Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Prayer Book for Where? The Challenges of a Common Liturgy—Part 2


By Robin G. Jordan

North American Anglican congregations that negotiate the minefield of hostile zoning laws and rising construction costs, real estate prices, and bank interest rates can be expected to build much more modest and practical buildings than the Gothic edifices that Episcopalians built during the heyday of the Episcopal Church. These buildings stand empty for most of the week and are occupied by dwindling congregations on Sunday mornings. The days of the white clapboard country church are also gone.

Nineteenth century conventions in church architecture, which Episcopal congregations honored well into the twentieth century, have no place in the twenty-first century. Function must take priority over form.

Twenty-first century Anglican congregations that can surmount the obstacles to having a building of their own will need to construct buildings that are multipurpose and which serve more than as a meeting place for the congregation and a setting for its rites and ceremonies. They will need to erect buildings that will help them overcome an increasingly unfriendly secular society’s negative perceptions of Christians and build bridges to the community.

This is not architectural evangelism—the notion that if a church constructs a particular type of building, the building itself will attract new church members. Rather it involves putting a church building to uses beside worship, which will help the congregation build a positive reputation for the church in the community, eliminate or reduce barriers, and establish and strengthen relationships. These uses will enable the congregation to have a greater impact upon the community, expand its population base, and experience numerical and spiritual growth.

When we launched St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in the late 1980s, the Diocese of Louisiana purchased land for a building in a potentially high-growth area of Mandeville, the community whose expanding population was the primary target of the new church. The zoning for the area was not too restrictive and we managed to obtain a number of easements. The property was not on a main artery but was on an important secondary artery that linked two heavily-traveled state highways.

We adopted a two stage building plan. We first erected a multipurpose building with a parking lot. In the second stage we constructed an educational building and developed what was originally intended to be a baseball field but would become a soccer field. Soccer was the more popular sport in the area. We made the field available to local soccer teams for practice and games. We used the multipurpose building for a mothers’ day out program as well as for worship and fellowship. We also opened the building to community groups for meetings and other activities. The educational building was used as an early childhood development and day care center during the week and for Christian formation on Sundays.

In the event the demographics of the area did not developed as projected or if the area experienced a shift in demographics, we made alternative plans for the use of the education building as a senior center. What we did not anticipate was the negative impact that the growth of the congregation would have upon the church—conflicts over a third service on Sunday mornings, finances, the leadership ability of the rector, and his vision for the church, and a subsequent church split. Developments in the Episcopal Church in 2003 would further negatively impact the church already weakened by a loss of members resulting from the church split. St. Michael’s would never fully recover from the effects of the church split and the election of an openly gay priest as the Bishop of New Hampshire and lost its parish status in 2007.

The church split and Robinson’s election resulted in a shift in the composition of the congregation from charismatic, evangelical and Prayer Book Anglican to Anglo-Catholic and liberal. The change in the congregation’s make-up led to the worship of the church becoming more unapologetically Anglo-Catholic in style with icons of the Archangel Michael, statues of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and banks of votive lights and consequently less attractive in a community dominated by charismatic and evangelical churches.

Before St. Michael’s constructed its first building, the congregation used a variety of meeting places—a tennis club’s clubhouse, office space, a storefront, and a school gymnasium. The congregation was forced to leave the clubhouse due to complaints from residents of the subdivision in which the clubhouse was located. The congregation outgrew the office space. It was forced to leave the storefront when the county school board obtained a lease to the building. The county school board would convert the building into an annex to the kindergarten across the street. The county school board was gracious enough to allow the congregation to meet in a school gymnasium next to the kindergarten until it could move into its new building then under construction.

A sizeable number of twenty-first century Anglican congregations will not have a building of their own—some by choice, others due to their particular circumstances. A number of these congregations will experience a great deal more difficulty in finding a suitable meeting place than St. Michael’s did in the 1980s and 1990s. The world has changed since the closing decades of the twentieth century.

Communities are less amenable to permitting congregations the use of private residencies, apartment building community rooms, hotel conference rooms, American Legion and VFW halls, fire station community rooms, small town community centers, empty buildings, tenantless office space in office buildings, and vacant retail space in malls for meeting places. A congregation may find a desirable meeting place only to discover that businesses and/or residents of the area do not welcome the establishment of a church in the area or the area’s zoning restrictions do not permit the building’s use for church services.

A desirable meeting place is one that has not only enough space for worship, fellowship, Christian formation, and a nursery but also has adequate off-street or street parking. In addition, it also must not be “invisible,” in a location where it can be easily over-looked such as in one of the less-traveled neighborhoods of the community, not on a major artery or an important secondary artery.

An example of an invisible meeting place is the church building of St. Martin-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church in Mayfield, Kentucky. The church was closed in 2006. The building was built in 1958 and is located at the end of a cul-de-sac in the midst of a large subdivision.

At the time of the building’s construction its location was regarded as ideal. It was anticipated that the church would draw its members from the surrounding housing estate. This did not prove to be the case.

The election of Gene Robinson negatively impacted the struggling congregation as it did Episcopal congregations across the United States. The appointment of an openly lesbian deacon as vicar of St. Martin-in-the-Fields dealt the congregation its deathblow. The deacon was not able to relate to the community or the community to her.

The building is invisible not only because it is located at the end of cul-de-sac in the midst of a large subdivision but also because the building cannot be seen or easily reached from the nearest main thoroughfare. One must take at least three side streets to reach the entrance to the cul-de-sac.

As well as not having a building of their own, a sizable number of twenty-first century Anglican congregations will be using a less than ideal meeting place. How to make the best use of this space will challenge the creativity and ingenuity of these congregations. It will require them to break with conventional ways of “doing church” and to think outside the box.

A working group commissioned with the development of rites and services for a denomination such as the ACNA’s Prayer Book and Common Liturgy Task Force can be a tremendous help to these congregations. It can craft rites and services that can be used in a wide range of contexts. It can provide an array of worship resources from which congregations can choose those which best meet their particular needs and circumstances.

On the other hand, such a working group can also be an even greater hindrance to these congregations. It can craft rites and services that are suitable for use only in a particular context. It can limit a congregation’s choices to a tiny number of options in a particular rite or service. In some cases it can offer a congregation no choice at all. This is the direction that the ACNA’s Prayer Book and Common Liturgy Task Force has taken in its drafting of rites and services for the Anglican Church in North America.

The context in which a congregation worships involves more than its physical setting. It involves such factors as regional cultural milieu; regional musical tastes and preferences, regional attitudes toward a particular type of church, its beliefs, and practices; prejudices and actual past experiences of potential guests; denominational or religious background of potential guests, and similar factors. Among its implications is that one size does not fit all: what works in one context may not work in another.

In planning its worship, a congregation must first study its context and then tailor its worship to that context. In taking the second step, it needs access to a large assortment of worship resources from which it can select the components for its worship gatherings.

Liturgical books like the Sarum Missal, the Sarum Breviary, and the 1549 Prayer Book come from the late Middle Ages or show the influence of the late Middle Ages. In the late Middle Ages the English people were nominally Christian. It was a time of widespread error and superstition.

