Anglican Futures: Anglican Alphabet Spaghetti

Anglican Futures Anglican Alphabetti Spaghetti A dummies guide to the plethora of organisations and acronyms linked to faithful Anglicans in the UK and Europe. I once spent some time around military personel.  Everything had its own TLA (Three Letter Acronym) right...

Canterbury Tales: Favourite Bible Stories Retold by Archbishop Justin Welby

Canterbury Tales Favourite Bible stories retold by Archbishop Justin Welby The Good Samaritan A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead, halfway...

Anglican Mission in England Elects Two Suffragan Bishops

Anglican Mission in England Elects Two Suffragan Bishops The Anglican Mission in England (AMiE) met in Synod on 18 June.  While there, they elected two suffragan bishops to aid Bishop Andy Lines in providing episcopal oversight for the overall work.  Bishop Lines also...

Pride Flags Causing Conflict at Christian School

Pride Flags Cause Conflict at Christian School Conflict has broken out in a Christian school in Oxfordshire over the display of “Pride” flags. The institution in question is Kingham Hill School.  The same Trust (Kingham Hill Trust) oversees Oak Hill College, an...

Prayer Book Society Raising Funds to Put BCPs in the Hands of Choristers

Prayer Book Society Raising Funds to Put BCPs in the Hands of Choristers The Prayer Book Society, which will soon celebrate its 50th Anniversary, is raising funds to put a special edition BCP into the hands of junior choristers around the nation.   The idea came to...

Book Review: Reimagining Britain by Justin Welby

Reimagining Britain Foundations for Hope Justin Welby Bloomsbury, 2018, new edn. 2021 (ISBN: 978-1-4729-8497-5, 322pp, £12.99) The Archbishop of Canterbury has made several notable political interventions recently, including over ‘partygate’ and the Rwanda deportation...

Birthday of Anglicanism in America

Birthday of Anglicanism in America By the Revd Canon Chuck Collins June 16, 1607 was the birthday of Anglicanism in America. On this day Captain John Smith and 104 others celebrated the Lord’s Supper when they arrived safely in Jamestown, Virginia. Jamestown was the...

Barnabas Fund Report: Two ChiBok Girls Found

Barnabas Fund Reports Two Chibok Girls Found After 8 Years 24 June 2022 Two women, who were among hundreds of schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram from the Nigerian town of Chibok eight years ago, have been found. Hauwa Joseph was discovered among a group of other...

New Bishop-elect for the Diocese of Cashel, Ferns & Ossory

Church of Ireland News New Bishop Elected for Cashel, Ferns & Ossory The Church of Ireland diocese of Cashel, Ferns, and Ossory now has a bishop-elect.  The Venerable Adrian Wilkinson, Archdeacon of Cork, Cloyne, and Ross was elected to succeed the Rt Revd Michael...

Editorial: Lessons to be Learned from the American Pro-Life Movement

Editorial Lessons to be Learned from American Pro-Life Movement Friday, 24 June 2022, the Feast of St John the Baptist, will be a date which will live in infamy amongst the supporters of abortion.  On that date, the US Supreme Court, overturned the precedent set by...

Book Review: The First Book of Homilies in Modern English, Keene

The First Book of Homilies

The Church of England’s Official Sermons in Modern English

Lee Gatiss (ed.)

Lost Coin Books, 2021 (ISBN: 978-1-7399376-0-7, 200pp, £11.99)


Sincere interest in the Books of Homilies is a valuable mark of true churchmanship. Knowledge of the key formularies (prayer book, ordinal and articles) is at a low ebb, even (perhaps especially) among the ordained leaders of the church. Those who do consider these standards of our faith note that the thirty-fifth article incorporates by reference the homilies, even featuring a list of the twenty-one in the latter book thereof. Thus what may appear on its face the shortest of our formularies and one of the briefest confessions of the reformed world is in fact an iceberg of divinity.


Going beneath the waves to explore, let alone to use, the homilies was frustrated for large parts of the last century by the books being out of print. The definitive Victorian edition came in 1859 from the Rev John Griffiths, a fellow and tutor at Wadham College, Oxford but it enjoyed only intermittent print runs in succeeding decades. The modern dearth was partially remedied in 2006 by a version from Ian Robinson, a lecturer in Swansea, who died last year after a long retirement. Robinson’s revision was sufficiently reactionary that it, inter alia, rejected many updates to the text of the first book from as early as 1559, reverting to the 1547 original. This ‘purist’ attitude coloured most of Robinson’s academic and literary career and, though in some sense admirable for its doggedness, did little to endear him to contemporaries. Robinson’s was soon followed by a reprinting of Griffiths in 2008 from Regent College Publishing and then in 2015 by the magnificent critical edition from Gerald Bray. Bray noted that Griffiths’ edition, by then over 150 years old, remained the most recent and, with resignation, that the homilies ‘are now more of historical than of doctrinal interest’. With the latest in submarine technology, Gatiss attempts to shake that grim prognosis.


The homilies were completed in 1571 when the twenty-first was added to the second book, twenty-two years after the initial publication of the first prayer book. A slightly longer span of twenty-seven years separates the Church Society’s modern English presentations of the prayer book and first book of articles. 1994’s An English Prayer Book might be judged a great success insofar as when it appeared, Common Worship did include as one of its four eucharistic offerings a modern language version of the prayer book rite. Should any similar degree of success attach to this edition of the homilies it would be a cause for great thanksgiving. 


The most notable feature of this edition is its gender-neutralisation. The ruckus caused by the 2011 NIV’s move in this direction still echoes around many churches and denominations. Though Robinson may be turning in his grave at this treatment to the text of the homilies, the adaptive spirit of Cranmer may take a more indulgent view. Gatiss himself pleads the approach on the commendable basis of removing potential distractions and impediments to a modern audience.


But how many modern audiences will actually get to hear a homily? Robinson was undoubtedly correct in his assessment that ‘even today there are occasions when it would be more edifying than the sermon to hear a reading of one of the Homilies’. The greatest barrier to such readings seems to be the length of sentences and density of theological ideas in the text. Language may be updated as much as we please but too great a volume of information relayed orally will always prove a challenge. Bray admitted that this quality rendered the second book ‘more like a set of theological essays than a collection of sermons’ and the same may also unfortunately be said of large parts of the former book. 


This edition is the best possible attempt to render the homilies usable in today’s church and it will be interesting to see whether this is extendable beyond the private studies of a very select group. Nonetheless we look forward to further underwater adventures with a similar updating of the second book and meanwhile wish this edition every success.


Edward Keene, Little Shelford