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A Response to ACNA’s Proposed Prayer Book 2019

The Anglican Church in North America has been preparing a new revision of the Book of Common Prayer for several years. Its Liturgy and Common Worship Task Force began gathering feedback once working drafts were made available for use in 2013. The task force is near the end of the work, and the texts now available at this link represent years of work and incorporate the feedback of hundreds of worshipers.

The process has been quite transparent. The final text is slated for publication in 2019, but even at this late stage the task force is once again inviting feedback. November 1 is the final deadline, after which the task force and a Bishops Review Panel will prepare for a final sign-off on texts for a College of Bishops meeting in January.

I am an Episcopalian, but I think it’s important for Episcopalians to be aware of developments in the ACNA, especially as we contemplate the possibilities of comprehensive liturgical revision in our church. I offer the following observations on these latest drafts as friendly responses from a fellow Anglican and a scholar of the prayer book.

The overall approach seems to begin with the 1979 prayer book as a base text and bring it into closer alignment with historic Anglican prayer books. So, for instance, Holy Communion and baptism begin with the “opening acclamation” that was new to the 1979 BCP (adapted from the Eastern Orthodox tradition). Rather than simply providing the historically Anglican offices of Morning and Evening Prayer, this proposal follows the 1979 prayer book, the Canadian 1962 BCP, and the C of E’s Common Worship by including a liturgy for Morning, Midday, Evening, Compline, and Family Prayer. Unlike the older prayer books, it includes special liturgies for Holy Week.

Like the 1979 prayer book, this proposal uses celebrant for the presiding minister in Holy Communion and Baptism. This word is not found in the historic prayer books, which use priest and minister interchangeably, nor is it the current usage of most of the rest of the Communion, in which president, presiding minister, or the historic usage of priest/minister appear (celebrant is also used in the Canadian Book of Alternative Services).

All the liturgies are in contemporary English. The advantage of this approach lies in having only one version for all the liturgies, rather than including two versions of some of the liturgies as the 1979 BCP does.

In the case of Holy Communion, two slightly different rites are included (though they could easily be combined). The difference in the two Communion rites isn’t one of linguistic style; rather, the first rite represents what the task force calls a Standard Anglican Text and the second rite a Renewed Ancient Text. The preface to Communion, “Concerning the Service,” allows for the original text of 1662, 1928, or the Canadian 1962 to be substituted. The ACNA’s bishops passed a resolution in 2017 that allows parishes to substitute the older texts for any services, with the diocesan permitting. They also authorized a contemporary language version of the 1552 prayer book’s Communion Rite. While that text is not in the current revision, it would continue to be authorized and available for use as an alternative.

One of the unique features of this proposal is the use of the English Standard Version for most content derived directly from the Bible, except for the Psalter. Rather than follow the translation of the psalms newly prepared for the 1979 book or the classic Coverdale Psalter, the task force prepared a revision of the Coverdale Psalter in contemporary idiom.

Like 1979’s Historical Documents, this proposal includes a section called Documentary Foundations. Many of the documents included are the same. The Definition of Chalcedon is not included. The Fundamental Declarations of the Province — among ACNA’s constitutional documents — are also included. These declarations include a recognition of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and the 39 Articles as doctrinal standards.

I will give a very brief survey of Morning Prayer, Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Communion, and the lectionaries. For each of these I will note (1) how this proposal follows the 1979 prayer book, (2) how this edition departs from 1979 by restoring elements from the old prayer book tradition, by which I mean the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and the Episcopal Church’s 1928 revision (I will specify where these differ), and (3) elements original to this proposed revision. I have tried to be thorough, but this is not comprehensive. The organization should also allow readers to move to the sections of most interest.