The popular religion of the time centered on the veneration of saints and relics, pilgrimages, indulgences, alms-giving, and non-communicating attendance at Mass. A large segment of the population attended Mass. Those who did not go to Mass were likely to incur the suspicion of the Church and to face the possibility of a fine or worse.

A tiny segment of the population practiced the “old ways,” elements of the pagan religions that had been practiced in the British Isles before Christianity became the dominant religion. This is not to suggest that the rest of the population was free from pagan beliefs and superstitions. Such beliefs and superstitions have persisted to this day and in some areas of the British Isles have been enjoying a revival.

Archbishop Thomas Cranmer compiled the 1549 Prayer Book to ease the transition from the Medieval Catholic Latin Mass to a reformed vernacular liturgy. It was not intended to be a permanent service book. Cranmer adapted material from the Sarum Rite and the Lutheran German Church Orders. In his essay, “Of Ceremonies, Why Some Be Abolished, and Some Retained,” Cranmer explains what he saw as the main purpose of the Prayer Book—to set forth God’s honor and glory and to reduce the English people to “a most perfect and godly living, without error or superstition.”

Their task as the English Reformers saw it was to transform the nominally Christian English people beleaguered by all kinds of superstition and error into a godly people free from such error and superstition. The task that twenty-first century Church faces in North America, on the other hand, is to introduce the increasingly non-Christian population to Christ, encourage and support those who accept Christ as their Savior and Lord, instruct them in the teaching of the gospel and the Scriptures, and form them into effective disciples of Christ who can replicate themselves. These two tasks are not the same and different kinds of worship resources are needed to accomplish them.

A major drawback of using liturgical books like the Sarum Missal, the Sarum Breviary, and the 1549 Prayer Book as the basis of a modern liturgy is that they are not designed for the task facing the twenty-first century Church. The Sarum Rite was designed to perpetuate error and superstition. The 1549 Prayer Book was designed to decrease error and superstition in a nominally Christian population and increase godliness in that population.

A modern liturgy based on these liturgical books is not going to aid the twenty-first century Church achieving its task. On the contrary such a liturgy will prove a serious handicap to the twenty-first century Church.

I am not suggesting that we do away with the old simply because it is old. But where we retain the old, we should first ensure that it is clearly agreeable to the teaching of the Scriptures or has been reformed to make it conform to the teaching of the Scriptures. Secondly, we should make sure how it is used serves the central task of the twenty-first century Church. Cranmer in his liturgies retained what he believed was agreeable to the teaching of Scripture or could be reformed to make it conform to the Scriptures’ teaching. He then used it to serve what he perceived to be the central task of the Church in his day. In principle we would not be doing anything differently from Cranmer.

Cranmer designed rites and services for a sixteenth century English context. We should be taking steps to make certain that the rites and services used in ACNA churches are designed for a twenty-first century North American context, a context that is more varied than that of sixteenth century England. The central task of the twenty-first century Church as discussed in this article is a part of that context. It also should be the central guiding or ruling principle for the development of rites and services for use in North America, the world’s seventh largest mission field.

In the third article in this series we will continue our examination of how a working group commissioned with the development of a common liturgy for a denomination can meet the challenge of context and other challenges that it faces. We will take a look at how a number of Anglican provinces have responded to these challenges, the difficulties that they encountered, and the steps that a congregation might take to avoid or mitigate these difficulties.

See also
A Prayer Book for Whom? The Challenges of a Common Liturgy—Part 1

Photo: greenhousemovement.com

A Wandering Ministry


There is a tendency in any organization, in any ministry, toward wandering. For a season, people might be focused and motivated to move in a single direction, but then something happens. Things catch their attention. Other priorities come up. The urgency that was once so acutely felt fades to the background. Slowly the organization drifts toward giving time, energy, and resources to ancillary matters. The mission is no longer central; the focus is no longer intense.

That’s why one of the duties of leadership is saying the same thing over and over again. A wise leader is a repetitive one.

Church leaders must not only be aware of their core convictions and mission but must also articulate them plainly before people over and over again. Church leaders must constantly be reminding.

Wise leaders look for the wandering, and quickly move to address it. Keep reading

Photo: uair01.blogspot.com

Protecting Children at Church: 6 Suggestions


The church has an important responsibility to protect the children and youth underneath its care. Jesus said in Matthew 18:5-6 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened to his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” (ESV). I’m aware this text has a variety of implications. But one that is surely in view (particularly in today’s culture) is the responsibility to protect children from abuse underneath the umbrella of the church ministries and program windows.

I’ve counseled and known far too many people who are broken, marred, angered, and scarred by abuse that they experienced. I’m sure you’ve counseled, comforted, and prayed with them as well. The grave sin of abuse (physical, emotional, or sexual) from a caretaker, family member, or leader is a horrible blight on society. And in turn, the abused are the ones who suffer greatly—spiritually, psychologically, and emotionally.

For example, we should be angry at the abuses far too prevalent in the Catholic Church due to a complete misunderstanding of the idea of celibacy in Scripture. We should also be angry when a youth pastor or child molester finds a home in a careless church. Therefore, we should be vigilant to protect children when they are under our watch at the church. Below are some suggestions and practices we employ at Mud Creek Baptist Church.... Keep reading

The story of Scripture is a story of war


The story of Scripture is a story of war—a cosmic battle between a good King who loves His broken creation and the Evil One whose kingdom is marked by rebellion and suffering.

Miss the drama between these two kingdoms—the kingdom of God and the kingdom of darkness—and you miss a major part of the tension of the Bible.

But wait, there’s more. This battle of kingdoms isn’t just the story of our world; it’s your story, and mine. There is a battle for our souls. Keep reading

5 Creative Ideas for Welcoming New Guests


My friend Marjorie moved to my town to be closer to her family. She is a people person. When she visited my church for the first time, even if every other thing had been just right, she might have gone to another church if people had not been friendly!

Steve thought he might visit a church in his neighborhood, but it was really hard to make himself go. He didn’t know much about Jesus. But a friend of his said he liked the men’s Bible study, and his friend didn’t know much more than Steve did, so he thought he might go and look it over. It took three weeks for him to get up the courage to walk into a church alone.

Betty is a single mom with three children in elementary school. More than anything, she wants Christian friends and Biblical discipleship for herself and her young family.

People like these are in your community and may be visiting your church on any given Sunday. But remember, although there are visitors, there is no "typical" visitor. Here are some tips to help you engage all guests more effectively. Keep reading

10 ways to improve your church's hospitality


It's a stereotype that's been around for about as long as dear old Agnes who falls asleep in the second pew every Sunday – churches don't do hospitality well.

We're very good at opening our homes, providing an endless supply of quiches for the annual bring-and-share lunch and encouraging generosity. So why is it that we reach the front of the tea and coffee queue only to be confronted by a plate of dodgy-looking homemade cakes and tea horribly reminiscent of that middle-class painting luxury 'eggshell white'?

