Sunday, August 05, 2007

On the difference between BASICS and BASICS-WITH-ADORNMENT

The Order for Holy Communion of 1662 as the Basic TEXT

The Anglican Communion Network [ACN] made the momentous decision on July 31 to accept The Book of Common Prayer (1662) of The Church of England, the mother Church of the Global Anglican Family, as the basic Formulary of global Anglicanism and as its Formulary within the Common Cause alliance.

Amongst the reactions to the adoption by the Anglican C. Network posted on the web I have noticed various kinds of claims that The BCP 1662 Holy Communion Service is unacceptable and deficient to right-minded and mature Anglicans. Where does this notion come from?

In USA Episcopalianism, there is amongst a minority of those of an anglo-catholic persuasion, or who are influenced by anglo-catholic teaching, either a tendency to deny or a decision to make an out-right denial of “The Order of Holy Communion” in The BCP 1662 as a valid Rite in the Celebration of the Eucharist. This denial comes from three related but different mindsets—that which is based on The Anglican Missal (used in many small Continuing Anglican circles), that which is based on The Order for Holy Communion in The BCP 1928 of PECUSA, and that which is based on Rite One Eucharist, first Prayer, in the 1979 ECUSA Prayer Book. The charges against the Rite of The BCP of 1662 move along a spectrum of it being “Protestant” to it not having within its short Consecration Prayer an Epiclesis (Invocation for the descent of the Holy Ghost) or an Oblation (offering of the Gifts to the heavenly Father).

Having stated the objections, let me now offer a general reply to them.

We are all familiar with the difference between a basic model and a well-appointed model with respect to cars. The basic model is more than adequate to move people from point x to point y, but the well-appointed model can make that journey more comfortable and the driving a little easier. Also some of us may live in what may be called basic housing, where we have all that is necessary, and others of us may live in luxury housing, where we have what is necessary together with a variety of extra comforts and conveniences. Then we can all imagine, on the one hand, a basic tune or melody that we can easily hum and readily remember, and, on the other hand, an elaborate setting of that basic melody by a composer in a complex orchestral work.

The point I am moving towards making is this: That Anglican divines over the centuries from the reign of Elizabeth I (1559-1603) have overwhelmingly regarded what may be called the classic Anglican Order for Holy Communion—especially as found in its final form in The BCP 1662 and in over 150 translations of this globally—as in and of itself and by itself a basic and adequate Rite for the Celebration of the Dominical Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion.

To say this is not to claim that a minority in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (the schismatic supporters of James II or Non-Jurors and Jacobites and some leaders in the tiny Episcopal Church in Scotland) expressed an interest in reforming this Rite by incorporating characteristics of the Eastern Rites used in the Eastern Patriarchates; or that a minority of anglo-catholics in the late nineteenth century created Missals in order to incorporate material from the traditional Roman Mass. However, it is to claim that there has been and remains only one basic and classic Anglican form of “The Order for Holy Communion” and that is the Rite found in The BCP 1559, The BCP 1604 and given final form in The BCP 1662. It is to be noted that the Formularies of the Church of England and many Provinces of the global Anglican Communion to this day include The BCP 1662 with its attached Ordinal and also, usually, The Articles of Religion.

The Protestant Episcopal Church of the USA modified “The Order for Holy Communion of 1662” in 1789 on the model of the Scottish Rite of 1764, but It was careful to get the approval of the English Bishops for this revision, which was considered by the latter as remaining within the basic doctrine of the 1662 text. So what can be said as a generally true fact is that before the liturgical revolution of the 1960s-1980s, the 1662 text was used everywhere either in its basic form, embellished only by hymnody, or in a luxury or elaborate form, embellished not only by hymns but also by extra ceremonial and words. As there are several forms of the Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord on the road today, from the basic to the luxurious, so there were various expressions of the basic 1662 Rite in use around the world by the Anglican Family. In some cases where missionaries were relatively free of supervision from the home Church, they either provided what was below the basic or standard towards a generic Protestantism (as in some evangelical missionary work), or what was above the standard tending towards the texts of Rome or of the Eastern Patriarchates (as in some anglo-catholic missionary work) but these excesses were not the norm.