Morning Prayer

Following the 1979 BCP

  • Includes the rubric “Silence may be kept” after the call to confession and advances that approach a step further with “Silence is kept.”
  • Removes “miserable offenders” from the traditional confession of sin.
  • Removes the historic American prayer book heading “The Declaration of Absolution, or Remission of Sins” (historically, many Anglicans read this as a clarification that the priest does not absolve, but only proclaims what the Lord does for those who turn to him; this has remained a point of dispute among Anglicans, especially since the Oxford Movement.”)
  • Removes the Lord’s Prayer following the absolution (in the 1662, the Lord’s Prayer followed the absolution and appeared again after the Apostles’ Creed; American prayer books before 1979 made the second but not the first of these two optional).
  • The heading “Invitatory” is included before the initial preces.
  • The Jubilate (Psalm 100, historically the alternate Canticle following the second lesson in Morning Prayer) is given as an alternative to the Venite (Psalm 95); and, like 1979, the Pascha nostrum (drawn from 1 Cor. 5:7-8, Rom. 6:9-11, and 1 Cor.15:20-22) is required for the first week of Eastertide and may be used throughout that season (the Pascha nostrum was included in the 1928 BCP but not within the main text of the office and not required for use).
  • Includes both a traditional and contemporary Lord’s Prayer.
  • Restores to Morning Prayer (an adapted version of) the full versicles from the 1662 BCP (included in full only in Evening Prayer in the U.S. editions from 1789 to 1928. Following the readings, “The word of the Lord”/ “Thanks be to God” and “here endeth the reading” are both options.
  • Instead of specifying which canticles may follow the first and second lessons, it allows any of the Canticles to follow either of the readings. Includes the rubric “Unless The Great Litany or the Eucharist is to follow, one of the following prayers for mission is added” and gives three options for the collect.
  • Does not include in the office the Prayer for The President of the United States, and all in Civil Authority (which replaced the prayers for the monarch and royal family in the American prayer book), the Prayer for the Clergy and People, or Prayer for all Conditions of Men included in historic BCPs.
  • Includes the versicle “Let us bless the Lord/Thanks be to God” and the option to add two Alleluias from Easter to Pentecost. Includes three options for the concluding sentence.

Following the historic prayer book tradition

  • Restores the traditional declaration of absolution along with the shorter option (in 1979 Rite I, only the shorter option is included; this shorter option is only found in Evening Prayer in the historic prayer book tradition).
  • Restores “O God, make speed to save us” to the preces; this phrase from the 1662 BCP was removed in the first U.S. prayer book (1789) and never restored, except partially in 1979, in which it is included only in the precesf or Evening Prayer, in place of “O Lord, open thou our lips.”
  • Restores “Praise ye the Lord”/”The Lord’s name be praised” to the preces, which was replaced in 1979 with “Alleluia” without a response.
  • Restores the Venite (partially), Psalm 95:1-7 (following Common Worship). The last four verses are included following a rubric that specifies they are only to be used during penitential seasons such as Lent and Advent. These had been removed and replaced in the United States since 1789. The 1979 BCP included Psalm 95 as an alternate option (but one has to flip from p. 45 to p. 146 to use it).
  • Restores to the Te Deum the last five verses cut off in the 1979 prayer book (but included as a set of versicles following the Creed and Lord’s Prayer). A rubric allows them to be omitted.
  • This proposal only includes the traditional Canticle options for Morning Prayer in Morning Prayer and the traditional options for Evening Prayer rather than the 21 different options in 1979 (following the offices, ten of those additional options from 1979 are provided as “supplemental canticles”).
  • Restores “Lord have mercy/Christ have mercy/Lord have mercy” from the 1662 BCP that was excluded from the U.S. editions.

New to this proposal

  • Unlike any previous edition, in this proposal the first page of the office only includes three options for opening sentences; other options, including those that are seasonal, are included at the end of the rite.
  • In the confession of sin, the phrase “there is no health in us” removed in 1979 is restored, preceded by “apart from your grace.” Samuel Bray has written an excellent article for The North American Anglican that explores this proposed addition.
  • Following the declaration of absolution, this proposal adds a rubric (“A deacon or layperson remains kneeling and prays”) and this prayer: “Grant your faithful people, merciful Lord, pardon and peace; that we may be cleansed from all our sins, and serve you with a quiet mind; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” This is an adaptation of the 1662 BCP’s provision for the Offices. The difference: it is not presented simply as an option for when a presbyter cannot be present, but is in addition to the priest’s pronouncement.
  • Rather than the traditional Morning Prayer collects for Grace and Peace, this proposal provides a single collect for each day of the week.


Following the 1979 BCP

  • Includes the opening versicles from the 1979 rite, which are drawn from Ephesians 4:4-6.
  • Like the 1979 rite, this proposed rite requires baptism be included in the context of Holy Communion. It does not allow for the historic Anglican position of baptism following the second lesson at Morning or Evening Prayer.

