Book of Common Prayer (2019) ‒ Traditional Language Edition. Huntington Beach, CA: Anglican Liturgy Press, 2022. 802 pp. $24.95 (cloth).
The last twelve months have been a dream for afficionados of Anglican liturgy in North America. Last year saw the release of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer: International Edition (1662IE) from InterVarsity Press. With this excellent volume we have seen a resurgence in interest in the classical Prayer Book, not only in Anglican circles, but also throughout the greater world of Protestant “ressourcement.” Earlier this month, another excellent classically-influenced Prayer Book was released: The Book of Common Prayer (2019): Traditional Language Edition (TLE) by Anglican Liturgy Press. The TLE is exactly what it says on the cover: an adaptation of the Provincial Prayer Book of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) into Tudor-style English.
Before I give an analysis and review of the TLE, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge two brothers who made this review possible. First, I am indebted to a parishioner of mine, Mr. Jeff Turpin, for generously purchasing a copy of the TLE for our curate and me. Second, I must express the deepest of thanks to Mr. Jacob Hootman, the secretary of the ACNA’s Traditional Language Sub-committee, who has graciously corresponded with me when I had questions and clarifications about the project. Indeed, when I first mentioned that I would be eventually writing this review, Mr. Hootman encouraged such correspondence.
The TLE was originally announced shortly after the ACNA released the standard edition of the 2019 Book of Common Prayer (BCP2019). As such, this has been a long-anticipated project, with corresponding high expectations. As was the case with the development of the standard BCP2019, the ACNA’s liturgists released parts of the service as PDF documents prior to the final printing. This means that the liturgy itself should be no surprise to those who were anticipating it!
As noted above, the TLE is an adaptation of the ACNA’s BCP2019 into Tudor English. The physical characteristics of the TLE reflect this goal. It is the same size as the standard BCP2019 pew edition. It generally has the same page numbering. It has the same fonts and cover art. The main physical difference is a green cover rather than the standard red cover. That said, the binding and materials seem to be superior to those of the copy of the BCP2019 that I received at the 2019 ACNA Assembly; my copy of the BCP2019 is already showing significant wear, despite it being seldom used in our 1928 parish! However, my understanding is that later printings of the BCP2019 were better than the initial one. As I intend to use the TLE more than my standard BCP2019, this difference is, of course, very welcome.
While the language of the TLE is based on and influenced by the editions of the Prayer Book that predate the liturgical changes rooted in Vatican II, the TLE was never meant to be a return to the classical Prayer Book. Indeed, according to Mr. Hootman, the primary expected audience for the TLE is parishes and people who desire a more traditional service, but also want to use the Provincial Prayer Book. These are the folks who likely would have used either Rite 1 of the 1979 Prayer Book or the Anglican Service Book of 1991, which adapted much of Rite 2 into the traditional idiom. However, unlike Rite 1, the TLE adapts the entire BCP2019 into traditional English. And unlike the Anglican Service Book, the TLE does not include additional material that more narrowly appeals to Anglo-Catholics over folks of other churchmanship. That said, the people I have encountered who have been most excited about the TLE are indeed those who lean more toward Anglo-Catholicism. As a pair of Nashotah-trained colleagues whose initial formation was in more conservative/catholic TEC parishes anecdotally said, the TLE is a “one-stop-shop” for their liturgical needs.
However, Mr. Hootman also noted that a secondary intended audience is parishes who are currently using the American 1928 Prayer Book (or the Reformed Episcopal Church’s light adaptation of it from 2003) but want a supplementary text for more occasional purposes. For example, like other classical BCPs, the 1928 does not have an Easter Vigil service or a Rite of Reconciliation; some classical parishes would use the TLE as a resource for such liturgies. Indeed, that is the way the TLE will be used in my parish and ministry.
As much as I tend to dislike the post-Vatican II approach to liturgy, I have repeatedly lauded the BCP2019 for being the best modern-English version of the Prayer Book, largely due to being more of an “evolution” of the classical texts than a “revolution,” especially with respect to the Daily Offices and the Anglican Standard Text of Holy Communion. Does the TLE get similar praise? In other words, how “classical” is the TLE? This is perhaps another area where comparison with Rite 1 of the 1979 is in order. In many ways Rite 1 is significantly different from Rite 2, largely because it was intended to be something of a compromise with Episcopalians who did not want to give up the 1928. For example, Rite 1 of Holy Communion is almost identical to Holy Communion in the 1928. The TLE is not intended to serve the same purpose. Again, the TLE is intended to adapt the BCP2019 into traditional English.
In some ways that makes the TLE a bit more jarring than the standard BCP2019. For example, when reading the Confession from the Daily Offices, the change from “the Scripture moveth us, in sundry places, to acknowledge and confess our manifold sins and wickedness” in the 1928 to “the Scripture teacheth us to acknowledge our many sins and offences” seems starker than a similar change into modern English. An even clearer example is the Nicene Creed in the Anglican Standard Text of Holy Communion, where “We believe” is used rather than “I believe,” as is “Eternally begotten of the Father” rather than “Begotten of his Father before all worlds.” At times this feels like translating from one language into another and then translating back into the original language from the translation rather than simply returning to the original material. But again, this is part of the intention behind the TLE: rendering BCP2019 into traditional English. In other words, the differences from the classical texts are a feature of the TLE, not a bug.
One could get the impression that any criticisms I have for the TLE boil down to “it’s not the 1928” or “it’s not the 1662.” My response to such an impression is that what I said above is not meant to be a criticism but is merely an observation of the differences and an illustration of what the TLE is meant to be. It is not meant to be a return to the classical BCP but is an adaptation of a modern BCP in a more classical way. And, of course, such “jarring” contrast is simply not an issue with the services that don’t have a direct parallel in the classical texts. As a longtime user of the 1928, those additional texts are where the beauty of the TLE most shines through. For example, in the Reconciliation of a Penitent we find this passage:
Restore and renew in thy servant whatsoever hath been decayed by the fraud and malice of the devil, or by his own carnal will and frailness; preserve and continue this member in the unity of the Church; hear his prayers and assuage his pain; through Jesus Christ our Lord (p. 224, emphasis added).
They language of being “decayed” because of our sins and “assuaged” by the Lord is absolutely gorgeous. Also, I was overjoyed to see that the Psalter in the TLE is essentially the Coverdale as adapted for the 1928, and that the Scripture quotations and Canticles are essentially the King James version, as has been the case since 1662. Furthermore, the 2019 Family Prayer section remains the best “on-ramp” to the full Daily Offices yet written, and is even better in the traditional idiom.
Finally, a few people asked me to say a little bit about how the TLE might compare to the 1662IE. In short: they’re different projects and meant for different audiences and different purposes. Other than coincidentally sharing a similar cover color, they ought not to be compared in any meaningful way. However, both are adaptations of prior Prayer Books. And both successfully make their respective adaptations in ways that are faithful to their respective source materials. The 1662IE changed very little about the 1662 other than the State Prayers and some appendices. The TLE changed very little about the BCP2019 other than the linguistic idiom.
At the end of the day, I am very happy to have the TLE in my library. It will indeed be the go-to supplementary text for my parish and ministry. It will never be my go-to Prayer Book, but it will always be the first text I reach for when I need something outside of my beloved 1928 or 1662. Indeed, I daresay there are a few things (like Family Prayer) that it does even better than the classical texts.