By Robin G. Jordan
“Where there is a will, there is a way” is a saying that I often heared as a child. But what if there is no will?
Yesterday evening I was perusing the 1929 Scottish Prayer Book. It contains two orders for the administration of Holy Communion—the Scottish and the English. The Scottish order is based upon the first English Prayer Book of 1549 and the ill-fated Scottish Prayer Book of 1637—the so-called “Laudian Liturgy.” The English order is based upon the second English Prayer Book of 1552 and the Restoration Prayer Book of 1662.The two orders embody quite different theologies of the Eucharist.
By 1929 the Scottish Episcopal Church brought together in one church two divergent traditions. The Scottish tradition originated with the seventeenth century Scottish Usager Non-Jurors while the English tradition originated with the seventeenth century English Episcopal Chapels in Scotland. The Scottish tradition was High Church while the English tradition was evangelical.
Now if in 1929 the Scottish Episcopal Church can adopt a Prayer Book that reflected the diversity which existed in the Scottish church at that time, why cannot the Anglican Church in North America adopt a similar book in 2019? There is no good reason that it cannot. There is simply a lack of interest in the Liturgy Task Force, the Bishops Review Committee, and the College of Bishops to compile such a book.
A pressing need for this kind of book exists but those compiling the proposed Prayer Book have chosen to ignore it. They have their own agenda. This agenda is two-fold.
First, move the Anglican Church in North America further in the direction of unreformed Catholicism.
While they may not be representative of the province as a whole, a dominant force in these three bodies is a wing of the Anglican Church in North America, which does not believe that historic Anglicanism, the Anglicanism of the English Reformation, the Elizabethan Settlement, and the Restoration, is “Catholic” enough.
Second, impose an ultramontane uniformity upon the churches of the Anglican Church in North America in the areas of doctrine and worship.
The proposed rites and services that the three bodies have produced to date do not reflect the diversity that exists in the Anglican Church in North America. They ar e heavily weighted in favor of the Catholic Revivalist principles and practices of one wing of the ACNA—a wing that wields a degree of influence in the affairs of the province disproportionate to its size. This is due to the particular structure of the province’s form of governance and the way which that form of governance operates.
The proposed rites and services that the Liturgy Task Force, the Bishops Review Committee, and the College of Bishops has so far produced display an unhealthy obsession with pre-Reformation and Counter-Reformation theology and liturgy—an obsession that has characterized the Anglo-Catholic Movement since the nineteenth century. They are not only dangerously tilted toward the unreformed Catholicism of Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism (as opposed to the reformed catholicism of authentic historic Anglicanism) but also are lacking in the kind of flexibility that the twenty-first century mission field demands. Rather than being designed to help the local church to reach and engage the growing unchurched population of North America, they are tailored to the preferences of one segment of the Anglican Church in North America and to Continuing Anglicans outside of the ACNA with similar tastes.
In the local church catering to the preferences of one segment of the congregation has been identified as a mark of a declining church. It is essentially a slow form of suicide. As this segment of the congregation shrinks in size due to death, incapacitation, or moving away, the congregation shrinks with it. As can be seen from the present state of the several Continuing Anglican jurisdictions, the same thing can and does happen at the jurisdictional level.
I am not covering new ground in this article. These problem areas have been evident from the outset. Former Archbishop Bob Duncan’s original mandate to the Liturgy Task Force signaled the direction that Prayer Book revision would be taking in the Anglican Church in North America. Duncan now heads the Liturgy Task Force. Another leading Catholic Revivalist, Bishop Keith Ackerman, sometimes President of Forward in Faith North America, an organization committed to the “Catholicization” of the ACNA, serves as special advisor to the task force.
As was the case with the constitution and canons of the Anglican Church in North America, the catechism, rites, and services of the 2019 proposed Prayer Book need a major overhaul before their final adoption. This includes the Ordinal.
Too often appeals to church unity have been used to mute or silence the voicing of legitimate concerns in the Anglican Church in North America. The cause of church unity, however, does not justify the adoption of a flawed service book any more than it does the adoption of a flawed constitution and a flawed set of canons. If the ACNA is going to be something more than another diminutive Continuing Anglican jurisdiction, if it is going to realize its full potential in advancing the gospel in North America and the larger world, it needs to shelve the proposed book and start again.
What is at stake is not only Biblical Christianity and authentic historic Anglicanism but the souls of hundreds of thousands, no, millions of people in this generation and future generations.
I would like to hear from readers who have shared their concerns with a representative of the Catechism Task Force, Liturgy Task Force, Bishops Review Committee, and/or College of Bishops. Tell other Anglicans Ablaze readers about your experience.
1. How do you identify yourself from the perspective of doctrine and liturgy?
2. What are your concerns?
3. With whom have you shared these concerns?
4. What was the response of those with whom you have shared your concerns?
5. Were any discernible changes subsequently made in the catechism and/or the rites and services of the proposed Prayer Book?
6. Were the changes that were made substantial, minor, of no consequence?
7. What were they?