Friday, August 20, 2004

Letter to the Church Times

From the Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon


I refer to the short piece on the Irish Church and its new Prayer Book on page 3 of the issue of 20 August.

The Church of Ireland has authorized from Trinity Sunday of 2004 a new Prayer Book which it calls "The Book of Common Prayer" of 2004. Its title is causing debate in Ireland.

While there is no doubt whatsoever that this Church has called its new Book by the ancient Anglican name of the BCP, there is extreme doubt as to whether this is the right title for it. Its content, though less in total, is very much like that of Common Worship or of other Books of Alternative Services in use in the Anglican Communion.

Until the General Convention of the Episcopal Church USA decided to call its new "Book of Alternative Services" by the title, The BCP, in 1979, the title of the BCP was reserved by Anglican leaders for Prayer Books directly related to the English editions of the BCP (1549-1662), in which there is one and one only form of all the services and no alternatives. Common Prayer had the meaning in English for centuries of the use of one form of public prayer by all in the place of public prayer. And further it had reference to the use for this end of one particular book, the BCP, which went through several editions abroad and was translated into many languages.

Since the ECUSA pirated the ancient title in 1979, other provinces have followed. The Church in Wales in part in 1984, the West Indies in whole in 1995 and now the Church of Ireland in 2004. Perhaps the Church of England Synod would have done the same in 2000 had it not been for the Establishment - God save the Queen.

I submit that this pirating of the hallowed title is a mis-use of the autonomy of individual provinces of the Anglican Communion and such mis-use of autonomy is a major cause of the problems facing the Anglican Way internationally now. The clear Anglican duty of a local Synod is to keep the classic BCP as its formulary and as available for use by those who desire to use it, and then, to make available forms of alternative services which are composed to the highest standards of English, liturgical shape and doctrinal content.

It is not too late for the Irish Church to change the title of its new Prayer Book, which as "A Book of Alternative Services" is a good example.

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon M.A., D.Phil. (Oxon.),
The Rectory,
Christ Church,
Hot Lane,Biddulph Moor, ST8 7HP

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