Common Authority in the Midst of Uncommon Prayer

The advent of the ACNA 2019 Book of Common Prayer raises an important question: what authority does it have in comparison with the other historic Books of Common Prayer? After all, the 1979 Episcopal Book of Common Prayer varies from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer not merely in liturgical form but also in doctrine and rubrics. For example, the classic prayer book requirement that none be admitted to communion unless they are confirmed or “ready and desirous” of the same is omitted in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer and the baptismal service shifts its focus from regeneration to initiation. Indeed the 2019 Book of Common Prayer also lacks this requirement, although it has restored confirmation to a rite that is required for Anglicans and not optional.

What then should an ACNA Anglican look to when trying to discern how to act when the 2019 ACNA BCP is silent? After all, the prior authorized prayer books (including the 1979) remain authorized for use in ACNA, so there is certainly conflict between the 1928, and 1979 BCP’s. What is an Anglican to do?

Take a look at the ACNA Fundamental Declaration (it is in the back of the 2019 ACNA prayer book on page 767) and you will notice point 6:

6. We receive 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.

What is notable is that the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal attached thereto are elevated, not only as the standard for the Anglican tradition of worship (albeit along “with the Books which preceded it”, i.e. 1549, 1552, and 1559), but it is also “a standard for Anglican doctrine and discipline.” No other Book of Common Prayer is held to being a standard for doctrine or for discipline within the church. This gives the 1662 Book of Common Prayer a level of authority unparalleled within the ACNA.

Indeed, the ACNA College of Bishops reiterated the place of the 1662 in its “Resolution Concerning Payer Books and Historic Rites” in point 3, where it states, “The Book of Common Prayer 1662 together with the Ordinal attached remains the authoritative standard for the Anglican tradition of worship within the Province” (emphasis added). And lest anyone should think the Fundamental Declaration (which is a part of the ACNA Constitution) or this resolution have no binding effect on the clergy or church at large, Title II.2.1 states:

Of the Standard Book of Common Prayer

Section 1

The Book of Common Prayer as set forth by the Church of England in 1662, together with the Ordinal attached to the same, are received 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 Book of Common Prayer of the Province shall be the one adopted by the Anglican Church in North America. All authorized Books of Common Prayer of the originating jurisdictions shall be permitted for use in this Church.

This canonical requirement that the 1662 BCP is a standard for doctrine, discipline, and worship should perk up the ears of ordinands within the ACNA. After all, ordinands within the ACNA take an oath where they subscribe to “solemnly engage to conform to the Doctrine, Discipline and Worship of Christ as this Church has received them.” (Title III.3.2; III.4.3; III.8.5). If there’s a question about worship, doctrine, or discipline, then the a copy of the 1662 BCP should be handy and nearby.

Practically speaking, this is good news as it prevents contradictory or defective rite(s) from any prior prayer book (cough *1979*) from muddying Anglican theology. Of course, if we are talking practically then the fact that the 1979 prayer book remains authorized will make it more difficult to ensure clergy and laity alike are in conformance with the Anglican way. (Note Canon II.21 cited above allows “All authorized Books of Common Prayer of the originating jurisdictions shall be permitted for use in this Church” and the previously cited Resolution from the ACNA College of Bishops bluntly states in point 5 that “the College sees no route to making it mandatory at the Provincial level (principle of subsidiarity) or to ruling out continuing use, under the authority of the local Bishop, (of not only 1662 and its predecessor books but) of the Prayer Books that were in use at the time the Province came together.”).

Where do we go from here? Personally, I foresee the 1979 BCP voluntarily being relinquished for the 2019 BCP where the 1979 is being used, and more outright banning of the 1979 by the Ordinary as we see in the Diocese of the Living Word (formerly CANA East). In the meantime, every ACNA minister needs to own a copy of the 1662 BCP and become familiar not only with its services but also with the rubrics, which contain doctrine (Black rubric, anyone?). Furthermore, while the ACNA BCP notes the “traditional” Anglican fasting custom for Fridays, it is not required nor is the recitation of the daily office for clergy expressed in the ACNA BCP. However, with the 1662 BCP as our standard, ACNA ministers should consult its rubrics and note that the Church fasts on Fridays and it is the duty of all ordained ministers to keep the daily office.

Ultimately, the ACNA Constitution and Canons point back to the 1662 BCP as a standard for worship, doctrine, and discipline in the Church. All of us who swore to uphold the Church’s worship, doctrine, and discipline before having hands laid upon us should take this seriously and have the 1662 close by as a constant reference and guide. Furthermore, it is our solemn duty to teach the laity the doctrine and discipline of the Church, therefore, we should incorporate the 1662 BCP into our teaching, catechesis classes, and when answering questions about the Anglican way.

Without an anchor or rudder, a ship floats aimlessly and dangerously at the whim of the ocean. The formularies, including the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, are our anchor and rudder to navigate this mere Christian way that we call Anglicanism. May we use the formularies in our journey and avoid being adrift in the current of the zeitgeist or smashed against the rocks of post-modernity.

