Like young people on a quest to “find themselves,” Anglicans have long been searching for those things that set them apart from other Christians. Three years ago a working group of the General Synod’s standing committee on faith, worship and ministry said that a useful contribution to the nurturing of the Canadian Anglican community in Anglican identity would be to gather into one volume the foundational documents of our church.
Canon Kim Murray accepted the task of producing such a volume. From a Long Perspective is the result. In consists of three parts – Foundational Documents, Ecumenical Covenants, and Other Significant Agreements. The book includes texts both ancient and modern – as old as the Decalogue (the Ten Commandments) and as new as the Ecumenical Vision Statement adopted by the General Synod in 2004. Several of the foundational documents such as the Athanasian Creed, the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion and the Catechism, although found in the 1962 Book of Common Prayer, were omitted from the Book of Alternative Services and may be unknown by a generation raised only on the BAS. And, for those not yet familiar with the BAS, Mr. Murray has included the introduction to that book.
Among the ecumenical covenants is the Waterloo Declaration, the basis of our full communion with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada. Other significant documents include the apology to aboriginal Anglicans by then-primate, Archbishop Michael Peers, the covenant adopted by the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples and the formal acceptance of the primate’s apology expressed by Bishop Gordon Beardy at the 2004 General Synod.
From a Long Perspective is more than a reference work. The documents are accompanied by Canon Murray’s lucid and incisive commentaries about their history and significance. His commentary on the Thirty-Nine Articles, for instance, traces the development of the Articles over four decades in the 16th century and considers the extent to which they may be authoritative today. The origins of the three creeds are recounted and he explains why the filioque clause is omitted from modern English versions of the Nicene Creed.
There are some factual errors. For example, the year of birth of the United Church of Canada is given as 1929 rather than 1925. And the late Stuart Ryan, long time chancellor of the diocese of Ontario and General Synod member, is described as a past chancellor of the General Synod, a position that, regrettably, Professor Ryan never held. Such minor errors in no way detract from the overall merits of the book. A valuable reference resource, it will also be useful for study groups and includes a series of questions for discussion prepared by noted theologian and educator Patricia Bays.
Ronald C. Stevenson is the chancellor (legal adviser) of General Synod.