Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Prayer Book Revision in the Anglican Church in North America: An Evangelical View

By Robin G. Jordan

When they are compared with the Holy Communion Service of the classical Anglican Prayer Book – the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, the three forms of the Holy Eucharist that the Anglican Church in North America's Liturgy Task Force and Bishops Review Committee have developed to date and which the ACNA's College of Bishops has endorsed, depart significantly from that service. They show not only the strong influence of the pre-Reformation Latin Mass but also that of the more recent Roman Rite eucharistic liturgies. These influences are evident in the Liturgy of the Word as well as the Liturgy of the Table. While the three forms do not go as far as the Romanized version of the Anglican Communion Service authorized for the use of traditional language congregations in the Anglican Ordinariate in the United Kingdom, they do show a marked leaning in that direction.

Any resemblance that the three forms bear to the 1662 Holy Communion Service is purely superficial. Where doctrine and liturgical usages are concerned, they fall far short of the standard of the 1662 Holy Communion Service, which is based upon the Reformed eucharistic liturgy of the 1552 Prayer Book. The Romanization of these forms renders them both unacceptable and unsuitable for use by Anglican clergy and congregations faithful to the teaching of the Bible and committed to the doctrinal and worship principles of the English Reformation and the Elizabethan Settlement.

In addition to the pre-Reformation Latin Mass and the more recent Roman Rite eucharistic liturgies (including the eucharistic rites of The Book of Divine Worship authorized for use in the Pastoral Provision parishes), two other influences are discernible in the three ACNA forms. These influences are the late nineteenth century-early twentieth century Anglican Missals and the more recent Anglo-Catholic Anglican Service Book. These liturgical books themselves show the strong influence of the Roman Rite.

In light of the diversity of doctrinal and liturgical views in the Anglican Church in North America, the College of Bishop’s endorsement of the three forms raises serious questions about its commitment to authentic historic Anglicanism and to what J. I. Packer has called the “evangelical comprehensiveness” of Anglicanism. Rather the College of Bishops appears to be intent upon forcing the clergy and congregations of the Anglican Church in North America into the same ideological mold. The ideology with which the College of Bishops appears to be intent upon saddling the ACNA is an unreformed Catholic ideology that runs counter to the principles of doctrine and worship articulated in the historic Anglican formularies- the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion of 1572, the Ordinal of 1661, The Book of Common Prayer of 1662, the two Books of Homilies, and Alexnder Nowell’s Larger Catechism – an ideology that is antithetical to the biblical and reformed character of authentic historic Anglicanism.

Whatever the official and unofficial spokesmen of the Liturgy Task Force, the Bishops Review Committee, and the College of Bishops may say to justify the direction of the three forms, indeed of the entire proposed 2019 Prayer Book, it is clear that the ideological agenda of one segment of the Anglican Church in North America is the driving force behind this direction, an agenda which this segment of the ACNA is pursuing with little or no regard for the views of the other schools of thought represented in the ACNA. Much as the liberal ideologues have done in the Episcopal Church, this segment of the ACNA is doing all that it can within its power to firmly establish its ideology as the doctrine and practice of the ACNA, and to make any possibility of change difficult if not unlikely.

In pursuing its ideological agenda at the expense of the other schools of thought represented in the Anglican Church in North America, this segment of the ACNA has repeatedly shown that it really does not value the unity of the denomination, to which it often appeals. If that was truly the case, it would not be pursuing its ideological agenda so recklessly. It would be open to genuine compromise, compromise that involves mutual give and take, rather than requiring the other schools of thought to make major concessions without making such concessions itself.

At this stage those who have concerns about the proposed 2019 Prayer Book need to go public with their concerns. The response of the Liturgical Task Force to the concerns of clergy and others has to date been dismissive of these concerns. As was the case with the constitution and canons of the Anglican Church in North America, there is no openness to making major changes in the proposed 2019 Prayer Book even though such changes are warranted. From their conversations with official and unofficial spokesmen for the Liturgical Task Force, the Bishops Review Committee, and the College of Bishops, those who have expressed concerns about the proposed book have come away with the strong impression that it is a “done deal.” In this case the next step is to move discussion of the proposed book into the public arena and to put pressure upon these three bodies to make much needed changes.

