Several readers of the articles in my series on An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) in their comments in response to the articles have questioned the need for an open and public scrutiny of An Anglican Prayer Book (2008). In this article I pause from examining An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) and explain why I believe such a scrutiny is warranted.
An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) was produced primarily for the churches of the Anglican Mission in the Americas. In its Solemn Declaration of Principles, adopted in Kampala in 1999, the Anglican Mission recognizes the Thirty-Nine Articles and the 1662 edition of the Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal as its standards for doctrine and worship:
Article II. The Book of Common Prayer and Worship
Section 1 - The Book of Common Prayer
The official Book of Common Prayer has doctrinal authority in this Church. It shall be used in this Church at such times, and with such liberty as the Canon on this subject shall prescribe; but no Canon shall ever make its use imperative on all occasions, or forbid the use of extempore or other prayer at suitable times.
For Anglicans, this tradition of common prayer, which has been an integral part of our identity since the first Prayer Book of 1549, is most cogently summed up in the Book of Common Prayer issued in the Church of England in 1662. All subsequent editions of the Prayer Book derive from this Book and should be understood and interpreted in a manner consistent with it.
Section 2- Freedom in usage
However, strong as is our dedication to ordered and orthodox worship, nothing in our understanding of it necessarily excludes approaches to corporate worship which are freer and more accessible to those just making their first acquaintance with the Body of Christ at prayer. The Ordinary, therefore, may authorize alternative rites and uses "so long as the Faith be kept entire" in accord with the doctrinal norms, formularies and guidelines of this Church.
Article III. Further Doctrinal Norms and Formularies
Section 2- The Formularies of the Church of England
a. The 1662 Book of Common Prayer and Ordinal
The theology set forth in the 1662 edition of the Book of Common Prayer and Ordinal shall be the theology to which alternative liturgical texts and forms will conform.
b. The 39 Articles of the Church of England
This Church subscribes to the teaching of the 39 Articles of Religion of the Church of England. These are to be interpreted, as ordered in the Declaration which prefaces them in the English Book of Common Prayer, "in the full and plain meaning thereof" and "in the literal and grammatical sense." Further, it is understood that there are places in the Articles (i.e. Art. 37) that assume past and present political structures in England which do not directly apply to this Church located as it is in North America.
In the Appendix to the proposed Constitution of the Anglican Mission we find the following elucidations:
APPENDIX I. Official Theological Elucidation on the Solemn Declaration, Articles I, II, III and the Constitution Article I
Comments related to Article II, The Book of Common Prayer and Worship
Section 1. The Book of Common Prayer
From very early times, it has been the practice of the Church to set forth, by authority, approved texts and forms of common prayer to be used in public worship. These serve to safeguard the accurate and complete transmission of the Faith given to us against the tendency of fallen mankind to ignore those elements of the Faith that are inconvenient and to supply what he sees to be deficiencies in it. They are intended to ensure that those that worship in the Congregation of God's faithful people are formed by the pure Word of God and the sacraments of the New Covenant into a temple fit for his inhabitation.
Section 2. Freedom in usage
However, strong as is our dedication to ordered and orthodox worship, nothing in our understanding of it necessarily excludes approaches to corporate worship which are freer and more accessible to those just making their first acquaintance with the Body of Christ at prayer. As Saint Augustine perceived God as that Beauty which is unchanging yet ever new, so we recognize that the eternal truth of the Faith brought us in Christ must speak newly to each generation. So long as those engaged in planning and leading these freer forms of worship consciously strive to conform them to the Faith presented in the Book of Common Prayer, there should be no problem in these different approaches co-existing in harmony. The Ordinary, therefore, may authorize alternative rites and uses "so long as the Faith be kept entire" in accord with the theological norms, formularies and guidelines of this Church.
As I noted in my previous article, the Anglican Mission in its ratification of the Theological Statement of the Common Cause Partnership also agreed to accept "The Book of Common Prayer as set forth by the Church of England in 1662, together with the Ordinal attached to the same, as a standard for Anglican doctrine and discipline, and, with the Books which preceded it, as the standard for the Anglican tradition of worship." The Anglican Mission further agreed to accept "the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion of 1562, taken in their literal and grammatical sense...as expressing fundamental principles of authentic Anglican belief. "
In its Solemn Declaration of Principles the Anglican Mission also set two critical standards for itself in the development of alternative liturgies and forms. The first is "However, strong as is our dedication to ordered and orthodox worship, nothing in our understanding of it necessarily excludes approaches to corporate worship which are freer and more accessible to those just making their first acquaintance with the Body of Christ at prayer...." The second is "The theology set forth in the 1662 edition of the Book of Common Prayer and Ordinal shall be the theology to which alternative liturgical texts and forms will conform." These are the standards to which the Anglican Mission committed itself at Kampala--at least on paper.
