From The Living Church Foundation — Episcopal Church in the USA

“Contending for the faith once delivered” by Joseph Wolyniak

The 1611 Authorized Version beautifully rendered Jude’s exhortation to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3). That remains our charge. Yet it is necessary to admit — indeed, confess — that we have largely failed in the task of transmission. We are perilously close to a faith that was simply once delivered, full stop.

The average Episcopalian [cf Anglican] is almost wholly biblically illiterate, lacking a general sense of Scripture’s narrative arc and knowing only enough historical criticism to dismiss scriptural integrity, authority, and relevance. Many among us would be hard-pressed to tell Malachi from Maccabees from Matthew; forget reading, marking, and inwardly digesting. And there is wide variance in our common prayer, with many opting to do what is right in their own eyes. When it comes to catechesis, we fall back on appeals to lex orandi, lex credendi, but we forget that such appeals presume, as St. Prosper of Aquitaine put it, “the sacraments of priestly supplication, handed down by the apostles, are celebrated uniformly throughout the whole world and in every catholic Church, so that the law of praying might establish the law of believing.”

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The Rev. Joseph Wolyniak (2012 ECF Academic Fellow) is the Episcopal chaplain at Princeton University.

Quick Lexicon

lex orandi, lex credendi – the teaching (law) that is prayed is what is believed

ecclesia semper reformanda est – the Church is always reforming itself

2 Comments, RSS

  • Doug Woods

    says on:
    9 December 2017 at 6:37 PM

    In the grand scale of the article, this is a seemingly minor point, but I come from an academic world, where there are prerequisites. You’ve made the point that Anglicans are largely scripturally illiterate. I know some Anglicans who are quite LITERATE, but that can’t be said for a very large number. If our job is to “tell the story”, how do we do that without really KNOWING the story? The cure is very simple: join a bible-study group and get to know scripture well. It doesn’t take as much time as you might think, and the story is stunning!

    • Father Glenn

      says on:
      10 December 2017 at 8:48 AM

      Good point, Father Doug. And good idea, worth pursuing.

      The article also alludes to the readjustments going on in the Church in terms of ministry. I think this is happening now. And, while some may cling to a model of full-time ministry in churches, for some parishes shared ministry — with honourary assistants, lay readers and lay pastoral teams — is having a very positive effect despite limited resources. This, I believe, is one indication of how the Church reconfigures itself as needs change. That has been going on for centuries. And this is a current iteration.


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