Friday, February 03, 2012

The ACNA Theological Lens: The Guiding Principles Behind the Proposed ACNA Prayer Book—Part 6

By Robin G. Jordan

In our examination of The Initial Report of the Prayerbook and Common Worship Taskforce of the Anglican Church in North America we come next to a section entitled “2. Guiding Principles for Anglican Worship.” The first thing that we note is that the report has no section numbered “1” in relation to this section. Thinking that we may have overlooked it, we search the report for that missing section but while we find a number of sections that might be possible candidates, we find no clear indications which section it is.

Initially the section that we are examining appears to be a reiteration of the section entitled “Summary of Guiding Principles.” We are tempted to skip over it to the next section but it would be a mistake to do so, as we shall see.

The section begins with this statement:

A. Archbishop Cranmer's inspired genius under Divine Providence, set out in the first Anglican Prayer Book, clearly stated the principles by which it was to be organized. The preface to the first Book of Common Prayer (1549) indicates 3 things….

Here again we meet the repeated emphasis in the report placed upon the semi-reformed 1549 Prayer Book as if it was a formulary of the Anglican Church rather than a transitional service book that was designed to pave the way for the Reformed liturgy of the 1552 Prayer Book. As has been noted in the previous articles in this series, the 1662 Book of Common Prayer is with the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion and 1661 Ordinal the long-recognized doctrinal standard of Anglicanism. The 1662 Prayer Book is essentially the 1552 Prayer Book.

Interestingly Evan Daniel in The Prayer Book; Its History, Language, and Contents (1878) identifies as a “defense of the principles by which the Reformers were guided in remodeling the services of the Church of England” Cranmer’s essay “Of Ceremonies: why some be Abolished and some retained.” For those unfamiliar with the 1662 Book of Common Prayer this essay follows “Concerning the Service of the Church. The latter in a somewhat different version comprised the Preface of the 1549 and 1552 Prayer Books. Daniels was Principal of St. John’s College, Battersea, and Senior Moderator of Trinity College, Dublin and was an eminent Prayer Book scholar of his day. .

The report goes on to list what the taskforce considers these “three things.” We will examine each one separately.

1. that worship “be grounded in the Holy Scriptures.”

What the Preface in the 1549 and 1552 Prayer Books actually states is that in each book we have “an ordre for praier (as touchying the readyng of holy scripture)” in which “is ordeyned nothying to be read, but the very pure worde of God, the holy scriptures, or that whiche is euidently grounded upon the same….” In the 1662 Book of Common Prayer this preface has been titled “Concerning the Service of the Church” and the wording has been changed.

So that here you have an Order for Prayer, and for the reading of the holy Scripture, much agreeable to the mind and purpose of the old Fathers, and a great deal more profitable and commodious, than that which of late was used. It is more profitable, many things, whereof some are untrue, because here are left out some uncertain, some vain and superstitious; and nothing is ordained to be read, but the very pure Word of God, the holy Scriptures, or that which is agreeable to the same [emphasis added]; and that in such a language and order as is most easy and plain for the understanding both of the readers and hearers. It is also more commodious, both for the shortness thereof, and for the plainness of the order, and for that the rules be few and easy.

The principle articulated in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer is that what goes into any “Order for Prayer, and for the reading of the holy Scripture” must be “the very pure Word of God, the holy Scriptures, or that which is agreeable to the same.” It is not enough that what goes in such an order give the appearance of being Scripture, which is how the phrase “evidently grounded upon” may be interpreted. The contents of the Prayer Book must conform to the teaching of the Bible. Let us not forget that 1662 Book of Common Prayer is one of the three primary classic Anglican formularies, and not the 1549 Prayer Book. Let us also not forget that the Thirty-Nine Articles provides doctrinal standards by which the 1662 Prayer Book is to be interpreted, and not the other way around.

If the College of Bishops in adopting the report has chosen to make the 1549 Prayer Book a formulary of the Anglican Church in North America, such a move represents a significant departure from authentic historic Anglicanism. The ACNA constitution and canons already accord the 1549 quasi-formulary status by making it a part of the ACNA standard for worship and prayer. They also grant this status to the pre-Reformation medieval Mass books. They do not specify what books preceding the 1662 Book of Common Prayer form with the 1662 Prayer Book the ACNA worship and prayer standard.