My evaluation of An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) shows that the services in the book fall considerably short of these two critical standards and in doing so the book represents a serious departure from the original vision of the Anglican Mission. There are always forces at work inside and outside an organization like the Anglican Mission that work to change its vision to their own personal vision. I personally was surprised that the Anglican Mission had engaged Peter Toon to guide the compilation of a service book for the Anglican Mission because his personal agenda, as reflected in his articles and other writings, is significantly different from the Anglican Mission's vision. In a number of ways they are at cross-purposes. In a number of his articles Dr. Toon has attacked the values of the Anglican Mission if not the Anglican Mission itself directly. In engaging Dr. Toon in the compilation of a service book for the Anglican Mission, the leaders of the Anglican Mission may have sought to co-opt a potential critic of the service book. They may have also thought that in placing a leader of traditionalist Anglicans in charge of the book's compilation, they would make the book more acceptable and attractive to traditionalists. They may have hoped that the book would bridge the divide between Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals.
A number of the folks that are drawn to the Anglican Mission are evangelical Christians who are attracted to liturgical worship. What concerns me is what they are being offered with the liturgical worship—the theology that is embodied in that worship. One of the important principles of worship that Anglicans have always recognized is "Lex Orendi, Lex Credendi." What we pray shapes what we believe.
Archbishop Thomas Cranmer recognized this principle and removed from the Second Book of Common Prayer of 1552, everything that directly or indirectly gave expression to a doctrine that was not gathered from the Scriptures or was contrary to the Scriptures. He wanted to give the English people a Prayer Book that was thoroughly Scriptural—"the pure Word of God," a Prayer Book that would cultivate in them a faith that was grounded in the Scriptures. The 1662 Book of Common Prayer is substantially the 1552 Prayer Book.
An Anglican Prayer Book (2000) was preceded by Services in Contemporary English from The Book of Common Prayer of 1662, which was authorized for restricted trial use in the Anglican Mission for a limited period. Despite its title and an article in the Prayer Book Society's journal Mandate stating that these services were contemporary English forms of the services of the 1662 edition of the Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal, the theology of the services was not the Biblical-Reformation theology of the 1662 edition of the Prayer Book and the Ordinal. The compilers of the trial services drew heavily from those parts of the 1928 American and the 1962 Canadian revisions of the Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal where they depart the most from the theology of the 1662 Prayer Book. The compilers of the trial services not only took textual material and rubrics from these books but they adapted the textual material so that the theology given expression in the trial services was not always that of the books from which they had been drawn.
In his writings Dr. Toon has shown a tendency to gloss over the theological differences between the 1662 Prayer Book, the 1928 American Prayer Book, and the 1962 Canadian Prayer Book, a number of which are significant. This tendency was quite evident in the services authorized for trial use. In a number of places the trial services spoke where the 1662 Prayer Book is silent and took theological positions that even the 1928 American Prayer Book and the 1962 Canadian Prayer Book do not express, or if they do give expression to them, only express them in muted language—theological positions over which Anglicans are sharply divided.
For example, in their adaptation of the 1962 Canadian Exhortation to the Godparents in the Service for the Baptism of Infants the compilers of trial services went beyond the language of the 1662 Canadian Prayer Book which speaks of being "strengthened by the Holy Spirit" at Confirmation and spoke of being "strengthened by the gift of the Holy Spirit" at Confirmation. While Evangelicals in the Anglican Church agree with Anglo-Catholics that the bishop, when he lays hand upon the candidate for confirmation, prays for the strengthening of the Holy Spirit, they reject as contrary to the Scriptures the Anglo-Catholic doctrine that the gift of the Holy Spirit is imparted with the laying of hands at Confirmation. They point to those passages in the New Testament that teach and show that the Holy Spirit is received apart from the laying on of hands. The 1662 Confirmation Service is silent on this point. The bishop prays for the strengthening gifts of grace for the candidates. He then lays hands on each candidate and prays that God will defend him, and that he will increase in the Holy Spirit more and more each day until he comes to God's everlasting kingdom. The 1662 Confirmation Service speaks of the bishop laying his hands on the candidates to certify, or assure them, "by this sign", of God's favour and gracious goodness toward them." It does not suggest that either the gift of the Holy Spirit or the gifts of the Holy Spirit are conferred at Confirmation. Such a view is only the interpretation of the theological significance of Confirmation of one theological stream in Anglicanism.
