General Convention Legislation on the BCP

I find myself taking a random walk through the digital archives of the Episcopal Church; I’ll note here a few items I find interesting…

Resolution Number: 1979-A058

Title: Authorize Continued Work on the Prayer Book

Legislative Action Taken: Concurred As Amended

Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, That the Standing Liturgical Commission be requested, and is hereby authorized to continue this work, namely:

3. To make its expert knowledge of the contents of the Book of Common Prayer available to all inquirers;

8. To encourage and, when requested, to assist by advice and editorial comment the publication of scholarly studies bearing on materials contained in the Book of Common Prayer;

Hmmm. I note that this resolution was made in the 1970’s, the days when people used typewriters and stood in buildings connected to cords when they used the telephone but times have changed…

This stuff needs to be available on a web site or ftp archive—or both.

Resolution Number: 1991-A061

Title: Promote Worship, Music and Spirituality in Congregational Life

Action Taken: Concurred As Submitted

Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, That the 70th General Convention call upon dioceses and congregations to give serious attention during this Decade of Evangelism to the enrichment of the ministry of Word and Sacrament in the congregational life of the Church; in order to glorify God by developing healthy, alive, attracting Christian communities, the following actions are recommended:

  1. the clear, bold, prayerful presentation of the Gospel message, with a high priority given to the preparation of sermons and excellence in liturgy;
  2. the development of individual and corporate spirituality utilizing the richness of approaches and resources available throughout the Church;
  3. the recognition of music as a vital part of our worship life, with special attention to the needs of small congregations and ethnic communities for enhancing music ministry;
  4. the development of small groups in every congregation designed to facilitate evangelism, incorporation into the faith community, and formation and support in the Christian life and mission.

I’d love to see this emphasis on a clear Gospel message through excellent preaching and liturgy actually enacted. I also haven’t seen much in the way of the development of individual and corporate spirituality that’s rooted in the riches of our Anglican spiritual heritage. As for small groups in every congregation have a group on formation and support… I suppose it could be argued that this is your parish Adult/Children’s Education/Formation committee—so what resources to make the above happen is the Standing Committee promoting to develop our spirituality?

Resolution Number: 1997-A076
Title: Request Diocesan Liturgical Commissions to Urge Use of Alternative Liturgies
Legislative Action Taken: Concurred as Substituted

Resolved, That diocesan liturgical commissions urge all congregations, with the permission of their Ordinary, to make use of materials approved by the 72nd General Convention as contained in Enriching Our Worship ; and be it further

Resolved, That diocesan liturgical commissions also urge all congregations to make use of the provision to develop local materials in the context of An Order for Celebrating the Holy Eucharist (“Rite III”), and to share their experiences with both their diocesan liturgical commissions and the Standing Liturgical Commission.

Can I just express my joy that this one’s never really been enforced…? On the other hand, I have heard of the Rite III option as a back-door to the Missal… If we intend to be a Prayer Book People, then let’s focus on being formed by the Prayer Book—not shakin’ things up.

4 thoughts on “General Convention Legislation on the BCP

  1. Christopher

    I always wonder what is wrong with the six anaphorae we have in the BCP? On top of that we have three in EOW (which I withhold comment upon here). This resolution seems like a recommendation rather than one to be enforced, and for that we should be thankful. EOW is a mixed bag, with some few interesting additions, but also offering an approach for testing that I don’t care for–namely generalized rather than select parishes. At this point, though the “enriching” makes me tired. We have so much already that doesn’t seem to get used.

    There is a reason why we have authorized eucharistic prayers, and why farily early on certain prayers became standards–poor proclamation of who God is and is for us (bad theology) kept showing up in homegrown versions. If we, as we like to do, claim the eucharistic prayer has a creedal quality–in the LTJ sense, shouldn’t we want to take some care? I’ve also known parishes that use homegrown creeds–let’s just say they don’t measure up. Do we really want to open up that can of worms at a time when we already have quite a breadth recognized in our praying and enough other troubles with which to concern ourselves?

    I’m not in principle against composing more eucharistic prayers. But those prayers should be offered by thoughtful experts-in-conversation-with-one-another to then try out in select parishes, rather than a “roll your own” approach–to use the phrase of a certain prof. I know we want to democratize and pretend we don’t have experts, but that’s baloney. We seem to think any one has the theological, scriptural, and linguistic training to do so. That is simply not the case. And in many cases, that includes our presbyters and bishops. Many of them do not have the skills to do this well. And that’s okay. That isn’t what they’ve been trained to do.

  2. John-Julian, OJN

    I totally with Christopher on this!

    Before anyone tries to get permission to go outside BCP 79, I think s/he ought to be required to write a 20 page paper on what is theologically or liturgically “wrong” or “inadequate” about the six forms provided in 1979. Most of the departures I’ve experienced were put in place by bubble-headed, theologically-deprived, and liturgically illiterate clergy, of which there are not a few these days. (Whew!)

    There are times and places for occasional departures. For instance, at Julian House (and only there) on Julian feasts or votives, we use a lovely Julian-oriented anaphora designed by two liturgy faculty at Seabury and approved by our episcopal Visitor. (I think it is from EOW…)

    Aside from what I perceive to be two minor flaws (a down-playing of the Offertory and only two passing references to invocation of saints), I truly believe 1979 to be the finest liturgical document in Christian history — great prices were paid over the years to get to it, and it deserves GREAT respect.

  3. Joe Rawls

    Depending on how future prayerbook revision goes, I can easily see myself joining a Society for the Preservation of the 1979 Prayerbook. Of course, I just turned 60 so maybe it’s time for me to start getting curmudgeonly.

  4. Christopher

    Fr. John-Julian raises another important point. Julian House followed a process that shows concern for connection to the wider Church by seeking permission from their episcopal visitor. And the expertise of liturgy faculty. For me, this isn’t simply about following authority, but on such important matters as central parts of our liturgy, seeking accountability and expertise shows maturity. Many parishes I’ve been in assume they can do what they please, or assume episcopal permission going on the do first, apologize later approach. This spirit is at odds with the ethos of common prayer.

    I don’t though recall a Julian oriented anaphora in EOW? Sounds really interesting. Note again, I don’t think EOW is all bad. The anaphorae, however, already sound a little dated to me, while Prayer C has gained a new spot in my affections of late. Maybe the same will happen with EOW in time.

    Now, here is something I’m going to throw out from my second chapter. The 1979 BCP is a result of American Reformations. A great deal did transpire over two hundred years and 1979 is a result of reformations in our Church. It is an incredible document in that regard, and quite beautiful when compared to other offerings from the same period. C thinks it simply fine when we pray the Offices from it. It is light on the Offeratory, particularly our offering ourselves–a traditional Anglican emphasis, but that could be remedied easy enough. As for the saints, the older I get, the more important my connection with all the living becomes. The poetic Welsh bent simply will not let go a sacramental worldview.

    All in all, I really think we should hold off on revisions. Let’s give it another 10 years and the time for more thoughtful trials and testing. We seem to be in such a rush to do something new all the time. My stability meter sounds alarm bells.

    I would also remind that provision can be made for 1928, and in light of the push for EOW, I should think others might ask for this option.

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