Saturday, February 23, 2008

An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) and the Great Commission

One of the doctrinal deficiencies of The Book of Common Prayer of 1662 is its lack of a theology of missions. Various revisions of The Book of Common Prayer have recognized this deficiency and have sought to correct it. The 1926 Irish Prayer Book contains a suffrage in the Litany imploring God to "further the work of the Church in the world, and send forth labourers into the harvest." The 1926 Irish book also contains a number of prayers for missions. These prayers include a collect that may be said after the Collect of the Day or before the Blessing in the Service of Holy Communion at the discretion of the minister:

"O God, who hast made of one blood all nations of men to dwell on the face of the whole earth, and didst send thy blessed Son to preach peace to them that are afar off, and to them that are nigh; Grant that the peoples of the world may feel after thee and find thee; and hasten, O Lord, the fulfillment of thy promise to pour out thy Spirit upon all flesh; through Jesus Christ our Lord."

The 1929 South African Prayer Book makes provision for the inclusion of the following petitions in the Prayer for the Whole State of Christ’s Church in the Communion Service:

"Guide and prosper, we pray thee, all those who are labouring for the spread of thy Gospel among the nations."

"And to all Schools and Universities grant the light of thy Spirit, that the world may be filled with the knowledge of thy Truth."

The Litany in the 1962 Canadian Prayer Book implores God to "send forth labourers into thy harvest; to prosper their work by thy Holy Spirit; to make thy saving health known unto all nations; and to hasten thy kingdom…." The Prayers and Thanksgivings in the 1962 Canadian Prayer Book contain a number of prayers for missions. The Intercession in the 1962 Canadian Communion Service also contains this petition:

"Prosper, we pray thee, all those who proclaim the Gospel of thy kingdom among the nations…."
Prayers for the Various Occasions in An Australian Prayer Book (1978) include A Prayer for the Spread of the Gospel. The Litany in An Australian Prayer Book contains this suffrage:

"Encourage and prosper your servants who spread the gospel in all the world, and send out labourers into the harvest."

The following prayer may be added to An Order for Confirmation, First Form, in which all may join:

"Almighty and everlasting God, we pray that you will direct, sanctify, and govern our hearts and bodies in the ways of your commandments, that through your mighty protection, here and ever, we may be kept safe in body and soul, and joyfully serve you in the work of the gospel to which you have called us [my emphasis]; through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen."

At the conclusion of A Service of Confirmation, Second Form, the bishop may exhort the congregation with these words:

"Those who have been baptized and confirmed, and desire to acknowledge the obligation of membership in the church…are called to share with others, by word and example, the love of Christ and his gospel of reconciliation and hope…."

The Anglican Church of Kenya’s Our Modern Services (2002, 2003) has a rich theology of missions. In Confirmation and Commissioning for Service and Witness the candidates for confirmation promise to tell their neighbors about the love of Christ and pledge to proclaim Christ in season and out of season. After confirming the candidates, the bishop commissions them to go into the world.

Among the services in Our Modern Services are Commissioning of Evangelists and Admitting Lay Readers. Lay readers are expected to receive training befitting evangelists. In the examination that precedes their admission the bishop asks the candidates:

"Will you endeavour to fulfill the great commission by preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ with fervour in season and out of season?"

Collects for Seasons contain prayers like the Collect for the Fifth Sunday before Lent:

"O Lord our God, in as much as we are dedicated to your service, it is only you who can give the results or else we labour in vain. Show us and lead us into those mission fields where the harvest is ripe but the reapers are few. Glorify yourself in our work for your kingdom’s sake. Amen."

And the Collect for the Seventh Sunday of Easter:

"Lord Jesus, you bid your disciples to 'go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation…' Grant that we too shall be committed to this commission. Send us Lord wherever you chose, whenever you will, and we shall gladly go in your name and by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen."

Prayers and Intercessions for Different Times and Purposes contain the following Prayer for Mission and Evangelism:

"O God our Father, give us your passion for your Word and boldness in telling our neighbor about your grace, may the Holy Spirit convict the lost and draw them to the Saviour, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

In An Anglican Prayer Book (2008), a service book produced for the Anglican Mission in Americas, a missionary outreach of the Anglican Church of Rwanda, one would expect to find an equally as rich theology of missions. But those who look for such a theology in An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) will search in vain and will be sadly disappointed. An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) contains no prayers for missions. The closest thing to a prayer for missions in An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) is the third Collect for Good Friday. The Anglican Mission in Americas is reportedly planting on the average one new church every three weeks but An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) contains no prayers for church planters.

The Litany in An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) timidly asks God to send laborers into the harvest but does not ask God to encourage and prosper those already spreading the gospel. Nor does the Litany ask for boldness for the Church to preach the gospel in all the world, and to make disciples of all nations. (At a time when Islamic terrorists threaten the United States and Canada and US forces are involved in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq and Canadian forces in Afghanistan, the Litany also contains no suffrage imploring God to bless and defend those striving for our safety and protection, and to shield them in all dangers and adversities.)

