Saturday, May 06, 2017

The Proposed 2019 Prayer Book: A Comprehensive and Mission-Shaped Liturgy?

By Robin G. Jordan

While the forms of the Holy Communion that the Liturgy Task Force crafted for the proposed 2019 Book of Common Prayer may employs textual material from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, the manner in which it is employed differs from the manner that it is employed in the 1662 Prayer Book. The doctrine that the three forms embody is not that of the 1662 Prayer Book nor is compatible with the doctrine of that historic Anglican formulary. It is also not compatible with the principles of doctrine and worship laid out in the Articles of Religion of 1571. The three forms embody a form of unreformed Catholicism that does not differ greatly from Roman Catholicism, particularly in its doctrine of eucharistic sacrifice and eucharistic presence, and which is antithetical to the spirit of authentic historic Anglicanism.

While the language of the three eucharistic prayers is more muted than that of the Roman Canon, their structure is identical to that of the Roman Canon with the offering of the eucharistic elements following their consecration. This may be seen from a comparison of the three eucharistic prayers with the Roman Canon. The forms of the Holy Communion developed for proposed 2019 Book of Common Prayer also incorporate material from the Roman Missal, the Book of Divine Worship, the Anglican Service Book, and the various Anglican Missals. Unlike the 1549 Communion Service, they contain no rubrical prohibition against the elevation of consecrated host or the showing of the consecrated elements to the congregation for adoration. Rather they incorporate a formula that is taken from these sources and which is historically associated with the exhibiting of the consecrated elements for adoration.

A careful examination of the other rites and services that the Liturgy Task Force has completed to date shows that they evidence the same doctrinal leanings as the eucharistic rite.

Considering the theological diversity found in the Anglican Church in North America, one would have expected the task force to have produced a collection of rites and services that took into account the divergent opinions of the several theological schools of thought represented in the province. Instead the task force has prepared a collection of rites and services that gives preferential treatment to the opinions of the Catholic Revivalist school of thought. While the collection contains provisions that enable those using the collection to make its rites and services more openly unreformed Catholic in their doctrine and liturgical usages, it does not contain any provisions that enable its users to do the reverse and to make them more biblical and Reformed and consequently more Anglican.

If the Liturgy Task Force has any appreciation of the kinds of challenges that churches on the North American mission field face in the twenty-first century, it is not evident in the forms of the Holy Communion or the other rites and services that the task force has so far produced. They lack the kind of flexibility and adaptability to local circumstances, which is an absolute necessity on the twenty-first century North American mission field. We are not living the middle of the twentieth century but in the second decade of the new millennium. Rather than produce a liturgy for the twenty-first century, the Liturgical Task Force appears to be intent on revisiting and redoing the Prayer Book revision of the last century.

Missing from these rites and services is careful balancing of the desire for brevity with the desire for enrichment. The result is a liturgy that is needlessly prolix.  Even the so-called “short form” of the Holy Communion is unnecessarily long.

Elements of the eucharistic rite which could have been made optional because of their history, or even omitted, are required at every celebration of the Holy Communion. The Kyries, the Gloria in Excelsis, the Lord’s Prayer, the Collect for Purity, the Decalogue, the Collect of the Commandments, and the Summary of the Law, are the liturgical equivalent of “clutter” which the gathering rite has collected over the centuries. Whether they are “necessary” is highly debatable. They are for the most part redundant. The only essential elements are the greeting and the Prayer of the Day. Even the entrance song may be omitted.

The retention of certain elements of the eucharistic rite appears to be cosmetic. The Decalogue, the Summary of the Law, the Prayer for Whole State of Christ’s Church, and the Post-Communion Prayer, and the Blessing fall into this category. They appear to have been retained to facilitate the acceptance of the new forms with their unreformed Catholic doctrine and liturgical usages.

The relationship of the three forms to the 1928 Communion Service, to which they are touted as bearing a resemblance is similar to that of the relationship of the 1928 Communion Service to the 1662 Communion Service. The resemblance is a superficial one and does not hold up to close scrutiny. Their doctrine and liturgical usages are different. The 1662 and 1928 Prayer Books are not different editions of the same book as the late Peter Toon claimed. They are different books.

The collection contains no alternatives to the services of Holy Communion and Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer. This includes provision for ante-communion found in The Book of Common Prayer from 1549 on, as well as forms for alternative services of the Word found in more recent Anglican service books. This type of service appears in Anglican service books as early as the 1926 Irish Prayer Book.

The January 12, 2017 resolution of the College of Bishops concerning Prayer Books and Historic Rites is a step in the right direction but it does not go far enough. The resolution states:

1. That Title II, Canon 2, section 1 means that the Book of Common Prayer 1662 and its predecessor books, including versions updated or contemporized as to language, are, with the permission of the local bishop, completely appropriate for use in this Church.

