells us that in these last days many will set aside healthy doctrine and will turn to myths, so it will be another year of warning and correcting those in error. But we know that you are ready to do this because at your ordination you said you will by God’s grace:

both in your public and private ministry oppose and set aside teaching that is contrary to God’s Word.

But keep on encouraged and building up the body of Christ, preach the Word of God, lead God’s people in prayer, declare God’s forgiveness and blessing.

Another year of pastoring after the pattern of Christ the great Shepherd. So be a teacher by the Lord in wisdom and holiness. Lead the people of God as a servant of Christ. Love and serve the people with whom you work, caring alike for young and old, rich and poor, weak and strong.

Another year of studying the Scriptures wholeheartedly, reflecting with God’s people upon their meaning, so that your ministry and life may be shaped by Christ.

We understand how great a treasure has been placed in your care and we both know that you will be called to give account before Jesus Christ. But be encouraged! You have openly declared your conviction that the holy Scriptures contain all doctrine necessary for eternal salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, and you have also declared your determination to instruct from these Scriptures the people committed to your care, teaching nothing as essential to salvation which cannot be demonstrated from the Scriptures.

Another year…unknown

Beloved Deacons,

Well another year…to live and work as a deacon, to serve as an ambassador for Christ, serving God and others, proclaiming the good news of Jesus’ love., to encourage the members of Christ’s body by word and example, to preach the Word of God in the place to which you are licensed.

We understand the responsibility placed on you dear deacons. After all, you are to model your life according to the Word of God, study the Scriptures, reflecting with God’s people upon their meaning., that all may be equipped to live out GOd’s truth in the world. But be encouraged! You have God’s Word, which you have stated publicly at your ordination that you:

accept the canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as give by the Spirit to convey in many and varied ways the revelation of God which is fulfilled in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Another year…another year to live out the convictions, oaths and promises that you made at your ordination.

Blessings

GAIC (Global Anglican Integrity Commission)

Anglican Worship: The Focus is Not My Experience

 

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A very good article by The Rev’d Greg Goebel – h/t Anglican Pastor which I think serves as a good reminder that Church is about the Worship of God, not about us.

 

At the heart of every church tradition is one priority which shapes the identity of the community. This central aspect is the source of its energy and vision, and becomes the first of all other priorities. This aspect determines much, if not all, of its distinctive traits and eventually becomes the touchstone for every other facet of church life. For some churches the primary focus is mission and evangelism. For others, discipleship including learning and experiential growth as well as practical service. And some churches focus primarily on building relationships. For still others it is works of compassion. It’s not that these churches neglect other activities, it’s just that they look at other activities through the lens of their primary commitment. Many churches probably made evangelism their heart, some relationships (a growing trend), some discipleship, and a few works of compassion.

But the Anglican tradition has its heart in a different place. The heart of an Anglican parish is not its mission. It is not it discipleship. It is not relationship building. And it is not works of compassion. These things are vitally important, they should always be present, but they are not the central focus of an Anglican parish. The heart of an Anglican parish is found instead in its worship, most visible in its Sunday worship service.

Mission, discipleship, relationship, and service should flow from worship. Mission begins by acknowledging and praising the God whom we worship, receiving from the Christ that we proclaim, and receiving the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit. Discipleship is founded on the posture of worship in which the forgiven people of God acknowledge our dependence on him, and then recite his wonderful saving deeds, being sent forth into the world as worshippers of the One True God. When people come before their God with repentance and faith, and are reconciled to God through Christ, relationships may then be formed between people which mirror this reconciling action of God. And works of compassion are the result of the transformation that worship affects in us as we are struck by the great compassion of Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Some non-traditional churches would say that worship is the heart of their church, and I’m sure that is often the case, even though their worship practices look and feel different than ours. But in many cases, worship is defined as singing lots of praise songs. And often these songs, ironically, focus on the worshiper himself (!). “Here I am to worship” etc etc. The focus is actually less on God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and his marvelous deeds, great power and love, and the works of salvation history. Instead the focus is on how the worshipper feels while he is worshipping. And this seems, to me, patently true when the top worship songs today are songs that say things like “hungry I come to you…” “Once again I look upon the cross…” “Open the eyes of my heart…” “Blessed be your name when I’m found in the desert place…”

