Saturday, September 12, 2009
A Gospel Prayer Book for a Gospel People
By Robin G. Jordan
In her article, “The Prayer Book is Not a ‘Party Book’,” Dr. Roberta Bayers, the editor of Mandate magazine, the official organ of the Prayer Book Society, makes a number of references to the “traditional Prayer Book” but does not identify which Prayer Book--the 1662 English Book of Common Prayer or the 1928 American Prayer Book. Mandate magazine has a long history of blurring and obscuring the differences between these two Prayer Books and the 1962 Canadian Prayer Book, treating the three Books as if they are different editions of the same Book. However, the 1928 American Prayer Book and the 1962 Canadian Prayer Book are substantially different Books, not only in the doctrine they embody but also the liturgical usages they permit.
The 1928 Book of Common Prayer was the first major revision of the American Prayer Book and made far-reaching and even radical changes in the American Prayer Book. Traditional evangelical Anglicanism had disappeared from the Protestant Episcopal Church by 1900. Anglo-Catholicism and Broad-Church liberalism were the dominant theological streams in the Protestant Episcopal Church at the time of its compilation. They greatly influenced its doctrine and liturgical usages.
The 1928 Book of Common Prayer is decidedly a “party book.” For example, the Order for the Holy Communion includes elements that bring it into line with the medieval Roman Mass. For an examination of the changes that the 1928 revision made in the American Prayer Book and the doctrine embodied in these changes, please see my article, “What’s Wrong with the 1928 Book of Common Prayer?” on the Internet at: http://heritageanglicannetwork.wordpress.com/2008/12/18/what%E2%80%99s-wrong-with-the-1928-book-of-common-prayer/
The 1962 Canadian Prayer shows the influence of the 1928 American Prayer Book and the 1928 Proposed English Prayer Book. The English Parliament twice rejected the latter because it was too Catholic in tone.
From a theological perspective neither the 1928 American Prayer Book nor the 1962 Canadian Prayer Book are suitable for use in evangelical parishes and churches in North America. The parishes and churches that primarily use these Books are traditionalist Anglo-Catholic. At its 2009 Assembly Forward in Faith North America endorsed the use of the 1928 Prayer Book.
“2. The 2009 Assembly of Forward in Faith North America encourages the use of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer and the 1549 Book of Common Prayer, and associated missals.”
The 1662 Book of Common Prayer is a moderately “High Church” Prayer Book. The Restoration bishops who compiled the 1662 Prayer Book were Laudian High Churchmen. The 1662 Prayer Book shows the influence of the High Church 1637 Scottish Prayer Book, sometimes known as the Laudian Liturgy.
The Restoration bishops made a number of significant changes that altered the theology of the English Prayer Book and the English Ordinal. They added the rubrics directing that what remains of the consecrated bread and wine should be covered with a white linen cloth and consumed reverently after the service. “Priest” was substituted for “minister” at the Absolution in Morning and Evening Prayer and the Communion Service. "Bishops, pastors, and ministers" was altered to "Bishops, Priests, and Deacons" in the Litany. Two additions were made to the Prayer for the Church Militant in the Communion Service: To "accept our alms" was added "and oblations"; and the commemoration of the departed, "And we also bless thy holy Name…,” was inserted at the end. The Declaration on Kneeling was restored, but with the crucial alteration of "real and essential presence" to "corporal presence." A blessing of the water in the font was added with the insertion of the sentence, “sanctify this Water to the mystical washing away of sin…” into the prayer, “Almighty, everliving God…” immediately before the baptism. The Service for the Baptism of Adults was added.
