An Act of Piracy

The Truth Behind the Episcopal Liturgy of 1979

by Peter Toon

The Prayer Book Society, 2004





1          What is Common Prayer?

2          What is a BAS/ASB?

3          The 1979 ECUSA Prayer Book

4          A Positive Role for the 1979 Prayer Book



      What’s in a name?  Or what’s in a title?  Perhaps a little or perhaps a lot.  Possibly much significance or possibly no significance.

      In ordinary conversation, communication and business, we normally expect that a product is rightly named, or at least so named as not to lead us wholly astray in terms of identifying what it is.  For example, if a large cardboard box has the name of “Cornflakes” on it, we would not expect to find oatmeal inside.  If we saw an advert for a Toyota station wagon, we would not expect to find on inspection after buying it that it was a Mitsubishi vehicle.  And, if the dust-jacket and title-page of a book in the Christian bookstore announced that it was John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, we would not expect to find that the text inside was Martin Luther’s The Babylonian Captivity of the Church.

      The same general principles apply also to the names of persons.  The immigration officer at the customs hall in the airport presumes that the name on the passport is the real name of the person carrying it.  The customs officer presumes that the baggage with a person’s name on actually is the baggage of that specific person.  And the surgeon presumes that the person on the operating table is the person whose name is on the tag around his wrist and on the file he has before him.

      The consequences of using the wrong title, name, description or heading can be great or small – small if it is only the heading of a column in a newspaper, but great if it means I have bought something that I did not want, thinking it to be what I thought I paid for and needed!  If I purchased medicine, thinking the contents matched the name on the bottle or packet, then instead of finding health, I found find myself in hospital because the contents were poison, then I would be – justly – angry!

      We hear regularly of law suits involving the claim that a brand name, a commercial product, or a logo has been pirated.  For example, is it right to call good quality sparking wine by the name of Champagne?  Certainly the French do not think it is!  Then there is a massive industry today of pirating tapes, videos, CDs and DVDs.  Piracy used to be on the high seas but now it is on the high street!

      I believe that the year 2004 is the year when faithful Anglicans and Episcopalians in North America have a moral duty to look at the title of the official Prayer Book of the Episcopal Church of the U.S.A. [ECUSA] and to then to check whether the book itself matches or is true to the title.  On first sight, I recognize that this may seem a trivial thing to be asked to do, especially when, at the present time, the Anglican or Episcopal Way in North America is in turmoil and there are all kinds of important things to do in terms of immediate reform.  Though I am fully aware of the pressing needs of such renewal, I do fervently believe that any reform of the Episcopal Church and of the Anglican Way in the U.S.A. has to include honesty with respect to the worship of Almighty God, the source of truth, and the service of Jesus Christ, who is the Truth.  And such honesty includes rightly naming the liturgy that is used throughout the ECUSA, for a wrong title can and does lead (as we know from ordinary human experience) to all kinds of regrettable and serious consequences.

      What I attempt in this booklet is neither any grand analysis of this fluid and volatile situation within the ECUSA, nor an attempt to offer solutions to all the perceived problems.  Rather, I concentrate on one thing, Liturgy, in order to ask whether or not the title of the official Prayer Book of the Episcopal Church (ECUSA), approved by the General Conventions of 1976 and 1979 and used throughout this Church, is in fact the right title for what is inside the book.  That is, Is the title, “Book of Common Prayer,” an honest description of the contents; or, would another title be more truthful and more appropriate?  Further, in relation to this enquiry concerning basic truthfulness, I shall also note what are the moral, spiritual and religious consequences for a Church that is not honest in its description of the content of its own worship.

      To pursue this enquiry, I need to establish the difference between what is called The Book of Common Prayer (BCP) and the new genre of modern services that have been available in the Anglican Communion since the 1970s and which come with such a title as, A Book of Alternative Services or An Alternative Service Book (BAS/ASB).  It is often said of Anglicans/Episcopalians that “What they pray, they believe” or “The law of praying is the law of believing.”  This is another way of saying that they learn their doctrine, even base their doctrine, on what they hear and say in the Liturgy – e.g., the Rites of Daily Prayer, Holy Communion & Baptism.  Thus the importance of Anglican Liturgy for the self-description and self-understanding of Anglicans, not to mention how they appear to others, can hardly be exaggerated.

      I am not here concerned with the question as to which type of prayer book, the BCP or the BAS/ASB, is the best one for use in the twenty-first century, although as a priest serving in the Church of England I have used both.  Rather, I seek to describe accurately what is the BCP and what is a BAS/ASB in order to be able to distinguish clearly between them, and to examine accurately and purposefully the title of the Episcopal Liturgy and to see whether it is the right title for the contents of the 1979 prayer book.  It is my conviction that reform and renewal within dioceses and parishes of the ECUSA can only proceed with any reasonable hope of spiritual and moral success (by God’s grace) if there is basic honesty before God not only in the content of Liturgy but also in what it is called and what status it is given.

      For those who wish to read more about themes taken up only briefly in this essay/booklet, may I point them to my recent book, Common Worship Considered (Edgeways Books, 2003, ISBN 0 907839 78 9), which is a critical examination of the most recent form of alternative services (BAS/ASB) produced by the Church of England.  I make use of this book especially in Chapter 1.

      Finally, may I invite my reader, and especially those who are diocesan bishops and leaders of reform and renewal, to follow me in this enquiry and, if what I present has the ring of honesty and truth, to be prepared to act on it for the praise of Almighty God, the good of his Church and their own integrity.

Feast of the Presentation of our Lord, 2004

The Rev. Dr Peter Toon


Chapter  1 – What is Common Prayer?

      The word “common” is used in all kinds of ways, and so what do Anglicans mean by the word “common” when it is associated with public prayer and worship?  Since we are referring to the worship of our Creator and Redeemer, Almighty God, we can dismiss quickly the popular meaning of “common” as that which is ordinary, undistinguished or even of inferior quality.  The texts of the services and rites used before God to address him are surely intended to be of high not low quality, excellent not shabby.  So the basic meaning of “common” as used in religious English appears to be “that in which the people unite.”  Thus Common Prayer is public worship/prayer in which people unite in the public place, the consecrated building, for worship using an approved form of service, approved by ecclesiastical authority.  And when the Common Prayer is that of a specific jurisdiction of the Church of God – e.g., a national church – then the same basic rites or services are used everywhere in that jurisdiction with minimal local variation.

      If one may use an analogy from music, Common Prayer is intended to be like a hymn sung in harmony, where there is both identity and individuality operating at the same time, without the confusion that would come from singing several different hymns at once.  Common Prayer leaves room for both shared and individual identity, as people attempt the same task of well-defined acts of worship according to their particular gifts.  In contrast, as we shall suggest in the next chapter, multiple-service forms, on the other hand, with the best will in the world, have the tendency to degenerate into cacophony.  Ironically, as we shall also note below, the loss of true common prayer can also diminish the value of other sorts of prayer, local or private, because there is no longer a common thought, knowledge, faith, or standard, by which to evaluate and improve them.


