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.


Admin said...

I've enjoyed your reviews on this new prayer book. I agree with you about the need to improve the "missional" emphasis to use that now cliched word. I believe the revisers were seeking to be as faithful to the 1662UK /1928US /1962 Canadian as possible works as possible and that explains the deficiency... it's been a deficiency since 1662!

I enjoy the new work and have used it daily since it arrived by mail.

I would be interested in seeing the Kenyan works you reference. How does one find them in the US?


Robin G. Jordan said...

I purchased my copy from the Anglican Mission in Americas. They have Our Modern Services (2002; 2003) on their resources page. I have been trying to obtain English translations of the Nigerian Prayer Book and its most recent revision and the Chilean Prayer Book, so far with no success.

Alas, the problem is not that the book lacks a sufficent "missional" emphasis. When one closely compares An Anglican Prayer Book with 1662UK/1928US/1962 Canadian, one discovers all kinds of changes and theological differences--some minor; others significant. I will be addressing them in my series on An Anglican Prayer Book (2008). I am also planning other articles on the book on how congregations might overcomes some of the book's limitations.

I prepared A New American Prayer Book in response to the trial services. It is my contribution to the development of a new Prayer Book for North American Anglicans. In the book I address a number of the weaknesses of the trial services. Unlike An Anglican Prayer Book (2008), it does not rely so heavily upon the 1928 American and 1962 Canadian Prayer Books but draws upon material from other Anglican provinces around the world, especially those involved in GAFCON. I sent copies to Bishop Rodgers and Murphy.

If you would like to see a copy of the draft, send me your email and I will send you one. I am still proofreading the draft for spelling and textual errors, and lining up copyrights permissions. I hope to post it online.

Admin said...

Thanks for the lead on the Kenyan book.

You can send a copy of your work (if I have time I'll pass along any errors I see)... you can use the email

missionlawrence [AT] gmail [dot] com

Rob of the Angels said...

I would really like to review your New American Prayer Book. I have recently reviewed and written a paper on many of the deficiencies of Peter Toon's prayer book. He seems to be really pushing his particular theological agenda.
Please send a copy of your book to
-Rob of the Angels

Robin G. Jordan said...

I tried sending you the files of "Introduction to A New American Prayer Book" and the preliminary draft of A New American Prayer Book but the email to which they were attached could not be sent due to a connection problem. Do you have another email address?

Robin G. Jordan said...

To Rob of the Angels

I attempted again to send an email to the address that you left. I again received a failure notice stating that your email account is blocking the emails I am sending to you.

Bisbe Josep said...

I would love to receive a copy of A New American Prayer Book. My e-mail is