C.S. Lewis on Prayer Book Revision

Source: Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer

And that brings me back to my starting point. The business of us laymen is simply to endure and make the best of it. Any tendency to a passionate preference for one type of service must be regarded simply as a temptation. Partisan “Churchmanships” are my bête noire. And if we avoid them, may we not possibly perform a very useful function? The shepherds go off, “every one to his own way” and vanish over diverse points of the horizon. If the sheep huddle patiently together and go on bleating, might they finally recall the shepherds? (Haven’t English victories sometimes been won by the rank and file in spite of the generals?)

As to the words of the service—liturgy in the narrower sense—the question is rather different. If you have a vernacular liturgy you must have a changing liturgy; otherwise it will finally be vernacular only in name. The ideal of “timeless English” is sheer nonsense. No living language can be timeless. You might as well ask for a motionless river.

I think it would have been best, if it were possible, that necessary change should have occurred gradually and (to most people) imperceptibly; here a little and there a little; one obsolete word replaced 15 in a century—like the gradual change of spelling in successive editions of Shakespeare. As things are we must reconcile ourselves, if we can also reconcile government, to a new Book.

If we were—I thank my stars I’m not—in a position to give its authors advice, would you have any advice to give them? Mine could hardly go beyond unhelpful cautions: “Take care. It is so easy to break eggs without making omelettes.”

Already our liturgy is one of the very few remaining elements of unity in our hideously divided Church. The good to be done by revision needs to be very great and very certain before we throw that away. Can you imagine any new Book which will not be a source of new schism?

Most of those who press for revision seem to wish that it should serve two purposes: that of modernising the language in the interests of intelligibility, and that of doctrinal improvement. Ought the two operations—each painful and each dangerous—to be carried out at the same time? Will the patient survive?

What are the agreed doctrines which are to be embodied in the new Book and how long will agreement on them continue? I ask with trepidation because I read a man the other day who seemed to wish that everything in the old Book which was inconsistent with orthodox Freudianism should be deleted. 16

For whom are we to cater in revising the language? A country parson I know asked his sexton what he understood by indifferently in the phrase “truly and indifferently administer justice”. The man replied, “It means making no difference between one chap and another.” “And what would it mean if it said impartially?” asked the parson. “Don’t know. Never heard of it,” said the sexton. Here, you see, we have a change intended to make things easier. But it does so neither for the educated, who understand indifferently already, nor for the wholly uneducated, who don’t understand impartially. It helps only some middle area of the congregation which may not even be a majority. Let us hope the revisers will prepare for their work by a prolonged empirical study of popular speech as it actually is, not as we (a priori) assume it to be. How many scholars know (what I discovered by accident) that when uneducated people say impersonal they sometimes mean incorporeal?

What of expressions which are archaic but not unintelligible? (“Be ye lift up”). I find that people re-act to archaism most diversely. It antagonises some: makes what is said unreal. To others, not necessarily more learned, it is highly numinous and a real aid to devotion. We can’t please both.

I know there must be change. But is this the right moment? Two signs of the right moment occur to me. One would be a unity among us which enabled 17 the Church—not some momentarily triumphant party—to speak through the new work with a united voice. The other would be the manifest presence, somewhere in the Church, of the specifically literary talent needed for composing a good prayer. Prose needs to be not only very good but very good in a very special way, if it is to stand up to reiterated reading aloud. Cranmer may have his defects as a theologian; as a stylist, he can play all the moderns, and many of his predecessors, off the field. I don’t see either sign at the moment.

Yet we all want to be tinkering. Even I would gladly see “Let your light so shine before men” removed from the offertory. It sounds, in that context, so like an exhortation to do our alms that they may be seen by men.

LLDM history

I first heard of La Luz del Mundo (LLDM) in 2018 when someone told me about a group trying to buy land in Flowery Branch, Georgia, which was creating controversy. Knowing nothing about them, I started doing some research. One great source of information I found was Native Evangelism In Central Mexico by Hugo and Jean Nutini. The basic history of the sect is as follows.

The Spanish La Luz del Mundo means “the Light of the World” in English.[1] The full name is the Church of the Living God, Foundation, and Support of the Truth (La Iglesia del Dios Vivo Columna y Apoyo de la Verdad), abbreviated to La Luz del Mundo. The sect was founded in 1926 in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. The founder was a man named Eusebio Joaquín González.