Following the historic prayer book tradition

  • More closely follows the historic vows of baptism from the 1662 BCP than the 1979’s novel “baptismal covenant.”
  • Restores the historic “flood prayer” to Baptism, though not all of the baptismal collects.
  • Removes the historic Confirmation prayer for the seven-fold gift of the Spirit that the 1979 book had inserted into Baptism. (However, it does not restore this prayer to Confirmation, but cuts the prayer altogether).
  • Restores the opening Exhortation for Baptism (removed from the 1979 book, this text was written for the first BCP [1549] and retained in all U.S. editions down to 1928).
  • Restores the post-baptismal signing with the cross “as a token of your new life in Christ, in which you shall not be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified, to fight bravely under his banner against the world, the flesh, and the devil, and to continue as his faithful servant to the end of your days.”

New to this proposal

  • Following the Church of England’s Common Worship, adds the question “Do you turn to Jesus Christ?”
  • Adds an exorcism (with the option of using oil) into the service, following the renunciation of the world, the flesh, and the devil.
  • Adds an emphasis on chrism that is not present in 1979 or the historic prayer book tradition, but is drawn from historic Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic precedents.


Following the 1979 BCP

  • Includes the full baptismal vows for reaffirmation (rather than a summary reaffirmation of the historic prayer book tradition).
  • Does not include the traditional Confirmation prayer for the sevenfold gift of the spirit.
  • Includes two options for the prayer to accompany the laying on of hands: the historic prayer book’s “Defend … until he comes into the fullness of your everlasting kingdom.” and 1979’s “Strengthen … all the days of his life.”
  • Includes forms for reception and reaffirmation.

Following the historic prayer book tradition

  • In the 1662 prayer book, the bishop reads a preface explaining (and defending) the purpose of confirmation. This preface was derived from an opening rubric (not read aloud) for confirmation composed for the first (1549) prayer book and retained as a rubric in 1552, 1559, and 1604. The 1789 and 1892 U.S. editions follow 1662 by including the spoken preface; the 1928 does not include this text as either a rubric or spoken preface.This proposed revision includes a similar preface spoken by the bishop near the beginning of the rite (following the opening versicles). It differs from the historic preface in one significant way. This historic text reads: “none shall be confirmed but such as can say the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Ten Commandments; and can also answer to such other Questions, as in the short Catechism are contained.”This proposed preface reads: “know and affirm the Nicene Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Ten Commandments; and have received instruction in the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments and the Catechism of the Church.” The Apostles’ Creed, not the Nicene Creed, is the baptismal creed and the creed taught by the historic prayer book catechism. This preface is also somewhat out of alignment with the exhortation in the proposed baptismal rite: “learn the Creeds” — implying that the candidate should learn and be instructed in both the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds. There is no proposed catechism here for examination; presumably, then, the ACNA’s catechism would include both instruction in the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds?

New to this proposal

  • A rubrical preface to confirmation explaining its purpose (this is newly composed, not based on the old prefatory rubric, which forms the basis of the spoken preface in this proposed rite).
  • New opening versicles drawn from Joel 2:28-32, the prophecy Peter quotes in his first Pentecost sermon to explain the miraculous pouring out of the Spirit. The 1979 rite uses the same opening versicles as in its baptism rite (drawn from Eph. 4:4-6). Opening versicles are not used in the confirmation rite in the historic prayer book tradition, but there are versicles (drawn from Ps. 124:8, 113:2, and 102:1) following the renewals of baptismal vows, before the prayer for the candidates.