A question that also needs to be brought into the bright light of day is the College of Bishop’s usurpation of the authority of the Provincial Council and the Provincial Assembly in matters affecting the worship and the Prayer Book of the Anglican Church in North America. The constitution of the ACNA very clearly gives the Provincial Council the authority to make canons and regulations related to these matters, not the College of Bishops. The decisions of the Provincial Council are in turn subject to the final approval of the Provincial Assembly. The role of the College of Bishops envisioned in the constitution and canons is purely consultative at best. The College may make recommendations to the Provincial Council but the Council is not bound to follow its recommendations. It is well within the authority of the Provincial Council to censure the College of Bishops for its infringement upon the powers and prerogatives of the Council and its arrogation of powers and prerogatives that are not vested in College by the constitution and canons or recognized as inherent in the College by these documents.

What I see happening in the Anglican Church in North America is that the College of Bishops is endeavoring to foist a Prayer Book upon the ACNA without taking the necessary steps that the constitution and canons require for its authorization. This includes avoiding public debate of the merits, defects, and weaknesses of the book that the College wishes to palm off onto the province.

Any Prayer Book that does not take into serious consideration the several schools of thought represented in the Anglican Church in North America and is not adopted by the Provincial Council and approved by the Provincial Assembly after lengthy period of public debate is not going to be a unitive influence in the ACNA. Indeed it is likely to further strain the ACNA’s fragile unity.

In its promotion of what is clearly a partisan Prayer Book, the College of Bishops is playing a very dangerous game. While the second Anglican Church in North America has so far proven more durable than its predecessor, it has not entirely escaped the kind of problems that beset the first ACNA. The three major fault lines that resulted in the breakup of the first ACNA are also evident in the second ACNA. These fault lines are doctrine, liturgical usages, and unfettered episcopal authority. To these fault lines may be added a fourth fault line, the ordination of women, which was not evident in the first ACNA. A more comprehensive Prayer Book and constitutional and canonical provisions permitting the development and adoption of alternative rites at the sub-provincial and diocesan levels would be a critical step toward reducing the stress on at least two of these fault lines. They might in turn relieve stress on the remaining two fault lines and keep the second ACNA from suffering the fate of its predecessor


Donald Veitch said...

What is the first ACNA? What is the second ACNA? Never heard the nomenclature.

Hudson Barton said...

I too would like to know what is meant here.

Robin G. Jordan said...

In 1977 a congress of Episcopal clergy and laity met in St. Louis in reaction to the ordination of women and the revision of the Prayer Book in the Episcopal Church. As well as issuing the document known as the Affirmation of St. Louis, they organized the first Anglican Church in North America. These two events are major events in the history of the Continuing Anglican Movement in North America. If you want to learn more about these events,read Douglas Bess' Divided We Stand: A History of the Continuing Anglican Movement (Tractarian Press: Riverside CA, 2002). Bess not only documents what happened but also identifies the factors that contributed to the disintegration of the first ACNA, particularly the divisions between those whom he describes as "Anglican Loyalists" and "Catholic Revivalists." Among those divisions was that the Anglican Loyalists believed that historic Anglicanism was sufficiently catholic while the Catholic Revivalists did not believe that it was Catholic enough. As well as disagreeing over doctrine, they also disagreed over the authority of the bishop. The Anglican Loyalists took a more comprehensive approach to worship than did the Catholic Revivalists. Similar divisions exist in the second ACNA formed in 2009.

Lucy said...

It is important that input from all ACNA schools of thought are seriously considered and debated for inclusion in the new Prayer Book. The Provincial Counsel and the Privincial Assembly should then finalize the book. Input should in some way be solicited right down to priests and/or vestry, considered and filtered before sending on to the larger bodies. If the majority of ACNA has no voice, it will harm the unity so highly regarded by its members.