Eusebio Joaquín González, aka Aarón

González was baptized by two Pentecostal prophets going by the names of Saulo and Silas, who had themselves converted to a sect founded by Carmen Valenzuela who became a Pentecostal while in Los Angeles. When González was baptized he was named Abraham, however, on April 6, 1926, “he heard God tell him, “Here is a man whose name will be Aarón.” The clamor made him tremble, and, being very disturbed by this, he awakened his wife, who said she had heard nothing. Eusebio Joaquín went back to sleep, and a thundering celestial vision told him, “Your name will be Aarón.” He saw a hand with the index finger pointing at him. With a great splash of brilliance, the celestial vision told him again, “Your name will be Aarón, and your blessed name will be known and famous throughout the world.”[2] Amatulli Valente 1989:7–8 cited in Nutini, Hugo G.. Native Evangelism in Central Mexico (pp. 74-75).

González/Abraham/Aarón moved to Guadalajara, Jalisco where he tried out the Baptist and Congregational churches but eventually moved on to start his own church. As the church grew, “…Eusebio Joaquín realized that he had not been properly baptized by Saulo and Silas, who had done so in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, but not in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. On July 18, 1927, he baptized himself by total immersion and took the name of Aarón, as henceforth he was referred to by his followers.”[3] Nutini p. 75.

Mary Puckett describes what happened next: “In 1954, Apostle Aarón, founder and first Apostle of the Luz del Mundo (LDM), was granted a tract of land from the government of Guadalajara to establish a colony reserved for LDM members. Securing this grant was made possible thanks to Aarón’s indigenous Mexican background and the church’s origins in Mexico. The LDM was posited as an authentically Mexican church in contrast to the Catholic Church, accused of participating in the widespread government corruption which had inspired the Mexican Revolution. In return for the grant, the LDM agreed to contribute to the development of Mexico’s infrastructure…”[4] Puckett, p. 10.

Aarón died in 1964, and his son Samuel Joaquín succeeded him as the next apostle.

References   [ + ]

1. The full name is the Church of the Living God, Foundation, and Support of the Truth (La Iglesia del Dios Vivo Columna y Apoyo de la Verdad), abbreviated to La Luz del Mundo.
2. Amatulli Valente 1989:7–8 cited in Nutini, Hugo G.. Native Evangelism in Central Mexico (pp. 74-75).
3. Nutini p. 75.
4. Puckett, p. 10.

La Luz del Mundo (LLDM)

I have been meaning to write for some time about LLDM because it is a cult putting down roots in the United States due to immigration. I will try to discuss its background and beliefs soon, but before I could write, a story emerged about sexual crimes on the part of it’s current leader:

The leader of La Luz del Mundo, a church with its headquarters in Mexico that claims to have more than one million followers worldwide, was charged Tuesday in Los Angeles with more than a dozen sex crimes, including allegations that he forced children to have sex and made them pose naked for photos, the authorities in California said.

Zaveri, Mihir. “Leader Of Mexican Church La Luz Del Mundo Charged With Sex Crimes In Los Angeles”. Nytimes.Com, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/04/us/la-luz-del-mundo-garcia.html.

Christians are familiar with religions like Mormonism and perhaps the Jehovah’s Witnesses, but these newer groups are worth paying attention to as well.

Ethnicity in Rwanda – Who Governs the Country?

Unfortunately I lost many old posts from my blog in a WordPress upgrade. I am re-posting some of them now.

One of the Wikileaks cables from 2008 that came out of the US embassy in Kigali addressed the subject of who governs Rwanda; you can view it here. It says in part:

An analysis of the ethnic breakdown of the current Rwandan government shows Tutsis hold a preponderant percentage of senior positions.  Hutus in very senior positions often hold relatively little real authority, and are commonly “twinned” with senior Tutsis who exercise real power.  The military and security agencies are controlled by Tutsis, generally English speakers who grew up as refugees with President Kagame in Uganda.  The 28-member cabinet is evenly split among Tutsis and Hutus, but most key ministries are in the hands of Tutsis (Hutu ministers do head Health and Agriculture, ministries which affect the lives of most Rwandans).  While the Rwandan government (GOR) presents itself as a champion of national unity and equal opportunity, de-emphasizing ethnic identity and ostensibly opening positions throughout society to those of skill and merit, political authority in the country does not yet reflect this ideal.  Ethnic identity is still keenly felt and lived, and ordinary Rwandans are well aware of who holds the levers of power.  The long-term stability of Rwanda depends upon a government and ruling party that eventually shares real authority with the majority population. 