Holy Communion

Following the 1979 prayer book

  • Provides two rites. This is the only service in this proposed prayer book for which two different rites are provided. As I said earlier, one is called “Anglican Standard Text” (similar to Rite I from the 1979 BCP, except in contemporary idiom) and the other “Renewed Ancient Text” (similar to Rite IIn the 1979 BCP).
  • Although the Renewed Ancient Text is clearly based on 1979 Rite II, the preface “Concerning the Service” seems less than forthcoming regarding the source: “The Renewed Ancient Text is drawn from liturgies of the Early Church [and] reflects the influence of twentieth century ecumenical consensus.” Yes, 1979’s Rite II did draw from some ancient liturgies and reflects the influence of the mid-20th century ecumenical Liturgical Movement, but the particular text — its selection of which ancient liturgies to follow, where, and to what extent — constitutes an original liturgy, a source that this preface obscures.
  • Regarding the Anglican Standard Text, the preface says it is: “essentially that of the Holy Communion service of the Book of Common Prayer of 1662 and successor books through 1928, 1929 and 1962.” While that seems to be true, this text follows elements of 1979 Rite I that are not present in any of these older editions. In this case too, then, the use of 1979 as a source seems to have been obscured.
  • The line between the two rites is less clear than in 1979. Both rites look almost exactly like 1979 Rite I (rendered in contemporary idiom that is modeled on the style of 1979’d Rite II) until the Prayers of the People, for which the Anglican Standard Text follows 1979 Rite I and the Ancient Renewed Text follows 1979 Rite II Form I. Fewer options are provided for the Prayers of the People —one for the Anglican Standard and another for the Ancient Renewed (only two, in contrast to the seven options in 1979), but either of these two may be used in either rite. The two rites then return to exact alignment (following 1979 Rite I very closely) until the Prayer of Consecration, for which the Anglican Standard Text closely follows 1979 Rite I and the Ancient Renewed Text follows 1979 Rite II Eucharistic Prayer A. Considering how similar they are overall, I wonder why the task force decided not to provide only one rite, but with two options for the Prayers of the People and the Consecration.
  • As in 1979 Rite I, the Gloria follows the Kyrie, rather than following the reception of Communion, as in historic BCPs; the Trisagion is given as an alternative to the Kyrie; the Creed follows the sermon rather than the other way round; the Creed is given in plural rather than singular; the Prayer for the Whole State of Christ’s Church is called the Prayers of the People, is assigned to a deacon, and offered for “the Church and the World”; only “one or more” of the Comfortable Words are to be said, rather than the whole set; the passing of the peace is included;the text of the Prayer of Consecration is a contemporary version of the 1979 Rite I adaptation of the Prayer of Consecration from the U.S. 1928 BCP; the post-consecration Fraction and Agnus Dei are included.

Following the historic prayer book tradition

  • The preface “Concerning the Service” explains: “The Anglican Standard Text may be conformed to its original content and ordering, as in the 1662 or subsequent books; the Additional Directions give clear guidance on how this is to be accomplished.” The original text of older editions of the Prayer Book may be substituted.
  • The lines from the Prayer of Humble Access removed in 1979 have been restored.
  • Elements from historic BCPs have been inserted into the Renewed Ancient Text, which is otherwise taken from 1979 Rite II. For example: the Summary of the Law has been inserted after the Collect for Purity; the Comfortable Words are inserted after the Absolution; the presiding minister may break the bread during the Words of Institution; the Prayer of Humble Access is inserted following the Lord’s Prayer and (optional) Fraction.

New to this proposal

  • This footnote is provided to the Creed: “The phrase ‘and the Son’ (Latin: filioque) is not in the original Greek text. See the resolution of the College of Bishops concerning the filioque in Documentary Foundations.”
  • Responses have been inserted between the paragraphs of the Prayers of the People in the Anglican Standard Text. This was allowed as an option in 1979 Rite I, whereas here it is the norm, while the reading of the prayer without the responses is allowed as an alternative.
  • At the Offertory, 1 Chronicles 29:11 and 14 (“Yours, O Lord, is the greatness”) is included as a scriptural sentence for receiving the offerings in both rites. Although not found in the 1662 or 1928 BCPs, this scriptural sentence came to be commonly used. The 1979 BCPs includes it as one of eight options for the offertory sentences.
  • The Benedictus qui venit is included in the Sanctus. This is not included in the historic prayer book tradition, but by the late 19th century was commonly inserted in High Church circles; it was provided as an optional addition in 1979’s Rite I.
  • Parts of the Prayer of Consecration are marked (by a line running vertically beside the text) as appropriate for omission from a shorter service.
  • The Agnus Dei follows the Prayer of Humble Access rather than the other way round as in 1979. This order was common in American Anglo-Catholic parishes that inserted the Agnus Dei into the 1928 prayer book service.
  • Along with the Invitation from 1979, “The gifts of God for the People of God,” a second option is provided in both rites: “Behold the Lamb of God.” Taken from John 1:29 and Revelation 19:9, Anglo-Catholic parishes commonly inserted these scriptural sentences into the old text as an Invitation to Communion, and a version of this invitation is part of the Church of England’s Common Worship.


