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
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.