From his writings I gather that Dr. Toon is a proponent of the two-stage theory of Christian initiation that was popular in the earlier part of the twentieth century and which was a point of heated dispute among Anglicans then (and still is now) and subscribes to this interpretation of Confirmation's theological significance. Other reputable Anglican theologians like Michael Green and J. I. Packer would strongly disagree with him. Dr. Toon's views, however, were given expression in the trial services, violating what might be described as the "neutrality" of the 1662 Prayer Book.
I drew this defect and other shortcomings of the trial services to the attention of Bishop Chuck Murphy and Dr. Toon himself. I also submitted proposals for revision of the trial services to Bishop Murphy. I subsequently sent Bishop John Rodgers and Bishop Murphy for their review a draft of a service book, A New American Prayer Book, which corrected a number of the defects of the trial services. From my evaluation of An Anglican Prayer Book (2008), it appears that some of the changes that I suggested were incorporated into that book. The adaptation of the 1926 Canadian Exhortation to the Godparents, for example, was dropped. However, a modified version of the doctrine to which it gave expression is found in the Catechism of An Anglican Prayer Book (2008).
Unlike its predecessor An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) does not claim to be a translation of the 1662 edition of the Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal into contemporary English. An Anglican Prayer Book (2008), however, continues to gloss over the significant theological differences between the 1662 Prayer Book, the 1928 American Prayer Book, and the 1962 Canadian Prayer Book, which at a number of places have fairly disparate theologies. It also introduces significant theological changes that set it apart from all three books but especially the 1662 Prayer Book.
An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) also at first glance appears to take the path of theological "multiformity" of the more recent Anglican services books instead of adhering to the Biblical-Reformation theology of the 1662 edition of the Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal and the Thirty-Nine Articles. But its theological "multiformity" is deceptive. When the whole theology of the book is evaluated, it clearly leans heavily toward Anglo-Catholicism in its Caroline and Tractarian forms.
In our email correspondence Dr. Toon has described An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) as a bridge to "genuine Anglican doctrine and experience" for those folks who have been using the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. However, Dr. Toon's idea of "genuine Anglican doctrine and experience" is not classical Anglicanism, which is evangelical and Reformed in its theology, but a synthesis of the "Catholic" doctrine and experience of the more pronounced seventeenth century Caroline High Churchmen and the nineteenth century Tractarian High Churchmen. This is not the Anglicanism of the 1662 edition of the Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal and the Thirty-Nine Articles. It is High Church doctrine and experience that frequently goes beyond the theological boundaries of these two formularies. In its nineteenth century Tractarian form it is sought to do away with the Thirty-Nine Articles and replace the Articles as a doctrinal standard with the 1662 edition of the Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal reinterpreted in "a Catholic sense." It represents only one of the theological streams in Anglicanism.
My evaluation of An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) does not the support the comment of one of my readers that An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) will work for a group like the Anglican Mission that represents all theological streams in Anglicanism. An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) is not only weighted heavily toward Anglo-Catholicism but also toward a High Church style of worship. It also tries to restrict a number of practices that one sees in Anglican Mission churches. For example, baptism by immersion--partial or full immersion--is enjoying something of a revival in the Anglican Mission. The Anglican Mission web site and Anglican Mission brochures show a priest or deacon baptizing a young girl in a swimming pool. The Book of Common Prayer from 1549 on has prescribed dipping (immersion) as the preferred mode of baptism, except in case of weakness, in which case pouring (affusion) may be used. An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) restricts the mode of baptism to pouring (affusion) only. This is decidedly a break not only with the 1662 Prayer Book but also its predecessors. It cannot be justified in the light of the revival of immersion, not just in Anglican Mission churches but also in the churches of other Anglican jurisdictions. It is not a question of this mode of baptism having fallen into disuse.
