The Authority of the Prayer Book

Why do Anglicans hold the Book of Common Prayer in such high regard? Why does it matter how Christians worship? Fr. Jonathan answers viewer questions.

Plus, there’s this.

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About Fr. Jonathan

Your average traditional crunchy Christ follower with a penchant for pop culture, politics, and puns.
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6 Responses to The Authority of the Prayer Book

  1. Fr. Jonathan Trebolco says:

    Father Jonathan,

    I posted a link to your video this morning on our parish’s Facebook page, and we had the largest response we have ever had on anything we have ever posted. Your video is making the rounds. Thank you so much for a clear and accessible explanation of the value and authority of the BCP.

    God bless. Keep up the good work.

    Fr. Jonathan Trebilco
    Saint Francis Anglican, Spring, TX

  2. In the past you defended the 1979 prayer book as being not just acceptable but in many ways superior to previous BCPs. I agree with everything that you said then. In this video you sound like you’ve become a convinced partisan of the Prayer Book Society- unless the comment about a liturgy “a few decades old” was not meant as a snide dig at the 1979 Prayer Book and other modern Anglican liturgies. And I notice you’ve added a disclaimer to your defense of the 1979 BCP. :( I am looking forward to hearing why you have changed your opinion of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, though I hope you also keep your older post rather than deleting it. I myself will revive my old blog because I want to post more about why we need to use not just the 1979 BCP, but Rite II, but it’s too long to be a comment on someone else’s blog.

    • Fr. Jonathan says:

      Hi Whit,

      I have been slow to write about that topic again, in part because I do not want to be misunderstood. It’s a complicated topic. Many of the Prayer Book Society’s critiques are valid. Some of them are outlandish, like those claiming that the 79 BCP lacks trinitarianism. But it is true that the 79 book distorts the notion of “common prayer” by creating competing liturgies. There are wonderful things in the 79 book, some of which are better than what came before (in America anyway). The Holy Week liturgies, for instance, and the separate rite of Reconciliation which restores the classical absolution. The marriage rite is also better than what was inherited from previous American prayer books, though it is still not as good as the rite in 1662. But what really causes problems is the way that the Eucharistic liturgies, particularly in Rite II, have been scrubbed of the atonement language that is so central to Cranmer’s rendering. Rite II is not wrong, per se. I can still go to a Rite II service and faithfully receive. But there are important truths that do not get communicated effectively there. And, perhaps most insidiously, the 79 prayer book opened the door to the kind of ongoing liturgical revisionism that has characterized the last thirty years. Much as I love Great Vigil of Easter now being in the prayer book, I would gladly give it up if it meant that we would go back to a common liturgy and never again speak the words “Enriching Our Worship.”

      • ” Much as I love Great Vigil of Easter now being in the prayer book, I would gladly give it up if it meant that we would go back to a common liturgy and never again speak the words “Enriching Our Worship.”

        That’s fair enough! Though if we go back to a single Eucharistic liturgy I feel that it needs to be in modern rather than Elizabethan English. I’m working on a blog post about why. But Rite II would be greatly improved by two things:
        1. Using the Latin version of the Creed – “I believe” – or else the Greek one, sans filoque, rather than a bastard cross between the two.
        2. Including the Prayer of Humble Access. The Church of England has an excellent contemporary language version in Common Worship, seen online here. The one I would use is the first one listed.

        Unfortunately, however, at present any revision to the 1979 BCP will be worse, not better, so we are stuck with what we have.

        Also, I realized about an hour after I posted my comment that assuming you were snarking about the 1979 BCP rather than “contemporary worship” was decidedly uncharitable.

      • Fr. Jonathan says:

        Hi Whit,

        I think there is a certain aesthetic beauty in some of the older language, but I have no problem with using more contemporary language, provided that the setting is poetic rather than vulgar. If Rite II were simply an updating of the language, which is what most Episcopalians assumed it was going to be, I would have less of a problem with it. Have you encountered “An Anglican Prayer Book”? It was Peter Toon’s attempt at rendering the classic liturgy in modern language. There are some problems with it, but overall it’s not bad.

        I definitely agree with you about the creed. I also agree that the Prayer of Humble Access is crucial, particularly if we can return it to the way it was before the 1979 BCP lobotomized it. Reading through the versions in the link you posted, I’d be perfectly happy with the first one but not the second which seems to lose the language of mercy and sin in favor of us almost commanding God to do something for us. At least, that’s how it reads at first glance.

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