Skip to comments.Antecedents of the Book of Common Prayer: Part III
Posted on 11/11/2005 4:18:39 PM PST by sionnsar
Alice C. Linsley
In Part I, we looked at the Sarum Rite. The Sarum Rite in the Tudor and Elizabethan periods supplied a catholic theological and devotional focus during a time of great upheaval. Sarum was influential in the development of the Book of Common Prayer (1549-1662), but not so in the development of ECUSAs 1979 Prayer Book. The 1979 Book represents a significant break with the catholicism of the true Book of Common Prayer. The 1979 Eucharist is patterned on the contemporary Roman Mass, but does not represent a continuation of Anglican catholicism.
In Part II, we looked at the contribution of Thomas Cranmer. Cranmers liturgy emphasized penitence as the proper spiritual posture for worship and attentiveness to the Bible readings and the sermon that followed. His theology stressed the goodness of God. He was a true Anglican: both catholic and reformed, and he paid dearly for what he regarded as the essentials: grace, holy writ, spiritual regeneration and a liturgy rooted in the ancient church.
Parts I and II address developments in the English Church. In Part III, we turn to the American Church.
Part III: The Scottish Church and Political Ambitions
The Eucharistic liturgy that appears in the 1979 Prayer Book is not that approved by the 1789 General Convention for use by American Episcopalians. Nor is it like that found in any earlier Books of Common Prayer. The 1979 Prayer Book departs from the pattern established and preserved from 1549 through 1928. The new liturgy, with its variety of prayers, serves the revisionist church, but does not represent the continuing churchs commitment to common prayer.
As orthodox Episcopalians align with orthodox Anglicans around the world, we may discover that to embrace and defend the living Anglican Tradition we must restore the use of either the 1928 or the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. Why must we go back in order to go forward? Because it is evident in the 1979 Prayer Book and in the conduct of ECUSA politics, that this church has become lost.
After the War for Independence, Anglicans in the thirteen colonies were without episcopal oversight. English bishops were in a difficult position when it came to consecrating a bishop for America. They had to reckon with the political jurisdiction of the United States. George Berkeley the younger wrote: If the Church of England was to send a bishop into any one of the United States of America, the congress might, and probably would, exclaim that England had violated the peace If English bishops consecrated an American who was not permitted to re-enter the United States, they would have on their hands a churchless bishop. The English bishops were reticent also because until Parliament resolved the matter, they would be acting without support of that Body and the Crown
The first American to be consecrated bishop was Samuel Seabury, bishop of Connecticut. He was a loyalist with an Oxford D.D. who had a half-pension from the Crown for service as a regimental chaplain. Having been refused by the English bishops who didnt want to appear to be interfering in American affairs, Seabury was consecrated in Aberdeen. Scottish non-juror bishops were not required to swear allegiance to the King, but they didnt want to appear to be interfering in American affairs either so in 1784 they conferred upon Seabury a free, valid and purely ecclesiastical episcopacy. No strings attached, but Seabury nonetheless signed an agreement with the Scottish bishops in which he agreed to introduce the Scottish Eucharistic rite in America.
Seabury did not discuss this agreement with his fellow clergy, nor in his proposal to the Connecticut revision committee did he mention his notes on the Scottish liturgy and the influence of the work of Thomas Wilson, Bishop of Sodor and Man. Eben Edwards Beardsleys nineteenth- century biography described Seaburys pamphleteering as more in the style of a violent partisan than of a discreet and godly clergyman. He seems to have been motivated by political ambitions and perhaps bitterness, having at one time been arrested and deprived of his property because of his loyalty to England.
William White, Rector or Christ Church, Philadelphia sketched a plan for a national church in 1782, and in 1784 representatives from eight states gathered in New York. A year later, delegates from seven states gathered for Convention in Philadelphia and adopted a constitution that was largely the work of William White. William Smith from Maryland, William White, and Robert Wharton of Delaware were authorized to prepare a revised liturgy for American Anglicans. Samuel Seabury, who sometimes signed himself Bishop of All America, did not attend the Philadelphia Convention because he had not been asked to preside over the convention. His refusal to attend influenced other New England churches not to send delegates. The Convention therefore was comprised mostly of southern delegates and it looked as if there might be two churches: New England Anglicans under Seabury and Southern Anglicans.
William White was consecrated in London in 1787, after an act of Parliament authorized the consecration of American bishops through the Church of England with the approval of the American representative in London.
Before White was consecrated, the Proposed Scottish Book of 1786 was sent, hot of the presses, to the Maryland convention, attended by two Scottish priests, both named William Smith. These men had been using the Scottish Rite and they influenced the Maryland convention to revise the Eucharist along Scottish lines. The younger William Smith wrote to delegates attending the second Philadelphia convention in 1789, urging them to adopt a Eucharistic prayer along the lines of the Scottish Rite in order to steer clear of transubstantiation. The Protestant Episcopal Church was formally constituted at this Convention and the Book of Common Prayer, modified along Scottish lines, was adopted. The nine crosses in ECUSAs shield represent the original dioceses and form a St Andrews cross, commemorating the Scottish link.
The 1789 Book of Common Prayer served the American Church for 102 years with only minor modifications made by General Convention. It has been the custom that minor alterations are made incrementally and upon weighty considerations, but the Preface to the 1789 Book left the door open for the 1979 Prayer Book with these words:
The Church of England, to which the Protestant Episcopal Church in these States is indebted, under God, for her first foundation and a long continuance of nursing care and protection, hath, in the Preface of her Book of Common Prayer, laid it down as a rule, that The particular forms of Divine Worship, and the Rites and Ceremonies appointed to be used therein, being things in their own nature indifferent and alterable, and so acknowledged, it is but reasonable that upon weighty and important considerations, according to the various exigencies of times and occasions, such changes and alterations should be made therein; as to those who are in places of authority should, from time to time, seem either necessary or expedient.
Historically, liturgical revision takes place as a response to threats to Christianity (such as the Ottoman expansion). Liturgical revision also takes place as a response to theological issues (such as the debate over the sacrifice in the Mass). Sometimes, liturgical revision is driven by both theological matters and church politics. This is the case with the first American Book of Common Prayer. The political use and abuse of the Book of Common Prayer is in our DNA, driven by personal ambitions of bishops. Today a new threat confronts Christianity from politically motivated bishops who believe that they can use the 1979 Prayer Book to bind American Anglicans to their revisionist religion.
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