2. That the renewed 1552 Rite submitted by the Anglican Network in Canada should be, without delay, placed among the liturgy web resources of the Province.

3. That historic rites, per se, are not appropriate for inclusion in contemporary Prayer Books, but are rightly used in shaping new rites, consistent with those texts. (Thus the Eucharistic rites proposed for the 2019 Prayer Book are not 1662 or Hippolytus/John Chrysostom, but reflect them.) The Book of Common Prayer 1662 together with the Ordinal attached remains the authoritative standard for the Anglican tradition of worship within the Province.

4. That the College a) commends the commitment to the Province’s common-language-at-prayer by those who authored the renewed 1552 Communion rite (using the texts of Commandments, Nicene Creed, Prayers of the People, Prefaces and Gloria, etc., adopted for the 2019 Book), and b) commends the 1552 revision, in this regard, as a model for those desiring to renew other historic Prayer Book rites for contemporary use.

 5. That the Governance Task Force be instructed to re-shape the second half of Title II, Canon 2, section 1, to make it clear that when the Book of Common Prayer (2019) is adopted – while it will be the Prayer Book of the Province - the College sees no route to making it mandatory at the Provincial level (principle of subsidiarity) or to ruling out continuing use, under the authority of the local Bishop, (of not only 1662 and its predecessor books but) of the Prayer Books that were in use at the time the Province came together.

Under these proposals clergy and congregations loyal to the teaching of the Bible and the principles of the historic Anglican formularies will be afforded no protection from Catholic Revivalist bishops intent on requiring the use of the collection in their diocese. The College of Bishops did not propose the addition of a “conscience clause” to the constitution and canons. The doctrine and liturgical usages of the collection will still become the official doctrine and liturgical usages of the province and its rites and services, the official rites and services of the province, imposing the doctrinal and worship views of the province’s Catholic Revivalist wing upon the province.

Under these proposals clergy and congregations loyal to the teaching of the Bible and the principles of the historic Anglican formularies will not be able to produce their own catechism and rites and services for use in their churches. They will not be able to publish and use a service book that embodies the biblical and Reformed doctrine of authentic historical Anglicanism and which is designed for the twenty-first century North American mission field.

The proposals that the College of Bishops backed will only permit the use of modern-language versions of 1662 Book of Common Prayer and its predecessors and the continued use of liturgical books in use at the time the province was formed. The books in these two categories were designed for a different context and suffer from problems of their own.

The College of Bishops’ resolution offers an unsatisfactory solution to a difficult problem that is not going to go away on its own. In this regard it is similar to the Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight provisions that the Episcopal Church adopted. Those provisions did not meet the needs of congregations and clergy involved in theological disputes with their bishops and ultimately led to the formation of the Anglican Church in North America.

If the College of Bishops wishes to free itself from the negative image of being far too eager to cater to the special interests of the Catholic Revivalist wing of the province even to the extent giving the preferences of this wing priority over the mission of the Church, it needs to take the following three steps.

1. The bishops need to reconsider their endorsement of the catechism and the ordinal along with the other texts and rubrics of the proposed 2019 Prayer Book. They need to support the replacement of these formularies with ones that are far more comprehensive in their doctrine and liturgical usages and which are geared to the needs of congregations on the twenty-first century North American mission field.

2. The bishops need to support the authorization of the use of The New City Catechism, a modern-language version of Alexander Nowell’s Larger Catechism, and similar catechetical resources in the province, leaving to the local congregation the final choice of what resources are used in the local congregation with the proviso that the doctrine of the resources used must be in line with the teaching of the Bible and the principles of the historic Anglican formularies. The bishops may wish to publish a list of approved catechetical resources for the guidance of local congregations, updating the list at regular intervals.

3. In addition to these measures, the bishops need to support the amendment of the constitution and canons of the province to permit geographic- and non-geographic-based networks of churches, whether sub-provinces, dioceses, or affinity networks—voluntary associations of churches sharing a common theological outlook, to develop, publish, and use their own collections of rites and services provided such liturgical resources are in line with the teaching of the Bible and the principles of the historic Anglican formularies. In the twenty-first century the notion that a single Prayer Book can meet the needs of all churches in a province, particularly a province which like the Anglican Church in North America is far from homogenous in its make-up is a highly unrealistic one.

The bishops can transform the Anglican Church in North America into a model of Anglican comprehensiveness that puts the Episcopal Church to shame. They can provide the province with a genuinely mission-shaped liturgy, one that will help local congregations with the task of reaching and engaging North America’s unchurched population. Or they can continue on the same path as the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops. The choice is theirs. Let us pray that God gives them the wisdom and the foresight to make the right choice.

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