Wednesday, July 11, 2018
Why an Article Series on Reshaping the 1928 Prayer Book Services for Mission
By Robin G. Jordan
The Book of Common Prayer as authorized by the Protestant Episcopal Church in 1928, commonly known as the 1928 Prayer Book, is the preferred Prayer Book of many Anglican traditionalists in the United States. Its use is authorized in all of the jurisdictions of the Continuing Anglican Churches that were established in the 1970s or later. Its withdrawal from use with the adoption of the 1979 Prayer Book was one of the factors that led to the formation of the Continuing Anglican Churches.
The 1928 Prayer Book is used in some dioceses and sub-provinces of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). On January 2, 2017 the ACNA College of Bishops adopted a resolution in which it supported the revision of the ACNA canons to permit the continued use of the 1928 Prayer Book under the authority of the local bishop after the final authorization of the Proposed 2019 ACNA Prayer Book.
The 1928 Prayer Book is also still used in a few parishes of the Episcopal Church.
The 1928 Prayer Book will continue to play a role in the worship of the Anglican churches in the United States for the foreseeable future. On this basis I do not believe that an article series on reshaping 1928 Prayer Book services for mission is entirely irrelevant in the twenty first century.
The 1928 Prayer Book, like all Anglican service books, has its weaknesses as well as its strengths. The 1928 Book was a compromise between the Protestant Broad Church school of thought and the Anglo-Catholic (or Catholic Revivalist) school of thought. These two schools of thought were main schools of thought in the Protestant Episcopal Church in the early part of the twentieth century. In a number of places the theology of the 1928 Prayer Book reflects what was in vogue at that time.
What is fashionable in ecclesiastical circles at a particular time in church history, however, may not be scriptural. We must always be wary of the very human tendency to adopt a particular system of thought and then search the Scriptures for texts that “prove” its suppositions, often ignoring the actual meaning of these texts along with any texts that contradict what we want to believe. This is one of the weaknesses of the 1928 Prayer Book but it is also the weakness of a number of Prayer Books. It reflects in these places a system of thought that upon close examination is not firmly grounded in Scripture. Scripture will not bear the weight of the suppositions that it makes.
The Bible, for example, does not tie the gift of the Holy Spirit, much less the gifts of the Holy Spirit, to the imposition of hands. J. I. Packer in Growing in Christ describes this notion as a “medieval mistake.” The medieval church adopted a practice and then sought to justify it from Scripture, often misinterpret Scripture passages or taking them out of context.
The seventeenth century Caroline divine Jeremy Taylor can be credited at least in part with the notion that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are given at confirmation and his views are an example of how the Laudian High Churchmen fell prey to the errors of the medieval church.
Belief in two stage Christian initiation unfortunately was in vogue at the time of the 1928 Prayer Book’s adoption and would have its champions well into the twentieth century. American clergy were also unfamiliar with the works of Geoffrey Lampe and others debunking that theory.
Its doctrinal shortcomings should not present a major problem as long as we are diligent in interpreting the 1928 Prayer Book in accordance with Scripture and not the other way around and in teaching the congregation what the Scriptures teach. The Scriptures should always be the lens through which we look at any Prayer Book and not a particular Prayer Book the lens through which we look at the Scriptures. In our explication of the 1928 Prayer Book we should focus on what the Scriptures say and where the 1928 Prayer Book and the Scriptures agree.
Because the 1928 Prayer Book was a compromise between two schools of thought, it is open to this kind of treatment. Each school had its own interpretation of the 1928 Prayer Book’s contents. For example, for one school of thought anointing the sick with oil was a sacrament; for the other it was an apostolic practice that we are free to emulate. The rite itself does not expressly adopt either position.
While the compilers of the 1928 Prayer Book and the Proposed 2019 ACNA Prayer Book used The Book of Common Prayer of 1549 as their model for their revision of the American Prayer Book, the Proposed 2019 ACNA Prayer Book compilers go well beyond the first Edwardian Prayer Book, much further than did the compilers of the 1928 Prayer Book. The Proposed 2019 ACNA Prayer Book is far less reformed and far less Scriptural than the 1928 Prayer Book. Its departure from the widely-recognized standard of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer is far greater.
In a number of places the Proposed 2019 ACNA Prayer Book not only embodies the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church, it explicitly affirms it. It is hardly a comprehensive Prayer Book, a Prayer Book that seeks to embrace the entire range of thinking on doctrine and liturgical usages in the Anglican Church in North America. Even the 1928 Proposed English Prayer Book and the 1929 Scottish Prayer Book were more inclusive of the various schools of thought in the English Church and the Scottish Church in the early twentieth century than is the Proposed 2019 ACNA Prayer Book is of those in the Anglican Church in North America in this century.
In the twenty first century all kinds of churches are needed to reach the United States’ growing unchurched population—large churches, small churches, traditional churches, contemporary churches, new churches, revitalized or replanted churches, churches that are in a unique category of their own.
While we can no longer rely on our worship services as our sole means of outreach, they still play an important part in the mission strategy of an Anglican church. They continue to be a major entry point into the church.
The 1928 Prayer Book has its strengths and Anglican churches using the 1928 Prayer Book should make the most of them. We can use these strengths to reshape its rites and services for mission. The purpose of this article series is to help those occupying a position of leadership in an Anglican church that uses the 1928 Prayer Book to make its rites and services more mission-oriented.
Posted by Robin G. Jordan at 11:04 AM