The Book of the Common Prayer

      Before, and at, the publishing of The Book of the Common Prayer and Administration of the Sacraments and other rites and ceremonies of the Church: after the use of the Church of England (1549) “common prayer” in England referred to the Daily Offices said by the clergy and some laity in the chancel of each and every parish church.  Since this was not the private office of the clergy but the public gathering of the people of the parish, it was “common prayer,” offered to God in Latin until 1549 and in English thereafter.  The long title of the English Prayer Book of 1549 was necessary for it replaced the multiple service books (Breviary, Missal, Manual etc.) of the late medieval period, books which provided what is known as “the Sarum [Salisbury] Use.”

      We may note that the title, The Book of the Common Prayer ... after the use of the Church of England, presupposes that there is a form of prayer “common” to the whole Christian Church.  What Archbishop Cranmer offered in English was the presentation of that “common” (taken as “universal”) prayer of the Christian Church after the use of a particular national church, the Church of England.

      In 1552, the second definite article was removed so that the title began, The Book of Common Prayer, and from this time forwards the expression “Common Prayer” gradually came to mean all the public services in which the people united, especially Morning and Evening Prayer, the Litany and Holy Communion.  Further, the expression “Common Prayer” also gradually came to mean the actual book that contained these services for they were found nowhere else at that time (no websites or CDs).  Thus the expression “Common Prayer” in everyday conversation came to mean both a specific text containing services or rites used in all parishes, and also the assembling and uniting of the clergy and people to use these services to pray and worship publicly.

      In the official Book of Homilies (1562) of the Church of England, there are several sermons which deal with prayer.  One of these is entitled, An Homily wherein is declared that Common Prayer and Sacraments ought to be administered in a tongue that is understanded of the hearers.  After explaining two kinds of prayer, the silent prayer of the heart and vocal, private prayer, we are told:

The third sort is Public or Common.  Of this prayer speaketh our Saviour Christ when he saith, If two of you shall agree upon earth upon any thing, whatsoever ye shall ask, my Father which is in heaven shall do it for you; for, wheresoever two or three be gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them. ... By the histories of the Bible it appeareth that Public and Common Prayer is most available before God; and therefore it is much to be lamented that it is not better esteemed among us, which profess to be one body in Christ ... .  Let us join ourselves together in the place

      Here Common Prayer is that praise and supplication offered to God the Father with one heart and voice by the one body of Christ in the place appointed for worship and using the appointed prayer book, The Book of Common Prayer.  It is important to note that private prayer is distinct from Common Prayer, for it may occur anywhere at any time outside the act of Common Prayer, or it may occur before and after Common Prayer as well as within it.

      In the Fifth Book of The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, written towards the end of the Elizabethan era, Richard Hooker, the distinguished apologist for the Church of England against Puritanism, defended and commended the official English version of “Common Prayer” as found in The Book of Common Prayer (Elizabethan edition of 1559) against the criticisms of the Puritans.  For him, as for the homilist, “Common Prayer” is the worship of Almighty God with one heart and voice by the one body in the one place, using a language that all understand as that is found in a rite or text in the English Prayer Book.  In contrast, he shows that the preaching services of the Puritans and Presbyterians are not “common prayer” even though Christian people, who attend them, genuinely hear the Word of God and give assent to prayer offered to heaven by the preacher.

      In reference to the consecrated church building and its association with common prayer, Hooker wrote:

Concerning the place of assembly, although it serve for other uses as well as this ..., the principal cause thereof must needs be in regard of Common Prayer ...; that there we stand, we pray, we sound forth hymns unto God, having his angels intermingled as our associates ... .  But of all helps for due performance of this service the greatest is that very set and standing order itself, which framed with common advice, hath both for matter and form prescribed whatever is herein publicly done.  No doubt from God it hath proceeded, and by us must be acknowledged a work of his singular care and providence, that the Church hath evermore held a prescript form of Common Prayer, although not in all things everywhere the same, yet for the most part retaining still the same analogy. (V. xxv)

      For Hooker “that very set and standing order itself” is obviously Common Prayer, The Book of Common Prayer (1559) authorized by Queen Elizabeth I.

      One of the basic characteristics of the traditional English Common Prayer has been that there is one only rite provided for each of the public services and there is no provision for extempore prayer by the minister.  While the readings from the Holy Scripture change daily, the actual service itself is virtually identical daily and weekly.  There is no optional rite for Holy Communion or Baptism or for the Daily Services of Morning and Evening Prayer.  Thus Common Prayer also naturally developed the meaning of the use of a common text for use not only in the one parish church but in all the churches of the one nation.  And this, of course, was what the various Acts of Uniformity meant and required – unity in uniformity through use of basic Rites.

      It is important to recognize the English sense of the identity of Common Prayer with the book whose title contains this expression.  Writing from within the Church of England, Mr A. C. Capey has recently written:

Common Prayer belongs to the nation; it was created for us out of, and taking theological exception to, various department service-books and other documents; it was recovered for us, in defiance of the Presbyterian Directory, in 1662; it was retained for us, in defiance of William III’s desired “comprehension” (a sort of “homes-centres” ecumenical venture ...) in 1689; it comfortably resisted Unitarian depredations in the 18th century; it was the linchpin of the Tractarian movement; it was only cautiously modified in 1928, in an attempt to keep the Anglo-Catholics away from the lure of the English Missal.  The book belongs to us all, even if only a tiny proportion of the tiny proportion that attends church today actually prays it ... .

(A. C. Capey, “Common Prayer and the Pirates” in The Real Common Worship, edited by Peter Mullen, Edgeways, 2000, pp. 68–9.)

In America this identity has been no less pronounced within the English culture not only of the Episcopal Church, but of the liberal arts in general.

      Without any serious doubt, Common Prayer is the public worship of the assembled Christian congregations within churches and cathedrals using services taken from The Book of Common Prayer.  Common Prayer does not refer to any kind of public prayer but only to that which is according to the form provided by this prayer book.  This important principle has been enforced and underlined by the practice, which began in 1552, of printing the Act for the Uniformity of Common Prayer inside The Book of Common Prayer.  The 1662 Act for Uniformity may be read in many printings & editions of the Prayer Book (1662), and explanations of it are offered in the twenty or more Annotated editions of The Book of Common Prayer that appeared in the nineteenth and early part of the twentieth century (e.g., see The Prayer Book Interleaved with notes by W. M. Campion & W. J. Beaumont, 1866 and later editions).


A Godly Way of Life

      It is important to grasp that the contents of The Book of the Common Prayer were more than a translation, adaptation, and renewal of the medieval services of prayer and worship.  They reached behind the Middle Ages and witnessed to the recovery of a godly ordering of the whole of life on earth for Christians from birth to death, 365 days a year, within the discipline and rhythms of the Church Year, with its weekly Lord’s Day and its Feasts and Fasts.  The Common Prayer of the universal Church, as given structure and form in the offices and services of The Book of the Common Prayer, became the Anglican Way of relating to God, in a national Church with her dioceses, colleges, schools, families, and baptized members.  The Common Prayer became the model of an entire life lived in communion with God, the Father, through his Son our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, by the indwelling of the Holy Ghost.

