Monday, October 21, 2013

ACNA: We Come to Praise (and Bury) Cranmer

On its website, the ACNA has just released a draft of its in-progress prayer book revision, a draft it calls “Texts for Common Prayer”

I had been writing a blog posting on the new ACNA prayer book — based on fragmentary data online and what I learned at the Kingdom Conference (the Oct. 11-12 convention of the Diocese of Western Anglicans). At the convention I observed the trial use liturgy, spoke to several people between sessions and attended a seminar by Bishop Bill Thompson, who is both the local diocesan and (until his retirement next June) the chair of the liturgy task force.

Now with the online release of the drafts last week (as reported by VirtueOnline), no speculation is necessary to understand what and how the ACNA plans to institute its new prayer book.

The upshot:
  • The ACNA prayer book is based on the form (but not the language) of the 1662 (CoE) Book of Common Prayer
  • It has one liturgy — contemporary — marking the end to Rite I and the traditional language that was the mainstay of all Anglican prayer books before 1960. As Bp. Thompson said during the seminar, “we felt we need to do these liturgies in the way that we talk.”
  • It will replace both the TEC and Anglican Church in Canada liturgies inherited prior to ACNA's founding
  • The ordinal is officially approved, while the Eucharist, Morning and Evening Prayer services are awaiting College of Bishop approval after feedback from the province.
New Transparency

I have been trying all year to find out what has been going on with the prayer book revision, given its obvious implications for ACNA hymnody (particularly service music). The ACNA and its task force have been holding their cards very close to the vest, whether for secrecy reasons or (as their plea for help implies) due to a lack of resources. Our parish tried the new communion service during Lent, but (in preparing this posting) I was unable to find anything substantial about the process — until last week’s posting.

The posting of the new texts, FAQs and other information marks a dramatic breakthrough in the transparency of the liturgical revision process.

For example, for the first time the ACNA has provided the names of the nine members of the “Liturgy and Common Prayer Task Force”. Below are their names and what I know of their affiliations
End of Cranmerian Language

All Anglican liturgies trace back to the work of Bp. Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury to Henry VIII and Edward VI before he was executed (after Lady Jane Grey) in 1556 for treason and heresy. Bp. Cranmer prepared the 1549 and 1552 BCP for Edward VI, while his successors prepared the 1559 BCP under Elizabeth I.

The ACNA liturgy adopts the form but not the language of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, prepared after the Stuart restoration of Charles II. The one exception to modernization is the Lord’s Prayer, which retains the 1662 (not the 1549 or King James) version: if our congregation is any indication, there was a rebellion in ACNA parishes against modernizing this prayer.

This seems to be one area of ecumenical agreement on liturgy. There was a similar rebellion against CoE modernization in England. Even the 2010 Catholic liturgical revision — which made many changes large and small — kept the 1662 prayer (omitting the “For thine is the kingdom…” added by Protestants after 1662). This prayer also provides perhaps the only prayer shared by all Christians in our country.

At the convention, Bp. Thompson said that a major goal of the text was to have contemporary text that sounded natural. Both he and a priest at the convention told me that Prof. Klukas (of Nashotah) played a central role in writing the words of the new liturgy.

In response to a question, Bp. Thompson said the task force specifically rejected the contemporary language 1662 BCP produced by the late Peter Toon, because the language was “wooden” and often updated “Ye who” to “You who” (i.e. “yoo-hoo”). The bishop said “I could see exactly what he was wanting to do and it was laudable,” adding that it provided a place for the task force to start.


The website provides answers to some Frequent Asked Questions. These answers provide important insight into the Task Force’s thinking.

Some cover obscure points, but here are some more interesting ones:
  • Like the Roman Catholic 2010 ICEL revision, “et cum spiritu tuo” is now translated “and with your spirit” instead of the incorrect translation of 30+ years (“also with you”).
  • The 1662 HC used two lessons because it was assumed to follow a morning prayer; the new HC uses three.
  • Contrary to the Latin “credo” and centuries of Western practice, the Nicene Creed retains the 1979 BCP translation of “We believe”; the FAQ explains
  • The original Greek text used "We Believe" because this Creed reflects the belief of the whole Church as a united body, as contrasted with the Apostles' Creed which is a personal profession of faith used at baptism.

Status of the Process

At the convention, Bp. Thompson said the status of the prayer book is as follows
  • Ordinal (for ordaining bishops, priests and deacons): the ACNA’s top priority due to defects in the 1979 prayer book, final text approved by the College of Bishops
  • Holy Communion: ready for trial use
  • Morning and Evening Prayer: nearly done at the convention, but now (judging from the website) apparently ready for trial use. A member of the audience praised the new MP/EP, saying it was much better for a laity-led worship than the more complex forms used in 1979, 1928 and CoE prayer books.
Bp. Thompson said that the task force has started to talk about marriage and burial (among the missing rites), and he expected that in 3-5 years a new prayer book will be released. The current releases do not include a daily or Sunday lectionary.

What happens between now and when the texts become an official printed prayer book? The ACNA website explains:
With the exception of The Ordinal, which has been authorized and adopted, and is The Ordinal of the Province, the other materials offered in Texts for Common Prayer are “working texts” approved for use by the College of Bishops. These working texts are not yet finalized, awaiting response from the experience of their wide use in the Church. With that in mind, these rites are commended as appropriate forms for worship in the present season. The Archbishop’s instruction to the Liturgy and Common Worship Task Force was the production of rites that were “so faithful and attractive that the Church would want to use them.” The hope in making Texts for Common Prayer available now is to give evidence that the assignment is well underway, and to invite the whole Body of Christ into the process of receiving and perfecting.
All services are contingent upon approval of the ACNA College of Bishops — unlike in ECUSA/TEC, the laity play no role in approving a new prayer book.

It will take some time to pour through the 96 pages of the new liturgy and compare it to earlier texts. I’ll post additional observations once I have more time to study the texts.


Gramajesty said...

How do I get in contact with you? I was at the kingdom conf in Carlsbad and have questions I'd like to ask not here on the blog site.

Gramajesty said...
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