Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Prayer Book Theology

In two weeks I will have served as Rector of St. Stephen's for 16 years.  I am presently 50 years old.  Each of those facts give me more courage to address topics that can divide a congregation.  The facts cited give me clout enough to be heard, at least by my parishioners.

When the subject of the Book of Common Prayer (BCP) comes up in various discussions with parishioners it tends to focus on the language of the prayer book.  Some of those discussions are philosophical with opinions expressed about modern language being preferred in places so as to increase our understanding and thus our devotion.  Other discussions express taste:  "I prefer poetic language."  "I don't like the language in the Psalter."  And statements like those.

What appears most important to discuss regarding the question of which prayer book to use, however, is not whether the language is fully understood but actually what the language is saying.  It has been brought to my attention that there are ACNA churches that use the 1979 BCP.  The 1979 BCP has been criticized for not living up to other Anglican Formularies. Specific criticisms point out that man is no longer seen as being born in trespasses and sin resulting in a shorter confession of sin.  Guilt is focused on  in terms of where we have wronged our neighbor rather than God.  The difference between unbelievers and believers is obscured leading to a more universal view of redemption.  These and such criticisms have been around for a long time.  If the Latin saying lex orandi, lex credendi is true (the law of worship is the law of belief) then a causal line can be drawn linking the use of the 1979 BCP in the Epicopal Church in the United States to the apostasy that is practiced and believed in the Episcopal Church today.

The devil is in the details, the details of what we say.