For Lent 2, the RCL reading was Luke 13:1-9, where Jesus says “unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” and then tells the parable of the fig tree. Our pastor used it to preach a blunt sermon about repentance.
Unfortunately, this was the Sunday he decided to use the “Contemporized Version: Trail Edition December 2012” of the new ACNA liturgy. I’ll save the arguments about the overall pros and cons for another time.
What was stunning — stunningly awful — was how we responded to his altar call for repentance in this new (“trial use”) corporate worship.
The Confession and Absolution of SinsI was not the only person to point out to our pastor that this was a notably brief and thin confession. (Even his wife said so). But, more importantly, if you look closely, it’s not a confession at all. It’s like a little boy who says “please forgive me” without first saying that “I was wrong.”
Celebrant: We pray to you also for the forgiveness of sins.
Celebrant and People:Have mercy upon us, most merciful Father;
in your compassion forgive us our sins,
known and unknown, things done and left and undone;
and so uphold us by your Spirit
that we ay live and serve you in newness of life,
to the honor and glory of your Name;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Compare this to the 1662 BCP:
Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Maker of all things, Judge of all men;The words are the same as I recited since childhood from the 1928 (US) Book of Common Prayer, and was also preserved in Rite I (at least as the approved variant) in Rite I of the 1979 prayer book. (Except for the “Amen” and medieval spelling, the same words are also found in Cranmer’s 1549 BCP).
We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness,
Which we, from time to time, most grievously have committed,
By thought, word, and deed, Against thy Divine Majesty,
Provoking most justly thy wrath and indignation againſt us.
We do earnestly repent, and are heartily sorry for these our misdoings;
The remembrance of them is grievous unto us; The burden of them is intolerable.
Have mercy upon us, Have mercy upon us, most merciful Father;
For thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, forgive us all that is past;
And grant that we may ever hereafter serve and please thee in newness of life,
To the honor and glory of thy Name; Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Most surprisingly, the proposed ACNA liturgy is even less substantial than the watered down Rite II (Confession Lite) in the 1979 prayer book:
Most merciful God,At least the Rite II worshipers say “we confesses that we have sinned against you in thought, word and deed,” unlike what the ACNA liturgists are proposing we say.
we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
have mercy on us and forgive us;
that we may delight in your will,
and walk in your ways,
to the glory of your Name. Amen.
In the Church of England’s 2000 book of alternative services, Common Worship, there are four different communion services. Order One resembles our US Rite II, whether in contemporary wording (p. 169) or traditional (p. 209). Order Two (traditional, p. 237) parallels the 1662 BCP, while the contemporary (p. 257) shows that Cranmer’s confession can be expressed in 21st century language:
Almighty God,This is essentially the same language (I haven’t compared it word for word) that Peter Toon and the Prayer Book Society used in An Anglican Prayer Book, their 2008 update of the 1662 BCP for AMiA.
Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
maker of all things, judge of all people,
we acknowledge and lament our many sins
and the wickedness we have committed time after time, by thought, word and deed against your divine majesty. We have provoked your righteous anger
and your indignation against us.
We earnestly repent,
and are deeply sorry for these our wrongdoings;
the memory of them weighs us down,
the burden of them is too great for us to bear.
Have mercy upon us,
have mercy upon us, most merciful Father.
For your Son our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake,
forgive us all that is past;
and grant that from this time forward
we may always serve and please you in newness of life, to the honor and glory of your name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
As Toon noted, the trends has been away from a Book of Common Prayer to a series of books of alternative services, with local option to choose among the many variants. As such, a thin gruel for confession seems inevitable for ACNA: but there’s no reason it should be less than our TEC brethren — or that it should drop the centuries-old theology as expressed in contemporary language.
Ever since I came back to the church in my 30s, the confession has been the most powerful moment of the service, when we “acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness.” It was only later, as I studied Lutheran and Reformed theology, that I realized that this personal confession of sinfulness was (at least for some traditions) the essence of the Protestant faith.
I know that mega-church pastors don’t want to use the “s” word. But ACNA, even its evangelical wing? It’s time for the ACNA Liturgy Task Force to repent of its efforts to water down the millennia-old worship and theology that is part of our shared Christian heritage.
Update: The Texts for Common Prayer (released October 2013) correct this problem with a more theologically sound confession and even the “s” word:
The Deacon or other person appointed says the followingThis correction renders moot (makes obsolete) the earlier criticisms of the draft ACNA liturgy.
All who truly and earnestly repent of your sins, and seek to be reconciled with your neighbors, and intend to lead the new life, following the commandments of God, and walking in his holy ways: draw near with faith and make your humble confession to Almighty God.
The Deacon and People kneel as able and pray
Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
maker and judge of us all:
We acknowledge and repent of our many sins and offenses, which we have committed by thought, word, and deed,
against your divine majesty,
provoking most justly your righteous anger against us.
We are deeply sorry for these transgressions.
The burden of them is more than we can bear.
Have mercy upon us, most merciful Father;
for your Son our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake,
forgive us all that is past;
and grant that we may evermore serve and please you in newness of to the honor and glory of your Name;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.