The Rule of ’62

It becomes more readily apparent the longer I travel as an Anglican on the Christian Way, that we are indebted (or should be) to our ancestors. I hold no illusions about our Anglican forbears or even the Church Fathers being infallible, but they were wise. As we find ourselves traveling in times of uncertainties, illusions, and false paths that will lead us astray from the depths of the loving gaze of Jesus Christ our Savior and our Lord, it is critical to beat the bounds of our formularies and rediscover the ancient landmarks which fence out irreligion and protect the flock.

Yet in this confusing age where the zeitgeist would see fit to dismantle whole churches either through mimicking the world or downplaying doctrine for the sake of false unity, we Anglicans should find comfort in the old ways – not because they are old – but because they are immune to the whims of a Christless culture and self-serving society. It is a blessing that orthodox Anglicans in the Global South Fellowship of Anglicans, the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (better known as GAFCON), and the Anglican Church in North America, each ascribe an allegiance and authority to the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.

The Covenantal Structure of the Global South Fellowship of Anglicans holds the following:

a) the doctrine of their Churches is grounded in the Holy Scriptures, and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures. In particular, such doctrine is to be found in the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, The Book of Common Prayer (1662), and The Form and Manner of Making, Ordaining, and Consecrating of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, annexed to The Book of Common Prayer, and commonly known as the Ordinal;[1]

Likewise, the founding document of GAFCON states:

6. We rejoice in our Anglican sacramental and liturgical heritage as an expression of the gospel, and we uphold the 1662 Book of Common Prayer as a true and authoritative standard of worship and prayer, to be translated and locally adapted for each culture.[2]

Finally, the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) concurs in Article I, Section 6, the following:

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.[3]

Notably, the ACNA also assents to the Jerusalem Declaration in the Preface to its Constitution, stating, “We affirm the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) Statement and Jerusalem Declaration issued 29 June 2008.” Id. The Jerusalem Declaration is also invoked as authoritative in support of ACNA Title II, Canon 8, “Of Standards of Sexual Morality and Ethics.” See Id. at p. 18, (“In view of the teaching of Holy Scripture, the Lambeth Conference of 1998 and the Jerusalem Declaration …”). This profession of the Jerusalem Declaration’s authority is further evidenced by the ACNA publishing it along with the Fundamental Declarations found in the ACNA Consitution in the 2019 ACNA Book of Common Prayer, under the section “Documentary Foundations.”

Therefore, when the 1662 speaks, we should listen. Perhaps one of the most often overlooked resources of 1662 is her rubrics. The word rubric, hearkens back to a tool used to measure, a rule. Despite post-modern man’s attempt to redefine language and reduce it to babble, even Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary provides the following guidance by defining “rubric” as “an authoritative rule,” “the title of a statute,” “an established rule, tradition, or custom,” etc. Each is fitting, particularly “an authoritative rule” for we Anglicans are (or should be) living under the rule of life the prayer book prescribes for us “miserable sinners.”[4] Since we live under the rule of the prayer book life and what we pray forms what we believe, the rubrics are as important in explaining why we pray as we do and what we believe when we are praying. Hence, the authority of the 1662 should compel us to seek her wisdom, her counsel, and her discipleship as we learn at the feet of saints who have finished the race, who in turn followed the teaching of the Apostles, and who sat at the feet of the Master, our Lord Jesus.

My encouragement, to lay and clergy alike, is to own, and more importantly, read the 1662 for theological formation, guidance, and discipleship. I also encourage you to pray with the 1662. Even if you use another authorized prayer book, such as the 1928 American or 2019 ACNA, you will be enriched as to what Anglicans have professed and believed for centuries.

A couple of examples regarding the formation provided by the rubrics are in order. First, draw your attention to the rubric at the end of “The Publick Baptism of Infants,” which pastorally reminds us of the peace it provides in baptizing our children because “It is certain by God’s Word, that children which are baptized, dying before they commit actual sin, are undoubtedly saved.” A timely reminder considering a confusing piece published recently.

The 1662 also brings clarity to issues that are commonly questioned by Protestants, such as the sign of the Cross. Within the same service, it steers us to a source outside the prayer book that clarifies why Anglicans retained the ancient sign of the Cross “To take away all scruple concerning the use of the sign of the Cross in Baptism; the true explication thereof, and the just reasons for the retaining of it, may be seen in the xxxth Canon, first published in the Year MDCIV.”[5] The 1604 Canons are publicly available, and the rubric cites Canon 30, which explains in great detail why it is retained.

Clear direction also exists as to how many persons are needed to celebrate Holy Communion. Mid-week services and Holy Days are sadly notorious for having poor attendance and the 1662 gives guidance that “yet there shall be no Communion, except four (or three at the least) communicate with the Priest.[6] In other words, the private masses where only clergy communed is forbidden. Or perhaps one is curious about Anglican eucharistic theology? In addition to the relevant Articles of Religion and Homily 15 from the Second Book of Homilies, the 1662 rubrics include the “Black rubric” (due to printing this rubric in black ink versus the normative red ink for rubrics). Or, perhaps the availability of private auricular confession and its purpose is on your mind? Turn to the 1662 Visitation of the Sick rite which requires curates to urge the sick person to make a confession and receive absolution for their sins “Here shall the sick person be moved to make a special confession of his sins, if he feel his conscience troubled with any weighty matter. After which confession, the Priest shall absolve him (if he humbly and heartily desire it) after this sort.”[7] I also recommend the excellent introduction on page 222 of the 2019 ACNA Book of Common Prayer before its rite of Reconciliation for Penitents.

