By Robin G. Jordan
The three services and five eucharistic prayers now on the A Prayer Book for North America website illustrate the kinds of worship resources that the Anglican Church in North America’s Prayer Book and Common Liturgy Task Force should be developing for the use of congregations and missional communities in the ACNA and which the jurisdiction’s College of Bishops should be endorsing. They are agreeable to the teaching of the Bible and consistent with the doctrinal and worship principles of the Anglican Formularies. The three services are also fairly flexible and allow for the different circumstances of the congregations and missional communities, which use them. They are not wed to a particular style of worship.
Service of the Word, First Order, for example, provides a basic structure for the Sunday gathering of a missional community meeting each week in the living room of one of its members. It also provides the structure for the liturgy of the Word for a new congregation’s weekly celebration of Holy Communion held in a school cafeteria or a borrowed church sanctuary. The service is tailorable to the size of the gathering, its setting, its music resources, and so on. It is a service designed for a church on mission.
What then is happening in the Prayer Book and Common Liturgy Task Force that accounts for the rites and services that it has produced to date and their decidedly unreformed Catholic character? Why isn’t the task force producing worship resources geared toward the North American mission field? Isn’t reaching and engaging the growing unchurched population of Canada and the United States a major priority of the Anglican Church in North America and a primary reason for its existence? One would think so from all the rhetoric about church planting and new congregations. But as it turns out, the rhetoric is just that—rhetoric. It does not reflect reality.
Former Archbishop of Nigeria Peter Akinola tied his support of the Anglican Church in North America to its fulfillment of the Great Commission. If the ACNA became nothing more than a refuge for disaffected Episcopalians fleeing the Episcopal Church, he did not want anything to do with the ACNA. Yet to one segment of the ACNA, that is exactly what it is—a refuge for disaffected Episcopalians. This segment of the ACNA appears to be well represented in the Prayer Book and Common Liturgy Task Force and the College of Bishops.
Anglo-Catholics and like-minded individuals have historically gravitated to liturgical commissions or their equivalent in the various Anglican jurisdictions. They have a vested interest in what goes into a new Prayer Book. They recognize that it is the contents of a jurisdiction’s Prayer Book that to a large part determines its official theology. They know that if they can influence what goes in a new Prayer Book, they will also be influencing what will be the jurisdiction’s official beliefs and practices. They seek to ensure that the new book, if it does not embody their theological views, is not unfriendly to them. For this reason one is likely to find more Anglo-Catholics and individuals open to unreformed Catholic opinions on such commissions than conservative evangelicals and other convictional Anglicans.
Bishop Robert Duncan, the bishop presently chairing the Prayer Book and Common Liturgy Task Force, during his term of office as Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America instructed the task force to concentrate upon developing liturgies that would appeal to the tastes of people in the ACNA. In other words, he told the task force to put the existing members of the ACNA before the unchurched population of Canada and the United States in designing rites and services for the new Prayer Book. This reflects a maintenance mindset not a missionary one.
Bishop Duncan said nothing about developing liturgies that were Scriptural, theologically-sound, consistent with the Anglican Formularies’ doctrinal and worship principles, and mission-oriented. Nothing at all!
Before he became Archbishop, Bishop Duncan had on several occasions publicly rejected the Protestant Elizabethan Settlement, called for a new settlement, and championed regression to the teaching and practices of the pre-Reformation Church as a response to liberalism. The Elizabethan Settlement has shaped historic Anglicanism since the sixteenth century. In the role of Archbishop Bishop Duncan took great delight in using unreformed Catholic practices at the consecration of new bishops and other ACNA gatherings.
Serving as a special consultant to the Prayer Book and Common Liturgy Task Force and a member of the College of Bishops’ Review Committee is Bishop Keith Ackerman, former president of Forward in Faith North America (FIFNA). FIFNA is an organization devoted to the promotion of unreformed Catholic doctrine, order, and practice. It has gone on record as upholding all the teachings of the first seven general councils of the supposedly undivided Church before the East-West Schism in the eleventh century, the medieval Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation, and the medieval Catholic sacramental system with its seven sacraments. These positions place FIFNA clearly at odds with the Bible as well as historic Anglicanism. Bishop Ackerman has on a number of occasions publicly called for a new Oxford Movement. The nineteenth century Oxford Movement not only revived medieval Catholic doctrine and practices that the English Reformers had rejected on firm biblical grounds but also introduced later Roman Catholic innovations in doctrine and worship in the Anglican Church.
Both the Prayer Book and Common Liturgy Task Force and the College of Bishops are not treating convictional Anglicans as full stakeholders in the Anglican Church in North America. They are catering to one segment of the ACNA while discriminating against another. They are effectively marginalizing convictional Anglicans while at the same time demanding their cooperation, their loyalty, and their financial support.
Based upon the make-up and leadership of the Prayer Book and Common Liturgy Task Force, the rites and services that the task force has produced to date, and the degree of the College of Bishops' involvement in their development, I seriously doubt that anyone who draws attention to the task force’s decided bias toward unreformed Catholicism will receive a hearing from the task force, much less a fair one.
Conservative evangelicals and other convictional Anglicans in the Anglican Church in North America need to be weighing their options. I cannot reiterate this enough. Time is running out for them. The time will come and that time is near when it will be too late to do anything.