Turn to the kids table, and you'd be forgiven for recoiling in horror. Biscuits (no chocolate ones in sight) which look disconcertingly like they may have already been licked, and weak squash. We don't need to tell you why this stuff matters... and yes, of course you can be welcoming and still serve rubbish refreshments (or none at all). But why not take this chance not just to get your snacks in order, but give your church a full hospitality audit? It will make all the difference for strangers and visitors in your midst.... Keep reading
We don't serve tea, biscuits, or cake at the Journey--only granola bars, fruit (bananas), bottled water, natural fruit flavorings for the water, and two kinds of Starbucks coffee--French Roast (dark) and Breakfast Blend (medium). We use a taster to check the strength of the coffee. In the colder months, we also serve hot chocolate. For a number of years we served donuts but phased out the donuts and replaced them with healthier granola bars and fruit.  Many of the young people who attend the Journey do not have an opportunity to eat breakfast beforehand. The Journey Cafe is open before the 9:30 AM and 11:00 AM worship gatherings but is closed after the 11:00 AM service. This is in part necessitated by the fact that we are a mobile church and must begin tear-down after that service. 

A pub with God's cheer? Anglican missionary organisation suggests cheaper worshipping options for cash-strapped Bathurst Diocese


There are suggestions the Anglican diocese of Bathurst's financial problems may open up new worshipping opportunities in locations such as pubs and houses in western New South Wales.

The diocese has asked its 34 parishes to contribute funds for a court case against the Commonwealth Bank which is trying to recoup $25 million.

The Bush Church Aid Society of Australia runs Anglican missions and services throughout rural and remote Australia, including a program at Gulargambone in the state's west. Keep reading
"All it requires is God's people gathering around God's word and seeking to be a blessing to the community of which they're a part." A thought worth repeating.
Photo: 7pm TV News NT

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Prayer Book for Whom? The Challenges of a Common Liturgy—Part 1


By Robin G. Jordan

“Common Liturgy” is a term with multiple meanings. It can refer to the collection of rites and services typically found in a modern Anglican service book. It can also just refer to a particular liturgy—the service that the 1662 Book of Common Prayer refers to as “The Order for the Administration of the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion” or simply “The Communion.”

The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines “common” as “belonging to or shared by two or more individuals or groups.” It defines “liturgy” as “a fixed set of ceremonies, words, etc., that are used during public worship in a religion,” “ eucharistic rite,” “or “ a rite or body of rites prescribed for public worship” The English word “liturgy” is a conflation of two Greek words and literally means “the work of the people.” It related to English word “laity,” which is derived from one of these Greek words—laos.

Among the implications of these definitions of the term “common liturgy” is that it must, whether a rite or body of rites, be owned and accepted by the entire denomination. It cannot be a rite or body of rites preferred by one ecclesiastical party in the denomination, embodying its theology, and imposed upon the other groups in the denomination. In that case, while it may be the official liturgy of the denomination, it is by no means the common liturgy of the denomination. It must enjoy widespread ownership and acceptance.

This challenge is one of several major challenges that face a working group commissioned to develop rites and services for a denomination. It is also one of the reasons that such a working group should include representatives from all schools of thought and interested groups in the denomination and separate panels representing each such school and group should be established to review each draft, provide feedback, propose changes, and even demand a new draft.

The ideas of denominational leaders for a particular rite or service should not be given preference over any other ideas. Additional safeguards should be implemented to keep any one group or individual from unduly influencing the process for developing rites and services for the denomination.

One of the weaknesses of the ACNA process for developing a liturgy and a Prayer Book is that the Prayer Book and Common Liturgy Task Force is too willing to incorporate the suggestions of individual bishops which in all likelihood represent the personal preferences of the bishop in question and do not take into consideration how these suggested changes affect the doctrine of the rite or the rite’s usability on the North American mission field.

The development of a common liturgy can be even more challenging when the schools of thought in the denomination hold sharply divergent views on key issues such as the number of sacraments and the presence of Christ in the eucharistic species.

When faced with this particular challenge, a basic approach is to develop a rite or rites that are plain vanilla. Each rite is the simplest, most basic version of the rite possible—no adornments, no special features.

Texts or wording that are controversial or have historically divided members of the denomination or the global community of churches of which it is part are avoided. Texts or wording that are deliberately ambivalent and open to multiple interpretations may be used in their place.

Any embellishments are not printed in the rite itself but in a section at the end of the rite and are purely optional. Additional notes for the conduct of the rite are printed in this section.

It may also be necessary to provide alternate texts and alternate rites, give clergy permission to make minor alterations in the rites and services, and even to permit judicatories to develop their own rites and services. The Anglican Church of Australia has adopted all three approaches.

But is the result a common liturgy? In reality it may be the closest thing to a common liturgy that the Anglican Church of Australia in its particular circumstances can achieve. Indeed the Anglican Church of Australia has three common liturgies—The Book of Common Prayer (1662), An Australian Prayer Book (1978), and A Prayer Book for Australia (1995). The last two books are authorized for use together with the Prayer Book. The Anglican Church of Australia is a loose federation of formerly independent dioceses with separate ties to the Church of England. (The constitution of the Anglican Church of Australia would have been a good model for the constitution of the Anglican Church in North America.)

Of the 23 dioceses forming the Anglican Church of Australia’s five province and one extraterritorial diocese, only two—Ballarat and Sydney—have produced liturgies of their own. The Ballarat liturgy was produced during the episcopate of Anglo-Catholic Bishop David Silk who retired in 2003. Silk did not consider the three books Catholic enough. In 2010 Silk announced his intention to convert to Roman Catholicism. I was not able to ascertain whether Ballarat has continued to use this liturgy since Silk’s retirement.

Sydney adopted Common Prayer: Resources for Gospel Shaped Gatherings, the latest revision of its liturgy in 2012. Common Prayer: Resources for Gospel Shaped Gatherings replaced Sunday Services: A Contemporary Liturgical Resource, adopted in 2001. Sydney’s Diocesan Doctrinal Commission took issue with the doctrine of A Prayer Book for Australia, resulting in the development of Sunday Services: A Contemporary Liturgical Resource.

How the Anglican Church of Australia has sought to meet the need for a common liturgy in that church is preferable to what the Anglican Church in North America is attempting to do—impose Procrustean standards on the worship of the churches in the denomination, forcing it into the same mold both liturgically and doctrinally irrespective of the particular circumstances of a church or its theological leanings.

Another challenge facing a working group tasked with developing a common liturgy for a denomination is what material it should use from existing service books and which books. Top considerations in the choice of this material should be the elegance of its language, its biblical orthodox and theological soundness, its suitability for twenty-first century congregations and twenty-first century contexts, and the need to strike a balance between the old and the new, the familiar and the unfamiliar.

Evaluations of this material should be weighed against the evaluators’ past history and their liturgical and doctrinal proclivities evidenced in this history. In other words, the evaluation of the material should itself be evaluated. Too often criticism of a particular liturgy or a particular liturgical element boils down to it not fitting the critic’s notions of an ideal liturgy or liturgical element.

A case in point may be Arnold Klukas’ “Contemporary Anglican Prayer Books 1928-2009,” in which he examines the divergence of the more recent Anglican service books from “classical standards.” Klukas is a Professor of Liturgy at Nashotah House and a member of the ACNA Prayer Book and Common Liturgy Task Force. From what I gather he has played a leading role in the rites and services that task force has drafted to date. An article published in 2001 revealed that he displayed a marked preference for the older liturgies in his parish ministry. This preference may color his evaluation of more recent Anglican service books and their contents.