Rev. Andrew Brashier

Rev. Andrew Brashier serves as the Rector of Anglican Church of the Good Shepherd in Pelham, Alabama, and is the Archdeacon overseeing the Parish and Missions Deanery in the Jurisdiction of the Armed Forces and Chaplaincy. He writes regularly about ministry, family worship, daily prayer, book reviews, family oratories and the impact they can have in reigniting Anglicanism, and the occasional poem at He recently republished Bishop John Jewel's Treatises on the Holy Scriptures and Sacraments ( The second edition of his first book, A Faith for Generations, is now available at Amazon ( and focuses on family devotions and private prayer in the Anglican tradition.

'Common Authority in the Midst of Uncommon Prayer' have 4 comments

  1. August 11, 2019 @ 7:08 pm +Augustine Thomas

    We, in the Emmanuel Communion, use a modern English 1662 BCP, because there needs to be an authoritative prayer book reflecting the doctrines and practices of Anglicanism. I worry that though ACNA gives such priority to the 1662 BCP, it will turn out to be only lip service because of the many allowances of other prayerbooks.


    • August 12, 2019 @ 12:00 pm Fr. Thomas Reeves

      A. Thomas+
      I am interested in this modernized copy of the 1662. Do you have a link where I might purchase this?


      • November 24, 2020 @ 10:27 am Danny Iselin

        There has been printed a modern language version of the REC’s 2004 BCP (virtually the same as BCP 1928 with no Apocrapha in Daily Office Lectionary, no Revised Common Lectionary for Sundays (only classic collects, Epistles and Gospels) plus the 2 options for the Holy Communion Consecration prayer being either 1662 or 1928.
        Also see An Anglican Prayer Book by the American Mission to the Americas (Pawley’s Island 2008)
        But if the officiant cannot contemporize traditional language impromptu-wise, there’s something lacking in his training–unless he’s functioning on rote!


  2. August 12, 2019 @ 11:58 am Fr. Thomas Reeves

    Excellent article.

    And yet, assuming our Province does actually believe the theology behind the liturgy in the 1662 matters (and that this is not just another of our slogans to be used as anyone desires) – if we cannot get into honest discussions about what we “declare” theologically in our official constitutional documents, versus what we are teaching, emphasizing, and actually engaging in our ecclesiological praxis, what does this say about us as a Province?

    I was ordained an ACNA priest in a Midwestern Diocese, am now canonically resident in a diocese in the Mid-Atlantic states, and have knowledgeable comrades in the largest Western Diocese. Over a ten year period as an Anglican priest (highlight, underline, and italicize here), I am yet to have a conversation with an ACNA priest where there was a support for the embrace of a “baptism for the forgiveness of sins” or the importance of Apostolic Succession (to bring up such things puts one on the witness stand to be cross-examined, or ultimately ignored in any future communal interactions). I know fidelity to these things exists in pockets in our Province, but this is not the norm in emphasis and training in our Province. I have developed relationships with 3 different professors organically over this 10 year period, who through their professional journeys have now become influential; countless bishops (including my own), multiple priests, etc. No one is hostile in their conversations with me, but most see little problem with the revivalist, pietistic, and individualistic traditions that truly inform how we are pastoring, discipling, and training on the ground. The few that see the problems, seem to have no desire to bring these things out in clear or prophetic ways. Does Holy Scripture (and the History of the Church) truly teach that a professionally safe “hopeful osmossis” approach to our core errosion – avoiding prophetic push-back, potential suffering, and clarity – is a faithful approach in any Christian tradition? We are talking about the development of a communal theological core of truth that everyone is supposed to be accoutable. Can our pastoral calls truly avoid confrontation on such things and still be counted as faithful?

    We have an integrity problem, gentlemen, not a scholastic one first of all. If our starting places for our Anglicanism is our pragmatic capitulation with one another out of a fear of failure as a Province, instead of beginning with what we say our true and foundational sources are, how are we different philosophically from the Episcopal Bishops, who also go to the Creeds and Councils as ala carte pragmatists? How can we claim the Creeds and Councils, and then enable, encourage, and violate their core theology in broad daylight? What alarms me the most is how few Anglicans are alarmed.

    We won’t ever address the real problems in the continual loss of our core foundations until we honestly embrace that our real issues are first of all related to our communal character as a Province, not our pragmatic and diplomatic wording and undefined slogans (and, yes, wording matters greatly as it also reveals much about what we truly believe). I still believe that it is a strength of Anglicanism that we focus on our Historic (catholic) core theology, and allow freedom in secondary areas. However, what I have discovered is that beyond some surface understandings of the Incarnation, the Trinity, and Holy Scripture as inspired, we worldwide Anglicans have little theologically or historically that truly unites us, and even fewer Bishops desirous to acknowledge, not to mention, address this reality.


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