An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) adds a section to the 1662 Catechism, in which those preparing for Confirmation are instructed that their "binding duty is to follow Christ, to worship God every Sunday in his Church, and to work and pray and give for the spread of the kingdom." But An Anglican Prayer Book does not go any further than this.

In the twenty-first century, in which Christianity is declining in North America and the United States and Canada together represent the largest English-speaking mission field in the world, one might expect An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) to place greater emphasis upon missions but it does not. Indeed, it gives the impression of having been compiled for an earlier century in which missions was not regarded a priority.

Anglicans subscribe to the principle of "lex orendi, lex credendi," literally the law of praying is the law of believing. What we pray shapes what we believe. In its neglect of the Great Commission one must wonder what beliefs An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) will be shaping.

Friday, February 22, 2008

An Anglican Prayer Book (2008): Morning and Evening Prayer

This is the first in a series of articles in which I propose to examine An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) that was released this month. An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) was published for The Anglican Mission in the Americas by Preservation Press of the Prayer Book Society of the USA. The editors of An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) hope that the services in the book will also be used by other Anglicans and Episcopalians both in North America and elsewhere in the English-speaking world. The services are described as "contemporary English services based on those in The Book of Common Prayer and The Ordinal, in their English 1662, American 1928, and Canadian 1962 editions." An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) is a revision of the services that were authorized for restricted trial use in Anglican Mission churches in 2006.

As forms for public worship and private devotions the services of Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer in An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) suffer from much the same weaknesses as did the trial services. They are even more disappointing than the trial services because the editors of An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) had every opportunity to remedy these weaknesses but did very little.

In the services of Morning and Evening Prayer in An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) seasonal introductory sentences replace the penitential introductory sentences that are an important feature of The Book of Common Prayer of 1662 and its reformed predecessors—the 1552, 1559, and 1604 Prayer Books. The replacement of penitential introductory sentences with seasonal ones it must be noted is a feature of The Episcopal Church’s The Book of Common Prayer of 1979 and the Church of England’s Alternative Service Book 1980.

The penitential introductory sentences are as Swiss scholar-pastor Samuel Leuenberger points to our attention in Archbishop Cranmer’s Immortal Bequest—The Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England: An Evangelistic Liturgy one of a number of "revivalistic elements" in the Prayer Book. These sentences with the Exhortation help to prepare the congregation for the General Confession that follows. They focus the attention of the congregation upon the depravity of humanity, their own sinful condition, and the need for repentance. They are an integral part of the Biblical and Reformation theology of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.

While seasonal introductory sentences may be desirable, they do not serve the same function as the penitential introductory sentences. In recognition of the different functions of seasonal and penitential introductory sentences a number of the more recent service books such as An Australian Prayer Book (1978) follow the seasonal introductory sentence with one or more penitential introductory sentences.

An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) retains a number of rubrics in the services of Morning and Evening Prayer, which prescribe postures that might be better determined by local circumstances and custom. The rubrics, for example, direct the whole congregation to "keel" [sic] with the minister for the General Confession, a posture that may be impractical in many of the non-traditional settings in which Anglican Mission congregations frequently worship.

An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) makes no provision for the substitution of metrical psalms for prose psalms. An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) unfortunately, like the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, when it comes to the Daily Offices, appears to presuppose that every congregation has a choir of trained singers, and worships in the setting of a cathedral or college chapel. An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) also adopts the unfortunate practice of requiring the singing or recitation of the Gloria Patri after each Psalm. Most Anglicans and Episcopalians in the United States, who regularly pray the Daily Offices, using the 1928 or 1979 American Prayer Book, are accustomed to saying the Gloria Patri after the last Psalm.

An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) makes no provision for the use of other versions and forms of the Canticles printed in the book. Nor does it make any provision for the substitution of hymns or other songs of praise for the canticles. Congregations that do not have a choir, cannot chant, contain a significant number of children, or worship in a setting with acoustics not conducive to chanting are left with no alternative but recite the Canticles, which is thoroughly unsatisfactory when Morning Prayer or Evening Prayer is the main service on the Lord’s Day.

The versions of the Canticles in An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) do not particularly lend themselves to singing or recitation. A number of them are taken from the English Standard Version of the Bible and contain obscure and awkward phrasing. They are ill suited for liturgical use. For example, "And has raised up a horn of salvation for us," "Because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from high…" and "Lord, now you are letting…." Other versions of these Canticles better suited for use in the liturgy are available. I am mystified why the editors of An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) did not make use of them since the shortcomings of the Canticles printed in the book were drawn to their attention.