What is noticeable about the rites and services that the ACNA Prayer Book and Common Liturgy Task Force has so far produced is they do not appear to stray far from the source books listed in “The Unmaking of the Classical Anglican Prayer Book.” The ordinal, for example, is an adaptation of the 1928 Ordinal, adopting rubrics from the 1549 Ordinal and features from the 1979 Ordinal. They appear to do very little borrowing from the larger corpus of Anglican service books, old and new. One might say that they suffer from liturgical inbreeding.

The ACNA Prayer Book and Common Liturgy Task Force has not attempted to integrate the rites and services of that denomination into the broader stream of Anglican liturgies. The task force has taken little advantage of the wealth of liturgical material produced in and outside of North America in the twentieth century and during the past fourteen years.

The rites and services that the ACNA Prayer Book and Common Liturgy Task Force has so far produced are classifiable as representing a Anglo-Catholic offshoot of the American Prayer Book tradition but lacking the comprehensiveness of the 1789 and 1892 American Prayer Books, which permitted the omission of the signing of the cross on the forehead of the newly baptized and provided alternative wording at the laying on of hands in the ordination of a presbyter, modest concessions to evangelical sensibilities. Rather the task force has incorporated into these services and rites doctrine and liturgical usages historically associated with an advanced form of Anglo-Catholicism. The only thing missing is the invocation and veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints.

What is also noticeable about these rites and services is that they incorporate very little if any material from the Canadian Prayer Book tradition or the Reformed Episcopal Prayer Book tradition. Both traditions at one time displayed a strong evangelical influence. The Reformed Episcopal Church has no representative on the ACNA Prayer Book and Common Liturgy Task Force and the Anglican Network in Canada’s representative is an Anglo-Catholic.

A third challenge that faces a working group entrusted with the development of a common liturgy for a denomination is the context in which the rite or body of rites will be used. The kind of service book that an older denomination with a large number of established churches and a small number of new churches will need will be entirely different from the kind of service book a young denomination with a small number of established churches and a large number of new churches will need.

In the twentieth century we saw the emergence of the house church movement and the formation of house church networks. In the twenty-first century we are seeing the emergence of the mobile church movement—"church in a box." New churches are not the only churches meeting in a wide-range of unconventional settings. Established churches are selling their buildings and renting facilities. They have found that becoming a mobile church has transformed their ministry. They have not only expanded their population base and seen corresponding increases in worship attendance, church membership, and giving but also have increased their impact upon the community.

The context of worship has changed dramatically from what it was in the mid-twentieth century. Yet the ACNA Prayer Book and Common Liturgy Task Force is producing rites and services not for the twenty-first century Church but for the mid-twentieth century Church. Worship context does not appear to enter into its thinking. The task force is developing rites and services for a Church that is largely a product of its imagination.

Worship context, however, is a critical factor in the twenty-first century. Rising real estate values, a slow economy, and tighter zoning laws increase the likelihood that a large number of congregations may not own a building and worship in a conventional setting. These are the realities of the North American mission field. A number of congregations have bought or constructed buildings that they could not afford and have lost these buildings to bank foreclosure. The best some congregations can hope for is to rent a large house or storefront and modify it into a worship center provided their landlord permits such modification and they do not run afoul of local zoning laws.

In upcoming articles in this series we will look at how a working group commissioned with the development of a common liturgy for a denomination can meet this challenge and other challenges that it faces. 
An Australian Prayer Book (1978) is online in PDF format. Copyright information is available at Broughton Publishing.“Members of the Anglican Communion and churches of other denominations are welcome to make print or electronic copies of An Australian Prayer Book, in whole or in part for liturgical or church purposes, free of charge provided they are attentive to the integrity of the text, that copies are not made available for sale and that the source of the extract is appropriately acknowledged e.g. title and page number." A Prayer Book for Australia Full Edition (1995) is available from Australian Church Resources. Amazon no longer stocks the soft-cover edition. Copyright information is also available from Broughton Publishing.
Photo: catholicandreformed.blogspot.com

How Your Church Can Reverse a Negative Reputation


“If it weren’t for those __________ churches…”

I will never forget that statement.

I was in my mid-twenties serving on a board of the local non-profit. We were discussing how we could raise more support for the organization.

I had participated most of my working career (which was obviously short at that point), financially contributing personally and helping them raise funds. Every year, we had the same discussion. How could we raise more money to do more good?

In the middle of our discussion, a greatly respected and leading businessman in our community made that statement. “If it weren’t for those _______churches, we would have plenty of money. All churches do is take from the community, serve their own interests, and rob the community of needed money for charity.”

The room instantly echoed and agreed with his bold remark. I was young and intimidated, so I said nothing.

Honestly, however, those words stung. Keep reading

Joe McKeever: Courage greatly needed–in the pulpit and in the pews


“The Lord is for me; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 118:6. See also Hebrews 13:5-6)

I read that scripture–especially the Hebrews 13:5-6 incarnation–and smile. Asking “what can man do to me?” is kind of like asking for it, isn’t it? Daring them to “bring it on.” The answer of course is that man can do a great deal to you. But the bottom line–and the point of the scripture–is that ultimately, with God being “for me,” it does not matter.

Nothing matters so much as our being one with the heavenly Father.

Can we talk about courage? This is as rare as plutonium these days, particularly among the very people who should demonstrate it most readily, the followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Only two people in the church need courage: the one in the pulpit and the one in the pew. Keep reading

Thom Rainer: Five of the Most Frequent Issues of Conflict among Church Members


If you want to hear the reasons for a church fight, you are likely to encounter one of these five. Let me be clear. I do not think all church members are fighting all of the time. But the sad reality is that it only takes one real issue of conflict once a year to do serious harm to the unity and health of a congregation.

I’ve addressed issues of church conflict in different ways on this blog. This particular post is an update based on issues I’ve heard, or those in which I have been a mediator the past year. They are listed in the order of frequency I’ve heard them. Keep reading

Justin Buzzard: Say it in a Sentence


When I was 21 I started preaching once a month at The Santa Barbara Rescue Mission. I didn’t know how to preach and I wanted to learn (I preached my first sermon at age 16 without a clue of what I was doing).

Thursday nights 100 or more homeless people filled the pews to listen to me preach my mediocre sermons. After the sermon we ate dinner together.

I had just graduated from college. I worked as a waiter, served as a home group leader and youth leader in my church (where I preached regularly to the youth), and lived in an apartment with two of my college buddies and my younger brother.

I used spare time to work on my sermons for the Rescue Mission. I didn’t have a method. I generally picked a text or two, studied the text, then wrote down a bunch of stuff to say. Keep reading

See also
Preach to Break Then Build

Ed Stetzer: Stories of Transformation: Making Disciples


Churches must assess themselves in an effort to be more effective at making disciples.

Most churches do a good job of measuring what Micah Fries calls the "three B's"— budgets, buildings, and baptisms.

Those are helpful, he said. But they don't always show whether a church is fulfilling its mission to make disciples.

"Every church should ask two questions," said Fries, director of ministry development for LifeWay Christian Resources. "'Are we healthy?' and 'Are we making disciples?'"