In Everyman’s History of the Book of Common Prayer Percy Dearmer notes that while the Restoration bishops made a few concessions to the Puritans, they inserted into the revised Prayer Book many things that were distasteful to them. He goes on to point to his reader’s attention:
“In the most significant place of all, the Ordinal, this is specially apparent. In the old form for the Consecration of a Bishop, ‘Take the Holy Ghost, and remember that thou stir up,’ etc., were inserted the words ‘for the Office and Work of a Bishop in the Church of God,’ so as to make it indisputably clear to the public that a Bishop's office is other than that of a Presbyter. Similarly in the Ordering of Priests, before the words ‘Whose sins,’ etc., was added ‘for the Office and Work of a Priest in the Church of God, now committed unto thee by the Imposition of our hands.’ The old forms were perfectly good and had ancient precedent; but the additions were made in order to avoid misunderstanding.”
Despite these changes the 1662 Prayer Book is substantially the Reformed 1552 Book of Common Prayer. The Restoration bishops were for the most part satisfied to retain the content and form of its predecessor, the 1604 Jacobean revision of the 1559 Elizabethan Prayer Book. The latter had been the Prayer Book of the Church of England for almost 100 years. It was the first Prayer Book used in North America. The 1559 Prayer Book was the 1552 Prayer Book with only a few alterations. Among these changes the supplication against the Bishop of Rome and his detestable enormities was dropped from the Litany and the Declaration on Kneeling from the end of the Communion Service. The 1549 Words of Administration were combined with the 1552 Words of Administration. In The Shape of the Liturgy Anglo-Catholic scholar Dom Gregory Dix describes the 1552 Prayer Book.
“Compared with the clumsy and formless rites which were evolved abroad, that of 1552 is the masterpiece of an artist. Cranmer gave it a noble form as a superb piece of literature, which no one could say of its companions; but he did more. As a piece of liturgical craftsmanship it is in the first rank - once its intention is understood. It is not a disordered attempt at a catholic rite, but the only effective attempt ever made to give liturgical expression to the doctrine of ‘justification by faith alone’.”
Notwithstanding the changes the Restoration bishops made in the English Prayer Book Evangelicals in the Church of England used the 1662 Book of Common Prayer into the 1970s.
Why then is the 1662 Book of Common Prayer little used in evangelical parishes and churches in North America? High on the list of reasons for its infrequent use is lack of familiarity. North American congregations and clergy have not been exposed to the 1662 Prayer Book, its doctrines, its liturgical usages and its proper interpretation. Also high on the list is that North American congregations and clergy have grown accustomed to services in modern English. Clergy prefer the greater variety that the more recent service books offer. They also fear that they will loose members of their congregation and put off first time worship visitors if they switch to the 1662 Prayer Book. The language of the 1662 services would become an impediment to the gospel ministry of their parish or church. Identification of the 1662 Prayer Book with being “High Church” is very low on the list if it is on the list at all.
Local factors may discourage the use of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer in a particular region. For example, here in western Kentucky conditions are not favorable to the use of services from the 1662 Prayer Book: there is a definite bias against liturgical forms of worship. The three dominant religious groups are Baptist, Church of Christ, and Methodist. These three groups not only have the most churches in the region but most of the unchurched comes from one of these backgrounds. The most common form of worship is non-liturgical, or more accurately informally liturgical, with local traditions determining patterns of worship. These patterns of worship are generally fairly simple; consist of hymns, gospel songs, and contemporary forms of church music, extemporaneous prayer, a sermon, and on occasion the Lord’s Supper; and contain few if any liturgical elements such as the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostles’ Creed. Formal liturgical worship is equated with Roman Catholicism.
There is also a trend in North America, the United Kingdom, South Africa, Australia and elsewhere particularly among evangelicals to abandon formal and official church liturgies and to replace them with informal local patterns of worship. Where this trend has gained ground Sunday worship in Anglican evangelical parishes is indistinguishable from that in non-Anglican evangelical churches.