Users of An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) are limited to the Canticles from the 1662 Prayer Book—Te Deum, Benedicite, Benedictus Dominus Deus, Jubilate Deo, Magnificat, Cantate Domino, Nunc Dimittis, and Deus Misereatur and one additional Canticle from the 1928 American Prayer Book—the Benedictus es. An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) makes no provision for abbreviating the Benedicite (1928 English Prayer Book) or substituting the shorter Laudate Dominum—Psalm 148 (1926 Irish Prayer Book). Canticles such as The Song of Isaiah—Isaiah 12:26 (1929 South African Prayer Book; 2004 Irish Prayer Book) and Great and Wonderful—Revelation 5:3,4 and 5:13b (An Australian Prayer Book 1978) for which a number of excellent contemporary settings already exist and which might have greatly enriched the worship of Anglican Mission churches did not make the cut.

An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) betrays a lack of familiarity with the development of the monastic Daily Offices from which Anglican services of Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer were derived. In the early monastic morning office the Lord’s Prayer formed the conclusion of the office. Over the centuries the monastic morning office accumulated a series of collects and an anthem to the Blessed Virgin Mary after the Lord’s Prayer. The Lord’s Prayer that begins the services of Morning Prayer and Evening in the 1549 Book of Common Prayer and follows the Absolution in the 1552 Prayer Book is a later addition to the monastic morning office. An Anglican Prayer Book permits the omission of the Lord’s Prayer before the Prayers, the original Lord’s Prayer, from Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer if the initial Lord’s Prayer, the later addition, is said. If one of the Lord’s Prayers should be optional, it ought to be the initial Lord’s Prayer.

The Collect for Peace in the service of Morning Prayer is a poor alternative for Cranmer’s translation of the Latin original. It show how greatly impoverished the English language has become in the last 100 years. The Collect for Grace compares poorly with other contemporary versions of this collect. The petition asking God to guide and govern the congregation so that they do right in God’ sight sounds like an afterthought.

The rubrics on page 17 are poorly written and in regards to the sermon appear to contradict the introductory notes on page 2. They permit an anthem or hymn after the Third Collect, followed by the Litany. However, the use of the Litany at this point renders redundant the Suffrages and Collects that precede the Litany. It also makes the Prayers and the Thanksgivings unnecessarily lengthy. A much better option would be to permit the use of the Litany after the Apostles’ Creed and omit the remainder of Morning or Evening Prayer.

A Prayer for the Clergy and People lacks the poetry of other contemporary versions of the same prayer. Here is an example:

"Almighty and eternal God, you alone work great marvels: send down the health-giving spirit of your grace on all bishops and pastors and the congregations committed to their care. And, so that we may all truly please you, pour on us the continual dew of your blessing. Grant this, O Lord, for the honor of our advocate and mediator, Jesus Christ. AMEN."

A Prayer for All People contains a number of awkward phrases. Better contemporary versions of this prayer are available. For example:

"O God, the creator and preserver of all mankind, we pray for people of every race, in every kind of need: make your ways known on earth, your saving health among all nations. We pray for your Church throughout the world: guide and govern us by your Holy Spirit, that all who profess and call themselves Christians may be led into the way of truth, and hold the faith in unity of spirit, in the bond of peace and in righteousness of life. We commend to your fatherly goodness all those who are in any way afflicted or distressed in body, mind or spirit [especially …]; comfort and relieve them in their need, give them patience in their sufferings, and bring good out of all their troubles; through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN."

The inclusion of A Prayer for God’s Continual Help in the services of Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer is an innovation carried over from the trial services. This collect is found in a number of Anglican service books after the Service of Holy Communion. It is one of several collects that may be used to conclude that service when there is no communion. It is also the collect used at the conclusion of ordinations. In the 1926 Irish Prayer Book it is one of a number of collects that may be used in the Communion Service after the Collect of the Day or before the Blessing, as a concluding prayer. Its inclusion in the Daily Offices in An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) appears to be largely idiosyncratic.

An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) makes no provision for the congregation to join with the officiating minister in the General Thanksgiving or the Grace, two widespread practices in the Anglican Communion in the 21st century.

An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) contains no occasional prayers or thanksgivings for use with Morning or Evening Prayer. It makes no provision for open prayer at either service.

I hope that the services in An Anglican Prayer Book (2008)are not intended in their present form to be a permanent Liturgy of any Anglican jurisdiction. Rather they will be further revised and polished. In their present form the services of Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer in An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) do not represent Anglican common prayer at its best. They are amateurish and clumsy. For congregations for whom Morning Prayer or Evening Prayer is the main service on the Lord’s Day the services are likely to form another barrier or obstacle that they must overcome in advancing the cause of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the Church and the world. They are certainly not friendly to congregations with limited musical resources worshiping in non-traditional settings with less than ideal acoustics.

Recommended Reading:
Paul F. Bradshaw, Daily Prayer in the Early Church: A Study of the Origin and Early Development of the Divine Office, New York: Oxford University Press 1982
Stella Brooks, The Language of The Book of Common Prayer, London: Andre Deutsch Limited 1965
Samuel Leuenberger, Archbishop Cranmer’s Immortal Bequest—The Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England: An Evangelistic Liturgy, Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company 1990
James Hasting Nichols, Corporate Worship in the Reformed Tradition, Philadelphia: The Westminster Press 1968