By Robin G. Jordan
Former Archbishop Robert Duncan is claiming that the Liturgy and Common Worship Task Force is now using the theology of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer as its guide in developing rites and services for the Anglican Church in North America. However, Duncan’s statement that the task force is not rigidly following the shape of the 1662 Prayer Book’s liturgies suggests that the task force is at best selectively using the 1662 Prayer Book’s theology as a guide if it is using that theology as a guide at all. The theology of the 1662 Prayer Book is expressed in the shape of its liturgies as well as in the texts contained in the liturgies and the order in which they are arranged in a particular rite or service.
During the nineteenth century Anglo-Catholics made a concerted effort to systematically reinterpret the theology of the 1662 Prayer Book, giving “a Catholic sense” to everything in the 1662 Prayer Book to which they could give such an interpretation. When former Archbishop Duncan says that the Liturgy and Common Worship Task Force is using the 1662 Prayer Book’s theology as guide, our first question must be to which theology is Duncan referring—its actual theology or the Anglo-Catholic reinterpretation of its theology?
Duncan justifies not rigidly following the shape of the 1662 liturgies on the grounds that most of them “are not offered in a Eucharistic context.” Insisting upon a Eucharistic context for most of the liturgies of the Prayer Book reflects the influence of the nineteenth century Anglo-Catholic movement and the twentieth century ecumenical and liturgical movements. It itself is a rejection of the 1662 Prayer Book’s theology.
From a doctrinal standpoint offering most liturgies in a Eucharistic context points to a sacramentalism and sacerdotalism that is uncharacteristic of the 1662 Prayer Book, and which is more consistent with the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, particular its insistence that the work of the Holy Spirit “is mediated through the Church, the priesthood, and the sacraments.”
From a missional standpoint offering most liturgies in a Eucharistic context needlessly restricts their use to whenever a priest or bishop is available. It unnecessarily hinders the Church in its fulfillment of the Great Commission. Offering a liturgy in the context of the Eucharist should be one of a number of options.
The new rites and liturgical revisions that Liturgy and Common Worship Task Force produces under former Archbishop Duncan’s chairmanship will show whether there is any truth to Duncan’s claim. Duncan is quite capable of making such a claim to disarm those who are growing increasingly alarmed by the Anglo-Catholic theology of the ACNA rites to date and to lull those unfamiliar with the doctrine and principles of the 1662 Prayer Book into believing that the doctrine and principles of the ACNA Prayer Book conforms to those of the 1662 Prayer Book.