Thursday, January 19, 2006

Anglo-Catholics, the People’s Anglican Missal and the ECUSA 1979 Prayer Book – a point where liberalism and traditionalism meet.

Some Anglo-Catholics (especially in the Continuing Anglican Jurisdictions like the Anglican Catholic Church) use the People’s Anglican Missal (1971), while others (e.g. those of the Diocese of Fort Worth in the ECUSA) use the Rite of the Eucharist in the 1979 Prayer Book of the ECUSA.

What from the post World War II era unites these two Rites?
And what, in uniting them, is a false assumption?

Certainly it is not the actual text as such for the Missal text uses as a base the text of the BCP 1928 Order for Holy Communion and adds to it sections from the Tridentine Mass of the Roman Catholic Church. In contrast, both Rites One and Two in the 1979 Book have a structure, shape, content and style that is very different.

Certainly it is not doctrine contained therein for the Missal actually proclaims traditional Roman Catholic doctrines of the sacrifice of the Mass and the transubstantiation of the elements therein. In contrast, Rites One and Two [falsely] claim to reproduce the doctrines from the third century of the Christian era, the doctrines which were in favor with the liturgical movement of the 1960s and 1970s.

What actually brings the two Rites close together is the influence of an Englishman who after training as a barrister (and hence his ability to make a weak case look very appealing) became a priest of the Church of England. He is Gregory Dix, famous for his influential book from the 1940s and often reprinted up to the 1970s, The Shape of the Liturgy.

In this he claimed that in the third century, before the reign of Constantine the Great, there was a common structure to the Eucharist throughout the Christian world, and furthermore he knew what it was, and it included what he called “The Fourfold Action.”

At page 275 in the People’s Anglican Missal under the heading, “The Mass of the Faithful or the Action,” we are told:

“The Action is that part of the Mass in which we Do what he [Christ] did. We read that he did four things. 1. He took Bread and Wine. 2. He gave thanks. 3. He brake the Bread. 4. He gave it to them. Bear in mind these four acts of The Action.” Then these four headings in large print appear in the text effectively dividing the rest of the service into four parts.

This imposition of four headings into the text is not found in the original 1928 Service or the Tridentine Mass itself. It is an addition caused by the devotion of the editors of this text to the views of Gregory Dix.

The same view about the shape of the Mass/Eucharist was held by those who created the 1979 Texts for Rite One and Rite Two, even though they were liberal Anglican Catholics rather than traditional Anglo-Catholics. So although the text is not divided by headings indicating the start of each Action, the four stage Action is clearly there nevertheless!


One problem with committing an organization or church to an innovatory theory is that there is a real danger that in the near future the theory will be shown to be false or partly false and scholars will move either to return to former positions or develop new ones. And this is what has happened to the theories of Dix. Few if any responsible scholars working in the history of Christian worship of the first five centuries of the Church accept Dix’s theories.

It is now generally held that there was no uniformity of structure or doctrine of the Eucharist in the third century but that there was great variety within a common theme in Sunday worship in the churches spread throughout the Roman Empire. Only in the fourth century, during and after the rule of Constantine the Great, was there a general movement to unify the various shapes and style of liturgy as bishops were able to meet more in the open for consultation. But this move to unity of rite did not last long before each of the major churches – e.g., Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, & Rome – developed its own liturgy specific to its own needs and doctrines (and thus leave us the legacy of several classic rites today originating from the fifth century or so).

So talk of “Fourfold Action” as being universal and standard is now ceased, except with those who use old text books and have not kept up with serious reading in liturgical studies. In this regard, I would commend the first two chapters on the Early Church in The Oxford History of Christian Worship (2005) from Oxford University Press in NYC. Anyone reading these, and being familiar with the reasons given for the shape and content of the 1979 ECUSA Prayer Book (when it was being produced and when it appeared) will soon realize that the latter is not only outdated but is based on what is now generally acknowledged to be a mistake – that is a false theory about the nature of the Church in the third century and of the dating of the extant writings of Hippolytus of Rome (upon which texts much in the 1979 Book hangs!). When you join this mistaken evaluation and usage with a deliberate attempt to change the doctrine of the ECUSA by the liberal Catholic liturgists, then the deceptive nature of the 1979 Prayer Book is revealed. It was truly the moment when the ECUSA accelerated in its journey to apostasy as it put the classic, old Prayer Book into cold storage!

Thus I continue to be both puzzled and amazed by the love for this 1979 Book by both the Anglican Communion Network churches and also those of the Anglican Mission in America. I urge their clergy to read The Oxford History of Christian Worship (2005). I am also puzzled why the Continuing Anglican Churches continue to use The People’s Missal in its present form. January 19, 2006

1 comment:

Paul Goings said...

"I am also puzzled why the Continuing Anglican Churches continue to use The People's Missal in its present form."

I'd imagine that this is done because, as you say, the text of the rite is not compromised, and the cost of printing new books solely for the purpose of removing some inaccurate commentary is unjustifiable.

On the other hand, if these Continuing bodies are teaching the "four-fold shape" as settled history, that's another matter altogether.