[…]

President Kagame is a Tutsi.  So, too are the  important Ministers of Finance, Foreign Affairs, Justice,  Infrastructure, Local Government, and Information.  Close Kagame confidant, Chief of Defense Staff General James  Kabarebe, is Tutsi, as are the chiefs of the army and air  force, the military district commanders. and the heads of the  Rwanda National Police and the National Security Service  (although some Rwandans joke that short-statured Air Force  Chief Muhire is Twa).  Indeed, all are English speakers who  grew up in Uganda.  Some major positions are held by Hutus,  but their actual authority often appears limited, and they  are widely perceived to be “twinned” with more powerful Tutsi  colleagues. 

[…]

For all the government’s exhortations to Rwandans to abandon ethnic identities and work in common on national goals, a policy that in fact has much to recommend it, the  political reality is self-evidently otherwise.  People remain  keenly committed to their ethnic identities, and everyone is  aware of which person holds which position and to which group  he belongs.  While the practical end-point for such a project  may be years away. if this government is ever to surmount the challenges and divides of Rwandan society, it must begin to  share real authority with Hutus to a much greater degree than  it does now.

CANA East becomes The Diocese of the Living Word

CANA East has decided to remain within the ACNA as The Diocese of the Living Word. This leaves CANA West and the Missionary Diocese of the Trinity as part of the Church of Nigeria. While this move makes sense, it adds to the welter of affinity dioceses within ACNA, several of which now believe essentially the same things. I support affinity dioceses, but not multiple ones within the same geographic area that have no real theological differences.

Disappointment with the ACNA Assembly 2019

The upcoming ACNA Assembly features two troubling speakers: Rwandan Archbishop Laurent Mbanda and the apologist Ravi Zacharias. Why are these men troubling? Zacharias was discovered to be inflating his credentials a couple years ago, something he apologized for, but only when caught in the act. Professor John Stackhouse gets to the point about why this is troubling:

Well, when your whole job is to tell the truth as accurately, carefully, rigorously as possible, when what you’re really asking people to do by setting forth your credentials – which literally comes from the same word as creed or credo – why I should be believed, then you really take on a tremendous burden to speak very circumspectly. And if right out of the gate your credentials are suspect, then what are people supposed to do in the audience when he makes certain claims? Are they all supposed to hit their phones, or tablets and start checking everything you say because the stuff they can check isn’t quite true. Isn’t quite true. And I think as soon as we get into the it’s not quite true phase, I think you’re done. I just don’t think you can continue as an apologist if you’re not going to be scrupulous about telling the truth in a way that you can predict your audience will understand. Otherwise, you’re in the wrong game.

(source)

Zacharias was also involved in a strange ongoing exchange of texts with a woman that may or may not have been inappropriate on his part. We will never know because there is an NDA between the parties, but the gist of the case can be seen here and here. Perhaps it was an extortion attempt, but the credential inflation is still a serious matter and giving him a platform at the Assembly is not necessary.

When it comes to Archbishop Mbanda, you have a man who does nothing but praise a dictator who kills his own people in the Rwandan police state, it would be akin to St. Paul praising Nero as a visionary leader. I have documented this extensively on this site, see this link. Unfortunately it seems that ACNA continues in its uncritical approach to Rwanda, which Mbanda is exploiting, with the new development that GAFCON’s next bishops meeting in opposition to Lambeth will take place in Kigali next year.

It would be one thing if the Rwandan bishops asked for prayer in the face of an oppressive state, but instead they trumpet this evil regime as if it is a great thing. In the future, ACNA’s unthinking acceptance of this narrative will look quite bad, but as of yet this has produced no change in our conduct.

What is going on with CANA?

A Nigerian Anglican Church

The Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) is changing its status from being a dual jurisdiction within the Church of Nigeria and the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) to being a Ministry Partner of ACNA. The ACNA Constitution says of Ministry Partners:

Ministry Partners may have representatives attend functions or gatherings of the Church upon invitation of the Archbishop, and may attend functions and gatherings of any constituent jurisdiction of the Church upon the invitation of the Bishop with jurisdiction. Representatives of Ministry Partners may have seat and voice as determined by the Archbishop or Bishop with jurisdiction. Ministry Partners may withdraw from affiliation or have their affiliation ended with or without cause.

CANA consists of four dioceses: East, West, the Missionary Diocese of the Trinity, and Armed Forces and Chaplaincy. Each diocese can apparently make its own decision on whether to join ACNA or stay with CANA. What I am hearing initially is that CANA East under Bishop Julian Dobbs may move into ACNA with a new diocesan name, while West and the Trinity stay with Nigeria (CANA). I assume the Armed Forces will have to get sorted out as that impacts the rest of ACNA heavily. On May 17th, CANA East will be discussing and voting on what to do at their synod.

Bishop Dobbs on the right.