Another example of its restriction of practices seen not only in the churches of the Anglican Mission but also in other Anglican jurisdictions is that An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) makes no provision for biddings for special prayers and thanksgivings before the Intercession in the Order for the Holy Communion; insertion of names in the Intercession, except the names of those in authority and the bishop and the local clergy; and times of open prayer in Morning and Evening Prayer and the Holy Communion. The lack of provision for these widely accepted practices in global Anglicanism in An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) is surprising. Even the 1928 Book of Common Prayer permits the priest to ask before the Intercession "the secret intercessions of the congregation for any who have desired the prayers of the church." The following rubric precedes the Intercession in the 1962 Canadian Prayer Book:
"Then shall one of the Ministers ask the prayers of the people, using always either the first or the last of the following Biddings, together with one or more others if so desired; and he may provide short periods for silent prayer."
This rubric is followed by a number of short bidding that may be used.
Provisions for biddings for special prayers and thanksgivings like the preceding ones, for insertion of the names of other individuals beside public figures and pastors, and times of open prayer move the prayers of the church from the general to the specific and make our prayers less impersonal. They put names and faces upon those "who in this transitory life, are in trouble, sorrow, need, sickness, or any other adversity." They make the liturgy more evangelistic, congregational, and pastoral.
None of these practices represent a departure from the teaching of the Scriptures or the Biblical-Reformation theology of the Thirty-Nine Articles and the 1662 edition of the Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal. Their omission is also not defensible on evangelistic, liturgical or pastoral grounds.
Services in Contemporary English from The Book of Common Prayer of 1662, the predecessor to An Anglican Prayer Book (2008), displayed certain tendencies that ran counter to the Anglican Mission's Solemn Declaration of Principles as they apply to freedom of usage: "However, strong as is our dedication to ordered and orthodox worship, nothing in our understanding of it necessarily excludes approaches to corporate worship which are freer and more accessible to those just making their first acquaintance with the Body of Christ at prayer." An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) exhibits similar tendencies. For example, An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) limits worship on Sunday to Morning or Evening Prayer or Holy Communion. Congregations using the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, and the 1962 Canadian Prayer Book also have the option of Ante-Communion. A number of the more recent Anglican service books make provision for a Service of the Word for those occasions when the regular services of Morning and Evening Prayer, Holy Communion, and Ante-Communion do not meet the particular needs of a congregation. An early form of this service is authorized in the General Directions for Publick Worship of the Church of Ireland’s Book of Common Prayer of 1926:
"Upon special occasions, instead of the whole order for Morning or Evening Prayer, such selections from the Services of the Church and from the Holy Scriptures may be used as shall be approved of for this purpose by the Ordinary."
This type of service is particularly useful in reaching and evangelizing those segments of the unchurched population that are not baptized and have little, if any, Christian background and negligible prior experience with the Body of Christ at prayer.
As Anglican Mission Bishop John Rodgers noted in an interview with Virtue Online, "we lose some coherence with a diversity of liturgies, but we might attract more people." Bishop Rodgers went on to say, "The tension arises between our desire for a common worship and mission, reaching as many of the lost as possible."
The tendencies that run counter to "freedom of usage" provisions of the Anglican Mission’s Solemn Declaration of Principles, which are evidenced in An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) will hobble the efforts of Anglican Mission churches to reach and evangelize the spiritually disconnected and unchurched in their communities. They will also hinder the missionary outreach efforts of churches of other Anglican jurisdictions using the book.
The theology of An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) is not any closer to that of the 1662 edition of the Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal than the 1928 Book of Common Prayer and the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. Both of these Prayer Books deviate significantly from the Biblical-Reformation theology of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) has to a certain extent the Reformed form of the 1662 Prayer Book but at a number of critical points its theological content is substantially different from that of the 1662 Prayer Book. For example, its theology of the Eucharist departs from the fairly mild form of moderate realism that characterizes the Eucharistic theology of the 1662 Prayer Book and, as Brian Douglas notes in his case study of the 1662 Prayer Book on the website Anglican Eucharistic Theology, "has persisted in Anglicanism so strongly."
The theology of "The English Order, 1662, which includes a small number of significant changes in the 1662 Eucharist is much less restrained in its realism. These changes include the addition of the Benedictus and the Agnes Dei and the reservation of the sacrament, traditionally associated with a realist eucharistic theology, including the doctrine of Transubstantiation, and the practice of eucharistic adoration. They teach a doctrine of the real and substantial presence of Christ in the Eucharist that is not consistent with Reformed eucharistic theology of the 1662 Prayer Book.