In other words, the 1662 rubrics are catechetical in an age where anything goes, especially in wax-nosed Anglicanism that pervades our continent and sadly abroad. Speaking of catechesis, the 1662 provides the much-needed “short” Catechism, used for centuries to confirm baptized children into the faith. Additionally, the rubrics at the end of the Catechism include the following commission to caregivers, “all Fathers, Mothers, Masters, and Dames, shall cause their Children, Servants, and Prentices (which have not learned their Catechism,) to come to the Church at the time appointed, and obediently to hear, and be ordered by the Curate, until such time as they have learned all that is here appointed for them to learn.” It is a reminder that parents and pastors, curates and caregivers, are responsible for raising all those in their household into the household of faith. Our faith is not our own, it is a gift and we are called to teach and gift it to our own. Hence, the original rubrics of the 1662 service for Private Baptism of Infants states, “The Curates of every parish shall often admonish the people, that they defer not the Baptism of their Children longer than the first or second Sunday next after their birth, or other Holy-day falling between, unless a great and reasonable cause, to be approved by the Curate.” There is no reason to withhold the gracious gift of God that was bestowed upon sinners – adult or infant.

Note that I mentioned the original rubrics of the 1662. Since the 1662 was first published, changes have been made – typically minor alterations. However, during the 1870’s until the 1960’s, the rubrics were unfortunately adulterated, therefore beware that the 1662 you purchased from Cambridge or online resources will likely reflect the newer rubrics – which have theological implications. Fortunately, there is an online resource that highlights the older and original language of the rubrics. Furthermore, the 1662 International Edition reproduces the original rubrics and, although it was not drafted by ecclesial authority, it is authorized by several dioceses, including the Jurisdiction of the Armed Forces and Chaplaincy.

The rubrics, indeed the whole 1662 Book of Common Prayer and our formularies are more than our heritage, they are our guidestones. As an Anglican by conviction, not by birth, I “read” my way into the Anglican faith and submit myself to the rule of faith outlined in our formularies because they best reflect, in this sinner’s opinion, the biblical Way. Therefore, since my sinful judgment is oft in error, I submit my heart, my will, and my mind to walking, stumbling, falling, getting back, and staying on the Way through the crutches of our Anglican spirituality guidestones, the formularies. I submit because saints before me have walked the prayer book tradition and served God well. Lord willing, I pray to do the same. Therefore, I encourage fellow Anglicans who traversed another trail from other traditions, like myself, to resist the temptation to import your prior tradition into or onto the Anglican formularies. The temptation to cut a new trail connecting the old trail, your old tradition, onto the ancient path is strong. Resist such a temptation. Instead, be still and drink from the deep well of the ancient Way. Allow yourself to be molded and formed by the prayer book life.

My suggestion is first that you become familiar with the entirety of the prayer book – yes, every service. Allow the biblical theology to marinate into your bones, into your soul. Live the life of an Anglican – daily, and not just on Sunday mornings. Learn to fast and learn to feast on the calendar of the church. And as you inevitably have questions, dive into the catechism, the Articles of Religion, the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, the Ordinal, and the two Books of Homilies. Be refreshed weary soul and see how deep the well is that we drink from. Others may veer off and wish to drink “stolen waters” from other traditions but at the detriment of the riches and biblical truth hidden in plain sight in the prayer book tradition.

Notes

  1. Section I, 1.1(a), Doctrinal Foundation: Fundamental Declarations, Covenantal Structure, (available at: https://assets-global.website-files.com/64c7520a09b851adae283880/64f6cf1ea4f7e1c49c0619c3_GSFA%20Covenantal%20Structure%20(adopted%20on%2015%20Oct%202021).pdf). Throughout the Covenantal Structure, the 1662 is simply referenced as “The Book of Common Prayer” except when referencing the 1790 American edition on one occasion.
  2. Point 6, Jerusalem Declaration, The Jerusalem Statement, (available at: https://www.gafcon.org/about/jerusalem-statement).
  3. Constitution of the Anglican Church in North America, (available at: https://anglicanchurch.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/CURRENT-C-and-C-2019.pdf).
  4. The Litany, 1662 Book of Common Prayer.
  5. See The Publick Baptism of Infants, 1662 Book of Common Prayer.
  6. Holy Communion, 1662 Book of Common Prayer.
  7. Visitation of the Sick, 1662 Book of Common Prayer.

Rev. Andrew Brashier

Rev. Andrew Brashier serves as the Rector of Anglican Church of the Good Shepherd in Pelham, Alabama. and is an 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 www.thruamirrordarkly.wordpress.com. He recently republished Bishop John Jewel's Treatises on the Holy Scriptures and Sacraments (https://a.co/d/ikWCXG4). The second edition of his first book, A Faith for Generations, is now available at Amazon (https://a.co/d/3iVgwdJ) and focuses on family devotions and private prayer in the Anglican tradition.


'The Rule of ’62' have 2 comments

  1. April 16, 2024 @ 1:06 pm Dami Olori

    Thank you, thank you, thank you so much for writing this brilliant article! I’m reading from Nigeria, and in Nigerian pidgin, we say, “you finish work for am!”. This means you did it excellently- there’s nothing left to add or subtract!
    Let the Church hear what the Spirit is saying.
    I’m definitely sharing this with everyone.

    Reply

  2. April 17, 2024 @ 7:20 am GR

    Fr Brashier,
    Your article has given me a newfound respect and appreciation for the 1662. I myself have been using the 1928, but I will give the 1662 International a try. Your scholarship continues to be directly applicable to pastoral care- something I have noticed as a hallmark of JFAC clergy. I look forward to your next publication!

    Reply


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