What precipitated this development? One major factor was Nigeria consecrating four bishops for the Missionary Diocese of the Trinity without following ACNA’s Constitution and Canons on how this is supposed to work. Further, one of those consecrated, Augustine Unuigbe, embraces the heretical prosperity gospel, which has now put down massive roots in Nigeria (see this article). Unuigbe has written things such as, “I decree and declare that Poverty is banished from my home.”  When he was headed towards trouble in CANA East, it appears that he jumped over to the Missionary Diocese of the Trinity.

Beyond this, Nigeria’s canons and the ACNA’s canons are different on the matter of electing new bishops. Why CANA could not have amended its canons and followed ACNA’s is not clear to me. But perhaps by giving each diocese the ability to decide for itself where they want to land, it has in effect done the same thing.

In some ways this is a result of the messy founding of ACNA. Before ACNA existed Chuck Murphy started AMiA, Martyn Minns more or less started CANA, and then Bob Duncan was the main catalyst behind ACNA. In my opinion each of these men wanted to be “the guy” but Archbishop Duncan sort of won out due in part to being a better organization man. This of course simplifies matters greatly and is a caricature, but I think it is essentially true. We all know how AMiA ended up in a spectacular fireball of confusion, but CANA went on a different path. CANA also transitioned from being friendly to women’s ordination and Arminian theology under Bishop Minns to being Reformed and against women’s ordination under Bishop Dobbs. CANA East and to some extent CANA West have become safe havens for that type of thinking.

To further confuse matters, I believe each CANA congregation could choose to leave its diocese. So if CANA West leaves ACNA, churches within it could leave CANA West. Who knows what will be left when it is all said and done? What this means in the short term however is that we now have several overseas Anglican Provinces still operating in the U.S.A. many years after ACNA has formed. Nigeria in addition to the various illogical connections to the oddball AMiA from Africa have persisted.

Here is some of what the ACNA press release says:

In January of this year, the Church of Nigeria elected four suffragan bishops for the Diocese of the Trinity, a CANA diocese composed primarily of expatriate Nigerians in North America. These elections surprised the Anglican Church in North America and led both provinces to desire clearer lines of authority for the CANA dioceses. A joint committee of representatives from both provinces met in Houston, Texas on March 12, 2019, and the final agreement was signed by both primates this week in Sydney, Australia during the Gafcon Primates Council Meeting.

The agreement provides that CANA become solely a mission of the Church of Nigeria but allows each of the three dioceses (Cana East, Cana West, Trinity) to make its own decision regarding its provincial relationships.

Each diocese will amend its constitution and canons as necessary, and may request to be a ministry partner of the alternative province. Both provinces are thankful that this resolution has been reached and look forward to continued collaboration in Gospel ministry, sharing full communion as provinces in the Anglican Communion.

A prayer for one in boot camp

Our son just left for boot camp this week, and so we have been ransacking prayer books to find prayers for him. Although there are collects and prayers for the Armed Forces, branches of the same, wars, and remembrance days, we have not found much for someone in boot camp, which is arguably the hardest time for any new recruit.

I did find a good prayer on this website by Priscilla Carroll, but it wasn’t quite Anglican enough for us, so I have modified it a bit to bring it more in line with the Prayer Book tradition. I hope this helps others:

O Gracious Father, We bring to you name who you gave to us. How quickly the time has passed. He has grown up to be an adult. We thank you for choosing us as his parents and giving us the privilege of raising him under your watchful care.  Many prayers have been said for him  by us and others and we thank you, that you have heard them all and answered them according to your own wisdom and the direction that you have always had for him.

O Lord, our heavenly  Father, we come to you again in prayer, as name undergoes training in the Armed Forces of our country. You have guided him in pursuit of this goal and we pray that the good work you have begun in name will be overseen with your supervision and love of him as he completes this training.

We beseech  you to help him in every expectation the military has of him. We ask you to make all things possible for name as he faces the standards and goals that the military has for him.  If anything seems impossible to him, we beseech you to strengthen him with your power in order for him to achieve whatever is expected.

We pray you to  put name in the company of Godly influences who show him Your ways of excellence.  We ask that you will use these people to impress upon him the importance of following and obeying your blessed will to be successful as a member of the Armed Forces and as your child.

We ask you to place name into your protective custody so that he may finish all that is required without any delays. We pray that Your angels would be assigned to keep him in all the ways you have planned for him  to follow.

We turn name completely over to you for all of your good works in him to be secured.  We trust that our prayer  will be answered to your glory as we await name’s  graduation and his official recognition as a member of the Armed Forces in service to you and his country;  through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be all glory and honor, world without end. Amen.