Monday, April 14, 2008

Anglicanism in North America--polity and liturgy, especially written for folks abroad

Peter Toon

On the old Anglican map of the world, North America comprised two provinces , both in communion with the Church of England through the See of Canterbury, and both in the Global Anglican Communion. They were the Anglican Church of Canada and the Protestant Episcopal Church of the U.S.A.

In 2008, many Anglicans (Episcopalians) around the world both in the North and in the South still use this old map. However, a growing number uses a revised map, which is not yet stable for revisions continue monthly. The revised map indicates that the Anglican Way is no longer solely represented by two national provinces, but that five other provinces of the Global Anglican Family have entered the territory, and are seeking through missions to create their own outposts in North America. Their arrival may be traced to three sources: partly by invitation from dissident locals, partly by their distaste of the innovatory, religious agendas of the two provinces, and partly out of their own missionary spirit. In mid-2008 these provinces are: Nigeria, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, and the Southern Cone of South America. In their entry into North America, they treat the two resident provinces as no longer authentically Anglican in doctrine and morals, and thus they neither seek permission to enter or on entering seek to cooperate.

To understand the new map aright, we need also to be aware that before the arrival of these overseas provinces on American soil, there were other, small Anglican groups usually known as “The Continuing Anglicans.” They are found in several small jurisdictions in both Canada and the U.S.A. (e.g., the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada, and in the U.S.A., the Anglican Catholic Church, The United Episcopal Church and The Anglican Province of Christ the King). Their origins were in secession from the two provinces in 1977. However, since these traditionalists had nothing to do with the Global Anglican Communion, they were not normally included on the Anglican map of that Communion. Further, they have had very little if anything to do with the seceders from The Protestant Episcopal Church in the twenty-first century, that is with the Episcopal dissidents who have been embraced by the overseas provinces in the last few years.
When one asks what kind of liturgies are used in the varied churches found on this map, then one receives an answer which points to pluralism. Let us try to indicate the main content of this pluralism.

(a) In Canada both in some parts of the Anglican Church of Canada and throughout the “Continuing churches” (from 1977 or before) the primary prayer book used is The Book of Common Prayer (1962) of the Anglican Church of Canada. This is a revision of the classic, English edition of 1662.
(b) In Canada both in most parts of the Anglican Church of Canada and throughout the churches that have recently allied with overseas provinces, the primary prayer book used is known as The Book of Alternative Services (1985).
(c) In the U.S.A. in the “Continuing churches” the primary prayer book is The Book of Common Prayer (1928) which is an edition of the American form of the Prayer Book, first issued in 1789. This is also used in a few parishes of The Protestant Episcopal Church.
(d) In the U.S.A., in The Protestant Episcopal Church the primary prayer book is known as The Book of Common Prayer (1979). This represents a new kind of prayer book with multiple alternatives and varied theologies, very different from the traditional Book of Common Prayer. The Canadian Book of Alternative Services is based upon it. Also used in this Church are newer liturgies, approved locally by diocesan bishops, which incorporate basic concerns of modern, progressively liberal liberationism and feminism.
(e) In the U.S.A., in the new Anglicanism, outside the Protestant Episcopal Church and usually in some relation to an overseas Anglican province or diocese, the primary Prayer Book is that of the Church that the seceders have left, The Book of Common Prayer (1979); and also there is some use of the prayer books of the overseas Anglican provinces working in the U.S.A. (e.g., the 1995 Prayer Book of Nigeria which is similar to the 1979 American one). A growing number are beginning to use An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) which is a contemporary language form of the classic “Book of Common Prayer” services as used in North America over the centuries, in the editions of 1662, 1928 and 1962.

So we have the situation both in Canada and the U.S.A. where most of the recent seceders continue to use without hesitation, and as part of their “orthodoxy,” the very prayer book of the Church they have left behind, and also the very prayer books that certainly gave the context and support for many of the innovations pursued by these Churches from the 1970s to the present.

There is, however, some recognition that a sound theological basis is needed by the new Anglicanism. To this end the Common Cause Partners (dissident and seceding groups in relations with overseas provinces) have drawn up such a basis which includes the classic Anglican formularies, those of the Church of England of 1662, and the very formularies written into the constitution of many provinces of the Global Anglican Communion. There is little evidence as yet that this is seriously guiding the forms of liturgy used in the new Anglicanism.

[The Prayer Book Societies in both the U.S.A. and Canada seek both to make Anglicans of all kinds aware of their strong tradition of Common Prayer, and also to encourage them to use it both for personal devotion and public worship, via one or other of the three editions of the classic Common Prayer Tradition known and used in North America—the editions of 1662, 1928 and 1962. These three belong to one distinct family of Anglican liturgy, whereas the American 1979 and the Canadian 1985 books represent a new and unstable form of modern liturgy with ecumenical roots and constantly open to revision to accommodate evolving concerns.]


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