By Robin G. Jordan
I am anticipating at least four different responses to the final authorization of the proposed ACNA Prayer Book. The first response will be to welcome the new Prayer Book. This response will come from those whose thinking and practice is in sync with that of the new Prayer Book. One may hear a few complaints such as the book could have been made more Catholic with prayers to the blessed Virgin Mary and the saints and other Catholic devotions.
The second response will be to accept the book because other clergy and congregations in the Anglican Church in North America are accepting it. While the clergy and congregations in this group may not agree with the unreformed Catholic teaching and practices mandated or sanctioned in the book, they will conclude erroneously that they have no other choice but use it. The College of Bishops, I believe, is banking on this happening. The catechism and the proposed Prayer Book are the centerpiece of the Catholic Revivalist effort to Catholicize the jurisdiction.
The third response will be to use the new Prayer Book but to make unauthorized changes in the book. This includes changes that will make the book even more Catholic than it is.
The fourth response will be to reject the book altogether and to use an unauthorized liturgy. While the use of such a liturgy will constitute a violation of the canons, clergy and congregations with strong convictions are likely to take this route rather than compromise their convictions.
One argument that I expect to hear in support of use of the new Prayer Book is that its two services of Holy Communion resemble the Holy Communion service in the 1928 Prayer Book. There is a superficial resemblance between the rites. However, if one carefully examines the rites, it quickly becomes apparent that the two ACNA forms of Holy Communion are far more Catholic than the 1928 rite, which itself is fairly Catholic in its doctrine and liturgical practices.
I also expect to hear the argument that the new Prayer Book is “our” Prayer Book, endorsed by “our” bishops, as if being an ACNA service book, approved by ACNA bishops, makes up for its doctrinal and liturgical shortcomings.
The third argument that I am expecting to hear is that the new Prayer Book contains material from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. The new book does indeed contain material from the 1662 Prayer Book. This material, however, has been altered and added to and used in an entirely different manner than in the 1662 Prayer Book so that it does not convey the doctrine of the 1662 Prayer Book. Key elements of the 1662 Prayer Book such as the Declaration on Kneeling are also missing. The 1662 Prayer Book is substantially the Reformed 1552 Prayer Book. The two forms of Holy Communion in the proposed ACNA Prayer Book have more in common with the Roman Mass.
I would urge clergy and congregations faithful to the Bible and the Anglican formularies and standing in the Anglican Church’s Reformation heritage to show their disapproval of the book in three ways.
1. Publicly object to the book’s contents, its doctrine, and its liturgical practices. They gain nothing from maintaining silence on these matters.
2. Refuse to use the book. If disciplinary action is taken against clergy and congregations that refuse to use the book, it will reflect poorly upon the Anglican Church in North America and will subject the jurisdiction to unwanted scrutiny. The GAFCON Primates will find themselves in the unenviable position of supporting a jurisdiction that persecutes Confessing Anglicans on the basis of their beliefs.
3. Refuse to purchase the book. Low sales volume and a publisher’s warehouse filled with unsold books will send a clear message to the College of Bishops.
In other words, start a Prayer Book rebellion. Mixing things up a little may bring the ACNA leadership to its senses. If it overreacts, it will expose itself for what it really is—no friend of biblical Anglicanism.