Thursday, July 12, 2018

Prayer Book Revision: Not Now. Maybe Never.

If you serve as a Deputy to General Convention, be prepared to have your heart broken open. Sometimes in joy. Sometimes not.

For me, today was a heartbreak of the sad variety. I recognize that others may rejoice.

There will be no revision of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, which I dearly love despite its limitations. Certainly not in the coming three years, and perhaps never. Yes, I mean that literally: perhaps never.

The House of Bishops took the resolution we passed in the House of Deputies, threw it in the trash can, and wrote their own resolution, completely ignoring the supposed dialogue they had with the Deputies. As you may know, no resolution can come out of General Convention unless both Houses pass it in identical form. So this afternoon, on a voice vote, the Deputies concurred with the Bishops' sparkly new resolution, which they had shared with no one before its adoption. So much for collegiality. Our vote to concur with the Bishops on a voice vote was by a substantial margin, but few of us were happy in casting that vote. I certain tasted gall in casting my vote.

You can read the final resolution here:

As part of their resolution, the Bishops "memorialized" the 1979 BCP. Our canonical experts and
church history buffs don't seem to know what "memorialize" means in the Bishops' resolution. It
isn't a parliamentary term. Even the Bishops who passed the shiny new A068, when asked,
couldn't or wouldn't offer a definition.

Folks around GC seem to think it means the 1979 Prayer Book is being declared The Once and
Forever Prayer Book of The Episcopal Church, never again to be amended or revised. It can, however, be ossified.

The good news: Our beloved Church will be spared the anxiety of BCP revision.

Further (but  mixed) good news: The Bishops' resolution creates a new task force that is authorized to create new liturgies such as we have in Enriching Our Worship and the Book of Occasional Services.

But here's what I see as the very bad news: The traditionalists in our Church [and that is a term they prefer; it is not disparaging] have long complained that we no longer have "common prayer," but have a variety of authorized rites, ranging from parishes that only use the 1928 BCP, to ones like mine that use the '79 BCP, to ones that only use Enriching Our Worship.  The traditionalists here in Austin fought hard against the resolution to revise the BCP. Well, they have their wish. We won't have common prayer. We will have increasingly diffuse prayer and liturgies, thanks to the Bishops who decided to enact their will unilaterally, with no consultation with the Deputies.

The Bishops in their sparkly new resolution created a new task force that can create as many new liturgies and rites as they want, so long as those are published apart from the Prayer Book.  What will be the result? A multiplicity of liturgies and even less "common prayer." This worked really well in the Church of England, which is saddled with the 1662 version as its official prayer book. I'm sure we can learn from their example, since they are over 350 years ahead of us.


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