Thursday, June 18, 2015

Surprises in Store? College of Bishops to Consider Liturgy Revisions at June Meeting

By Robin G. Jordan

During the week of June 22-26, 2015 the Executive Committee, the Provincial Council, and the College of Bishops of the Anglican Church in North America will be meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia. The “working texts” for the baptism and confirmation rites will be submitted for the approval of the College of Bishops at its meeting.  These texts incorporate additional editing by retired Anglo-Catholic Bishop Keith Ackerman and substantial revisions by the Bishops Review Panel. The Bishops Review Panel is composed of former Archbishop Robert “Bob” Duncan and Bishops John Guernsey, Jack Iker, Neil Lebhar, and Charlie Masters.

Other proposals that may be submitted to the College of Bishops include two new Eucharistic Prayers and changes to the rubrics of the Short Form of Holy Communion for weekday use. In its article, Taking the Next Steps Toward a New Prayer Book, the ACNA quarterly The Apostle quotes former Archbishop Duncan as saying.
“We are using the 1662 Book of Common Prayer as our theological guide but we are also cautious to not be too rigid in adhering to the shape of its liturgies, especially since most of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer was not offered in a Eucharistic context.”
Former Archbishop Duncan has taken over the chairmanship of the Liturgy and Common Worship Task Force. His assumption of this particular leadership role appears intended to facilitate the acceptance of work of the task force and ultimately the final version of the Prayer Book that it produces.

The Liturgy and Common Worship Task Force has so far not adhered closely to the doctrine and principles of the 1662 Prayer Book or to those of the Thirty-Nine Articles, which provides the standard by which its doctrine and principles must be interpreted. The task force is not expected to do so under Duncan's leadership.

The Liturgy and Common Task Force continues to be made up almost exclusively of bishops and other clergy. The only lay person on the task force is a professor of humanities who has written a biography of The Book of Common Prayer. The members of the task force are predominantly Anglo-Catholic or High Church and sacramentalist in their leanings.

The only member of the task force who is Low Church and evangelical and known to have a Reformed theology is J. I. Packer. Packer, however, is elderly and in poor health. He has not taken an active role in developing and editing rites and services for the ACNA Prayer Book. His presence on the task force is window dressing which is intended to make the book seem more acceptable to evangelicals but which does not have any real effect on its doctrine or liturgical usages. 

Due to the secretiveness that characterizes the Anglican Church in North America at the provincial level, what the College of Bishops will be considering at its meeting has not been made public before the meeting.

I will provide a full report with commentary on the outcome of that meeting as it relates to the ACNA Prayer Book as soon as that information is available. 

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