Following the 1979 prayer book

  • Uses a three-year cycle for the Eucharistic propers. The historic one-year cycle is not used or given as an alternative option. A discussion of the differences in these two approaches (and a vigorous case for the ancient one-year cycle) can be found here.
  • Includes the Red Letter Days (or required feast days) added to the 1979 prayer book

Following the historic prayer book tradition

  • A one-year daily office lectionary is given. A principle of continuous reading is followed based on the civil rather than the church year; however, lessons are provided for feast days.
  • Since 1928, the daily office lectionaries of the Episcopal Church have notoriously omitted sections of Scripture that that might not easily square with modern American sensibilities. This proposal abandons this approach; rather than tiptoeing around these passages (which, ironically, seems only to draw more attention to them), it includes the Scriptures as they are, and leaves grappling with the difficulties posed by these passages to the teaching office of the clergy and individual study.

New to this proposal

  • What the 1979 prayer book calls “days of optional commemoration” (also known as lesser feasts) have been divided into two types: Anglican and Ecumenical. The rationale for inclusion under one or the other of these two lists raises significant ecclesiological questions. Those commemorated in the Anglican list include pre-Reformation British saints as well as post-Reformation Anglican figures. In other words, Anglicanhere does not mean of or relating to the Church of England — the Reformation is irrelevant to this usage of Anglican — nor does it mean ethnically English, for there are plenty of Celtic figures on the list. I can only take it to mean of or associated with the British Isles, and in that sense it is similar to the Customary of Our Lady of Walsingham in use among the Anglican Ordinariates of the Roman Catholic Church. The ecumenical column includes non-red letter biblical feasts and Church Fathers — many of whom were commemorated by English Christians both before and after the Reformation — and medieval saints. Also included in the ecumenical column are post-Reformation Roman Catholic saints and more recent figures. What is the reason for these two lists? Do Anselm and Aquinas really belong on different lists of optional commemorations because of their different places of origin? But then, Anselm wasn’t of English origin at all; he hailed from the Aosta Valley of the Italian Alps. Moreover, Anselm is recognized by Rome among the Doctores Ecclesiae — doesn’t that make him ecumenical? Yes, he was an Archbishop of Canterbury, but he was not officially commemorated within Anglicanism from the Reformation until the 20th Century and then along with many other Catholic saints. In that case it was foremost his place in the Church Catholic that motivated the commemoration. Would anyone inclined to commemorate Anselm Cantuar not also commemorate Aquinas or Athanasius? Would they regard them as belonging to different lists? What is the motivation to have a separate list of Anglican commemorations if not a kind of ethnocentrism?

This brief survey of the ACNA’s proposed Book of Common Prayer indicates that conversation regarding liturgical renewal in the ACNA differs a great deal from the parallel conversation in the Episcopal Church. Covenant has published several pieces on Resolution A068 passed by the General Convention of the Episcopal Church this August in Austin, such as this one by the Rev. Dr. Matthew Olver. This proposed prayer book in ACNA seems to indicate that expansive language for God played no major role in the conversations or work of their liturgy task force. It also is difficult to see an direct emphasis on “liturgical, cultural, racial, generational, linguistic, gender, physical ability, class and ethnic diversity,” which Resolution A068 instructs the Episcopal Church’s new Task Force on Liturgical and Prayer Book Revision to “utilize” (though, what exactly that may mean in practical terms is difficult to say).

The ACNA proposal, of course, does not allow for marriage between people of the same sex (one of the areas of fundamental disagreement that led to the creation of the ACNA in the first place). This proposed revision of the 1979 BCP reflects concern for (1) continuity with the historic prayer book tradition, (2) liturgical developments in the Church of England since 1979, and (3) ecumenical relations with the Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox. The last of these concerns might lead some to wonder how ACNA will address the ordination of women; this proposal reflects its current “dual integrities” status quo. These three concerns, it should be noted, are also reflected in the langauge of A068, so it may be helpful to TFLPBR to see how the ACNA handled those concerns and how well their approach plays out “on the ground.” Finally, this proposal also shows that the ACNA, like the Episcopal Church, is moving into a future of more authorized liturigical alternatives and options.

Drew Nathaniel Keane is a lecturer at Georgia Southern University and a member of St. John’s, Savannah, Georgia.


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