      In Mattins and Evensong the medieval daily offices (Mattins, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, and Compline) were compressed into two.  What had previously been seen as primarily the business of clergy, monks, and nuns was now available in English and recommended for all.  At their local church or in their homes, all people could now be joined by the Holy Ghost to the communion of saints, together with the angels and archangels, in offering daily worship to God on behalf of the whole created order.  United to Jesus Christ the Head of the Body, they could pray the Psalter morning and evening as the intelligent members of the Body of Christ.  And on Wednesdays and Fridays, as well as on Sundays, they could intercede for one another and all peoples by joining in the Litany.

      On Sundays and Feasts, as well as on other days of solemn obligation, all could hear the liturgy in English, including a sermon or homily.  Parish priests not competent to prepare a sermon themselves were required to read a homily from the Certain Sermons or Homilies (1547 & 1562).  If duly prepared, the people could receive the Holy Communion in both kinds, just as their priest did.

      At each of the Daily Offices were readings from both the Old and the New Testaments.  At the Holy Communion there were the Epistle and Gospel, together with a Psalm for each Sunday and Feast.  Great emphasis was therefore placed upon the Christian duty of hearing and reading the Holy Scripture, followed by meditating upon the same, to be completed by obeying it as the Word of God in daily living.

      Thus the Common Prayer is a biblical, traditional, and godly way for the congregation, Christian family, and individual baptized believer to relate to God the Holy Trinity as the disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, in the fellowship of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church within God’s world, 365 days a year and every year of the present age.

      The basis of the Common Prayer is the daily offering of praise through the daily offices wherein the Psalms (the prayers of Jesus Christ) are central, as is the meditative reading of all the Holy Scriptures.  Linked to this is the petitionary and intercessory prayer of the Litany, along with the celebration of the symbolic meal of the new covenant in the Eucharist on each Lord’s Day and on the other holy days.  In the Holy Communion the Church is fed and strengthened by heavenly manna as she communes with her Bridegroom.

      Then in the Common Prayer there is provision made for thanking God for the entry of a child into the world (the Churching of Women); for the entry of that child into the church of God (Holy Baptism and Confirmation); and for that child’s grown-up entry into the holy state of matrimony.  Add to this the provisions for the Visitation of the Sick and the Burial of the Dead, and here is a total way of life for the faithful people of God on this earth.

      Obviously this Common Prayer is common because it is the norm for all people wherever they are and whatever their status in life.  There can be a minimal participation or a maximal participation by persons, families and congregations.  The basic structure and uniformity are necessary in order to train us in good habits and right discipline; they are also necessary to help us know what is freedom and how it is to be exercised within our duty to God and our neighbour.

      So the Common Prayer is a godly order for the people of the Anglican Way, and it is expressed and set forth in a series of editions of The Book of Common Prayer in English (1549 through to 1962 [Canada]), as well as in many editions in many languages around the world.  (In most of these editions the basis is the 1662 BCP, to which local prayers and forms are added by the various national churches.)

      The Book of Common Prayer has always been a Formulary of the Anglican Way since it expresses the doctrinal commitment of the Church of England and of the Anglican Communion of Churches to the worship and service of the Father almighty, through his only begotten Son, and with the Holy Ghost.  Lex orandi, lex credendi (the law of praying is the law of believing, and the law of believing is the law of praying) is a principle that is fundamental to the Anglican Way.

      Modifications in The Book of Common Prayer through its several editions in English and in many other languages (beginning with the Latin in the early days of Elizabeth I, when that was the common tongue of the universities and schools) are to be expected as the Common Prayer is adapted to changing cultures and societies and times.  However, these local modifications (e.g., praying for a President and not a Monarch and incorporating local, national holidays) do not take away from the traditional commitment of the Anglican churches to a single godly order for all.  The Church welcomes everyone into this order, whether an archbishop or a new member; a king, a queen, a president, or a commoner; a man or a woman; a teenager or a grandparent.

      In the Protestant Episcopal Church of the U.S.A. there have been three specifically American editions of Common Prayer – 1789, 1892 & 1928.  In the Anglican Church of Canada the latest edition is 1962.  All these Prayer Books are derived from the English edition of 1662, which itself has been translated into over one hundred and fifty languages.

      In this chapter, an attempt has been made to describe Common Prayer in terms of origin, content and purpose.  In the next chapter, an attempt will be made to describe the origin and content of alternative forms of prayer that have been produced since the 1960s by and for Anglicans in recent decades.  When this task is done, we shall then be prepared to answer the question as to whether or not the American 1979 Prayer Book has the correct title.


Chapter  2 – What is a BAS/ASB?

      Anyone entering an Anglican Church in North America or Britain in 2004 is likely to find that the congregation is not using the historic Prayer Book but a service devised and created between 1960 and 2004.  In contrast, the same parish in 1954, fifty years earlier, would have been using one or another edition of The Book of Common Prayer (1662 or 1928) in much the same way as twenty or forty years earlier.  Further, in 1954, though there were differences of churchmanship, ceremonial and decoration, all the parishes used the same basic text or rite from the one Prayer Book.  However, in 2004 what is very apparent to any observer is that there is very little uniformity at all, because there are so many different possibilities of texts and rites for use in services of worship; and parishes make use of these options.

      At the beginning of the last chapter the nature of Common Prayer was illustrated by means of the analogy of a hymn sung in harmony, and having thereby both identity and individuality operating at the same time, without the confusion that would come from singing several different hymns at once.  It was suggested that Common Prayer leaves room for both shared and individual identity, as people bring their individual gifts to the shared and common work of worship within the well-defined structure and content of this way of worship.  It was also suggested, and here we come to the topic of this chapter, that multiple service forms, with the best will in the world, have the tendency to degenerate into cacophony.  It may even be claimed that in some cases multiple forms can lead to a kind of Babel, reversing the Pentecost miracle of those who heard the common Gospel of Christ in their own tongues from the Spirit-filled Apostles.  Let us not forget that forms have meaning.  One can’t imagine a decent lawyer sitting still for the presentation to his client of a deed to property that departed from the common form.  He rightly would be concerned that his client’s possession of that property might be jeopardized by conflicting forms of the expression of ownership.


An Overview

      Looking back to the middle of the twentieth century, we can see that there was a growing desire, within the Anglican Churches of the West, after the Second World War to develop modern rites to exist alongside those found in the historic Prayer Book.  The world seemed to be changing and it was believed that modern services would help restore the appeal of the Church to western man.  The Lambeth Conference of 1958 discussed this and gave the go ahead for limited experiment and innovation.  In the 1960s the first experimental or trial services appeared.  In these early days, no-one intended that the new creations become the substitutes for the services within the Prayer Book; rather, they were to be available for alternative use, where and when there was a felt need for them.

      The services were to have a new structure (shape), a new language (the “You-God”) and an updated theology (less taken up with sinfulness and more with celebration), as well as being, it was claimed, more “user friendly,” relevant and accessible.  Liturgists, bishops and clergy involved in this “liturgical renewal” were men and women with a mission, a sense of real purpose.  They believed they were the new reformers bringing regeneration and renewal, relevance and intelligibility, to the Church in the West.  And Anglican liturgists were much encouraged and influenced by the tremendous energy for liturgical change in the Roman Catholic Church in the decades after the Council we know as Vatican II, which met in the mid 1960s.

