Vol I No. 7

A Response to ACNA's Proposed 2019 Prayer Book * (PART I)

by sinetortus

By Drew Nathaniel Keane

(*This article was first published online on Covenant,

the weblog of The Living Church) 

The Anglican Church in North America has been preparing a new revision of the Book of Common Prayer for several years. Its Liturgy and Common Worship Task Force began gathering feedback once working drafts were made available for use in 2013. The task force is near the end of the work, and the texts now available  can be found here: http://anglicanchurch.net/?/main/texts_for_common_prayer and represent years of work and incorporate the feedback of hundreds of worshipers.

The process has been quite transparent. The final text is slated for publication in 2019, but even at this late stage the task force is once again inviting feedback. November 1 is the final deadline, after which the task force and a Bishops Review Panel will prepare for a final sign-off on texts for a College of Bishops meeting in January.

I am an Episcopalian, but I think it’s important for Episcopalians to be aware of developments in the ACNA, especially as we contemplate the possibilities of comprehensive liturgical revision in our church. I offer the following observations on these latest drafts as friendly responses from a fellow Anglican and a scholar of the prayer book.

The overall approach seems to begin with the 1979 prayer book as a base text and bring it into closer alignment with historic Anglican prayer books. So, for instance, Holy Communion and baptism begin with the “opening acclamation” that was new to the 1979 BCP (adapted from the Eastern Orthodox tradition). Rather than simply providing the historically Anglican offices of Morning and Evening Prayer, this proposal follows the 1979 prayer book, the Canadian 1962 BCP, and the C of E’s Common Worship by including a liturgy for Morning, Midday, Evening, Compline, and Family Prayer. Unlike the older prayer books, it includes special liturgies for Holy Week.

Like the 1979 prayer book, this proposal uses celebrant for the presiding minister in Holy Communion and Baptism. This word is not found in the historic prayer books, which use priest and minister interchangeably, nor is it the current usage of most of the rest of the Communion, in which presidentpresiding minister, or the historic usage of priest/minister appear (celebrant is also used in the Canadian Book of Alternative Services).

All the liturgies are in contemporary English. The advantage of this approach lies in having only one version for all the liturgies, rather than including two versions of some of the liturgies as the 1979 BCP does.

In the case of Holy Communion, two slightly different rites are included (though they could easily be combined). The difference in the two Communion rites isn’t one of linguistic style; rather, the first rite represents what the task force calls a Standard Anglican Text and the second rite a Renewed Ancient Text. The preface to Communion, “Concerning the Service,” allows for the original text of 1662, 1928, or the Canadian 1962 to be substituted. The ACNA’s bishops passed a resolution in 2017 that allows parishes to substitute the older texts for any services, with the diocesan permitting. They also authorized a contemporary language version of the 1552 prayer book’s Communion Rite. While that text is not in the current revision, it would continue to be authorized and available for use as an alternative.

One of the unique features of this proposal is the use of the English Standard Version for most content derived directly from the Bible, except for the Psalter. Rather than follow the translation of the psalms newly prepared for the 1979 book or the classic Coverdale Psalter, the task force prepared a revision of the Coverdale Psalter in contemporary idiom.

Like 1979’s Historical Documents, this proposal includes a section called Documentary Foundations. Many of the documents included are the same. The Definition of Chalcedon is not included. The Fundamental Declarations of the Province — among ACNA’s constitutional documents — are also included. These declarations include a recognition of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and the 39 Articles as doctrinal standards.

I will give a very brief survey of Morning Prayer, Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Communion, and the lectionaries. For each of these I will note (1) how this proposal follows the 1979 prayer book, (2) how this edition departs from 1979 by restoring elements from the old prayer book tradition, by which I mean the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and the Episcopal Church’s 1928 revision (I will specify where these differ), and (3) elements original to this proposed revision. I have tried to be thorough, but this is not comprehensive. The organization should also allow readers to move to the sections of most interest.



