Most Anglicans know that the most widespread edition of the classic Book of Common Prayer is that of the Church of England dated 1662. Bound with this are the official Ordination Services (Ordinal) and usually also The Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion . The 1662 edition serves as the Formulary of many provinces of the Anglican Communion and is also the primary text for worship in many places whether in English or the local vernacular—not least Uganda (to where the Prayer Book Society of the U.S.A. is in the process of shipping right now around new 600 copies of the English CUP edition for the use of bishops, clergy and catechists—at their request.
So it is not surprising that since the BCP (1662) exists in over 150 languages that the Common Cause movement, with its connections (via, for example, the AMiA and CANA to Rwanda & Nigeria in Africa) should have the following in its theological Statement:
6) We receive The Book of Common Prayer as set forth by the Church of England in 1662, together with the Ordinal attached to the same, as a standard for Anglican doctrine and discipline, and, with the Books which preceded it, as the standard for the Anglican tradition of worship.
7) We receive the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion of 1562, taken in their literal and grammatical sense, as expressing the Anglican response to certain doctrinal issues controverted at that time, and as expressing fundamental principles of authentic Anglican belief.
In terms of Common Prayer, this Statement effectively eliminates as authentic editions of The BCP both the American 1979 and the West Indian 1995 Prayer Books, which, though using the ancient title of "Book of Common Prayer," are what, in other parts of the Anglican Family, are called "Books of Alternative Services,"—alternative that is to the classic BCP and existing alongside it, and under its doctrinal authority. This elimination is contained in the words: as a standard for Anglican doctrine and discipline, and, with the Books which preceded it, as the standard for the Anglican tradition of worship. It does not say which followed but which preceded it.
Further, though the American editions of 1789, 1982 & 1928 and the Canadian ones of 1918 and 1962 are truly authentic editions of The BCP, they too are to be set under the basic authority of The BCP 1662 in terms of Anglican doctrine by Common Cause.
The making of The BCP 1662 so pivotal and central by the Common Cause has all kinds of implications, not least that Common Cause is committing itself to what is best called Reformed Catholicism, wherein the doctrine of Justification by Faith alone, is in the context of the supreme authority of the Bible and the guidance of the patristic dogma of The Trinity and the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, crucial for soteriology. (For more on this see The Articles of Religion, The Homilies (1547) and Richard Hooker's, Faith, Works and the Foundation of Faith. The latter is most insistent that the doctrine of justification by faith alone through the imputation of the righteousness of Christ the Mediator is crucial for Anglicans.)
Now let us turn to the connection of the Anglican Communion Network to the Common Cause Movement. The Network is one of several members of the Common Cause. It is composed of congregations both within and without The Episcopal Church, and, as empirical data clearly show is basically attached for all practical purposes to the 1979 Prayer Book. In fact, for those within TEC in the Network this is their official Formulary!
However, the Network Council amazingly voted on July 31 unanimously to embrace the Common Cause Theological Statement.
How could this be? How could a body publicly and in some cases canonically committed to the 1979 Book appear to embrace two very different basic approaches to the Anglican Way? How can you hold to the authority of 1662 at the same time as to that of 1979 if you have actually read both carefully?
Out of concern for these my brethren in the Network, let me continue with my questions.
Have they actually read The BCP, Ordinal and Articles of Religion bound together in what is called the BCP 1662? Do they not realize that one of the purposes of the 1979 Prayer Book was to eliminate much of the doctrine and devotion of The BCP 1662 tradition (via the BCP 1928) from The Episcopal Church? Have they carefully compared the content of The BCP and Ordinal of 1662 with the 1979?
Are they aware of the major changes in the doctrine and practice of Baptism in 1979 as compared with 1662 and the classic American editions of BCP (1789, 1892 & 1928)? Do they not see that the placing of a so called baptismal covenant before the actual Baptism is sheer Pelagianism? And the commitment to peace, justice and dignity a 1960s theme?
Are they aware of the major changes in the doctrine and discipline of marriage in 1979 as compared with the 1662? 1979 was intended to be used in the context of the new canons of 1973 on marriage, which effectively took all traditional discipline out of who may be married in church and what the church expects of them and asks God for them. It is a marriage service for the divorce culture and for the artificial birth control mindset. One has simply to read the Preface to the BCP 1662 service and the differences are immediately obvious.
Have they carefully read the Outline of Faith in 1979 and noticed how, while it appears to be orthodox, it simply uses traditional terminology to advance innovations and changes in basics? There is implied in this Catechism changed doctrines of Who is God? Who is Jesus? What is Man? What is salvation? And so on.
In asking these questions I realize that, unless those who seek to answer them have done some study of these matters, they will simply work from the assumption—picked up from the false slogan "What we pray we believe"— that the 1979 represents orthodoxy.
Have they actually read a critique of the 1979 in order to face some of these questions—see e.g, the informative book by L Tarsitano & Peter Toon, Neither Orthodoxy Nor A Formulary, www.anglicanmarketplace.com or 1-800-727-1928, and the revealing essay by the insider, Urban T Holmes, "Education for Liturgy," in Worship Points The Way, ed M. C Burson, New York 1991?
Have they really faced what TEC did in 1979? Have they pondered the implications of this Church placing in the archives the received classic Formularies—BCP, Ordinal and Articles—and replacing them all with one new Book, a Book that reflects very much both the theological emphases of the 1960s and the new forms of morality based upon human rights and psychotherapy? In 1979 TEC formally rejected the received Anglican Way and sought to remake this Way in the image of the 1960s with help from Vatican II and the so-called Liturgical Movement.
I am not saying that TEC from 1979 ceased to be a Christian Church. Rather what I am suggesting is that it pioneered a liberal progressive way of being Anglican, and the fruit of this appeared over the years from 1979.
The Revd Dr Peter Toon