      The ecumenical dimension of liturgical change is important.  We need to be aware of commissions that worked on translation of common texts (e.g., the Lord’s Prayer, the Creeds, and certain Canticles) and on the Lectionary.  The International Consultation on English Texts (ICET) worked from 1969 to 1974; the International Commission on the Liturgy (ICEL) from 1974 to 1983; and the English Language Liturgical Consultation (ELLC) from 1983 onwards.  Their work has been published in succeeding editions of Prayer We Have in Common, and most of their renderings have been used in whole or part by Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches in their new liturgies.  Yet we must admit that the English texts produced by these groups are often more a paraphrase than a translation and, further, they are all in contemporary English.  The Consultation on Common Texts (CCT) has produced both the Common Lectionary and the Revised Common Lectionary and these with modifications are in use in many Churches, with the New Revised Standard Bible being the preferred version for Anglicans and Protestants.

      In the enthusiasm of the early days of liturgical innovation, and in the desire to make progress quickly, many assumptions were made and short-cuts were taken that have in later and calmer times been challenged and seen to be false or not wholly correct.  Perhaps the best known of these half-truths are some of the basic assumptions of Gregory Dix in his very influential book, The Shape of the Liturgy (1945, often reprinted), which focused attention on eucharistic action rather than words and was very popular amongst students of liturgy in the 1960s and 1970s.  The structure of the Communion Service, and especially the content and manual acts of the Eucharistic Prayer in the new rites from the 1960s were often based on his conclusions, in particular his theory concerning the four-fold action of the Celebrant in the Prayer of Consecration.

      The fact that liturgists changed their minds often in the last four decades of the twentieth century as they explored and experimented is easily proved both by (a) the tremendous number of experimental and trial services that have come and gone from official Liturgical Commissions, and by (b) the essays and articles in the magazines and journals dedicated to modern liturgy.  One way to begin to study these new rites is to go to two collections of the earliest of them by Bishop Colin Buchanan – Modern Anglican Liturgies (1968) and Further Anglican Liturgies (1975).

      One real problem that liturgists have faced and still face is how to use a modern form of English so that it seems really to be contemporary and at the same time is an appropriate means and vehicle for the naming and praising of God.  When this commitment to contemporary language began with respect to Bible translation and Liturgy creation in the 1960s, it seemed to many to be a straightforward task, with the possibility of quickly solving all problems as they arose.  Yet before there had developed any real and consistent style, the whole effort was shaken vigorously by the demands of the feminists for what was called inclusive language – that is, including women and making them visible through language.  No longer could “man” mean “men and women” or “brethren” mean “brothers and sisters.”  Vocal leaders of the post 1960s generation claimed to be conscious of the great harm that patriarchy and sexism had done to the dignity and place of women in society and church.  And once inclusive language was taken on board by the Liturgical Commissions, in response to this pressure, then all existing translation and writing stood in need of revision.

      Significantly, after women were ordained, there was a further cry from them and their supporters for justice in terms of language.  Why should God be always in the masculine gender?  Is not God both feminine and masculine in nature and character?  Is it appropriate for a female priest to address God as if he were a male?  Thus, if one looks at experimental and trial liturgies, one can usually date them by how much and how far they incorporate the feminine agenda for language.  The use of inclusive language for Deity obviously also belongs to the more recent developments of contemporary language for prayer and worship.

      In summary, it may be claimed that changes in Anglican Liturgy and Public Worship took place in three phases.  First, there was the call for renewal, involving the creation of new forms of services (a new “Shape”) with greater participation by the laity, but at first this did not require a change from the “Thou-God” to the “You-God.”  In the second place, there was the call for relevancy to the present, for intelligibility and accessibility and thus for the use of “contemporary” language; and this often emotional and fervent call for relevancy sat on the back, as it were, of the calls for changes in liturgical structure and content.  Thirdly, when the “contemporary” language was in place, it was quickly judged by some feminists (female & male) to be as bad as “traditional” language in that it supposedly also preserved sexism.  So urgent adjustments began to be made to make women visible and audible in the Liturgy, and it became acceptable in some quarters to speak of God as “She” and “Mother.”  In conclusion, it may be claimed that all these things happened very quickly, too quickly, and in the wake of the revolutionary 1960s; and thus serious errors were made in terms of shape, style, doctrine, idiom and content which will take a long time both fully to recognize and wholly to put right.


Modern Prayer Books

      Many of the experimental texts/rites were placed in prayer books with the approval of the provincial synods concerned – e.g., Australia (1978), USA (1979), England (1980),Wales (1984), Ireland (1984), Canada (1985), Southern Africa (1989), New Zealand (1989), Australia again (1995) and England again (2000).  Let us examine briefly several of these.


1978: An Australian Prayer Book

for use together with The Book of Common Prayer, 1662

      This Prayer Book of 1978 was intended as supplementary to the historic Book of Common Prayer (1662) and not a replacement of it.  The historic BCP remained with the Thirty-Nine Articles the controlling standard of doctrine and worship.

      In this new Prayer Book there is full provision for parochial situations as there is in the classic Prayer Book.  But here there are various options – several forms of Morning and Evening Prayer, two Orders for Holy Communion, Holy Baptism, Confirmation and Marriage and all in “contemporary” language.  Further, the Ordinal, Psalter and the Collects are also provided in modern language.  In terms of the Eucharist, the first Order is based on the shape and content of the classic service in the BCP, while the second Order is based on the new shape and content taken from an early church model (Hippolytus) popular with liturgists at that time.

      A Prayer Book for Australia for use together with “The Book of Common Prayer (1662)” and “An Australian Prayer Book (1978)” appeared in 1995 and has 850 pages.  In these pages there are alternatives and options for almost everything and there is specific recognition of the changing demands concerning language.  The Preface declares that, “Since 1977, the use of male pronouns as generic terms has become unacceptable.  To be sensitive to this is a matter of courtesy and justice.  The Commission has adopted inclusive language in referring to human beings.”  And in addressing God “a range of forms of address” which supposedly reflect “the diversity and richness of biblical imagery” is used.


1980: The Alternative Service Book

Services authorized for use in the Church of England in conjunction with The Book of Common Prayer, together with the Liturgical Psalter.

      In the Preface we read that, “It is a remarkable fact that for over three hundred years and despite all attempts at revision, the Book of Common Prayer has remained the acknowledged norm for public worship in the Church of England, as well as a model and inspiration for worship throughout most of the Anglican Communion.”  Then it makes this claim:

Rapid social and intellectual changes ... together with a world-wide reawakening of interest in liturgy, have made it desirable that new understandings of worship should find expression in new forms and styles.  Christians have become readier to accept that, even within a single church, unity need no longer entail strict uniformity of practice.