2. that it “be agreeable to the order of the Primitive Church.”

The Preface of the 1549 Prayer Book contains no reference to “the order of the Primitive Church.” It does contain several references to “the ancient fathers.” It also contains this passage:

So yt he you have an ordre for praier (as touchying the readyng of holy scripture) muche agreeable to the mynde and purpose of the olde fathers, and a greate deale more profitable and commodious, that that whiche of late was used.

The phrase “…agreeable to the order of the Primitive Church…” is open to a variety of interpretations, a number of which would be far from what Cranmer meant when he wrote “…muche agreeable to the mynde and purpose of the olde fathers….” A careful reading of the preface reveals what Cranmer had in mind when he penned these words. His retention of them in the Preface of the 1552 Prayer Book clearly shows that what he was thinking is not at all how the Tractarians and their Anglo-Catholic successors would interpret these words. They read their own meaning into the words of this part of the Prayer Book as they did the words of the other parts of the Prayer Book—a problem to which Charles Neil, J. M. Willoughby, Dyson Hague, Samuel Leuenberger, and others have drawn attention.

It is worthy of note that the 1662 version of this preface omits the following passage, which comes after the passage in which this reference is found.

Furthermore by this ordre, the curates shal need none other bookes for their publique seuice, but this boke and the Bible: by the meanes whereof, the people shall not be at so great charge for bookes, as in tyme past they haue been.

The Church of England might have done well to have given thought to this principle before it adopted Common Worship (2000), which is actually a collection of service books.

3. that it “be edifying to the people.”

As we have seen in previous sections of the report, the taskforce interprets the phrase “edifying to the people” sole in terms of in a language understandable to the congregation. However, a careful reading of the opening paragraph of the 1549 Preface shows that Cranmer had more in mind than intelligibility.

There was never anye thynge by the witte of man so well devised, or so sure established, whiche (in continuaunce of tyme) hath not been corrupted: as (emong other thynges) it may plainly appeare by the Common prayers in the churche, commonly called divine service: the firste originall and ground wherof, if a man woulde serche out by auncient fathers, he shall fynde that the same was not ordeyned but of a good purpose, and for a greate advauncemente of godlines. For they so ordred the matter, that all the whole Byble (or the gretest part therof) should be red over ones [once] in the yere entending therby, that the clergie and specially suche as wer Ministers of the congregacion, should (by often reading and meditacion of Gods word), be styrred up to godlines themselves, and be more able also to exhorte other [others] by holesome doctrine, and to confute them that wer adversaries to the truth. And further that the people (by daily hearynge of holy scripture read in the Churche) should continually profite more and more in the knowelege of God, and be the more enflamed with the love of his true religion.

Cranmer understood edification in its New Testament sense of upbuilding of the church. Believers were to be instructed and encouraged; non-believers were to be convicted and converted. This requires “holesome,” or sound doctrine, which the Thirty-Nine Articles tells us must clearly be found in Scripture or be provable from Scripture.

After listing the three principles by which it maintains that the first Anglican Prayer Book was organized, the report continues with this statement:

B. The postscript to the 1549 BP, “Of Ceremonies,” adds a fourth principle: that "every country should use such ceremonies as they shall think best to the setting forth of God's honor and to. …the people’s…. perfect and godly living."

In the 1552 Prayer Book what the report characterizes as a “postscript” is placed immediately after the Preface. As noted earlier in this article, Evan Daniels identifies “Of Ceremonies: why some be Abolished and some retained” as Cranmer’s defense of the principles that guided the Reformers in their reform of the services of the Church of England. The report gives only one of the principles found in “Of Ceremonies” and then it does not fully state that principle:

For as those bee taken away, whiche wer moste abused, and dyd burthen mennes conscionces without any cause: so the other that remain are retained for a Dysciplyne and ordre, whiche (upon just causes) maye bee altered and chaunged, and therfore are not to be estemed equall with Goddes lawe. And moreover thei be neither darke nor dombe Ceremonies, but are so set furthe, that everye manne may understand what they dooe meane, and to what use they dooe serve. So that it is not lyke, that they in tyme to And in these oure doynges, we condempne no other nacions, nor prescribe any thing, but to our awne people onelye. For wee thinke it convenient that every countrey should use such Ceremonies, as they shall thinke best, to the setting furth of Goddes honour, or glorye, and to the reducyng of the people to a moste perfect and Godly livyng, without errour or Supersticion. And that they should put away other thynges, whiche from tyme to tyme, they perceyve to bee moste abused, as in mennes ordinaunces, it often chaunceth diversely in divers countreys.

The omissions are noteworthy. They include references to ceremonies that have been greatly abused and burden men’s consciences without cause. They recognize that only those ceremonies essential to discipline and order are necessary and may be altered and changed for good cause. They emphasize that the ceremonies used in worship are not to be esteemed as equal to God’s law—a reference to making the authority of tradition equivalent to that of Scripture. They further emphasize that everyone should understand what they mean and what use they serve. A significant omission is the leaving out of the words “reducyng” and “without errour or Supersticion” from the phrase “to the reducyng of the people to a moste perfect and Godly living, without errour or Supersticion.” Evan Daniel in The Prayer Book; Its History, Language, and Contents notes that “reducying,” or “reducing,” in contemporary spelling, means “bringing back.” He compares the use of the word in “of Ceremonies” with its use in James 5 in the King James Version of the Bible: “We ought…to reduce a straying brother to the truth.” The final omission is the recognition that other ceremonies, when it is clear that they are being greatly abused should also be abolished, noting that this sort of thing frequently happens. When it is put in the context of these omissions, the principle, as Cranmer penned it, means something altogether different from what the taskforce would lead us to believe that it means.

The next statement in the report is further evidence that taskforce is stuck in the twentieth century. Its preoccupations are the preoccupations of twentieth century Episcopalians, not twenty-first century Anglicans:

C. Modern liturgists have added a fifth: that the forms and words be as ecumenical as possible.

In the twentieth century liturgical commissions dominated by Anglo-Catholics and liberals used the argument that a liturgy modeled upon worship patterns close to those of the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Church promoted the cause of ecumenicalism and the unity of the church to justify major departures from the Anglican Church’s own doctrinal and liturgical heritage. The Standing Liturgical Commission of the Episcopal Church followed the fifth principle articulated in this section in its compilation of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. As well as incorporating so-called ecumenical models and texts into the 1979 Prayer Book, the Standing Liturgical Commission followed the recommendations of the 1958 Lambeth Conference regarding the shape of the Eucharist and the doctrine of eucharistic sacrifice. It borrowed forms and words liberally from the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches. Among the results was the continuation of the movement away from the doctrine and liturgical usages of the classic Anglican Prayer Book—The Book of Common Prayer of 1662, which the 1789 Prayer Book began with its adoption of a modified version of the 1764 Scottish Non-Juror Prayer of Consecration and to which the 1928 Prayer Book gave substantial impetus with its incorporation of pre-Reformation medieval Catholic doctrines and practices.

We have now entered the second decade of the twenty-first century. This past Advent the Roman Catholic Church began using its new liturgy. The Roman Catholic Church has abandoned the use of the so-called ecumenical texts and substituted for them a new translation of the Roman Rite from Latin. The Roman Catholic Church has, in the process, reaffirmed its own doctrinal and liturgical heritage.

In 2008 the Global Anglican Future Conference representing millions of Anglicans worldwide GAFCON affirmed the Anglican Church’s doctrinal and liturgical heritage in The Jerusalem Declaration. It upheld 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”. As the GAFCON Theological Resource Group in its commentary upon The Jerusalem Declaration reminds us, “The 1662 Book of Common Prayer remains a true and authoritative standard of worship and prayer, because the principles it embodies are fundamentally theological and biblical [emphasis added]. It further notes:

We should not expect uniformity of liturgy across the Anglican Communion, but we should look for a common theological basis. Our commitment to the principles underlying the liturgy of the Prayer Book should produce forms of corporate worship which may be diverse, but which still bear a family resemblance. The 1662 Prayer Book provides a standard by which other liturgies may be tested and measured [emphasis added].

