The Right Reverend Richard Boyce announced the release of a trial modern language Book of Common Prayer 2011 authorized for use in the Diocese of the West which has been made available to the bishops of the Reformed Episcopal Church (REC), part of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). "The prayer book is a tool and embodies our theology and common life as Christians. There has been a need among new congregations for a prayer book which uses the 'language of the people' while keeping the ancient worship of our Christian origins. This does not replace the 1928 Book of Common Prayer used by most of our congregations or the REC Prayer Book. However, for many of our parishes, this revised Book of Common Prayer will assist the starting of additional congregation groups for whom the traditional language of the 17th century is a challenge," said Bishop Boyce who resides in Seattle.
The Book of Common Prayer 2011 (BCP2011) is a significant revision not in content but in a shift from the language of the Great Bible and the Authorized Version (commonly known as the King James Version) to the ESV Bible® (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®). The BCP2011 uses the first Book of Common Prayer (1549) as its framework but incorporates material from other historic prayer books. The prayers have been translated from the early sources to conform to the scriptural phrasing of the ESV Bible®. The prayers are clearly of the ancient tradition of Anglican worship rather than new prayers and new theology. Most significant is its continuity with the Book of Common Prayer revisions through mid-twentieth century in the United States and Canada.
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The 1549 BCP was a transitional service book that was only partially reformed and which the Church of England replaced with a more reformed liturgy--the 1552 BCP. While the 1552 BCP had a short life due to the death of Edward VI and the ascension of his Roman Catholic older sister, Mary, to the throne, the 1559 Prayer Book adopted at the beginning of the reign of Elizabeth I was the 1552 BCP with three minor changes. The 1559 BCP was the Prayer Book of the Church of England for almost 100 years.
What is recognized by Anglicans around the world as the classic Anglican Prayer Book, the 1662 BCP, is substantiatly the 1552 BCP with some alterations and additions. With the Thirty-Nine Articles and the 1661 Ordinal, the 1662 BCP is the long recognized doctrinal standard of Anglicanism.
Clause 6 of the Jerusalem Declaration states "...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." In Being Faithful: The Shape of Historic Anglicanism Today the GAFCON Resource Group stresses, "The 1662 Prayer Book provides a standard by which other liturgies may be tested and measured...The further removed a proposed liturgy may be from the 1662 Prayer Book, the more important it is that it should be subject to widespread evaluation throughout the Communion."
The Reformed Episcopal Church is a "founding entity" of the Anglican Church in North America. The ACNA affirms the Jerusalem Declaration in the Preface to its Constitution. There are substantial differences between the 1549 BCP and the 1662 BCP. This raises the question why the REC has adopted the 1549 BCP as the basis of its trial service book.
The REC Diocese of the West is a very small diocese in terms of numbers of congregations and clergy and is not known for having the kind of resources needed to produce a trial service book. This suggests that the BCP 2011 is the product of another organization with more resources and the REC Diocese of the West is being used as the launch site for the service book that it developed. It is using the trial use of this liturgy in the REC to gauge the initial reaction to the liturgy. The use of texts and wording from the English Standard Version (ESV) points to the ACNA. J. I. Packer who serves on the ACNA task force charged with developing an ACNA Prayer Book is also the editor of the ESV.
From a liturgical standpoint the use of wording taken from ESV is problematic because the ESV, while reliable translation of the Bible, was not compiled for liturgical use and its phrasing is often awkward and ill-suited for public worship. Changing the wording of a liturgy, even slightly, changes the doctrine of the liturgy. The use of wording from the ESV is no guarantee that the trial service book is doctrinally sound.
Since the BCP 2011 is based upon the 1549 BCP, which was compiled before the historic Anglican formularies--the Thirty-Nine Articles (1571), 1662 BCP, and the 1661 Ordinal--and is not itself an Anglican formulary, the likelihood of significant doctrinal and liturgical departures from these standards of faith and worship for Anglicans is high. A review of the BCP 2011 will be posted on Anglicans Ablaze in the near future.