      What is found in this Prayer Book of 1980 is the result of a decade or so trial use of new Services, based upon the principles and priorities of the “community of liturgists.”  It is so designed in terms of contents that it provides a variety of options within the services designed for all public occasions, together with collects and a psalter, and so it can be used as the only prayer book for a given parish.  While most of the provision is in “contemporary language” one form of the Holy Communion, Rite B, uses traditional language and has a general family likeness to the Order within the historic BCP.

      Neither this Prayer Book of 1980 nor its replacement and successor, Common Worship of 2000 (a multi-volume provision), is meant to replace The Book of Common Prayer of 1662, which remains the standard of doctrine and worship for the Church of England.


1985: The Book of Alternative Services

of the Anglican Church of Canada

      This Book, as its title clearly indicates, was intended to be an alternative to, and not a substitute for, The Book of Common Prayer (1662, revised 1962).  The Preface tells the reader that the contents of the Book reflect more than fourteen years of continuous research, experimentation, criticism and evaluation.  However, it is similar to both the American Prayer Book of 1979 (which we shall consider in the next chapter) and the English Book of 1980 in both its use of “modern, vernacular English” and in providing options for all the basic services.  For example, there are six Eucharistic Prayers in contrast to the one in the historic Prayer Book.  Further, the structure of the Eucharist follows the new shape and includes at its center the possibility of the sharing of the Peace.  Then the BAS has provisions that are not in the BCP.  These include Prayers at Mid-day, the Great Vigil of Easter & the Blessing of Oil.  Further, the Psalter used, which is committed to inclusive language for humanity, is taken from the American Prayer Book of 1979.  Again, it may be noted that this Prayer Book has everything that is needed for all services in a parish from baptisms to funerals and that it also contains services for the ordination of bishops, priests and deacons.


1989: A New Zealand Prayer Book

He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa

      In New Zealand there are two official languages, English and Maori, and thus the Prayer Book reflects this reality.  The first experimental Liturgy produced in New Zealand in 1966 broke new ground in being the first within the Anglican Communion to address God as “You,” which was claimed as an attempt to close the gap between liturgical language and the words of everyday experience.  So, not surprisingly, this Book uses only “You” of God and it is deeply committed to the use of inclusive language not only for humanity but also, in some part, for God.  Further, the Psalter is heavily edited and verses are omitted that are judged to be unsuitable for Christian worship.  Again, as with the other modern Prayer Books, this one is designed so as to be wholly sufficient for the use of a parish, a diocese and even the whole Province.  At the same time, it does not officially replace The Book of Common Prayer.


In Summary

      The liturgical innovation introduced into the Anglican provinces of the western nations from the 1970s through to the 1990s was a complete prayer book [the BAS/ASB] which was intended to be contemporary, relevant and accessible and thus to contrast markedly with the existing, official, traditional Book of Common Prayer.  The new was committed to the “You-God”, to the adoption of inclusive language for humanity (and in some cases for God), to the provision of optional texts in virtually all services to avoid uniformity, and to the new shape for the Eucharist (based on an early patristic model).  While the new books were supposed to conform to the doctrinal standard provided by the official Book of Common Prayer, to say the least they contained a different doctrinal emphasis from the classic book.  The word most often used with regard to the modern services has been “Celebration” to make the contrast with the perceived sobriety of the old services.

      In conclusion, it may be suggested that where the new books have been used alone, and not in close conjunction with the BCP, there has been developing a growing loss, through this commitment to multiple service forms, of a common identity, at least as far as the defining, constitutive, Common Prayer is concerned.  This loss of identity may also be considered as a basic causative factor in the present Anglican/Episcopal doctrinal and moral turmoil in the provinces in the West.  Multiple service forms for the accomplishment of Common Prayer are rather like trying to operate a nation under multiple constitutions at the same time.  Variety is not always “the spice of life,” for where common identity is concerned, variety in thought and language is more like a multiple personalities disorder than a wholesome diversity.

      Having described the characteristics of both Common Prayer and Alternative Services as the two basic forms of Public Worship for Anglicans in the West today, we are now able to approach the center of our enquiry, the question whether or not an act of piracy occurred with the making of the 1979 ECUSA Prayer Book.


Chapter  3 – The 1979 ECUSA Prayer Book

      The General Convention of the Episcopal Church meeting in 1976, and then again in 1979, passed by a majority vote the necessary legislation to replace The Book of Common Prayer of 1928 with a new Prayer Book, whose full title is, The Book of Common Prayer and Administration of the Sacraments and Other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church, Together with the Psalter or Psalms of David (1979).

      The question we are committed to ask here is not, Is this a well-designed Prayer Book, in which are many useful provisions for the right worship and service of Almighty God?  But, simply, Is the title given to this Prayer Book the correct one?  The answer to the first question may well be “yes;” but, to the second one it may well be in the negative.  Let us explore a couple of possible ways of answering the second question.

      First of all, we have to say that the title is absolutely correct if we have in mind what is printed on the title page and what is recorded in the minutes of the General Convention.  This triennial Synod of the Anglican province of the U.S.A. most certainly voted for the introduction of a new “Book of Common Prayer” to replace the edition dated 1928.  Since the 1960s there had been constant and continuing work by the Commission of Liturgy to produce a new Prayer Book, and the title used to describe the collection of the new services, produced by the Commission and approved by the General Convention, was the same title as what had been in use since Colonial days on the title-pages of the English Prayer Book of 1662 and of the American editions of that Prayer Book of 1789, 1892 & 1928.

      In other words, if the General Convention has the authority and the power to use the name of “Common Prayer” as it pleases, and for any collection of services it decides to approve for use in the Episcopal Church, then the American Prayer Book of 1979 is truly rightly named.  Clearly “The Book of Common Prayer” was the title chosen and used by the General Convention on the advice of its Commission of Liturgy.  Of this fact there is no doubt!

      In the second place, if we approach the question differently through comparison and analysis, then we can look for another and different answer by making comparisons between what was approved by the American General Convention and what was approved by the General Synods of other provinces in terms of new liturgy.  That is, if we examine the content of the Prayer Book of 1979, compare that content not only with that of the BCP of 1928 but also with that of the BAS/ASB of various other Anglican provinces (e.g., Canada and England), then we shall meet what can only be called a real problem.  And that problem will be this – that the 1979 Prayer Book is exactly like a BAS/ASB even though it bears the name of BCP!  In other words, in terms of comparative literature and the history of editions of the historic and classic BCP, that which was called “The BCP” by the Episcopal Church is wrongly named.  The classic name was pirated for a virtually new product.

      The background to this amazing decision lies in the fact that each province of the Anglican Communion of Churches is independent and autonomous and has no legal need to consult any other sister church.  It also lies in the general move by the ECUSA away from a strong commitment to traditional morality, the Ten Commandments and a moral order in God’s universe towards what may be called relativism.  All that apparently mattered for the leaders of this Church was that they had the right (in a culture of rights) to decide to call the new book by any title they chose, and truth-telling did not come into it.  Under-girding the general loss of a sense of moral order, there can be identified the diminishing sense of God as the transcendent One and a growing sense of God as universal Spirit – the immanent God who is all “love.”  It has been said: “If within us we have nothing above us, we soon succumb to what is around us.”  When the Church loses the sense of the holy and righteous Majesty of the Blessed Trinity, then she has little desire or strength to resist the pressures and inroads of moral relativism from the world around.



