Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Anglican Mission in America's "new" old Prayer Book: a modern language version of the 1662:

(from the webpages of Anglicans at Prayer:

AMiA: The Green Book of Common Prayer (1662 but in contemporary English)

"By far and away the most used Prayer Book in the Anglican Communion, and notably in Africa, is The Book of Common Prayer (edition 1662) either in its classic English language of prayer or in translation. The doctrinal foundation of most Anglican Provinces are the three Formularies which we know as this Prayer Book of 1662, together with the Ordinal and Articles of Religion normally bound up with it in its pew editions.

The doctrinal foundation of the AMiA are these Formularies but there is, regrettably and amazingly, very little use of the two sets of Liturgy (BCP & Ordinal) in this Mission. The Liturgy of 1979 which replaced the classical in The Episcopal Church and which has aided and abetted its notorious innovations in the last thirty years is the one most used! When asked why the classic is not used (in 1662 or 1928 form), the answer from clergy usually is that modern Americans do not easily make use of the traditional language of prayer and they desire the equivalent in prayer language of that which they use on the street and in the home.

So to build a bridge to the biblically-based Formularies of the Anglican Way, it was resolved to make available a contemporary equivalent of the major texts in the classic BCP & Ordinal, addressing God as YOU and using the recent English Standard Version of the Bible for biblical citations.

The initial work was done by Peter Toon. This was reviewed by a panel and then Peter Toon saw the resulting text into print as a paperback book and with a green cover. The services in it have been authorized for trial use by the House of Bishops of Rwanda and the preface to the book is signed by Bishops Murphy and Rodgers. It contains all the major services from the BCP and Ordinal with all the Collects and Prefaces. It is not a finished product but a product in trial use and to be perfected. The last point is most important—it is a start not the end of the product line.

What is does do is to bring into AMiA worship the same doctrines that have been the mainstay and foundation of the Anglican Way since the sixteenth century.

Nothing can ever replace the classic English prayer language of the BCP & KJV and the writings of seventeenth and eighteenth century divines and hymn-writers in terms of quality, style and character. All we can do is to make available a form in modern English which is acceptably and which does the work of enabling us to approach the Throne of Grace in spirit and in truth and in the beauty of holiness.

Copies of the book may be obtained from St John the Evangelist [AMiA] Church in Philadelphia (Phil Lyman rector) at 215 396 1970; or copies of the zipped file of all the services may be obtained from or downloaded here:

At the AMiA Conference on January 18 the green book was introduced by Phil Lyman and Peter Toon. The room was crowded and great interest shown. For a CD of this exciting session of 75 mins, contact Rhino Technologies and ask for T8 “Common Worship” – 270 753 0717. It is 7 dollars or less.

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon MA., D.Phil (Oxford)"

To readers of this blog: please see the copy of the Eucharist pdf linked to below. Please read through it carefully--and prayerfully--and let your thoughts be known through your postings. I'm interested on the reaction to this.


Rev. Dr. Hassert said...

Peter Toon is a great proponent of the 1662 Prayer Book. I'm not sure why a modern language variation of the 1928 wasn't provided as well. That being said, do you think he has rendered the service into modern language in a capable manner?

At the moment I don't want to get into a 1662 v 1928 BCP debate. (Within the REC, this was settled by including both services, very much like the 1928 English Book. . .perhaps they should have done likewise, but again, that's not my main concern). Rather, does this modern language variation give the person in the pew the content of the original 1662?

Anonymous said...

Common Prayer is just that--common, public prayer. This removes that element as there will be several options for parishes in the AMiA. Without the whole choir singing off the same hymn-sheet we have the confusion of Babel. Having said that, the current state of things in the AMiA is just that: no uniformity of liturgy or formulary. Will this fix the problem? I wot not. Those who cling to the traditional forms (1928 or 1662) are unlikely to find this an acceptable change. Those using the 1979 book will find its organisation which faithfully follows the extremely Protestant rendering of Cranmer's catholic book very odd even alienating regardless of the content. And as far as content goes it seems a step back in time to reduce the epiclesis to an optional element in the Prayer of Consecration. How are we to recognise the great continuity with the pre-Schism church by eliminating the Kyrie--the only Greek and thus explicitly Eastern parts of the Western Canon?

Unfortunately Dr. Toon seems to have emphasised his rather English Evangelical (in classic sense) bias--use of the 1662 structure and the peculiar rubrics born in the post-Commonwealth struggle--to the detriment of the more catholic elements in language and action found in the other canons and even in the language of the original 1662--the Prayer of Humble Access hardly seems such here.

Anonymous said...

So we translate liturgy into the language of the practioner. And we transform liturgy into the practices of the times. We just successfully transformed God into Man! Second time in the history of the world! But it's not right this time! It should be the other way around!

Anonymous said...

"should we not use the highest and best form of our tongue that we have?"

Indeed. However, too much emphasis gets placed on the words rather than the heart of the one who prays them. The prose may be elegant but if the holiness of the heart is not equally so then it is little more than a gold ring in a pig's snout.

Those who aargue for "classic english" start sounding either like the "KJV only" folks or what those who objected to rendering the Scriptures or liturgy in English instead of Latin must have sounded like.

Personally, I think that AMiA has taken a step in the "rite" direction (sorry, couldn't resiste the pun).

Anonymous said...

To me the major weakness of Toon's translation is his failure to include the rubrics and the prefaces. These indicate how the liturgy was to be done and how it was to be seen. Without them it seems merely an option at the discretion of the local minister and not "Common Prayer" at all.

Toon has complained that most of the modern translations of the Bible are not really translations at all but renderings to meet the biases of the intended reader, i.e., gender neutral, etc. His translation of 1662 seems to me much the same thing, intended to appeal to the prejudices of those in AMiA (and I accept the most of the criticism of the earlier poster) which to me means that they understand neither what was intended by the BCP or by classical prayer book Anglicans, Elizabeth I and after.

The great advantage of the classical prayer books is that we can know what they mean as the language from a theological standpoint is fairly fixed. But we can never be sure of what contemporary English will come to mean in ten years or even ten days.

I have friends who attended the last AMiA conference, but both complained to me (separately) about going. One is attached to a parish in exile which has placed itself under Archbishop Venebles while the other is more at home with the local REC parish. Personally I use the 1928 American book but enriched by material from the Scots and English books of '28 and '29. I am always concerned by the almost endless dumbing down of our present society - and especially in the Church.

Excellent posts.