According to the Report of this year’s Lambeth Conference, “the vast majority of people in the Anglican Communion, while rejecting the crudities of the medieval conceptions of purgatory, are quite sure that the fact of death does not remove the need for and the appropriateness of praying for the departed that God will fulfill his perfect will in them; and that such prayer is both natural and right.” If this is really so, then we certainly would not feel disposed to dispute the Report’s further assertion that “there is evidently need for a fresh study from the Bible of the whole question.”
Last year saw the publication in London of the Report of a select committee of the Church of India, Pakistan, Burma, and Ceylon entitled Principles of Prayer Book Revision. The compilers of this Report (which is not without its virtues) seek to justify the inclusion in their Church’s proposed new Prayer Book of prayers for the departed on the grounds of sentiment: in particular, “the instinct of natural piety—or Christian charity—which rebels against the idea that those whom we have loved enough during their earthly pilgrimage to have them regularly in our prayers must be excluded from them because they have died.” This, we are assured, “amounts to a recognition that the ruthless surgery of the Reformers in excising all prayer for the departed from the Prayer Book, however much it may have been justified in the sixteenth century, is no longer tolerable, now that the more flagrant abuses connected with the Romish doctrine of Purgatory have ceased to be a threat to true religion.”
It is misleading, however, to speak of the Reformers as having practised “ruthless surgery” in this matter. In point of fact, the decision to exclude all prayers ...1
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