Unbreakable: Rites and Ceremonies/Traditions of the Church

It has become apparent lately that while there was a whisper that votes mean something, the vast majority of the UMC in the United States will not honor a vote when it is supported by non-Americans — and in particular, Africans — including the Church Universal.

Wesley, copying most of the words from Article 34, would not allow for this continue. Indeed, for the past 500 years of English Christianity, and I would contend for as long as there has been liturgical traditions, it is sacrilegious to break those traditions. Why? Well, I guess we could suggest that it is the power of the vote. And let us go deeper on this point. It is the power of the vote wherein the vast majority can have given their eternal assent and thus cannot be easily changed. When we stand with the liturgy of our community, we are not just saying something we have created, but more than likely, we stand with those around us, those before us, and those after us to give a common voice in worship.

It is not necessary that traditions and ceremonies be in all places one or utterly like, for at all times they have been divers, and may be changed according to the diversity of countries, times and men’s manners, so that nothing be ordained against God’s Word.

Whosoever through his private judgement willingly and purposely doth openly break the traditions and ceremonies of the Church, which be not repugnant to the Word of God and be ordained and approved by common authority, ought to be rebuked openly, (that others may fear to do the like,) as he that offendeth against the common order of the Church, and hurteth the authority of the magistrate, and woundeth the consciences of the weak brethren.

(not in Wesley’s version to the Americans:) Every particular or national church hath authority to ordain, change and abolish ceremonies or rites of the Church ordained only by man’s authority, so that all things be done to edifying.

When Jesus walked the earth, He was conscious to not to break traditions. Indeed, His oft refrain was to go and honor the tradition until such time as they changed. Yet, we find many who take it upon themselves to change what they wish, and sometimes daily. In our time of rebellion, as the Catholic Theologian says, our orthodoxy – and as the Father of Methodism would say, our discipline – is what makes us strange.

Liturgies can be and maybe sometimes should be changes, just as Cranmer said,

Furthermore, such shall have no just cause with the Ceremonies reserved to be offended; for as those be taken away which were most abused, and did burden men’s consciences without any cause: so the other that remain are retained for a discipline and order, which (upon just causes) may be altered and changed, and therefore are not to be esteemed equal with God’s law. (Thomas Cranmer, The Remains of Thomas Cranmer, ed. Henry Jenkyns, vol. 4 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1833), 368.)

Of course, changing is a far cry from breaking when the vote does not go your way.

When I left Fundamentalism, I wanted a church that promised accountability. I believe I have found one that not only practices it, but lives it in as part of the Great Tradition.

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I note that Wesley, when appealing to Men of Reason and Religion appealed not only to Archbishop Cranmer, several of venerable English bishops, but so too “compilers of liturgy and homilies:”

One thing more I infer, that we are not enthusiasts. This accusation has been considered at large; and the main arguments hitherto brought to support it have been weighed in the balance and found wanting: Particularly this, “that none but enthusiasts suppose either that promise of the Comforter, (John 14:16, 26; 16:13,) or the witness of the Spirit, (Rom. 8:15, 16,) or that unutterable prayer, (Rom. 8:26, 27,) or the ‘unction from the Holy One,’ (1 John 2:20, 27,) to belong in common to all Christians.” O my Lord, how deeply have you condemned the generation of God’s children! Whom have you represented as rank, dreaming enthusiasts, as either deluded or designing men? Not only Bishop Pearson, a man hitherto accounted both sound in heart, and of good understanding; but likewise Archbishop Cranmer, Bishop Ridley, Bishop Latimer, Bishop Hooper; and all the venerable compilers of our Liturgy and Homilies; all the members of both the Houses of Convocation, by whom they were revised and approved; yea, King Edward, and all his Lords and Commons together, by whose authority they were established; and, with these modern enthusiasts, Origen, Chrysostom, and Athanasius are comprehended in the same censure!

We can say a lot about Wesley, but his adherence to liturgy should be one of the primary things.

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