The oblation-anamnesis in "The American Order, 1928" speaks of celebrating and making before God "the memorial your Son has commanded us to make, which is also offered to God. It goes on to speak of remembering Christ’s mighty works in the celebration and making of this memorial and concluded by offering thanks for the benefits "procured for us" by these mighty works. The oblation-anamnesis does not explicitly link the signs of bread and wine with the memorial. However, that linking is implicit in the oblation-anamnesis since it follows the Institution Narrative which is introduced with these words "and instituted, and in his holy gospel commanded us to continue, a perpetual memory of his precious death until he comes again. The memorial is offered to God as an oblation and with it the consecrated bread and wine with which the memorial is celebrated and made. This represents a significant departure from the Reformed eucharistic theology of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. The 1662 Eucharist has no offering of the bread or wine to God at the offertory or in the Prayer of Consecration. The only reference to an offering is the communicant’s thanksgiving and praise and self that follows the reception of communion.
The anamnesis in "The Canadian Order, 1962," after recalling Christ’s mighty works, speaks of making before God a memorial in "this sacrament of the holy Bread of eternal life and the Cup of everlasting salvation," an euphemistic reference to the body and blood of Christ. The juxtaposition of the anamnesis with the petition God to accept "this sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving" suggests the offering of the memorial to God as part of the praise and thanksgiving and by implication the offering of the consecrated bread and wine with which the memorial is made. This is also a significant departure from the 1662 Prayer Book’s eucharistic theology.
An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) may not be as clearly realist in eucharistic presence and sacrifice as the 1979 Book of Common Prayer but it certainly moves more in that direction than it does in the direction of the 1662 Prayer Book.
Dr. Toon himself has been critical of evangelicals in The Episcopal Church for their embrace of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. He takes the position that due to their adoption of the 1979 Prayer Book, they become too malleable or yielding from a doctrinal standpoint. In an editorial in Mandate he expresses this position: "...Rite II services in ‘contemporary language’ provide the necessary ingredients of intelligibility, simplicity, accessibility, relevance and meaningfulness and so are a means of making their services and outreach popular and attractive. So they pay little attention to the actual doctrinal content -- i.e., they do not check it against the doctrinal content of the classic BCP & the Articles of Religion in terms of who is God, who is Jesus and what is salvation."
One is tempted to suspect Dr. Toon of cynical exploitation of this weakness in An Anglican Prayer Book (2008), taking advantage of their inattentiveness to doctrine to foist upon evangelical Episcopalians who have migrated to the Anglican Mission a service book that does not conform to the Biblical-Reformation theology of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and Ordinal and the Thirty-Nine Articles. On the other hand, when Dr. Toon refers to the "classic" Book of Common Prayer, he is usually speaking of the 1928 American Prayer Book and not the Prayer Book that global Anglicanism regards as the classic Anglican Prayer Book—the Book of Common Prayer of 1662.
This inattention to doctrine I would contend extends to a much larger group than evangelicals in the Anglican Mission and The Episcopal Church. Being a champion of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, Dr. Toon also never mentions the part that that Prayer Book played in this development. I admit some trepidation in drawing attention to the role of the 1928 Prayer Book in this development because a number of Episcopalians and other Anglicans in the United States have a deep attachment to the 1928 Prayer Book. However, the 1928 Prayer Book did contribute to this development and we need to be honest with ourselves about it.
The 1928 Book of Common Prayer was the first major revision of the American Prayer Book, and moved the American Prayer Book much further away from the Biblical-Reformation theology of the 1662 Prayer Book than had its predecessors, the 1789 and 1892 Prayer Books. In a sense, whether we like to admit it, the 1928 American Prayer Book paved the way for the 1979 American Prayer Book. Having introduced a number of significant deviations from the 1662 Prayer Book, it encouraged some people to desire further changes and prepared others to accept these changes. In their attempt to give expression to a more "Catholic" theology in the American Prayer Book, the compilers of the 1979 Prayer Book could claim precedence in the 1928 Prayer Book and continuity with that book.
The 1928 Book of Common Prayer was adopted at a time in the history of The Episcopal Church when the two theological streams dominating the church were Anglo-Catholicism and Broad Church Liberalism. (A synthesis of these two theological streams is ascendant in the church today.) There was a movement to do away with the Thirty-Nine Articles in The Episcopal Church. A resolution to abolish the Articles had been adopted by the 1925 General Convention and was awaiting ratification of the 1928 General Convention to go into effect. The resolution, however, was quietly dropped with the adoption of the 1928 Prayer Book.