To help answer those questions, LifeWay developed the Transformational Church Assessment Tool (TCAT)—an 80-question, online survey that looks at a church's spiritual health. Keep reading

Erich Bridges: New wind in 'House of Islam'


The Arab Spring movement for freedom, which brought so much hope and expectation to the Middle East just three years ago, is stone-cold dead -- hijacked by Islamic extremists, brutalized by repressive governments, trampled into the dust by factional power struggles....

Meanwhile, wave after wave of attacks on Christians appear to threaten the very existence of the church in the Middle East. Prospects for expansion of the Gospel among Arabs would seem bleak at best.

Or are they?

"Could there be more to this current mess than meets the eye?" asks global mission strategist David Garrison. "Could the Muslim world's agonizing labor pains be leading to some new expression of life that is yet to be revealed?" Keep reading

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Are You a Heritage Anglican? Then You’ll Want to Read this Article


By Robin G. Jordan

I ran across the phrase “heritage Anglican” in one of J. I. Packer’s articles or books. Packer used this phrase and another one to describe himself. Whether that description fits Packer today may be open to question. But it did fit him at the time. If I remember correctly, it was one of his earlier works.

In Reformed circles Packer lost credibility after he endorsed Catholics and Evangelicals Together in 1994. Reformed theologians like Michael Horton and R. C. Sproul have objected to its claims of theological agreement between Catholics and Evangelicals. They point to the fundamental division between Catholics and Evangelicals over the doctrine of sola fide, a doctrine which is distinctive of evangelical theology. The Roman Catholic Church condemned this doctrine at the Council of Trent and has never withdrawn its condemnation of the doctrine.

In serving as general editor of To Be a Christian: An Anglican Catechism and writing its introduction, Packer has lent the weight of his name to a document that teaches a blend of Arminianism and unreformed Catholicism and which permits the teaching of Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic doctrine. It is clearly at odds with the views that he has expounded in earlier works like Knowing God (1973), Growing in Christ (1977), Keep in Step with the Spirit (1984) and Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs (1993) or even later works such as Knowing Christianity (1995) and Truth & Power: The Place of Scripture in the Christian Life (1996).

Packer has also not publicly voiced any objections to the course that ACNA leaders have set for the denomination—away from the safe, well-marked channel of reformed Anglicanism onto the rocks and shoals of unreformed Catholicism. His contribution to To Be a Christian: An Anglican Catechism and his silence on the present direction of the ACNA  have further damaged his credibility.

What is dangerous about Packer’s silence is that it leads some reformed Anglicans in the ACNA into mistakenly believing that they have nothing to worry about. The reality is that they are in a very tight situation and they have good cause for concern. Packer has become something of a Judas goat. In stockyards, a Judas goat at one time led sheep to slaughter, while its own life was spared.

Packer’s seeming acquiescence to the direction in which ACNA leaders are taking the denomination should not discourage us from using the phrase “heritage Anglican” to describe those who are reformed Anglican. It is particularly apt in emphasizing that reformed Anglicans who are faithful to their convictions are the bearers of the real patrimony of the Anglican Church—its protestant, reformed, and evangelical character and its protestant and reformed principles based on the Scriptures and set out in the classical Anglican formularies.

I know from my contacts in the Anglican Church in North America, the denomination has an undetermined number of heritage Anglicans. They became a part of what would become the ACNA during the days of the Common Cause Partnership or later with their network of churches.

I am not going to say before the unreformed Catholic direction of the denomination became clear. The indications of the direction that ACNA leaders were taking the denomination were evident even then to those who paid attention to them.

At the time it may not have been clear to heritage Anglicans how sweeping ACNA leaders’ policy of exclusion of reformed Anglicanism would be. The ACNA bishops in their endorsement of the ACNA ordinal, catechism, and trial services of Morning and Evening Prayer and Holy Communion have left no doubt that this policy of exclusion extends to all areas of life and ministry in the denomination.

Heritage Anglicans have not so far voiced any objections to this policy of exclusion. Nor have they to my knowledge taken any steps to organize themselves in the event that they and their churches are forced to withdraw from the Anglican Church in North America. This suggests that they do not fully appreciate the seriousness of their predicament.

They may be clinging to the hope that the ACNA bishops will not rigorously enforce this policy of exclusion and they can maintain a marginal existence in the denomination.

Nothing in the constitution of the Anglican Church in North America guarantees heritage Anglicans the freedom to practice their protestant and reformed principles and to defend and propagate them. It contains no exemption for them from the use of a catechism and a liturgy or Prayer Book that does not uphold these principles.

If the form of unreformed Catholicism evident in To Be A Christian: An Anglican Catechism and Texts for Common Prayer is formally adopted as the official doctrine of the Anglican Church in North America, I do not see how heritage Anglicans can maintain even a precarious existence in the denomination.

I do not believe that heritage Anglican clergy are the Vicar of Bray type of clergy shifting like a weathercock with the wind that blows the strongest, placing ecclesiastical office before their convictions. Of course, I may be wrong. If that is indeed the case, then the state of North American Anglicanism is direr than I had thought.

The preponderance of evidence shows that the ACNA College of Bishops does not want heritage Anglicans in the Anglican Church in North America. The ACNA bishops have made no effort to show reformed Anglicans that they are welcome in the ACNA and that they have a place at the table. Rather the ACNA bishops have gone out of their way to show heritage Anglicans the door.

Having shown heritage Anglicans the door, the next step that the ACNA College of Bishops can be expected to take is to put a boot to their backsides and push them through it.

Expectant Churches vs. Reactive Churches


The Bible is a story of expectations: an expected Messiah who would crush the serpent (Gen. 3:15), an expected people from Abram (Gen. 12:1-3), an expected new covenant (Jer. 31:31-34), an expected return of Christ (Matt. 24:29-30), and an expected new creation (Rev. 21). Faith, in fact, is about expectation – the “reality of what is hoped for” (Heb. 11:1, HCSB).

Many churches, though, live in reactive mode rather than expectant mode. In my book, Discipled Warriors, I compare these churches.

REACTIVE churches.... Keep reading

Diagnosing Ministry Phase in Your Context


The Lord used Nehemiah to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and Nehemiah is often recognized for being a strong and focused leader. It is important to note that he did not merely show up in Jerusalem, after arriving from serving under the Persian king in captivity, and declare a direction. Before he articulated a vision to the people of Israel—“Come, let us build the wall of Jerusalem”—he walked around at night and surveyed the situation (Nehemiah 2:11-16). He spent three days assessing his ministry context, understanding the challenges, and sensing the struggles and the opportunities.

Wise leaders understand they are leading people, and people are in a specific context. Thus, it is foolish for leaders to arrive in a ministry context with a pre-packaged plan of how everything will look and feel. Of course, there are foundational aspects of ministry that must not change from context to context, but the practical implications of ministry should be unique from context to context. And when leaders fail to first understand their ministry context, they are not really leading the ministry the Lord has given them but a ministry of their own imagination. Keep reading

Fresh Ideas: Awaiting the New Pastor


The entire church is waiting expectantly. When your church is in transition -- seeking a new pastor or other ministry staff member -- there are a few things any member can do.... Keep reading

Pop Atheism and the Power of the Gospel


“Meanwhile, I am left with the Atheist on my hands,” Dorothy Sayers once penned to C.S. Lewis in a letter in which she sought some practical advice from the popular Oxford apologist. She went on to write, “I do not want him. I have no use for him. I have no missionary zeal at all.”