      Let us recall that the 1789 BCP was an American adaptation of the 1662 BCP for use in the new and independent U.S.A.  This Prayer Book, like the English one from which it is derived, had one form of Morning and Evening Prayer, Litany, Holy Communion, Baptism and so on.  The 1892 BCP was a gentle and minimal revision of the 1789 BCP and, likewise, the 1928 BCP was a gentle and minimal revision of the 1892 BCP.  Both the edition of 1892 and that of 1928 retained the basic structure and content of Common Prayer as received from the 1789 edition.  In all three American editions there is a most definite family likeness for they all use the traditional English style of prayer addressing God as “Thou/Thee” and, as has been noted, there is only one form of each service – Morning & Evening Prayer, Litany, Holy Communion and Holy Baptism – in each of them.  It is very obvious when examining them that they are all editions of one Book, and that the differences between them are slight, being of the kind one meets in different editions of one and the same book.

      While there are some similarities between the BCP of 1789/1892/1928 and the Prayer Book of 1979, the differences between the two are very obvious and, in fact, rather great.  The 1979 Book uses “You” for God, has more than one rite for Morning & Evening Prayer and more than one Eucharistic Prayer for Holy Communion.  It is a Book in which many variations are possible within each rite or form of service, as long as a basic structure for them is used.  Rite 1 is the expression used in the Book for traditional language services (which are not identical to but generally similar to those in the 1928 BCP) and Rite 2 is the expression used for contemporary language services, which are the most plentiful.  The structure for Rite 1 services is based not on the historic BCP but on the Rite 2 models.  The Ordination Services specifically provide for the ordination of women to all three Orders and the Psalter is inclusive – e.g., Psalm 1 begins “Happy are they ...” in contrast to the traditional words, “Blessed is the man ... .”

      The process of liturgical reform in the Episcopal Church actually began in the 1950s with the intention of improving the 1928 BCP in a way that would preserve its character and identity and incorporate the best insights of the liturgical movement for renewal.  However, as the work progressed, and as trial services were created and used, the goal became not a gently improved classic BCP, having the traditional language of prayer and with one rite for one purpose, but a new kind of prayer book, with multiple options and variety, much like those being prepared at the same time in Australia, England, Ireland, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa.

      The basic difference between other provinces of the Anglican Communion and the American province, the Episcopal Church, is that the latter decided to go its own pioneering and innovative way.  And it did so by using the ancient and hallowed title of the classic Book as the title of the new Book.  Thereby it deliberately gave the impression to its own membership, and to other provinces of the Anglican Communion, that the new Book was truly and really in the historic line of classic editions of the historic Prayer Book (i.e., 1549, 1552, 1662, 1789, 1892 & 1928).  In fact, it was advertised as the latest and best edition of the historic Book!  People of an Anglo-Catholic churchmanship were often heard to declare that it was the best Prayer Book since that of 1549.

      By choosing to act in this way, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church was obliged to decide no longer to allow the use of the 1928 BCP in its dioceses and parishes (except under special circumstances and with the permission of the diocesan bishop).  Further, by this action, it also set aside what was at that time, for the rest of the Anglican Communion of Churches, the standard of doctrine and worship of the Anglican Way, the historic Book of Common Prayer, in which, importantly, are also contained the Ordinal and the Articles of Religion.  Other provinces, as we have noted, had specifically separated their new services from those of the BCP and had called the new collections by another name, a variation of the title BAS/ASB.  By this procedure they had retained the BCP both as their chief Formulary and standard of doctrine and also as a living Prayer Book for such clergy and parishes as desired to use it regularly or occasionally without special permission of a bishop.


The 1979 Prayer Book as a Formulary

      When we look at the 1979 Book from the historic Anglican doctrinal position, that is from within a long tradition of worship, doctrine, and discipline based upon the Scriptures and guided by the Creeds and the historic Formularies, then we begin to see its inadequacy in terms of providing a standard for doctrine.  For, although it is claimed for this Book by the ECUSA that it stands alone as the Prayer Book, without any specific dependence upon or subjection to, the BCP of 1662 or 1928, one comes to the judgment on close inspection that it cannot possibly function as an orthodox formulary standing alone for modern Episcopalians & Anglicans.  Here are some of the reasons why it is wholly inadequate to be a genuine Formulary:

(1) There is no common doctrine or common godly order in it.  Rather, it contains a variety of doctrines and forms of religious life and discipline.  Certainly there is a common structure to the different Rites for the Holy Eucharist, but a common structure is not the same thing as a common doctrine and form of godliness.  The appearance is that of variety and beneath the variety there is relativism.  There is an incompatibility of teaching in the varied rites as there is also an incompatibility of prayer language.

(2) There is no common foundational doctrine because of differing translations of the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds in Rite 1 and Rite 2 texts, generating different and opposing doctrines.  For example, in the modern translation of both the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds doubt is cast on the virginal conception of the Lord Jesus by adding to the original text the expression “by the power of.”  The originals in Greek and Latin contain no words that can possibly translated “by the power of” for they state that the conception is “by the Holy Spirit” – that is, by the unique, supernatural intervention of the Holy Spirit in the laws and processes of nature.  In contrast, all procreation in the animal world is “by the power of the Holy Spirit” for he is the Energizer of the laws and processes of nature.

(3) There is no common doctrine because of differing and varied teaching concerning Jesus Christ in terms of his identity and his saving work.  For example: in the Rite 1 text for the Holy Eucharist are proclaimed the classic Anglican doctrines of the identity of Jesus Christ as One Person made known in two natures, divine and human, and of his sacrificial Atonement as the one Mediator for the sins of the world.  In the Rite 2 texts, and as their content is summarized in “An Outline of the Faith,” doctrines are proclaimed which (in the language of the Early Church) can be judged to be, or described as, adoptionism (Jesus was adopted as Son of God at his birth or baptism) or Nestorianism (Jesus is really two persons, one divine and one human, joined together for 30 years for the purposes of human salvation).

(4) There is differing and varied teaching of what is means to confess that God is a Trinity in Unity and a Unity in Trinity.  On the one hand, there is the traditional, patristic teaching that God is the Holy Trinity, three Persons, each One of whom possesses in its entirety the Godhead, so that each One is of the same, identical substance, essence, and being as the other Two.  Thus there is a Trinity in Unity and a Unity in Trinity.  On the other hand, there are traces or hints of the old and heretical teaching called Modalism, where “God as Trinity” is seen as meaning that God is One Person, who reveals himself in three special modes of being, as Father, as Son, and as Holy Spirit. Such teaching may lie behind, or be deduced from, the novel acclamation at the beginning of services in both Rite 1 and Rite 2 – “Blessed be God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”  The original text in the Greek Orthodox Liturgy in contrast reads, “Blessed be the kingdom of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit ...” and this is clearly Trinitarian!

