`Ethnic Cleansing' Feared in Church

Article excerpt

It has been 14 years since the Book of Alternative Services appeared on the horizon. Now, with General Synod needing to make a decision in 2001 on its future -- and potentially also on the Book of Common Prayer -- a member of the Prayer Book Society executive said he fears an "ethnic cleansing" of the Prayer Book ethos, should the church decide to develop one book of liturgy to replace the current prayer book and the dominant alternative book of services.

In a sermon delivered in May in Montreal, Prayer Book Society vice-president David Curry said "we face, dare I say, almost a kind of ethnic cleansing in our church, an unchurching of the ethos of the Common Prayer tradition, in the idea of a composite book -- a combination of the Book of Common Prayer and the Book of Alternative Services."

Fr. Curry's concerns were echoed at the society's annual general meeting in Halifax in June.

"I can't understand this lust for conflict," said Bishop Anthony Burton of Saskatchewan.

"We had an exhaustive study of the matter by the BAS Evaluation Commission which concluded that there was too much polarization in the church to revise the Prayer Book for quite a while. If anything, the Church has become more polarized since then. General Synod set the course to revise the BAS in 2001, which is something everyone can agree about. Why should we flip-flop now? There is enough to divide us without throwing this in the pot. We need to be more tolerant of one another."

Rev. Alyson Barnett-Cowan, director of Faith, Worship and Ministry for the General Synod, said a number of options will be presented to synod in 2001.

Synod in 1995 decided to make no decision on next steps on liturgies until 2001. But Canon Barnett-Cowan said the mandate of the BAS runs out then, so synod will have to take some sort of action if people still want to use it.

The House of Bishops is also involved in the discussion. …