While many Christians likely attempt to project a little more enthusiasm for evangelism, I’m not sure they do not, deep down, resonate with Sayers’ sentiment.

With the relentless barrage of new atheist bravado over the last decade, believers are liable to grow weary in well-doing. Much of the contemporary anti-God campaign now serves as a mirror image of religious fundamentalism, with iconic leaders such as Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris standing guard as dogmatic defenders of a secular orthodoxy. Many students have imbibed their sacrilegious sound bites, adopting a brand of pop atheism that makes rational discussion seem virtually impossible.

But, as one theologian recently quipped, “It’s easy to hate atheists until you find one to love.” And we can be certain that in an increasingly secular society, they will be much easier to find. Our real challenge will be to find pathways into charitable conversations. Keep reading

Strategic Evangelism: The Power of an Invitation


The church is to be on mission with God. The God of the Bible is a missionary God who graciously pursues people.

That pursuit involves the work of the Holy Spirit and the proclamation of His people—and that proclamation often involves emphases from the local church.

The church exists to proclaim the gospel and demonstrate the kingdom of God in a lost and dying world. In being faithful to her calling, the church should be reaching people with the good news of the gospel and welcoming them in to a local community of believers.

Welcoming people into the local church should be the natural overflow of a local church's faithful ministry. However, many churches find themselves unfruitful in seeing new people to connect with their congregation.

Some people think that is a good thing—church is for believers and unbelievers should not be connected to that church. I'm not of the same view—covenant community (what we often call church membership) is for believers, but Christian community (what we often call attendance) is a place where evangelism should take place. Keep reading

Photo: Laura Glover/FreeImages

Here's an idea... what if we just invited non-Christians to sit down and read the Bible with us?


Surveys show that many people in our community have a high regard for the Bible and think it's interesting. But they also find it hard to understand, so they tend not to read it much, if at all.

You, me and the Bible What does that mean?

It means that if you ask a non-Christian friend if they'd like to read the Bible with you to try to understand it's central ideas, there's a very good chance they'll say "Yes".

That’s where You, Me and the Bible comes in – a new resource to help friends sit down together and discover the central message of the Bible.

It’s the simplicity of 2 Ways to Live blended with the interaction of One-to-One Bible Reading. Learn more

Matthias Media (USA)

Monday, July 21, 2014

What ACNA Congregations Will Be Flourishing Ten to Fifteen Years Down the Road?


How the Anglican Church in North America Is Creating Obstacles to Its Own Growth—Part 8

By Robin G. Jordan

The people whom the ACNA is most likely to attract are likely to be drawn by the denomination’s ambiance where that ambiance can be created. This is an important caveat. The creation of such ambiance requires a particular environment. ACNA congregations can for the foreseeable future expect to worship in surroundings that do not lend themselves to the creation of the kind of ambiance that has drawn people to the Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church of Canada, and the Continuing Anglican Churches.

For several years I ministered in a storefront Episcopal mission. People who were drawn to the ambiance of the Episcopal Church would visit the mission and might return for a few more visits but they rarely stayed for any length of time. One woman confided in me that she could not worship without the flickering candles, polished brass, stained-glass windows, needlepoint cushions, and kneeling that she associated with the celebration of the Eucharist in the Episcopal Church. They were an essential part of her worship experience.

What attracted people to this storefront mission and kept them was the friendly, warm fellowship, the eclectic blend of contemporary and traditional music, the for-the-most-part clear Bible teaching, and the brevity and simplicity of the liturgy. Over a span of ten years the mission would grow, purchase property, erect a complex of buildings, and become a parish. Recent years, however, have seen the same church become a mission again, in part due to changes in the Episcopal Church that negatively impacted its local congregations and in part due to a range of problems that were particular to the church itself.

In our selection of music for worship services in the church’s early mission days we made a point of using tunes for traditional hymns, which would be familiar to people with a wide range of denominational backgrounds, not just those with an Episcopal background. In making this decision we intentionally sought to expand our population base.

As every good fisherman knows, it is much easier to angle for most abundant fish with bait that is going to attract them than it is to angle for the rarer fish with bait to which they are not going to be attracted. Congregations that ignore this principle do so to their own detriment. 

The goal of a congregation should not be just to catch fish but to catch fish and then turn those fish into fishermen. The more fish caught and turned into fishermen, the greater the catch of fish and number of fish turned to fisherman, and so on. 

While we attracted our fair share of new families that were moving into the area and had previously attended an Episcopal church, we tended to attract people who came from other denominational backgrounds. We attracted a significant number of couples in mixed marriages in which one spouse was Protestant and the other Roman Catholic and for whom attending the Episcopal Church was a compromise.

To my knowledge we attracted in a space of fifteen years only one person who had never previously attended a church and had no denominational background. We were not very successful at turning the fish we caught into fisherman.

Since that time I have been involved in a number of church plants that have gathered for worship in a variety of non-traditional settings.  Episcopalians and Anglicans who rely on the drawing power of the particular ambiance that is associated with Episcopal and Anglican churches in North America are at a distinct disadvantage. It is extremely difficult, if not entirely impossible to recreate this ambiance in a conference room, a fire station, a living room, an office, a school auditorium or cafeteria, a storefront,  a tennis clubhouse, or even another congregation’s worship center.

Yet the kind of rites and services that the Prayer Book and Common Liturgy Task Force is producing is heavily reliant on this ambiance for the successful pulling off of these rites and services. They are not the kind of rites and services that can be successfully done in non-traditional settings. The task force appears to presume that the congregations using these rites and services will be gathered in the traditional setting of a cathedral, parish church, or seminary chapel. Considering the make-up of the task force, this is not particularly surprising.

For the few people the ACNA’s ambiance does attract, the same ambiance can be expected to turn off a much larger group of people. I have talked with a number of folks who have visited the Episcopal and Continuing Anglican churches in western Kentucky. While they found the congregations to be friendly and welcoming, they also found the way these congregations worshiped too strange, too far removed from what they were accustomed to. They associate the candles, the vestments, and the ceremonial with the Roman Catholic Church, a denomination whose clergy and members do not enjoy a reputation of being orthodox Bible Christians in the region.

Others have confirmed this observation but in relation to their parts of the United States. At the 2001 AMiA Winter Conference I attended a workshop in which the work shop leader explained what steps he was required to take in his church plant to simplify the Anglican liturgy and make it less off-putting to people unaccustomed to liturgical worship. The workshop was well-attended. Since that time I have also corresponded with a number of church planters about how they have adapted the Anglican liturgy to the particular conditions in the locality where they are planting a church. A consensus of opinion is that a pared-down or simplified Anglican liturgy works best. Such a liturgy is consistent with principles that Archbishop Thomas Cranmer sets out in his essay, "Concerning the Service of the Church." It is also in line with the general liturgical principle, "Less is more."

