|Prayer Book Revision|
An Australian Prayer Book (APBA)|
In 1962 the General Synod of the Church of England in Australia authorised the establishment of a committee to revise the Prayer Book, given "that the Book of Common Prayer of 1662, although it is, and remains, the standard of worship and doctrine in this Church, needs revision."
There had been attempts to accept the 1928 English revision of the Prayer Book (the "red" book), "An alternative order for the administration of the Lord's Supper" derived from the Prayer Book Measure of 1927, but its Romanist tendencies had divided the Australian church and inevitably led to its rejection. Although this book retained the shape of the 1662 service it restored many of the 1549 features, eg. it dropped "militant here on earth" from the prayer of the Church, added the Benedictus, added the making of a "memorial" and the sanctifying of the elements by the Holy Spirit....
In 1966 the first draft report containing revised services was presented to General Synod. The direction of revision is illustrated in two strands, a conservative and a radical revision. The draft services contained both strands. The conservative revision simply made "minor alterations to the 1662 services". The modernizing of language was the most notable feature. Added to the conservative revision was a 2nd or "modern liturgy" which was a more radical revision. It followed the liturgies of South India and Africa, and the work of the Anglican Congress in Toronto 1963. "A Modern Liturgy" sought to provide a single service incorporating both the Lord's Supper and Morning Prayer. The Commission's view was that "radical revision of the entire Prayer Book" was called for. Trial use was then authorised and "A Service of Holy Communion for Australia, 1969" published for trialing over the "next three or four years."
The production of An Australian Prayer Book in 1978 finished the work of revision. It presented both conservative and radical liturgies and thus initiated the demise of uniformity (order) in the Australian Anglican church. It was, none-the-less, a theologically conservative revision. Evangelical Anglicans were able to restrain Romanist influences. The 2nd Order of Communion did drift slightly toward a Romanist (sacramentalist) position, eg. addition of authorised "anthems", p.153, words of administration, p.149.
By the 1990's AAPB was widely accepted as a replacement Prayer Book for The Book of Common Prayer 1662 (BCP). Yet it was in need of adjustment due to its dated sexist language and limited resources for youth and family worship. Its intended life was only 20 years. A new revision was in the wings.
Another Prayer Book for Australia (APBA)
The work of revision began with new trial services being issued in the 1990's (Holy Communion 1993). This culminated in the production of Another Prayer Book for Australia in 1995. Although it didn't legally replace An Australian Prayer Book (AAPB) it is intended to replace it. AAPB, published in 1978, was but one step in prayer book reform. APBA sadly serves as a further move away from the principles of worship found in the Book of Common Prayer (BCP). It is a further step away from uniformity toward diversity, from simplicity toward complexity, from reformed truth toward liberal sacramentalism.
APBA prompted immediate negative responses in its size, complexity, page-chasing services, changes for change sake (the Lord's prayer, gospel acclamations), reversal of AAPB innovations (Psalm sentences, removal of pointing), and typesetting mish-mash. There was also concern that APBA moved from BCP principles. It was this concern that drove the Sydney diocese to reject the book, although many felt it not flawed to such an extent that it should be made an illegal book. The archbishop of the time, Harry Goodhew, worked hard to have it accepted, but was defeated on the floor of Synod. It can only be used with the Archbishop's permission.
Yet the book does have much to commend it. It is a wonderful resource for liturgical worship. There are numerous service forms to cater for Low through to High Church tastes. Various Litanies, Occasional Prayers, Thanksgivings and Blessings. There is even a revised Catechism (long overdue) along with a reprint of the Articles (it's not a Prayer Book without the Articles!)
The main concerns expressed about APBA from Low Church quarters are as follows, but note that some of the criticisms are less than convincing:
i] The loss of uniformity
AAPB was an attempt to produce a prayer book which all Australian Anglicans could affirm. It tried not to offend, while giving some latitude to the different Anglican parties. It therefore used language which could be understood in different ways. In this way it maintained uniformity. None-the-less it ushered in a variety of services, eg. free-style praise and prayer p.39, 2nd Order of Holy Communion. The words of distribution in the 2nd Order (p.149) illustrate where Anglican liturgical reform was heading. The Calvinists, the Lutherans and Zwinglians were all catered for.
APBA has continued this process of undermining the uniformity which once bound Anglicans together. The book actually authorises both prayer and praise services and Holy Communion services which can be designed by the minister himself. He need only follow a skeleton outline, an authorised prayer of consecration, and then anything goes. The book proclaims there is now nothing that unites us. Actually a Bishop recently suggested that the only thing that unifies Anglicans is their Bishops.
ii] The loss of simplicity
BCP was a simple book. Believers used it for their personal devotions. The Pitcan Islanders were converted by it and shaped as a Christian community. It was a simple tool of worship and faith for a Christian family. AAPB, in time and with some adjustment, may have become a similar tool of worship, but APBA wipes that possibility away. It changes too much, includes too much. It uses a liturgical language derived from professional liturgists rather than the common people. It is a book for professional ministers. It is not the people's book, It is not simple.
iii] The loss of reformation truth
The most substantial change in reformation thought can be found in the Collects. The second Collects in AAPB represent a dramatic shift from the notion of the sovereign grace of God. In simple terms the writers did not exhibit an understanding of the central reformation doctrine of justification by grace through faith. They failed to display what the early Evangelicals called "a full understanding of justification". APBA continues this drift, now not even identifying BCP Collects.