Following the 1979 BCP

  • Includes the rubric “Silence may be kept” after the call to confession and advances that approach a step further with “Silence is kept.”
  • Removes “miserable offenders” from the traditional confession of sin.
  • Removes the historic American prayer book heading “The Declaration of Absolution, or Remission of Sins” (historically, many Anglicans read this as a clarification that the priest does not absolve, but only proclaims what the Lord does for those who turn to him; this has remained a point of dispute among Anglicans, especially since the Oxford Movement.”)
  • Removes the Lord’s Prayer following the absolution (in the 1662, the Lord’s Prayer followed the absolution and appeared again after the Apostles’ Creed; American prayer books before 1979 made the second but not the first of these two optional).
  • The heading “Invitatory” is included before the initial preces.
  • The Jubilate (Psalm 100, historically the alternate Canticle following the second lesson in Morning Prayer) is given as an alternative to the Venite (Psalm95); and, like 1979, the Pascha nostrum (drawn from 1 Cor. 5:7-8, Rom. 6:9-11, and 1 Cor.15:20-22) is required for the first week of Eastertide and may be used throughout that season (the Pascha nostrum was included in the 1928 BCP but not within the main text of the office and not required for use).
  • Includes both a traditional and contemporary Lord’s Prayer.
  • Restores to Morning Prayer (an adapted version of) the full versicles from the 1662 BCP (included in full only in Evening Prayer in the U.S. editions from 1789 to 1928. Following the readings, “The word of the Lord”/ “Thanks be to God” and “here endeth the reading” are both options.
  • Instead of specifying which canticles may follow the first and second lessons, it allows any of the Canticles to follow either of the readings. Includes the rubric “Unless The Great Litany or the Eucharist is to follow, one of the following prayers for mission is added” and gives three options for the collect.
  • Does not include in the office the Prayer for The President of the United States, and all in Civil Authority (which replaced the prayers for the monarch and royal family in the American prayer book), the Prayer for the Clergy and People, or Prayer for all Conditions of Men included in historic BCPs.
  • Includes the versicle “Let us bless the Lord/Thanks be to God” and the option to add two Alleluias from Easter to Pentecost. Includes three options for the concluding sentence.


Following the historic prayer book tradition

  • Restores the traditional declaration of absolution along with the shorter option (in 1979 Rite I, only the shorter option is included; this shorter option is only found in Evening Prayer in the historic prayer book tradition).
  • Restores “O God, make speed to save us” to the preces; this phrase from the 1662 BCP was removed in the first U.S. prayer book (1789) and never restored, except partially in 1979, in which it is included only in the preces for Evening Prayer, in place of “O Lord, open thou our lips.”
  • Restores “Praise ye the Lord”/”The Lord’s name be praised” to the preces, which was replaced in 1979 with “Alleluia” without a response.
  • Restores the Venite (partially), Psalm95:1-7 (following Common Worship). The last four verses are included following a rubric that specifies they are only to be used during penitential seasons such as Lent and Advent. These had been removed and replaced in the United States since 1789. The 1979 BCP included Psalm 95 as an alternate option (but one has to flip from p. 45 to p. 146 to use it).
  • Restores to the Te Deum the last five verses cut off in the 1979 prayer book (but included as a set of versicles following the Creed and Lord’s Prayer). A rubric allows them to be omitted.
  • This proposal only includes the traditional Canticle options for Morning Prayer in Morning Prayer and the traditional options for Evening Prayer rather than the 21 different options in 1979 (following the offices, ten of those additional options from 1979 are provided as “supplemental canticles”).
  • Restores “Lord have mercy/Christ have mercy/Lord have mercy” from the 1662 BCP that was excluded from the U.S. editions.


New to this proposal

  • Unlike any previous edition, in this proposal the first page of the office only includes three options for opening sentences; other options, including those that are seasonal, are included at the end of the rite.
  • In the confession of sin, the phrase “there is no health in us” removed in 1979 is restored, preceded by “apart from your grace.” Samuel Bray has written an excellent article for The North American Anglican (http://northamanglican.com/and-apart-from-your-grace-there-is-no-health-in-us/)  that explores this proposed addition.
  • Following the declaration of absolution, this proposal adds a rubric (“A deacon or layperson remains kneeling and prays”) and this prayer: “Grant your faithful people, merciful Lord, pardon and peace; that we may be cleansed from all our sins, and serve you with a quiet mind; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” This is an adaptation of the 1662 BCP’s provision for the Offices. The difference: it is not presented simply as an option for when a presbyter cannot be present, but is in addition to the priest’s pronouncement.
  • Rather than the traditional Morning Prayer collects for Grace and Peace, this proposal provides a single collect for each day of the week.