(5) There is differing and varied teaching concerning mankind and God’s salvation.  Even though the description of the nature and character of human sinfulness and sin in the Rite 1 texts is somewhat less precise and definite than in that of the texts of the classic BCP (due to a little dumbing-down), it is nevertheless very different from that found in the Rite 2 texts and in “An Outline of the Faith.”  Original sin or birth sin has virtually disappeared from this second group of texts.  Actual sin is in subtle ways made out to be much less of a serious problem and issue before the holy and righteous God than it has been in classical Christian teaching.  Indeed, it may be recalled that one of the frequent complaints of those who wanted to change the received tradition of the structure and content of the Common Prayer, was that it is too penitential and emphasizes too much the sinful estate of man.

(6) There is imposition of novel ideas which belong particularly to the culture of the 1960s: for example, placed within the Baptismal Rite is the notion of a contract between the candidates for Baptism and God, making part of that contract a commitment to “peace and justice.”  In the ECUSA these words have been and are frequently interpreted, not as the “peace and justice” of the Holy Scriptures and biblical theology, but in terms of the values of 1960s social activism.  In this context, the phrase “the baptismal covenant” as it appears in the Rite for Baptism in the 1979 Book, with its theme of the supposed covenant (understood as a “contract”) between “humankind” and God, has become a central doctrinal feature of the new Episcopalianism since the 1970s.  On the basis of it, the General Convention and the “National Church” have imposed a modern liberationist agenda of human “rights” on the Episcopal Church.  For example, the “right” of homosexual persons to “peace and justice” is often given as a justification for their access to “marriage” in the Church.  In contrast, the received doctrine of the covenant through the classic BCP is that we do not negotiate a covenant with God, for the Father through the Son and by the Holy Spirit calls us into his covenant, which he has already made for us in Christ Jesus.


      What can be seen and felt in the regular use of the 1979 Book is the definite tendency to lose the centripetal and unifying power of the historic Common Prayer and received biblical orthodoxy, and to establish and confirm the centrifugal and disjointed forces of variety and relativism (so common in modern culture).  The result is less possibility for godly unity in doctrine and practice in the Church and the real possibility of the adoption by the Church of an agenda which is informed by the ideals and mores of the secular culture.


In Conclusion

      In its liturgical creations and developments during the last four decades of the twentieth century, the Episcopal Church added innovation to innovation.  Not content to work alongside other provinces to produce its own book of alternative rites for use alongside and under the doctrinal umbrella of the BCP, the ECUSA took the radical and far-reaching decision to remove the classic and historic BCP from the use of the Church, to put it deliberately into the archives, and to call its innovative BAS/ASB replacement by the title of the Book that had been removed, the BCP.  The leadership of the ECUSA knew what it was doing and it took its action deliberately believing that the new cultural situation, created by the revolutionary 1960s, required of them actions and commitments that they suspected would cause their deceased and distinguished predecessors to turn in their graves!  Yet they pressed on with innovation because they felt it was what was really needed.

      By doing what it did between 1976 and 1979 the Episcopal Church officially created for itself new Formularies or new doctrinal standards (in terms of Prayer Book, Ordinal and Catechism) different from the foundational standards of the rest of the Anglican family.  And since 1979 this Church has continued to innovate in its liturgy and theology and to attempt to lead the Anglican Communion into new forms of worship, doctrine and morality.  The approval by the General Convention in 2003 of (a) the use of local rites for the blessing of same-sex couples, and (b) the approval and consecration of Gene Robinson, an actively gay man, as a bishop, are merely the most recent examples of these pioneering innovations, made possible by the change of religion caused by the introduction of the 1979 Prayer Book as the Formulary of the ECUSA.

      It is interesting to note that, before the liturgical changes and experimentation began in 1967 in the ECUSA, the membership was over four millions.  However, in the 1980s it had dropped to just over two millions, even though other American Churches had grown in membership, and the size of the population of the U.S.A. had dramatically increased.  Whether there is a definite connection between the innovations in liturgy and worship and the large membership decline is for historians to determine, when we are far enough away from those years to make sound judgements.

      Having shown, perhaps as clearly as it is possible to do, that as a literary and liturgical product the 1979 Prayer Book is a BAS/ASB and not a BCP, the question arises as to whether or not the 1979 Prayer Book has any future place in a reformed and renewed Anglican Way in the U.S.A. from 2004 onwards.  We shall address this question in the next chapter and the answer that is given may be a surprise to some readers.


Chapter  4 – A Positive Role for the 1979 Prayer Book

      We have seen that the 1979 Prayer Book is similar to the BAS/ASB of other provinces in the Anglican Communion.  It has also been claimed that it cannot stand alone as an orthodox standard of doctrine.  For when it does stands alone it necessarily, by reason of its contents, stands for relativism of doctrine, morality and prayer.

      If, however, forgetting for a while what the General Convention of 1979 called it, we look at this Prayer Book positively and creatively as a “Book of Alternative Services” (rather than, as on its title-page, The Book of Common Prayer), and we then view it in terms of, and in the context of, the collections of experimental services produced in the Anglican family of churches in the last quarter of the twentieth century, then we may be able to see it in a generally positive light, for it comes under the authority of the classic BCP (1928) in terms of its doctrine.  For example, we may perhaps be able to make the following claims and assertions:

1. The traditional language parts (especially the Rite 1 Holy Eucharist) may be seen as the provision of a new and experimental structure for the Holy Communion, adapting the Cranmerian order of the BCP in the direction of that found in the rites preserved in the writings of Hippolytus of the third century.  Here, there is an exchange of the Peace to mark the end of the ministry of the Word and the beginning of the ministry of the Sacrament, and the fraction (the breaking of the Bread) is placed after the end of the Eucharistic Prayer, rather than during it.

2. The new rites for Baptism and Confirmation may be seen as an attempt to put into practice the doctrine that “Christian initiation is complete in baptism,” so that Confirmation is not to be seen as a separate and necessary rite or Sacrament, but more in terms of a commitment to church membership.

3. The new translation of the Psalter in “expansive language” may be seen as a first attempt to provide a liturgical Psalter in a language which does not offend feminists and which seeks to include all church members (even of the most tender sensibility) in the daily prayer of the Church.

4. The new rite for the reconciliation of a penitent may be seen as providing a pastoral means of dealing with those who experience the need to make a private confession of sin in the presence of God and his priest.

5. The new structure and content of the Ordinal (listed under “Episcopal Services,” as “the Ordination Rites”) may be seen as providing an alternative to the modified Western (Latin) Ordinal of the BCP 1928, by drawing on material from the early Church, and from the writings of Hippolytus in particular, as well as making it possible for women to be ordained (rubrics with “he/she”) as an experiment in ministry.

6. The provision of additional services for Holy Week, and especially Easter Eve, may be seen as making available for all an ancient set of rites long forgotten even in the Roman Catholic Church, until they were restored after Vatican II in the 1960s.

7. Much of the Book may be judged to be an honest attempt to make the services accessible, relevant and simple, without jargon and mumbo-jumbo, and in language people use and easily understand.


      If it were the case that all the rites in the 1979 Book were presented as truly “alternative services,” then in evaluating and judging them, it would be appropriate to look for their positive contribution.  They could be read and used not as imposed replacements for the services in the classic BCP (1928), but as true options for use some or much of the time, against the background of the authority of the historic BCP.  These options could then be explored with pastoral discretion, and with a view towards their possible improvement after an experimental period.