The emphasis we find here is not upon the use of ecumenical forms and words but upon adherence to the biblical teaching of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and respect for its liturgical usages. The doctrine of the 1662 Prayer Book is embodied in such usages as well as its texts and their ordering. Translation into a particular language or dialect such as modern English and local adaptation to a particular culture does not require the alteration of Prayer Book doctrine. Adapting the Prayer Book to the culture of a people group or region may require some adjustment of its liturgical usages but it does not justify the kind of changes that characterized Prayer Book revision in the twentieth century.

The use of so-called ecumenical models and texts has not brought the Anglican Church closer to other denominations. Rather it has created confusion as to what Anglicans believe and provided a vehicle by which unscriptural teaching has been introduced into the Anglican Church.

In the concluding statement of the section the taskforce adds a sixth principle of its own:

D. From the negative experiences of the 1979 BCP’s intentional rejection of the prayer book tradition, we wish to add one of our own: liturgy should always be evolutionary, not revolutionary; in other words, liturgical change should function as an outgrowth of continuity with the historic worship of the Church rather than as a response to current social agendas.

The Episcopal Church’s Standing Liturgical Commission in its compilation of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer did not see itself as rejecting Prayer Book tradition. Rather the commission viewed its efforts as a continuation of the work of Prayer Book revision begun in the 1928 Prayer Book. The 1928 revision had moved the American Prayer Book in the direction of the semi-reformed liturgy of the 1549 Prayer Book and the unreformed liturgies of the pre-Reformation medieval Mass books. The Standing Liturgical Commission with the 1979 Prayer Book sought to move the American Prayer Book closer to the liturgies of the early church and further enrich Episcopal worship as the compilers of the 1928 Prayer Book believed that they had done in their revision. Like its predecessor, the 1979 Prayer Book reflected both Anglo-Catholic and Broad Church influences. The 1928 revision watered down the penitential language of the American Prayer Book and abandoned the requirement of blanket belief in the canons of the Old and New Testaments for deacons; the 1979 revision adopted a Pelagian catechism and the unbiblical Lambeth doctrine of eucharistic sacrifice. The interpretation of texts such as the baptismal covenant in the 1979 revision to support a particular social agenda came at a later stage after its adoption. Only in the Supplemental Liturgical Material that was subsequently produced by the Standing Liturgical Commission and approved by the General Convention do we encounter liturgies that reflect such an agenda.

The principle that “liturgy should always be evolutionary, not revolutionary” embraces the innovations in doctrine and worship of the Middle Ages and the Council of Trent while rejecting the reforms of the sixteenth century. The Reformed liturgies of the 1552 and 1559 Prayer Books and with them the services of the 1604 and 1662 Prayer Books may be put aside as breaking with “the historic worship of the Church.” In their place may be substituted the 1928 and 1549 Prayer Books and the associated missals. It is a self-serving principle for a taskforce that treats the 1549 and 1928 Prayer Books as if they are formularies of the Anglican Church.

A principle that is notably absent from the report is a key principle of the Reformation, both in England and on the Continent. This principle is that the elements used in worship must be found in the Bible or must be consonant with its teaching. In the Bible we find a number of worship elements—confession; exhortation; the reading and exposition of Scripture; prayer; the sharing of testimony; the singing of hymns, psalms, and spiritual songs; the administration of the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper; and the exercise of various spiritual gifts such as prophecy. We do not, however, find the exposing of the consecrated host in a monstrance for adoration, the invocation of the saints, or the veneration of our Lord’s mother. Nor are such elements in accord with biblical teaching. The leaving out of this important Reformation principle appears to have been deliberate.

The principles that the taskforce puts forward as its guiding principles in this section are an omnium gatherum. Their clear intent is to ensure that the liturgy of the Anglican Church in North America is Anglo-Catholic in doctrine and practice. How Archbishop Duncan expects such a liturgy to advance the cause of missionary biblical Anglicanism in North America in the twenty-first century strains all credulity.

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