Following the 1979 BCP

  • Includes the opening versicles from the 1979 rite, which are drawn fromEphesians4:4-6.
  • Like the 1979 rite, this proposed rite requires baptism be included in the context of Holy Communion. It does not allow for the historic Anglican position of baptism following the second lesson at Morning or Evening Prayer.

Following the historic prayer book tradition

  • More closely follows the historic vows of baptism from the 1662 BCP than the 1979’s novel “baptismal covenant.”
  • Restores the historic “flood prayer” to Baptism, though not all of the baptismal collects.
  • Removes the historic Confirmation prayer for the seven-fold gift of the Spirit that the 1979 book had inserted into Baptism. (However, it does not restore this prayer to Confirmation, but cuts the prayer altogether).
  • Restores the opening Exhortation for Baptism (removed from the 1979 book, this text was written for the first BCP [1549] and retained in all U.S. editions down to 1928).
  • Restores the post-baptismal signing with the cross “as a token of your new life in Christ, in which you shall not be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified, to fight bravely under his banner against the world, the flesh, and the devil, and to continue as his faithful servant to the end of your days.”


New to this proposal 

  • Following the Church of England’s Common Worship, adds the question “Do you turn to Jesus Christ?”
  • Adds an exorcism (with the option of using oil) into the service, following the renunciation of the world, the flesh, and the devil.
  • Adds an emphasis on chrism that is not present in 1979 or the historic prayer book tradition, but is drawn from historic Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic precedents.



Following the 1979 BCP

  • Includes the full baptismal vows for reaffirmation (rather than a summary reaffirmation of the historic prayer book tradition).
  • Does not include the traditional Confirmation prayer for the sevenfold gift of the spirit.
  • Includes two options for the prayer to accompany the laying on of hands: the historic prayer book’s “Defend … until he comes into the fullness of your everlasting kingdom.” and 1979’s “Strengthen … all the days of his life.”
  • Includes forms for reception and reaffirmation.


Following the historic prayer book tradition

  • In the 1662 prayer book, the bishop reads a preface explaining (and defending) the purpose of confirmation. This preface was derived from an opening rubric (not read aloud) for confirmation composed for the first (1549) prayer book and retained as a rubric in 1552, 1559, and 1604. The 1789 and 1892 U.S. editions follow 1662 by including the spoken preface; the 1928 does not include this text as either a rubric or spoken preface. This proposed revision includes a similar preface spoken by the bishop near the beginning of the rite (following the opening versicles). It differs from the historic preface in one significant way. This historic text reads: “none shall be confirmed but such as can say the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Ten Commandments; and can also answer to such other Questions, as in the short Catechism are contained.” This proposed preface reads: “know and affirm the Nicene Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Ten Commandments; and have received instruction in the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments and the Catechism of the Church.” The Apostles’ Creed, not the Nicene Creed, is the baptismal creed and the creed taught by the historic prayer book catechism. This preface is also somewhat out of alignment with the exhortation in the proposed baptismal rite: “learn the Creeds” — implying that the candidate should learn and be instructed in both the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds. There is no proposed catechism here for examination; presumably, then, the ACNA’s catechism would include both instruction in the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds?

New to this proposal

  • A rubrical preface to confirmation explaining its purpose (this is newly composed, not based on the old prefatory rubric, which forms the basis of the spoken preface in this proposed rite).
  • New opening versicles drawn from Joel2:28-32, the prophecy Peter quotes in his first Pentecost sermon to explain the miraculous pouring out of the Spirit. The 1979 rite uses the same opening versicles as in its baptism rite (drawn from Eph. 4:4-6). Opening versicles are not used in the confirmation rite in the historic prayer book tradition, but there are versicles (drawn from Ps. 124:8, 113:2, and 102:1) following the renewals of baptismal vows, before the prayer for the candidates.

To be Continued…..

(with the sections discussing the Holy Communion and Lectionaries to follow)


Drew Nathaniel Keane is a lecturer at Georgia Southern University

and a member of St. John’s, Savannah, Georgia