Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Nearly All Working Texts for Proposed ACNA Prayer Book Online

By Robin G. Jordan

As the proposed 2019 Prayer Book moves into the final stages of  completion, how are ACNA clergy and congregations that stand in the tradition of “Reformation Anglicanism” going to respond to a Prayer Book which makes no room for that tradition in the doctrine and worship of the Anglican Church in North America? The rites and services of the proposed Prayer Book, which exhibit the influence of unreformed Catholicism in its Eastern Orthodox and pre-Reformation and post-Tridentian Western Catholic forms, are a repudiation of the tradition of “Reformation Anglicanism.” What variations these rites and services permit do not go as far as giving space to the teaching and the liturgical practices of “Reformation Anglicanism.”

The Prayer Book that we use in the worship and life of the Church does make a difference. It shapes and reinforces what we believe. It serves as an authority to which we can appeal along with the Bible and the historic Anglican formularies in support of what we preach and teach. It can also weaken, undermine, and sabotage our beliefs. Its authority can be used to challenge our preaching and teaching.

The connection between liturgy and doctrine is a powerful one. It should not be underestimated. By liturgy I mean not only the set forms that a church employs in rites and services but also the customary practices.

Of the groups that form the Anglican Church in North America, the Catholic Revivalist wing appears to have greatest appreciation of the power of this connection. Securing an unreformed Catholic Catechism, Ordinal, and Prayer Book for the province are, in its view, necessary steps toward the transformation of the ACNA into an unreformed Catholic Church. The Catholic Revivalist wing appears to be well on its way to achieving this goal.

In spreading the gospel and reaching and engaging the unchurched in secular North America, the contemporary Anglican church faces numerous obstacles. The Prayer Book that it is required to use should not be one of these obstacles. However, the proposed 2019 Prayer Book, as it is presently taking shape, embodying the preferences of the province’s Catholic Revivalist wing as opposed to meeting the needs of the North American mission field, promises to be such an obstacle. As well as falling short in its conformity to the teaching of the Bible and the principles of the historic Anglican formularies, the proposed Prayer Book is seriously lacking in those features that are desirable in a Prayer Book for use on the mission field – flexibility, simplicity, brevity, understandability, and a wide range of variable options.

It is not too late for ACNA clergy and congregation committed to Biblical Christianity, “Reformation Anglicanism,” and the gospel to seize the initiative and to press for major revisions in the Catechism and the Ordinal as well as the proposed Prayer Book. Additionally, they would do well to push for the amendment of the constitution and canons to permit dioceses, networks, sub-provinces, and other groupings of churches within the Anglican Church in North America to develop and use their own Catechisms, Ordinals, and Prayer Books provided that these resources conform to the teaching of the Bible and the principles of the historic Anglican formularies. They have little to lose and much to gain.

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