By Robin G. Jordan
If you are seeking to find biblical Anglicanism in the Anglican Church in North America, you are not going to find it in the province’s draft Prayer Book or its Catechism and Ordinal. What you will find is a travesty of authentic historic Anglicanism. Rite after rite the draft Prayer Book is a repudiation of the historic Anglican formularies. The Catechism fails to conform not only to the doctrine of the formularies but also to the teaching of the Bible. The Ordinal embraces teaching and practices that the English Reformers rejected in the sixteenth century on solid biblical grounds.
If you are seeking to find genuine comprehensiveness in the Anglican Church in North America, you won’t find it in the province’s formularies either. The draft Prayer Book and the Ordinal contains no alternative rites or language for the use of convictional Anglicans faithful to the Bible and the historic Anglican formularies, no permission to omit texts and ceremonies that they find incompatible with the doctrinal and worship principles of biblical Anglicanism’s reformed, evangelical faith. The Catechism is far from acceptable to all legitimate schools of Anglican thought.
What makes matters worse is that the canons of Anglican Church in North America do not contain any clear procedure for the adoption of a Prayer Book. This includes the Ordinal and the Catechism since these formularies typically form a part of the Prayer Book in an Anglican Church. The constitution of the province gives the Provincial Council the power to make canons ordering the common life of the provinces in respect to common worship among other matters. The canons require the use of the draft Prayer Book once it is adopted. They provide no exceptions to its use:
“Until such time as a Book of Common Prayer for use in this Province has been adopted, all authorized Books of Common Prayer of the originating jurisdictions shall be permitted for use in this Church.” Canon II.2.1
The canons also identify as the responsibility of the ordinary of a diocese “to ensure that the forms used in Public Worship and the Administration of the Sacraments” in his diocese “be in accordance with Anglican Faith and Order.” They further stipulate that “nothing be established that is contrary to the Word of God as revealed in the Holy Scriptures.” See Canon II.2.2.
However, they delineate no procedure for the adoption of a Prayer Book.
The current procedure being followed in the Anglican Church in North America in which the Prayer Book and Liturgy Task Force and the Bishops’ Review Committee devise new rites for the province and the College of Bishops approves them has no constitutional or canonical basis—none whatsoever. Any Prayer Book produced by this process is neither constitutional nor canonical.
Even if the Provincial Council should make a canon regularizing the book and the Provincial Assembly ratified that canon, the book’s lawfulness would be questionable. Whether the use of such a book would be binding upon clergy and congregations of the Anglican Church in North America is debatable. Bishops who sought to enforce its use in their diocese would be violating Canon II.2.2 due to the book’s departures from biblical teaching and Anglican formulary doctrine.
As it is the College of Bishops in usurping the role of the Provincial Council in the preparation of a Prayer Book for the province is contravening the province’s constitution. From what I gather members of that body claim that the Ordinal is subject to no further changes because the College of Bishops authorized and adopted it in 2013. But the constitution and canons of the Anglican Church in North America neither vest in the College of Bishops such authority nor recognize it as inherent in that body.
If you look closely at the way that the Anglican Church in North America has been governed to date, you will discover one irregularity after another. In some cases the irregularities have been regularized. But often as not they have been glozed over. This way of doing things has become part of the culture of the Anglican Church in North America and does not bode well for the province’s future as the abuses of authority in the province will become greater and greater with the passage of time.
If the Anglican Church in North America is to stay together as a province, it will need a Prayer Book that is genuinely comprehensive and is not a party book like the draft Prayer Book. It will need to have a clear process for the adoption of a provincial Prayer Book delineated in its canons. It will also need canonical provisions permitting dioceses and sub-provinces to adopt their own service books for their own use. This includes their authorization of the continued use of the traditional Prayer Books. What the province does not need is a Prayer Book that seeks to impose the views of one party in the Anglican Church in North America upon the rest of the province.