Tragically, ever since the go-ahead was given in 1968 by the Lambeth Conference to experiment with additional forms of liturgy to The BCP, the provinces— especially in the western or northern parts of the Anglican Communion— have not known where to stop once they got started on liturgical revision. Having opened the doors to new possibilities, the range of possibilities has been very wide and each Province, being autonomous, has done its own thing. Therefore, what was an essential component in the glue that held together the Provinces of the global Communion, the basic structure and content of BCP 1662, got lost (but happily not in the African Provinces). And a lot of people have got used to variety as the norm and personal opinion in liturgy as paramount.

Having let the water out of the reservoir and the kittens out of the bag, not a few sensitive Anglicans are realizing that the Anglican Way in the West, and not least in the U.S.A., needs to recover some basic rules on Formularies and Liturgy or else there will be no glue at all to hold together either Anglicans in North America or within even the global Communion. This is where Common Cause and the Anglican Communion Network seem to be now. They recognize the need for a standard, for a base line, for an agreed essential content of the Anglican Way as Reformed Catholicism.

To get in step with this new army and to walk together with this new movement is not going to be easy for those who have been raised to believe that the 1979 Prayer Book is the last word in modern Liturgy or those who have been raised to hold that only certain post-1662 Anglican Prayer Books are valid for “Catholic” Anglicans. But if there is to be any common glue that is used for binding together Anglicans in a comprehensiveness based upon a sound foundation, that glue will have to include the Formularies of 1662.

What I would say to those with lingering doubts about the validity of 1662 in brief are four things, and they all assume that in the editions of the BCP of 1559 and 1662 we have the basic content of Reformed Catholicism.

1. Be aware that the great Anglican divines of the late sixteenth century (e.g., Bishop Jewel and Richard Hooker) and of the seventeenth century and eighteenth century (see the collection of testimonies from Caroline divines in Anglicanism, edited by F.L. Cross & P.E. More, 1951 SPCK, and available as a CD from ) were perfectly satisfied with either the 1559 or 1662 editions of The BCP. Be aware also that the founding fathers of the Anglo-Catholic movement, Keble and Pusey for example, happily used the BCP1662, as did also the famous missionaries and preachers of the evangelical movement both of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. And do not forget that The BCP 1662 is widely used today in Africa, not least in Uganda, in both English and local languages. Also, it is in the Constitutions as a Formulary of all African Provinces.

2. Do not get taken in by the claims that unless a Eucharistic Prayer has an explicit Epiclesis (Invocation for descent of Holy Ghost upon gifts and people) or an explicit Oblation (Offering of gifts to the Father) that it is invalid. In the Bible it is said of the Word of God that it is powerful, energized by the Holy Spirit, and that it achieves the purpose for which it is spoken. The repeating of the words of Institution originally spoken by Christ, because of the presence of his Spirit, become in fact his words and as such they have authority and power. If the Presbyter of the church does in simple form what the Lord Christ did at the Last Supper and does so with the intention of obeying his command, then the Sacrament is real and the consecrated bread and wine become the sacramental body and blood of the Lord Jesus, food of eternal life. Thousands of the finest godly and learned persons of the Anglican Way have judged that the 1662 Rite is a valid Rite and is an appointed means by which the Dominical Sacrament may be celebrated for the glory of God and the salvation of man. Follow them rather than a disaffected minority opinion.

3. If you are put off by the traditional language of the 1662 Rite, there are versions of it in contemporary language available and in use. The AMiA has in use right now a version on trial use and the same text is in use in other jurisdictions as well. Copies are availabve from the AMiA church in Philadelphia. A copy of this Rite may also be obtained from

4. The Prayer Book Society of England has a Booklet “The Order for Holy Communion” in which on one side of the Page is the text with Annotations on the opposite side and these explanations may be helpful to enquirers. Go to Likewise the USA Prayer Book Society has a booklet doing the same for the 1928 edition of the BCP—go to or call 1-800-727-1928.

The Revd Dr. Peter Toon M.A., D.Phil (Oxford)

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