Ho, Ho, No!
St Nicholas Saves from Hell-fire, claims New Prayer Book
Santa Claus not only delivers the Christmas pressies once a year, he can also deliver people from the very flames of hell. That is, according to a new edition of an Anglican Book of Prayers publicly endorsed by bishops from the REC (Reformed Episcopal Church) and ACNA (Anglican Communion of North America).
The Anglican Office Book was first published in 2019, and a second edition was released at the end of May. Edited by Lance Davis, it is based on the 1928 American Prayer Book but also includes liturgical material from other sources.The Second Edition is bound with the Authorised Version of the Bible, and the Apocrypha.
The book has been officially endorsed by Bishop Keith Ackerman of the Anglican Church in North America and Archbishop Mark Haverland of the Anglican Catholic Church. The Presiding Bishop of the Reformed Episcopal Church, Dr Ray Sutton, wrote the foreword to the First Edition, hailing it as “this wonderful work”. He added, “My simple prayer is for God to use this Anglican book of hours to help all clergy and laity enter into that to which St. Paul called us: to ‘pray without ceasing’!”
However in both editions of the book, the Collect for St Nicholas’ Day reads, “O God, who didst adorn blessed Nicholas thy Bishop with very many wondrous miracles: grant, we beseech thee. that through his merits and prayers we may be delivered from the flames of hell.” Similarly-worded requests are found in other Collects of Saints’ Days.
It is difficult to square this petition with the teaching of the Thirty-nine Articles, and of Article XI in particular: “We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by Faith, and not for our own works or deservings”. The idea that any Christian believer or dead saint has built up merit with God to provide rescue from hell is also at odds with Article XIV which condemns Supererogation: “by them men do declare, that they do not only render unto God as much as they are bound to do, but that they do more for his sake, than of bounden duty is required”.
Both the ACNA and REC are signatories of GAFCON’S Jerusalem Declaration, which affirms the Thirty-nine Articles “as containing the true doctrine of the Church agreeing with God’s Word and as authoritative for Anglicans today.” The bishops from ACNA and REC who have endorsed the Anglican Book of Offices have not clarified how its contents are consonant with the doctrine contained in the Articles.
Earlier this month, the Presiding Bishop of ACNA and Chair of GAFCON’s Primates Council, Most Revd Foley Beach, was the special preacher at the opening service of the REC’s 57th General Council. He did not offer any public corrective to the prayers endorsed by REC Presiding Bishop Ray Sutton.