The shift from reformation thought can best be noted in the following:
a) The doctrine of Salvation. The doctrine of the once-for-all substitutionary sacrifice of Christ looses its sharpness with the influence of liberal sacramental thought. The 3rd Thanksgiving ("Silk prayer", written by Bishop Silk), 2nd Order Holy Communion, moves toward transubstantiation. Our sacrifice is linked to Christ's and there is even the idea of the reoffering of Christ in the prayer, p135. The 2nd Thanksgiving, p131, presents no idea of Christ taking upon himself our sin. It is not substitutionary. It conveys a modern liberal idea of salvation. The inclusion of the Benedictus, dropped by Cranmer, further moves the service back toward the medieval church.
b) The doctrine of forgiveness. The penitential introductions to the services in BCP and AAPB are emasculated in APBA. The Ten Commandments are dropped from the Communion and the wording of the two great commands ("Hear O Israel....") removes the words from the people. The exhortation, p126, drops the term "repent". The funeral service Holy Communion does not require confession, as does the marriage service communion. Cranmer's "justification" liturgy is therefore weakened. BCP establishes the lostness of all before a holy God, calls on all to repent, provides words of confession and then declares God's forgiveness. This done, worship may proceed. APBA misses the point and so fails as a "justification" liturgy.
c) The use of Scripture. Changes in scripture selections, eg. 2nd Order Marriage, removal of direct quotes; Baptism service, confusion of scriptural illusions ("God loves all elements of creation" when the Bible actually says God does not hate his creation); a turning toward form in the use of symbols, candles, holy water and notes on the appropriate size of the Bible (2nd Order Holy Communion rubric). These faults serve to devalue the place of Scripture so strongly affirmed in BCP.
APBA is an improvement on AAPB in some areas, eg. a further modernization of language, expanded resources..... On the down side it progresses the drift from BCP, moving away from Cranmer's five principles of Prayer Book revision. It will be difficult for APBA to become a people's book as was BCP. A conservative revision of AAPB may have achieved that end.
None-the-less, although the Australian church could have done better, the final product does not warrant an outright rejection of the book. It does cater for all segments of the Anglican church and at no point would it undermine or pollute an Anglican congregation.
This contemporary liturgical resource was published by the Sydney diocese in 2001. Following the rejection of APBA by the Sydney Synod a committee was formed to oversee the production of a collection of services designed to suit the variety of services now found in Sydney parishes. They were initially going to be produced as a free download from the web, but in the end a small book was produced. It contains three forms of Morning/Evening Prayer, Occasional prayers, two forms of the Lord's Supper, a service of Baptism and a reprint of the Articles of Religion.
The services follow Prayer Book structure, but are simplified ("intelligible in language"), culturally adjusted and provide flexibility. The 1st Order Holy Communion follows BCP fairly closely, while the 2nd Order follows the more modern "catholic" form, but is designed for an informal family or youth service. The guiding principle of simplicity has greatly affected the finished product. Note the following examples from the 1st Order Holy Communion:
The Prayer of Preparation
nothing is hidden from you,
not even the secrets of our hearts.
By your Holy Spirt,
purify our deepest thoughts
so that we may truly love you
and bring honour to your name
through Christ our Lord. Amen
The Prayer of Humble Access
We come here to your table
trusting in your measurless grace and not in our own goodness.
Even though we are not worthy
to eat the crumbs from under your table,
you are always rich in mercy.
Gracious Lord, enable us by faith
to eat the flesh of your dear Son Jesus Christ,
and to drink his blood,
so that we may be cleansed and forever dwell in him,
and he in us. Amen
The 1st Order Holy Communion, and to some extent the 1st Order Prayer, Praise and Proclamation (MP/EP), are the only services in this book to have any real continuity with BCP / AAPB, but as can be seen above, there is quite a dramatic change to the language and poetry of the liturgy. For liturgy to work, the words must be well remembered so as to free the worshipper from the book, and because the words will be repeated week by week, the language must be substantial rather than banal. This service book may well serve a church seeking to move from liturgy to freeform worship, but for those Anglicans who love English liturgy, it is a heavy burden to bear.
Sunday Services, Sydney's "dumb down" answer to APBA, is actually an embarrassment to many Conservative Evangelicals.
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