I’m not suggesting that any of these songs are unhelpful at all. In fact, we sing them often at our parish. They are profoundly expressive of the worshipers experience of need and of seeking, and in proportion with other aspects of worship they are great. But they, by themselves, aren’t really “worship” properly understood. They are more about us than they are about God. Worship is about God. And when they are all you get, they shift the focus of a church, its heart, from worship to the experience of people, and of individuals (‘I’ not ‘we’) and push corporate, community worship of God off to the side. A church that ‘worships’ this way probably has a focus or heart closer to relationship building or works of compassion, in that the aim of their worship is more about people feeling better and less on God receiving the glory due his name.

In the Anglican ideal of public, Sunday worship this principle is most obvious. The care which Anglicans take to plan the service, prepare the heart, and to revere the action that takes place is reflective of a worship centered faith. The fact that traditional Anglican worship space is designed specifically (and funded generously) for the worship of God attests to the priority of corporate worship. And the esteem with which Anglican Christians hold the Book of Common Prayer testifies to this identity as a community of worship. There is no other aspect of church life which shapes every other area in so profound a way. And yet I find that many Anglicans are not aware of how this careful preparation is a means to focus us on God as the object of our worship.

Sunday corporate worship is the most visible aspect of worship. As important as individual spiritual life is for all Christians, for Anglicans it is still secondary to gathering to worship in Word and Sacrament, on the day of the Lord’s resurrection and in the continuing tradition of worship that connects us with those who have gone before. When Archbishop Cranmer designed simplified Morning and Evening Prayer services, he hoped that many people would be able to gather in the parish church for corporate worship, although he knew this would not likely be possible for most families. But corporate worship was seen as the primary and first place of piety and devotion, and individual and family worship next. That is, our prayer together as a community on Sundays is the source which flows into our private and family devotional lives. When “two or three” are gathered, there is Jesus in the midst. And it is from this experience of his presence that Anglicans receive the strength to go off alone and pray through the week. There is no more identity shaping moment than this.

So to begin to understand our worship, one must see that nothing is more renewing, nothing more humbling, and nothing more inspiring than public Sunday worship. If any moment, any program, any event is our appointed time, it is Sunday mornings. If any area of parish life affects all other areas, it is worship. If any area will draw our time and energy, the first area is worship. If any area defines us, it is worship. Small groups, food banks, Christian education classes, evangelism efforts, and fellowship gatherings all radiate from worship, and reflect worship.

In the final analysis, we are a worshiping community before we are anything else.

And I think this is an area in which evangelicals will most likely not change much in the coming decades. The reason I suspect this is because many churches work very hard to downplay tradition and order in forms. But creative inventiveness in today’s cultural milieu will continue to be a cycle of repetition because of the refusal to tap into and join up with historic and global communions of worship. In other words, non-traditional churches are simply cut off from the resources that churches need to re-orient our activities on Sunday back toward God and the simplicity of acknowledging his awesome glory. And when worship is defined as singing songs, and the songs we sing are about us, and worship itself is seen as secondary to mission, service, relationship, or discipleship, then the only way out is to pick up a Prayer Book and start reading old fashioned prayers, and a hymnbook to sing old fashioned hymns. Until those resources are restored, the tape is looped and keeps playing the same song.

That said, I don’t really think we Anglicans get this right often either. Yes, we recite the prayers, we invoke the Trinity often, we sing the hymns, and most of us today use contemporary forms as well. But we spend a lot of time distracted from worship, as if we should be ashamed that it is so important to us. We often believe the erroneous idea that worship is an “inward” while mission is an “outward” focus. Etc etc. So while our forms draw us to worship as the heart of the parish, our vision for church life is borrowed from contemporary culture and that draws us away from the true heart of every church, as seen in the opening acclamation:

Celebrant: Blessed be God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit
People: And blessed be his kingdom, now and forever. Amen.