The 1928 Book of Common Prayer gave expression to doctrines that were not only contrary to Scripture but also at variance with the Biblical-Reformation theology of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and the Thirty-Nine Articles. The 1928 Prayer Book encouraged Episcopalians to tolerate and accept these doctrines. It served as a vehicle for disseminating these doctrines widely in the Protestant Episcopal Church and contributed to the further erosion of Scriptural authority in the church. This erosion had already begun before the adoption of the 1928 Prayer Book. Indeed it was key to the adoption of the 1928 Book. The dynamics at work in the Protestant Episcopal Church that produced the 1928 Book fostered the inattentiveness to doctrine that has come to characterize a large segment of Episcopalians. There was already a tendency to subordinate doctrinal content to liturgical form instead of liturgical form to doctrinal content. The 1928 Prayer Book reinforced this tendency as well as the inattentiveness to doctrine.
My own concern is that in the excitement of having a contemporary language alternative to the 1979 Book of Common Prayer North American Anglicans will not give enough attention to the doctrinal content of An Anglican Prayer Book (2008). They will not only overlook the book’s doctrinal deficiencies but will also ignore its other defects. From the perspective of Biblical theology, the classical Anglican formularies (i.e., the Thirty-Nine Articles; the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and Ordinal) and the missionary imperative An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) is not just a flawed book. It is a seriously flawed book.
In email correspondence with this writer Dr. Toon dismissed the need for a theology of missions in a service book that, while it is primarily intended for use in the Anglican Mission in the Americas, is also expected to "be used by other Anglicans and Episcopalians both in North America and elsewhere in the English-speaking world." This attitude is both surprising and alarming. The Anglican Mission is a missionary arm of the African Anglican Province of Rwanda. One would expect a service book published for its use would emphasize missions and would be designed for the mission field. The lack of a theology of missions in An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) is quite evident when An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) is compared with Our Modern Services, the contemporary language service book of the African Anglican Province of Kenya. Our Modern Services has a strong theology of missions. The theology of missions in An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) is negligible. Even the 1928 Book of Common Prayer and the 1962 Canadian Prayer Book have more of a theology of missions than An Anglican Prayer Book (2008).
As I have pointed out in several of my articles, I believe that An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) could greatly benefit from more flexibility in the services. I am advocating only a modest flexibility such as an acknowledgment that directions to stand, sit, or kneel are suggestions only; permission to sing hymns in the services otherwise than where indicated, to use other versions and forms of psalms and canticles instead of those printed in the services, to substitute metrical psalms for prose ones and hymns for canticles, and to use informal worship songs in addition or in place of hymns, retention of the options of Ante-Communion and dipping (immersion) as a mode of baptism, provision for A Service of the Word, and the like. An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) needs the kind of flexibility that allows worship planners to tailor services to a wide variety of circumstances – composition, size, ministry target group, and worship style of the congregation, cultural context of the community, availability of clergy and musical resources, worship setting, and other variables; that encourages congregations to explore a range of options and discover what they can do well, and what works best for them in reaching the spiritually disconnected and the unchurched and in drawing both seekers and believers closer to God in their particular circumstances. A service book with this kind of flexibility incorporated into it recognizes that in the twenty-first century all sorts of churches and all kinds of worship are needed to fulfill the Great Commission and to make disciples of all people groups. It does not seek to force the worship of all congregations into the same mold.
The struggle today, as it was at the time of the English Reformation in the sixteenth century, is above all else about the authority of Scripture. However, we have already lost that struggle the moment the moment we pick up a Prayer Book that is not Scriptural in its doctrine and begin to worship with it.
The defects of An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) are not something that can be corrected over time as some have suggested. They warrant and even demand immediate attention. I believe that it is dangerous to ignore them. In drawing attention to them, I am not calling for a perfect service book but one that conforms to the standards of doctrine and worship that the Anglican Mission has adopted in its Solemn Declaration of Principles and the CCP Theological Statement and will serve the Anglican Mission’s central purpose of missionary outreach. I am pleading for a Prayer Book that is faithful to the Word of God and will provide not just members of the Anglican Mission but all North American Anglicans with a worship aid that will help them to reach the millions of the lost in our part of the world and elsewhere before they pass into a godless eternity. We owe this to the one who gave his life for us that we might enjoy a new relationship with God. He suffered for our sins. We cannot do any less.