Dr. Bayers’ article is misleading in its assertion that the doctrine of “the traditional Prayer Book” predates the Oxford movement and “the doctrine of its prayers adheres to the theological consensus of the 16th century Reformers.” As we have seen in the case of the 1662 Prayer Book such a claim is not entirely true. Its theology may predate the nineteenth century Catholic revival but bears the stamp of the seventeenth century Catholic reaction. In the case of the 1928 American Prayer Book and the 1662 Canadian Prayer Book it is even less accurate. These two Prayer Books may retain elements of the Reformed 1552 Prayer Book but their theology is no longer Reformed. For example, both Prayer Books give expression to the doctrine of Eucharistic sacrifice. They are hardly Prayer Books suitable for use in evangelical parishes and churches.
Of the three Prayer Books the 1662 Book of Common Prayer is closest to the Reformed 1552 Prayer Book in doctrine and liturgical usages. It kept most of the Biblical-Reformation theology of the later. The 1928 American Prayer Book and 1962 Canadian Prayer Book, on the other hand, incorporate doctrinal and liturgical changes that the later Tractarians, or Ritualists, favored. They are much more Catholic in tone than the 1662 Prayer Book.
In Archbishop Cranmer’s Immortal Bequest The Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England An Evangelistic Liturgy, Samuel Leuenberger draws attention to the numerous “revivalistic,” or evangelistic elements in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. Its Biblical content and evangelical spirit has borne fruit even when those using the 1662 did not value this content and spirit. In the 1928 American Prayer Book and the 1962 Canadian Prayer Book these elements are weakened, obscured, or eliminated.
Some evangelicals shy away from the use of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer due to the nineteenth century Tractarian reinterpretation of that Prayer Book particularly of certain expressions in the Baptismal Services and the Catechism and the Special Absolution in the Office for the Visitation of the Sick. However, the language of the Baptismal Services and the Catechism is charitable and should be interpreted by more formal statements of doctrine (e.g., the Thirty-Nine Articles) and ultimately by Scripture. The famous Gorham case sanctioned this view of the sacrament of Baptism in the Church of England. The “I absolve thee” in the Office for the Visitation of the Sick was intended to mean “I declare and pronounce unto thee God’s absolving grace.” The Special Absolution and rubrics of the Office for the Visitation of the Sick were not meant to teach the necessity of auricular confession.
There has in recent years been some interest among evangelicals in the translation of the services of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer into modern English and the adaptation of the 1662 Prayer Book to the mission field in North America. In 2007 the Anglican Mission in America and the Prayer Book Society undertook as a joint project the preparation of what were supposed to be contemporary English versions of the services of the 1662 Prayer Book for use in North America. The working group that was put together under the chairmanship of the late Dr. Peter Toon quickly lost sight of its original purpose. The service book that they produced—An Anglican Prayer Book (2008)--draws heavily from the 1928 American Prayer Book, the 1928 Proposed English Prayer Book, and the 1962 Canadian Prayer Book and is arguably even more Catholic in its theology than these Prayer Books.
In its Jerusalem Declaration the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) recognizes the place of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer in global Anglicanism.
“6. We rejoice in our Anglican sacramental and liturgical heritage as an expression of the gospel, and we uphold the 1662 Book of Common Prayer as a true and authoritative standard of worship and prayer, to be translated and locally adapted for each culture.”
It commends the translation and local adaptation of the 1662 Prayer Book.
What is needed is a North American edition of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer with the text on one page and explanatory notes on the opposite page, accompanied by a modern English translation of the 1662 services with additional forms of service and prayers, to help foster interest in the 1662 Prayer Book among evangelicals in North America. They could be published as a single volume or as a two volume set. A series of pamphlets on the different services of the 1662 Prayer Book like those Associated Parishes published on the 1979 Prayer Book might also be beneficial. In a future article I will examine what can be further done to acquaint Anglicans and Episcopalians in North America with the classic Anglican Prayer Book and its predecessors the 1552, 1559, and 1604 Prayer Books. I will also look at how a formal liturgy can be introduced to those who are accustomed to informal patterns of worship.
Posted by Robin G. Jordan at 9:29 AM