A population segment that is not strongly represented in the Episcopal and Continuing Anglican churches in western Kentucky are young people—Millenials. Ed Stetzer has mentioned on his blog that his research shows that Millenials who are attracted to liturgical or traditional churches form a much smaller group than those of their generation who are not attracted to these kinds of churches. This group is smaller than what was once believed to be the case. The denomination that appears to be attracting large numbers of Millenials is the Assembly of God—a Pentecostal denomination.

I am involved in guest ministry at a church primarily targeted at Millenials—university students and other young adults. Between its two worship gatherings its average Sunday attendance is 350+. A substantial number of young people this church attracts come from a liturgical or traditional church background. They are drawn to the church by the clear Bible teaching, relevant messages, contemporary music, informal atmosphere, and absence of anything suggestive of a liturgical or traditional church or church service.

The people that the ACNA does attract with its ambiance may themselves become an obstacle to the denomination’s growth. This is what happened in the Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church of Canada, and the Continuing Anglican Churches. They were not the kind of people who proved an asset to the growth of these denominations.

Indeed one of the main reasons that they were attracted to the Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church of Canada, and the Continuing Anglican Churches was that these denominations had no evangelistic expectations of their members. All that would be required of them would be that they warm a pew on Sunday morning, volunteer some of their time to the ministries of the church, and give a part of their income for the support of the church.

As being a churchgoer became less a mark of respectability in United States and Canada, particular among the elites that had formed the backbone of these denominations, the Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church of Canada, and the Continuing Anglican Churches experienced a drop in attendance, volunteers, and giving.

A denomination that is not adding new members cannot keep pace with the attrition to its membership from ill-health, death, and defections to other denominations. A denomination is dependent for new members upon its existing members’ relationship networks and their ability and willingness to expand their relationship networks. The size of a member’s relationship network grows smaller as the member grows older. The ability and willingness of a member to form new relationships also decreases. As congregation dwindles in size, its ministries dwindle with it. This may prompt some members to search for a new church or stop going to church altogether. It is a vicious cycle and Episcopal and Anglican churches are particularly vulnerable to it.

The rites and services that the Prayer Book and Common Liturgy Task Force has produced are not outward-focused The needs of the congregations on the North American mission field appear to have been the last consideration if these needs were given any consideration at all.

The rites and services lack the kind of flexibility that is necessary on the twenty-first century North American mission field. They greatly handicap ACNA churches in the area of worship, increasing the likelihood that these churches will not be good matches with their part of the mission field. They limit a congregation’s ability to tailor its worship to its particular circumstances—such as the musical resources that are available to the congregation, the setting in which it is worshiping, the culture of the region in which it is located, and the population segment at which its ministry is targeted. Churches that are mismatched with their community do not grow. When its member churches do not grow, a denomination does not grow.

The trial services of Morning and Evening Prayer in Texts for Common Prayer are modeled on the daily offices in the 1979 Prayer Book. Despite their use of contemporary language, larger selection of canticles, and permission to substitute metrical canticles in place of the prose ones and hymns in place of the canticles, the 1979 services of Morning and Evening Prayer are far less suited for use as the principal service on Sundays than the 1928 services. This is attributable to the 1979 Prayer Book’s emphasis upon the celebration of Holy Communion as the central act of worship on Sundays and other times.

Other recent Anglican service books like the 1985 Canadian Book of Alternative Services have made the services of Morning and Evening Prayer more adaptable to local conditions and more useful to small congregations without clergy as the main Sunday service. As well as providing a larger selection of canticles and allowing the use of metrical canticles in place of the prose ones and hymns in place of the canticles, these service books permit the substitution of the litany or some other form of general intercession in place of the Suffrages and the Collects, rather than requiring their addition to the prayers. In this way these service books eliminate unnecessary redundant elements that lengthen the service without enhancing the worship experience.

The more recent Anglican service books make provision for alternative forms of morning and evening worship, supplying patterns of worship, liturgical texts, and guidelines for their use. They recognize that the services of Morning and Evening Prayer and Holy Communion may not meet the worship needs of a particular congregation. Texts for Common Prayer makes no such provision.

The more recent Anglican service books also permit the use of the liturgy of the Word in the service of Holy Communion as a separate service, a provision that is found in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and all the American Prayer Books through the 1979 Prayer Book but not Texts for Common Prayer. This allows a congregation to use a familiar liturgy in the absence of a priest, as well as provides another useful addition to its armory of worship resources.

The trial services of Holy Communion in Texts for Common Prayer are oriented to the past, not the present. They, like the other rites and services that the Prayer Book and Common Liturgy Task Force has produced, reflect the particular liturgical preferences and preoccupations of those who drafted them. They make idols of the 1549 Prayer Book, the 1764 Scottish Non-Juror Prayer Book, the 1928 Prayer Book, and the Anglican Missal and its variations, the Anglican Service Book, the English Missal, and A Manual of Anglo-Catholic Devotion.

The 1549 Prayer Book was only partially-reformed and does not reflect Archbishop Thomas Cranmer’s mature thinking. It was intended to help the English Church make the transition from the unreformed Catholic Latin service books to a reformed Anglican vernacular liturgy.

The 1764 Scottish Non-Juror Prayer Book was a throwback to the 1549 Prayer Book and incorporated a number of the doctrines and practices peculiar to the Usager party, which formed a small minority of the Scottish Non-Jurors. It was the work of two superannuated bishops who outlived their rivals in the Non-Usager party.

The 1764 Scottish Non-Juror Prayer Book and the Scottish liturgies modeled on it were notorious for putting congregations to sleep due to their length and prolixity. These were eighteenth and nineteenth century congregations accustomed to much longer services than twenty-first century congregations.

The 1928 Prayer Book introduced a number of radical changes in the American Prayer Book.  A number of these changes were introduced under the guise of enrichments to the worship of the Episcopal Church. The changes that were introduced would remove American Prayer Book even further from the classic Anglican Prayer Book in its doctrine and its liturgical usages.

The Anglican Missal and its variation provide liturgical texts, rites, and ceremonies drawn from the Roman Rite. The use of these books permits a priest to expand the unreformed Catholic context in which the liturgies of The Book of Common Prayer and other related service books are used. 

Both the Long and Short Forms of the trial services of Holy Communion are lengthy and prolix. The Short Form is almost as lengthy and drawn out as the Long Form. Its Eucharistic Prayer is shorter and the rite offers no choice in Post-Communion Prayers. Otherwise,it is identical to the Long Form. The two forms are not designed for congregations in the early part of the twenty-first century. Even congregations in the opening decades of the twentieth century would have experienced them as cumbersome and tedious.

Neither rite is suitable for a home or parish hall Eucharist, important pre-requisites of a service of Holy Communion intended for the North American mission field. If a rite works well in these informal setting, it will work well in the entire range of non-traditional settings in which ACNA congregations can expect to worship for the foreseeable future.

Members of the College of Bishops have voiced a preference for the shorter Eucharistic Prayer in the Short Form of the two rites. This is a tacit admission that the Eucharistic Prayer of the Long Form is too long and prolix. The rubrics of Texts for Common Prayer, however, require the use of the Long Form on Sundays and festivals. The Short Form may be used only on weekdays—at daily celebrations of Mass. The latter is a reflection not only of the unreformed Catholic orientation of the Prayer Book and Common Liturgy Task Force but also its disconnection from the North American mission field. It presumes that all ACNA churches have facilities in which they can have daily Mass celebrations.

