Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

A Prayer Book for the Twenty-First Century?

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

A Prayer Book for the Twenty-First Century?

Article excerpt

"... may be altered, abridged, enlarged, amended, or otherwise disposed of.. .

In 1996, Ruth Meyers edited A Prayer Book for the Twenty-first Century,2 a collection of essays for the Episcopal Church's "Liturgical Studies" series, published by Church Publishing. Leaps and Boundaries: The Prayer Book in the Twenty-first Century, edited by Paul Marshall and Lesley Northup,3 followed a year later. The contributions to these books suggest many reasons why a new prayer book might have been desired. For example, Marion Hatchett outlines a broad range of "unfinished business in prayer book revision,"4 and Neil Alexander considers "prayer book revision in light of yesterday's principles, today's questions, and tomorrows possibilities."5 Alexander also writes on "ritual patterns and the future shape of revision" in Christian initiation,6 while Paul Marshall juxtaposes his study of Christian initiation with the barb "trite rite,"7 Linda Moeller asks whether baptism is a "rite of inclusion or exclusion,"8 and Leonel Mitchell addresses the question "what shall we do about confirmation?"9-together amounting to four examinations of liturgical expressions that relate to what has often been called The Book of Common Prayers "baptismal ecclesiology." Later writers, such as James Turrell, for example, emphasizes the significance of the 1979 Book of Common Prayers approach to initiation when he suggests no less than that the prayer book makes "a stunning reversal of traditional Anglican thought"10 because it displaces the traditional role of confirmation in its affirmation that "Holy Baptism is full initiation by water and the Holy Spirit into Christs Body the Church."11 Louis Weil, who "has been a primary voice among Anglicans, particularly Episcopalians in the United States, in articulating the interface between the rites of initiation and the theology of the church,"12 expounds baptismal ecclesiology not only in terms of seeing "baptism as the defining sacrament of incorporation" into the church, but also as "an understanding of the church that defines Christian community in terms of the common ground that all the baptized members share," and, notably, as affirming "that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are given to all members so that ministry can be understood as shared by all of the people, whether lay or ordained."13

Yet baptismal ecclesiology is not the only area scrutinized in the two anthologies dating from the end of the last millennium: Louis Weil himself offers his contribution on "scope and focus in eucharistie celebration,"14 William Seth Adams considers expansive language as "a matter of justice,"15 Clayton Morris contemplates "the future of liturgical text,"16 and perhaps most compellingly of all, Juan Oliver searches for "just praise" in his exploration of "prayer book revision and Hispanic/Latino Anglicanism."17

Ruth Meyers's book on prayer book revision also very helpfully indicates "some recent prayer books in the Anglican Communion,"18 so setting the Episcopal Church's 1979 Book of Common Prayer within a wider context in the Anglican family of churches, while Marion Hatchett's essay widens optics on the BCP by also noting many significant ecumenical developments within North America.19 Within and beyond the period between 1979 and 1997, notable liturgical revisions in the Anglican Communion include the Anglican Church of Canada's Book of Alternative Services (1985), the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand, and Polynesia's A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989), the Anglican Church of the Province of Kenya's Our Modem Services (2002), and the whole series of books which now constitute the multivolume Common Worship series (1997 on) of the Church of England. Notable prayer books or liturgical directories emerging from North American churches include the United Methodist Church (U.S.A.)'s Book of Worship (1992), the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)'s Book of Common Order (1993), the United Church of Canada's Celebrate God's Presence (2000), and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006). …

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