      Let us be fair.  There is no doubt but that there are some positive gains, insights and pluses for the Anglican family in the provisions of the 1979 Book and in similar “Books of Alternative Services” produced by provinces of the Anglican Communion of Churches.  Of these, the provision of services for Holy Week & Easter Eve is probably the most significant.  In fact, when the classic BCP is actually officially and gently revised then there is a good case for making a part of it special services for the end of Holy Week and for Easter Eve.


A Proposal

      In order to make possible the reform and renewal of the Episcopal Church, or dioceses within it that desire such, there is urgent need to reverse the decisions made in 1976 & 1979 by the General Convention.  What needs to be done is for the historic BCP of 1928 to be restored as the standard of worship and doctrine and for the 1979 Prayer Book to be renamed, “An American Prayer Book” or “An Episcopal Prayer Book” or “A Book of Alternative Services.”  By this procedure, many of the doctrinal weaknesses in the 1979 texts will be provided with a possible, positive interpretation, because the interpretation of the 1979 texts will become subject to the meaning already clearly present in the 1662–1928 BCP texts.

      Let us again be clear and honest about this proposal.  This procedure alone, in and of itself, will not cause reform and renewal, but it will remove from the ECUSA its major, regrettable innovation of the twentieth century and restore this Church (or the dioceses and parishes which make this change) to the position of the beginnings of orthodoxy and right order.  By providing an honest name and truthful title for the 1979 Prayer Book, there will be a full recognition of the place and authority of the classic BCP and, further, the act of piracy will be undone.

      The only honest way to keep in use the 1979 Prayer Book is to make it a BAS/ASB and to restore the proper BCP, the edition of 1928, to its place as the chief formulary of the Anglican Way in the U.S.A.

      It would be regrettable and a serious mistake to attempt to perform this required action only in part or only half-heartedly or in an alternative and imprecise form.  What is required are penitence and faith from all of us, the clearest possible statement of the new way and the most transparent commitment to the new standards.  Vague statements, which can be read in one of several ways will not do in this critical situation, and, further, commitments which have reservations within them, will not suffice.  Now is the time to get it right!  Now is the time to tell the truth.

      I offer this Statement/Oath as a possible beginning, recognizing that it can be improved:

“The Episcopal Church [or this diocese/this parish] is part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, worshipping the one true God, a Trinity in Unity and a Unity in Trinity, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  It professes the Faith uniquely revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the Catholic Creeds, which Faith the Church is called upon to proclaim afresh to each generation.  Led by the Holy Spirit, it has borne witness to the Truth of God in its historic Formularies, The Book of Common Prayer (1662; 1789; 1892 & 1928), the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion (1801) and the Ordinal (The Ordering of Bishops, Priests and Deacons, 1928).  Further, it uses the Prayer Book of 1979, and any further Book of Alternative Service lawfully approved, in conjunction with The Book of Common Prayer (1928) and under its doctrinal authority.”


In Conclusion – the influence of ECUSA abroad

      Since I have been calling for truthfulness in the Church, I have to state that what the General Convention of the Episcopal Church did in 1979, in giving the wrong title to a Prayer Book, other Provinces in the last decade have also done.  In fact, one of the evidences of the demise of true religion in the Anglican Way, especially in the West, is, it appears, the readiness of Churches to follow in the path of the ECUSA in the adoption of relativism in worship, doctrine and morality.  Regrettably, one can safely predict that Churches, which follow this path, will eventually cease to have the capacity to be faithful and orthodox provinces of the Anglican Communion.  We may notice with regret what has happened in the West Indies, Wales and Ireland.

      The Book of Common Prayer: The Church of the Province of the West Indies (1995) is very different from the BCP of 1662 which had been the standard of worship and doctrine of this province.  First of all, it is wholly in “contemporary” language; and, secondly, the structure and content of its Rites are modern, like the Rite 2 contemporary language provision of the American 1979 Prayer Book.  Though the BCP 1662 is still used on a few Islands in a few churches by a bishop’s permission, the classic BCP is no longer the Formulary of the Church.

      In the Church in Wales the official Prayer Books are the BCP 1984 and the BCP 1993.  The 1984 Book is in traditional language but with the new structure/shape for the Eucharist while the 1993 Book is in “contemporary” English.  Both also have Welsh language equivalents.  The 1993 BCP used to be known as the “Alternative Rite” but since the beginning of January 2004 has been incorporated into what is now known as “the BCP of the Church in Wales.”  Later in 2004 the new “BCP” will be available and it will be in character a BAS/ASB prayer book.  Further, it is clear that the basic Formularies have been changed and they now reflect a form of relativism.

      In May 2004, the Church of Ireland will begin to use its own new Book of Common Prayer according to the use of the Church of Ireland.  Unlike the West Indian Book but like the American Book (and also like the English Common Worship) it contains Rites both in traditional and contemporary language.  Thus there are two basic forms of the Service of Holy Communion, one based on the text of the BCP of 1662 and one following the modern structure and contents.  The latter has three Eucharistic Prayers and many variations for season and circumstance.  The former has dropped the use of “the Holy Ghost” preferring “the Holy Spirit”.  Also there are two basic forms of Morning & Evening Prayer, one based on the BCP 1662 and one similar to the modern Rite in the American & West Indian Prayer Books.

      At the official website of the Irish Church we read that:

The Church is again to have one unifying Book of Common Prayer, including within its covers material in both traditional and contemporary language.  It is to be hoped that parishes which hitherto have worshipped more or less exclusively in one idiom will now, at least occasionally, try out material which is in a different style to what they normally experience.

Here the conversion of the title “Book of Common Prayer” is fully evident.  There was a time not long ago when the Irish Church had one Prayer Book, its own edition of the basic BCP of 1662.  In fact the latter went through two editions, those of 1871 and 1926.  Then came the era of trial, experimental and new services during which time the Irish Church produced the Alternative Prayer Book (1984) and then the Alternative Occasional Services (1993).  Now selections from the two streams, the BCP & the innovative, are bound together into one volume and the old, traditional name of The Book of Common Prayer (2004) is used for the new collection.  This new Book also becomes the chief Formulary of the Irish Church and thereby relativism is introduced into the doctrine of this Church.

      It is highly likely, though one can never be wholly sure, that, had the Episcopal Church not made piracy acceptable, other Churches would not have followed in the path of calling the BAS/ASB by the name of BCP.  The Church of England has called its second form of BAS/ASB by the title of Common Worship, which gets near to an act of piracy while falling short of it.  [In England the copyright of the historic BCP is vested in the Crown and so the title is protected.]  Since it was the Episcopal Church which set this unstable ball rolling, it is surely the task of the same Church, or courageous pastors and pioneers within it, to stop that ball and to reverse its movement; and to do this both for the sake of God, America and divine justice, and also for all those whom it has influenced.  To lose the whole of the Anglican Communion in the West to the ravages of relativism in worship, doctrine and morality will be a major tragedy; and, this will most probably occur if the present trends continue.

Toon Home: Use "Back" button