The rubrics of Texts for Common Prayer require the use of liturgical elements whose use almost all of the more recent Anglican service books make optional. Alternative texts and other optional liturgical elements that are best placed in a separate section of supplemental texts after each rite are also printed in the rites. When alternative texts and other optional liturgical elements are printed in the rite itself, experience has show that the service leader will tend to use the first of the alternative texts and in some instances all of them! They will also tend to use all of the optional elements, rather than a selection of them. The result is the whole purpose of providing alternative texts and other optional elements is defeated.

In case of texts like the Gloria, the Creeds, the General Confession, the Absolution or Declaration of Forgiveness, the Comfortable Words, the Prayer of Humble Access, and the Lord’s Prayer the rubrics of these Anglican service books make provision for their omission, as well as their use at other points in the service. The Gloria or some other song of praise or even a hymn echoing themes from the Gloria may be used at the beginning of the service, before the Gospel reading, or after the Post-Communion Prayer(s), or omitted altogether.

The Nicene Creed was not introduced into the liturgy in the Western Church until the third Council of Toledo in 589. It took several centuries for its use to spread throughout the Western Church. It was as late as the eleventh century before Rome accepted the Nicene Creed as part of the Eucharist. Rome would limit its use to Sundays and certain feasts. The American Prayer Books through the 1928 Prayer Book permitted the substitution of the Apostles’ Creed for the Nicene Creed. In the more recent Anglican service books the Nicene Creed may be said before or after the Sermon, replaced by the Apostles’ Creed, or omitted altogether.

In the more recent Anglican service books the penitential rite—invitation to Confession, Confession of Sin, Absolution (or Declaration of Forgiveness), and optional Comfortable Words (or Words of Assurance) may be used at the beginning of the service or omitted altogether.

The Prayer of Humble Access was introduced into the liturgy in the English Church with the Order of Communion of 1548. In the more recent Anglican service books its use is optional, and it may be placed after the Absolution and the Comfortable Words (if used) and before the offertory or the preparation of the table. A number of these service books provide alternative texts.

In the more recent Anglican service books the Lord’s Prayer may be used after the Prayers of the People, after the Fraction (or the Eucharistic Prayer if the Fraction occurs in the prayer itself), or before the Post-Communion Prayer(s). 

A large number of Anglican service books are available to the Prayer Book and Common Liturgy Task Force and with them a wealthy of liturgical material. However, the task force chose to turn to a small number of older books containing liturgies beloved by traditionalist Anglo-Catholics. This choice as previously noted reflects the particular liturgical preferences and preoccupations of the task force.

The Prayer Book and Common Liturgy Task Force is working at cross-purposes to those seeking to plant new congregations, expand the Anglican Church in North America’s population base, and ensure its future growth. This may sound harsh to some readers but the Provincial Council needs to thank the present Prayer Book and Common Liturgy Task Force for its work, shelve Texts for Common Prayer and the proposed rites for Admission of Catechumens, Baptism, and Confirmation, dissolve the task force, and begin anew. It could start by forming a panel to study what congregations need in the way of worship resources to reach and engage the unchurched population in the United States and Canada. The Anglican Church in North America needs a liturgy and a Prayer Book that is outward-looking, not one that caters to special interest groups in the ACNA.

If the Provincial Council adopts an expanded version of Texts for Common Prayer as the official Prayer Book of the Anglican Church in North America, the denomination may be able to muddle along the best it can. However, the ACNA will never realize its full potential. Some ACNA congregations may grow. By and large the growth of most ACNA congregations will be stunted.

It would be interesting to conduct ten to fifteen years from now a study of ACNA congregations that are growing. Two questions should be addressed in that study among others. Are growing ACNA congregations those that are slavishly using an expanded version of Texts for Common Prayer? Or are they the congregations that have for a large part shelved that book and developed patterns of worship of their own? While I could be wrong, based upon what is and is not working elsewhere, I suspect that it will be the second group of congregations that are enjoying growth.

See also
The Unmaking of the Classical Anglican Prayer Book
The ACNA Disciplinary Canons: A Time Bomb Waiting to Explode
An ACNA Church in Your Area? Maybe? Maybe Not!
Episcopacy Out of Control in the Anglican Church in North America
Introducing the ACNA's High Church Party
“But Are They Bible Christians?”
How the Anglican Church in North Americ Is Creating Obstacles to Its Own Growth – Part 1

Thom Rainer: The #1 reason for decline in church attendance


Few people will argue that church attendance in many churches in America is declining. Our own research indicates that the majority of churches in our country are not growing.

Most of us have ideas about this development. Many suggest that our nation is shifting away from its Christian roots. Thus, churches are declining as a smaller proportion of our country follows Christ.

I will not argue with that premise. Certainly attendance declines are related to massive cultural shifts in our nation. But I would also suggest that one reason for declines has a greater impact than others. Keep reading

Will Mancini: Guests at Church: 10 Mind Blowing Facts to Fuel Your Hospitality Ministry


Every month for the last decade, the Auxano team conducts ministry observations during weekend services. We call itthe Guest Perspective Evaluation. Here is why I keep this strategic component in Auxano’s toolbox. Okay, each reality by itself may not be mind blowing, but when you put them all together the case is staggering and couldn’t be more compelling. Keep reading

Photo: The Vision Room

Daniel Darling: 5 Keys for Guiding Your People Through Cultural Conflict


When your members walk through the church doors this Sunday, they will arrive after a week spent living in a changing American culture. Their thoughts are not only being shaped through a variety of media — talk radio, social media, and television — but also through water-cooler conversations at work and dinner-table discussions.

Christians living in a fallen world are confronted by a variety of choices. How should we think through the moral and political issues? More importantly, how can God’s people, out of a desire for the flourishing of their neighbors and the advancing of God’s kingdom, winsomely shape the discussions going on in their spheres of influence?

It’s not only the pastors who are tasked with driving the discussions at church, it’s the church leaders who interact often with the average layperson. They carry a sober responsibility to steward their office well, to bring to bear the gospel on the questions brothers and sisters in the Lord are facing each day. Keep reading

photo credit: ~Brenda-Starr~ via photopin cc

Thom Rainer: Five Pleas to Pastors from Pastor Search Committees


In a post last week, I noted five pleas from pastors to search committee. In this post, I share some pleas I have heard to pastors from search committees.

As I noted last week, congregations across America call pastors to their churches in a variety of ways. As church polity varies, so do the approaches of calling a pastor. A bishop or other authority appoints some pastors. Sometimes an elder board decides who will be considered as the next pastor. Many times, however, the responsibility for recommending a pastor to a congregation falls upon a pastor search committee.

The search committee is typically comprised of lay leaders voted on by the congregation or nominated by some group in the church. Occasionally, the membership may include a current pastoral staff member.

In my conversations with search committees, many of the members have shared with me how pastors can best make the process more effective. Here are five of their “pleas.” Keep reading